Saturday, July 16, 2011

Barack Orwellama

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought." George Orwell

Just recovering from all the travel. Had been out of touch from much of the news, so, please forgive my shock on discovering that I had mistakenly traveled back not home but to a bizarro version of home.

When I left on my trip a couple of weeks ago, Barack Obama was the President who had incurred the greatest debt in American history. He and his acolytes assured us that the best way to save was to spend. In the bizarro world in which I have landed somebody presuming to be Barack Obama is now proclaiming himself madly in favor of reducing debt and of examining with a critical eye every Federal entitlement program.

I am confused. Who has stolen our Barack Obama? Or could it be that he has used his vast intellect and powers of reading comprehension to absorb the language of 1984. "Spending is saving." "Debt is good." "Taxes are revenue enhancements." "Eighty percent of Americans want to pay higher taxes."


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Trunk of Prometheus

It was now July 13, 2035.  The law was in effect. The end would come soon. He knew it. He could face it. 

Dickson was a realist. In his nearly 70 years of life on earth, he always had prided himself on a hard-headed, objective, cool, analytical approach to that life. 

He wasn’t a joiner. He found himself unable to wax enthusiastic over any politician, political movement, or whatever cause du jour fired up the students or the other faculty at Metro University. He did not sign petitions. He did not march or write angry missives. Whenever he heard that something, anything, was very popular with the students or faculty he made sure to avoid it. 

Dickson kept to himself as much as he could. He taught his required two classes a week, and then fled the bright, shiny campus for his one bedroom apartment in the unfashionable, gritty, and crime-filled Eastern District, yellow Gadsden “Don’t Tread on Me” flags hanging from almost every window and balcony. There, among the grubby working stiffs, he found relief and solace. They had no curiosity about him or what he did or did not do.  They did not judge him. They did not prescribe for him. He could think, and he could read. Yes, read. That was his greatest vice.  That and his penchant for contraband beef, contraband liquor, and contraband cigarettes--a penchant the denizens of the Eastern District shared with him.

The District was a tough place: a “no go” zone for the agents of the MEA (Meat Enforcement Administration) and the TEA (Tobacco Enforcement Administration).  He, along with the rowdy inhabitants of the District, refused to comply with the “Anti-Carbon Social Contract” which required all citizens to give up unhealthful and bad environmental practices to benefit Gaia, and, incidentally, the mighty “Gore Euro Yuan Organic Food and Products Inc.,” which produced all the approved food in the country as well as 100% of its solar panels, and had just put on its governing board the nation’s President, the four Vice-Presidents (one from each major racial grouping), all 2,000 members of Congress, and the 760 members of the Supreme Court. Some District denizens were rumored to posses firearms and to engage only in heterosexual sex. Even Dickson assumed this was just anti-District slander.

He prided himself on swimming against the current. The Dean repeatedly had warned him about that. In his forty-plus years at Metro U, Dickson had been warned over and over that his failure to attend “To Love Humanity” courses, or to participate in the “Reject the Differences” rallies and seminars would raise the issue of his continued employment at Metro.  In the end, however, he did not go, and, yet, was kept on.  While he never made four-star Professor, he would never pass the scrutiny of the “Human Sensitivity Board,” he was willing to teach the basic intro courses that nobody else wanted to teach, and so the administrators turned a blind eye and deaf ear to his unfortunate views.  As the years progressed, Dickson had become something of a joke, a punching bag, a punchline at faculty meetings. The other profs laughed at his insistence on keeping and reading books, and on his frantic efforts to get his bored students to do so. The other faculty would yawn loudly in his face, to the merriment of all, when he would try to tell them “how things used to be.”  One four-star Prof told him, “Dickson, my crazy friend, the world is here and now.  We don’t want to talk about stuff from ten, fifteen years ago. That’s ancient history. I don’t know who William James was. I don’t care about those Cervantes, Melville, Twain, Shakespeare, Beckett people you’re always yapping about. It’s all so pointless. Here and now, my friend, here and now. That’s what counts. That’s what exists. The rest is just shadows.”

Yesterday, he finally had retired. As a cruel joke, the faculty had given him the latest “Info Tablet.” It came loaded with Metro U library’s entire collection of seven volumes, totaling nearly 250 pages of “all the knowledge you need,” which formed the basis of Metro’s five-year doctoral program. Nobody, of course, was expected to read all seven volumes, and it seemed no one ever had, but Metro U, the top school in the country, insisted on maintaining the unheard of high standard of requiring PhD students to read one whole volume. 

Dickson has thrown the Tablet into the recycle bin. He would stick with his books.  At first, he had thought that he could now peacefully slip away to his apartment and stay there, surrounded by the smell of illegal beef, tobacco, and liquor.  But, no, that was not to be.  Congress had passed a new law two days before, with the Congressional leaders stating their by now standard line, “We will all know what’s in the law after we pass it.”  In order to protect the rights of trees, and to appease the “Tree Lawyers Foundation,” all paper was now banned, both its production and possession were illegal.  The Enviro Police were tasked with assigning PEAs (Paper Enforcement Agents).  The Dean had warned Dickson, “I understand you still have lots of books. You have to give them up. An Info Tablet with the seven volumes of approved knowledge is all you need. Those books you have are a fire hazard, they smell, are illegal, and are a testimonial to man’s cruelty to trees.” 

Dickson sat staring at the old open trunk, made of banned wood and banned leather, sitting in the middle of his small room.  He passed his right hand over the books in the trunk. In his left hand he held the small plastic box with its red button that would deliver him. He heard the Enviro Police cars pull up; the gentle whirring of their battery powered engines wafted up to his window, along with the increasingly angry murmur of District neighbors responding to the cops’ rare and unwelcome presence. They were coming for him; he could hear their seaweed sandals scraping on the stairs, and the soft swish of their pure cotton kaftans. 

Dickson closed the trunk lid.  The apartment door was slowly opening. The Enviros were in!  A couple of the cops, obviously newbies on their first raid, began to gag and retch from the unfamiliar smell of books, tobacco, and beef.

“Dickson, move aside! We are here for the contraband! Do not resist!”  

Dickson looked up, clicked the switch in his hand and quoting Mary Shelly, shouted, “Unfeeling, heartless creator! You had endowed me with perceptions and passions, and then cast me abroad an object for the scorn and horror of mankind.” 

So carefully made over the past four decades and reserved just for this day, made of banned gasoline, banned glass, and banned metal, the bomb tore through the apartment. 

The sweet pungent banned smell of burning paper and roasting flesh spread over the Eastern District.   

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Death in Texas

Just reading that last night the State of Texas put to death "Mexican" national Humberto Leal Garcia for the 1994 rape and murder of a sixteen-year-old girl. This execution took place despite efforts by the White House, the Government of Mexico, the UN, the OAS, a host of NGOs, and others to halt the execution because Leal had not been notified at the time of his arrest that he had the right to consult the Mexican consulate. He reportedly died yelling, "Viva Mexico!"

I agree that the execution of Leal last night is an outrage.  He should have been executed about fifteen years ago.

In the course of my career I have had to deal with stories such as the Leal case. Almost always they involve somebody here illegally who commits a heinous crime, and is not even particularly aware that he has the right to contact his consul.  In many cases, the Leal case seems to be one, the criminal is not even aware that he is the national of another country, as he has been in the US for many, many years. Leal apparently arrived in the US as an infant. The access to the consul issue only arises late in the process when slick appeals attorneys, looking for anything to save a murdering scum client, discover the matter of the consular access. This is a bogus issue. Some Texas sheriff does not have the obligation to advise a detainee that he has the right to his nation's consul. That is something for which the detainee needs to ask: IF he asks, then the police have the obligation to pass along the request to the appropriate embassy or consulate. There is no evidence that Leal asked, and, of course, none that Texas law enforcement denied his request to see a Mexican official. Should the police notify the German, Irish, or Italian Embassy every time somebody with a German, Irish, or Italian name is arrested? Should they automatically assume that anybody arrested who "looks" Mexican is a Mexican?  Anybody with a Jewish name should have the Israeli Embassy notified? Can you see the law suits over racial profiling? Lawyers would get rich (er)!

In addition to all that, what does access to a consul entail? The consul shows up, if he does; hears out the arrested person; checks to see that he is not being treated any differently than any other prisoner in similar circumstances; offers to notify family in the home country; and then tells the arrested person to get a lawyer.  That's about it. Nothing in this is germane to the case or to the process that was followed.  The consul has no bag of tricks that would have saved Leal.

So this brutal rapist murderer died praising Mexico, eh? Gee, that must send a patriotic thrill up the leg of every Mexican citizen. Here's a suggestion for Mexico: keep your murderers home, and then you can give them access to the wonderful Mexican system of justice.

Bogus issue.

UPDATE: I see from some comments and emails I have gotten that there is a misunderstanding. Local law enforcement is  not obligated to investigate a detainee's nationality. The arrested person must make known that he is a foreign national and wants to see his consular representative. Leal never did that.

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Sudden travel has popped up.

Blogging will be light, but I will try to say something not too stooooopid.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gangster Rap: Chavez Speaks from the True Capital of Venezuela

Sean Penn, Michael Moore, Joe Kennedy, and Oliver Stone must be breathing sighs of relief and gratitude.  Hugo Chavez lives! The Don of Venezuela went to Cuba where he was operated upon for a mystery ailment. After days of silence, he has emerged and spoken. He reports that he underwent successful surgery in Cuba for some sort of cancerous tumor. He assured his supporters that while he convalesces in Havana he will continue to govern the country.

That has led some opposition figures inside Venezuela to cite the Constitution, noting that he cannot be absent from the country for such a long period of time and that the Vice President must take over.  This argument is humorous for two major reasons:  First, Chavez respect Constitutional limits on what he wants to do?  Oh, poor, poor deluded child. That is not the Chavez way.  Second, Chavez is governing from the true capital of Venezuela, Havana. It's all one big happy 21st Century Socialist Family, don't you know?  Chavez provides the Castro brothers capital, and they provide him a capital where he is safe.  He is safe both from the mean streets of Caracas, now among the most violent on earth, and the ministrations of potentially politically unreliable doctors in Venezuela.

Don't you love the men of the people? When, for example, crazy leftist Forbes Burnham of Guyana got sick, he got himself some Cuban doctors--he had minor throat surgery and the Cuban docs ended up killing him, so he might have been better off going to Massachusetts General. When Castro was at death's door in 2006, he spared no expense in bringing Spanish doctors to save him from his Cuban ones. When Chavez gets sick, he, too, hightails it out of the country. Now we can all understand when rich, corrupt, rightwing dictators go abroad for medical treatment, but aren't these lefties supposed to be of, by, and for the people? Aren't they giving their people the wonders and glories of socialism, including state-run medical services? In fact, the Chavez-drafted Constitution declares health care a right, and obligates the state to provide it. [Aside: Once we get Obamacare, to where do we hightail it?]

Anyhow, Chavez has reemerged, underlining in the process, the continuing US failure to deal with this Andean gangster. I blame Bush and Obama.  Bush suffered an uncharacteristic failure of nerve, i.e., he listened to the career Foreign Service at the State Department, and emboldened Chavez. Obama, of course, has no interest, at all, in opposing Chavez, and is perfectly willing to sell out our key interests in Latin America to this gangster and his friends. We have never established "red lines" for Chavez's behavior, and like a mean dog, or a petulant child he keeps pushing, trying to find the boundaries. They do not seem to exist.