13 September 2009

Passing Trains.

Date: Early 1940's (inferred from the GS-4 on the point and the use of full-width diaphragms); Time: Approximately 8:30 AM. Place: Lower San Francisco peninsula. The Coast Daylight (left) to Los Angeles passes the north-bound Lark, the last two cars of which, having been been split off from the main consist at San José, are now en route to Oakland.
Longfellow wrote of ships. But I've always been partial to trains. In the United States, long distance rail travel was at its pinnacle in the years preceding and following World War II. The most famous passenger trains, the Twentieth Century Ltd. and the Superchief, each traversed half the continent, allowing for connection in Chicago. But for my money, it was traffic along Southern Pacific's "coast route" that set the standard. With "Golden State" class steam locomotives on the point, trains like the Coast Daylight and the Lark linked California's two largest cities, affording their riders speed, comfort and incomparable views of the Pacific, the latter accessible only by rail.

Nations also pass each other with "only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness." Sometimes the occupants of one vessel are more cognizant of the moment than those of the other. In the Russian press, one finds discussion of the changes now propelling America in the direction of socialism or something worse. Stanislav Mishin ("American Capitalism Gone with a Whimper") advises that
"... Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at ... the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left."
Closer to home, Svetlana Kunin, who came to America in 1980, writes as follows:
"In the USSR, economic equality was achieved by redistributing wealth, ensuring that everyone remained poor, with the exception of those doing the redistributing. ...

"When I ... experienced life in this country, I thought it was fortunate that those living in the USSR did not know how unfortunate they were.

"Now in 2009, I realize how unfortunate it is that many Americans do not understand how fortunate they are. They vote to give government more and more power without understanding the consequences." ["The Perspective of a Russian Immigrant," IBD Editorials]
Just so. The deficiencies of contemporary Russian "democracy" notwithstanding, our country is headed whence came the motherland. Meanwhile, the New York Times, along with other representatives of the fourth estate, does what it can to ignore burgeoning evidence of the incipient Marxist takeover. And, of course, there is the pitter-patter of little feet, the advance, now quickening, of slow variables that aim to "unseam us," as it were, "from the nave to the chops" — all this, twenty years after the Berlin Wall. Mmm, mmm, mmm!
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12 September 2009

After the Party — a Convention.

"The Congress, ... on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which ... shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;" Article 5, U.S. Constitution.
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03 September 2009

A Letter from Phil.

It's been more than a decade since my old buddy, Phil, was expelled from one of the Ivies, sad to say, for "mooning" the chaplain's wife. After 'the incident' and a failed attempt at therapy, Phil drifted west where he attended law school and discovered that he could support himself nicely promoting "of course, it's legal" investment schemes. Occasionally, we correspond — which fact I mention by way of introducing the following account, recently received, of a town hall meeting in southern Arizona.

Before proceeding, a little more about Phil to give context to his remarks:
  • Phil's favorite word is "excess;" his preferred expression for evidencing enthusiasm, "Whoa, excess!" sometimes reduced to "Whoa!" delivered in a cadenced baritone and a Nashville accent.

  • He is deeply attached to crudities, which affection remains pretty much what it was in college.

  • He hates universities, generally, their speech codes, in particular, the latter because they limit 'freedom of expression', which is how he views 'the incident'.

  • He also hates 'controlling people': professors, therapists of all sorts and especially psychiatrists, the latter, because, in the course of the counseling noted above, he 'was shot down in flames' by a 'bodaceous lady shrink'.

  • Ever partial to gluttony, Phil has recently slimmed down to a svelte 290 pounds — 'all muscle.'

  • Despite a respectable income, he doesn't pay much in the way of taxes.

  • His disdain for pyramid schemes (see below) is, shall we say, selective.

  • Phil rarely walks, preferring instead his souped-up 1951 Imperial — 'built like a tank' — that guzzles 2-3 gallons per mile in traffic, but 'makes up for it on the road'. Also, 'the fillies love it'.

  • Phil now counts himself a member of the TEA party movement; will it survive the encounter?
And now, to Phil's recent epistle. As always, edits (most for the sake of decorum), clarifications, etc., in square brackets.
"Hey T. A. -

We were pretty rude last night. Excess! Giffords, [Representative, D. Az.], Carmona [former Surgeon General] and two pro-Obama Care plants — a Ph.D and a shrink — took some major [unprintable]. [Unprintable]s deserved it; crooks; liars. 'Fire 'em all!' I said; audience loved it. Too bad I can't go into politics. [Unprintable] [unprintable]s 'd start digging around! [Good thing; Phil would go straight to the top.] Anyway, I had fun. [Phil always has fun.] Finally got [illegible] back for my tax dollars [see above]. Of course, they could have given us eggs and tomatoes; raised some major dinero, chipped away at those unfunded liabilities. Whoa! Rotten tomatoes priced by size; better, by target: 5 bucks for Likins [former President of the state university], $10 for Carmona; $25, for Giffords. Me, I'd pay $100 for Carmona. Condescending S.O.B. [the original was more colorful], says we need a "health maintenance system" with folks like him tell [sic] us what to eat, when to drive, what to say. [Unprintable] thought police! 'Course universities do that already; [unprintable]. Likins rates a hundred bucks too. [Phil, being Phil, would, of course, arrange for the unfortunate gentleman to pay him for the privilege of being pelted.] Anyway, it won't save jack; just give the [unprintable]s more [unprintable] control, more [unprintable] power. Line their pockets too. [Unprintable]! Rationing my [unprintable] you know what! And they're gonna make it worse — [unprintable] green facists! Cap 'n trade my [unprintable]-[unprintable] [unprintable]! We need nuclear! Jane Fonda — [unprintable] [unprintable]! Old [folks] don't know [what's in their own interest]!

"Whoa! We could raise money for the TEA Party! — put on a "Take Back America Faire." Get some volunteers; give them masks; put 'em in the stocks or over a dunk tank. OK, maybe not volunteers, someone could get hurt. How about dummies? Oops, that gets us back to politicians; (Get it? politicians, dummies!) should of said mannequins. (Ha! Ha!) What do you think? If you go in with me, we could split things down the middle [Translation: I could foot the expenses; Phil would handle the profits.]

"Hope you've worked off some of that jelly roll, not sitting around like you used to. [He should talk!] Anyone reading that blog of yours yet? Bet no one's seen it [Sigh!]. Still think you should call it 'T & A'; come up better in Google that way. Skip the 'Speaker' part — sounds like you're peddling woofers and tweeters.


Good old Phil. He gets to the point, albeit in a "Philish" sort of way. As always, I took the bait and did some digging. Here is a more conventional statement of his argument:
  1. The looming crisis in health care is driven by demographics. An aging population, consequential to the post-war baby boom and the subsequent decline in the birth rate to less than pre-war levels, necessitates a greater per capita burden on those who work, even if the goal is only to maintain services at their current levels. Carmona, Emanuel, et al. want to compensate by curbing expenditures — by forcing people to live healthier lives, in which regard I share Phil's skepticism, and by government-enforced rationing. Likins, if one judges by his other enthusiasms, doubtless agrees.

  2. The inevitable result is Sarah Palin's "death panels," from which we can only be saved by increasing per capita productivity.

  3. Giffords supports cap and trade, for which she recently voted, and opposes domestic drilling, nuclear power, etc. She voted against H.R. 6566 back in 2008. This is a surefire strategy for reducing per capita productivity, which means more rationing, more death panels, etc. So, when Giffords says that she wants to improve the nation's health care — well, that's not quite accurate. Some, will see an improvement, or, at least, be able to stop using the ER in lieu of a PCP. But for the majority, those already insured, the result will be diminished, probably greatly diminished, services. As for the near-elderly, their future is bleak. Review boards will substitute hospice care, sometimes appropriately, sometimes not, for treatment. A single payer system — inevitable if there's a public option — will prevent people from "wasting" their savings on expensive procedures, and a jacked up (Sheesh! I'm starting to sound like Phil) inheritance tax will guarantee that the money saved is used for the greater good, i.e., that it goes to the government.

  4. Whatever comes of this, one can be sure that the likes of Carmona and Giffords will never themselves face the prospect of health care truncated by communitarian concerns.
Phil's right. They're liars for sure; hypocrites, too.
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