Thursday, October 29, 2009

Texting - Welcome to the New Idiocracy

Anyone remember the 2006 movie Idiocracy? No? Well, that's not entirely surprising. It was written and directed by Mike Judge (Office Space), and starred Luke Wilson (Vacancy). Despite the enormous success of Office Space and the popularity of Judge's King of the Hill, 20th Century Fox pro-actively killed the movie, releasing it in less than 150 theatres, without a single trailer or press kit. The motives behind Fox's decision to derail Judge's movie remains an issue of much contention, and most folks who've seen the movie can venture a few guesses as to why. The movie grossed less than $500,000 - barely a quarter of it's estimated 4 million dollar budget - but still managed to develop a rather sizable cult following.

The movie envisions a world 500 years into the future, where a bizarre type of reverse natural selection has taken place. A cryogenically frozen Wilson awakens to find himself in a society where the intelligent and even marginally cognitive elite have become virtually extinct, having been out-bred by pot-smoking, beer chugging, video gaming, Perez Hilton twittering morons. The result is a world dominated by slack-jawed idiots, whose only preoccupations seem to be violent reality TV shows and excessive consumerism. Hospitals have only two diagnoses, "'Retarded" or "F#$ked up", and the world is facing a massive draught resulting from crops being watered with an energy drink called "Brawndo" whose slogan is "It's got electrolytes - It's what plants crave". James Bowman wryly suggested that the movie got the plug because; " today's (progressives), a future world where they are not in charge, having put right all the world's wrongs, is almost inconceivable."

Bowman's jab is delightful, but liberals aside, it feels like we are already living in an "idiocracy", resulting more from behaviour than breeding. Exhibit A is the absolutely eerie obsession with texting. A few weeks ago I called a friend's cell for several hours, but could not get a response until I finally left a text message, which was immediately returned. It appears she was unwilling to answer the phone because she had been too preoccupied with dwarf typing. She was fully aware that people were calling, but couldn't quite pry her thumbs away from her Blackberry crack pipe.

Even more disconcerting is the weird way that Internet acronyms have snuck their way into our modern day lexicon. It was annoying enough when they first reared their ugly head over a decade ago in emails, causing the less Internet savvy to become instant cold war code breakers. By 1999, I had deciphered such gems as btw, brb, omg, imo, and for the more modest among us, imho. The most irritating of these letter bombs has always been ttfn (tata for now). Who in the hell would actually say that to anyone? Have we turned into a society of gay Victorian socialites? I am fairly certain the last time anyone ever said "tata" to me was as an infant being admonished for missing the toilet - but how in God's earth did these literary abortions find their way into our every day vernacular?

I was gob-smacked the first time someone - without the slightest trace of irony - said "O-M-G" to me in the process of expressing surprise. I thought they were referring to some kind of car insurance company until the full horror of what had just happened dawned on me. Later that week someone layed down a "WTF?" on me, and I sadly resigned myself to the fact that our society has become so lazy and idiotic that full words, let alone complete sentences, are far too taxing on our constitutions.

There is also an emotional component to all this, worth addressing since we live in the age of feeling and the "cult of authenticity." Facebook - Cyber-crack laced with meth. Judging by some of my friends' profile updates, they don't eat, sleep or go to work - and if they do, they are probably doing so while texting their latest inane "quote of the day" from the Facebook application on their Blackberry. It's also encouraging all kinds of passive aggressive behaviours in people - De-friending, friend blocking, and status updates meant to embarrass someone over something they seemingly didn't have the maturity to simply discuss with the person face to face. Do people not realize there are real life consequences to what they say and do on the Internet, or have we become so disconnected from reality that we have blurred the line to such a degree that it no longer exists?

Maybe Judge's Idiocracy got the axe because it had struck a nerve that had already become raw 3 years ago. I think we have stepped on the crack that broke our mother's back, and there's no returning from the precipice.

Oh well. WTF. I have to update my Facebook profile.

Maybe my favorite song siren Regina Spektor said it best.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Paging Dr. Reid

Wow, Wednesday was a bad day to be Harry Reid. Well, just about any day is a bad day to be Harry Reid, when life is a constant struggle just to get people to take you seriously because you remind them of the guy from those old Peppridge Farm commercials - without the sittin' on a rocking chair in ma back porch country charm - but I suspect, especially this weekend, Reid isn't feeling that "Riunite on Ice- Ooooh that's nice" feeling.

Despite holding the balance of power in the Senate, Reid lost the first fight in a series of upcoming battles Wednesday, when 12 Democrats broke rank and aligned themselves with every single member of a strongly united Republican party, and voted down the so called "doctor fix" that would have added 247 billion dollars to the tag of President Obama's already astronomically priced health care bill.

What is significant about the loss is that it was a surprising illustration of just how legislatively shaky Obamacare is. As Yuval Levin wrote in NRO's The Corner last evening, Reid and the President are facing more than just an increasingly skeptical public:

"The problem for Reid is more than substantive — more than unhappy doctors and an unhappy AMA. The biggest problem is the danger of losing the confidence of his Democratic senators. Passing health-care reform remains an extremely difficult challenge: There are two Senate bills, with very significant substantive differences between them, which need to be combined, voted on, then merged with an even more different House bill, and voted on again. Each of these votes would require the support of just about every (if not indeed every single) Senate Democrat, and each would be a very tough vote for one or another group in their caucus. It is an exercise in serial needle-threading that will call for an extraordinary degree of discipline by the Senate Democrats — a group not known for discipline."

The administration spent the better part of Thursday trying to spin the situation in a number of bizarre and comic ways, until deciding the official talking point would be that they had planned this defeat all along to show the world what a bunch of puppy-kicking buzz-kills the GOP are. Yes, that's right - They're saying they held a vote so they could lose on purpose.

By Friday, even the bill's co-author, Rep Peter Stark ,was distancing himself from the enitre mess, after the reason for the unexpected defeat became apparent - a damning audit performed by the Chief Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The report concluded that:

- Total national health spending would increase by $750 billion over the next decade. (So much for “bending the cost curve.”)

- The overall cost of the House bill will be $1.2 trillion over the period between 2010 and 2019. By 2019, the annual cost of the entitlement expansions would be $236 billion, rising at a rate of 9 percent annually. After all this spending, there would still be 23 million uninsured residents in 2019.

- The president’s signature initiatives to slow the pace of rising costs — comparative effectiveness research, prevention and wellness efforts, and payment changes in Medicare — won’t work as advertised. The savings are almost non-existent.

- The cuts in Medicare Advantage plans would result in “less generous benefit packages” for millions of seniors. The actuaries estimate the House’s Medicare Advantage cuts, which are unlikely to change in any new version of the bill, would force about 8.5 million seniors out of the coverage they would prefer and back into the traditional program. (So much for “keeping the coverage you have today.”)

- Democratic proposals to impose arbitrary, across-the-board payment rate cuts for hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies based on presumed “productivity gains” are unlikely to work as planned. The actuaries suggest that some institutions won’t be able to hit the targets because health care is more labor intensive than other sectors of the economy. Consequently, the cuts could force some organizations to leave the Medicare program, thus “possibly jeopardizing access to care for beneficiaries."

Pelosi and company are promising a new and improved bill that will ring in at just under $900 billion - news that is unlikely to win too many fans.

President Obama's health care scheme is slowly going the way of his Secretary of State's own failed attempt so many years ago. Hopefully, Americans will soon be able to breathe a sigh of relief.



(Breakdown of the CMS's findings were derived from an assessment by James C. Capretta)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Heydrich's Ghost

In the minutes of the Wannsee conference of Jan 20th, 1942, there is a reference to Reinhard Heydrich remarking how "...the Jews whisper in Roosevelt's ear." It's chilling to read, even within the context of a document that chronicles how in less than 90 minutes, the final solution was set in motion, leading to the Shoah, the extermination of close to 6 million Jews - 78% of Europe's Jewish population at the time.

Early in the transcripts, it becomes evident that Eichmann had carefully prepared coded language to shield the participants from any legal consequences should the document be discovered by allied forces as the war disintegrated. The facade didn't last for long, as Heydrich (who headed the meeting) appeared to lose his patience with Wilhelm Kritzinger of the Reich Chancellery, who is said to have become increasingly alarmed at what was being proposed (Eichmann later claimed that the word "extermination" was freely used as Heydrich grew tired of the euphemisms).

Heydrich's off the cuff remark was looming in the back of my mind in June when long time Obama mentor Reverend Jeremiah Wright lamented to the Daily Press that "Them Jews ain't going to let him talk to me" . Wright's hateful slur was widely reported in the press, but there were more troubling comments made during the interview that were seemingly ignored. He accused the President of making decisions based out of "...fear of offending Jews", and referred to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as " Ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist(s)".

Now, President Obama's long and close relationship with this man, and his reluctance to cut his ties with him, are matters we've discussed before - in fact, the list of Obama's closest friends and associates reads like a who's who of people not to leave your children alone with. We've gone there, and will probably go there again - just not today.

Wright's comments are expected, because he's a lunatic who spends most of his time stacking Saltines in complex domino patterns in his living room and setting fire to Tin Tin comics. He relished the thought of his anti-semitic comments being broadcast around the world, because no one really cares what he has to say anymore. Outside of the town where the Reverend lives - called "crazy" - Heydrich's ghost still haunts us.

You all know where this is going, so let's get one thing clear - I am not suggesting that American progressives, along with their cohorts in Pat Buchanan land, are plotting to round up Jews in trains and ship them off to concentration camps. But there is a sort of quasi anti-semitism creeping back into our society. It is dressed up as clever cocktail conversation or intellectual ponderings on the legitimacy of Israeli power. Sometimes it wears the mask of a supposedly even-handed and serious news item in the media; sometimes it comes in the form of academic bullying from left-wing elitists who think anyone who writes articles such as this one possess only a shallow understanding of the world they live in. At it's worst, it comes in the form of the annual "World Conference on Racism" where the world's most oppressive Islamic theocracies and thick-skulled Eurocrats get together to discuss just how awful America and their friends the Jews in Israel are.

"...the Jews whisper in Roosevelt's ear."

An observant friend of mine recently emailed to say that it's a "scary time to be Jewish" - and I believe her. Just 10 days before the world " discovered" that Iran had a long range nuclear missile capable of wiping Israel off the face of the world (the thing can go as far as Athens and back), President Obama dismantled the European missile defence network that was the only thing with any real teeth keeping Iran on a leash. The administration claims it was done as a "good faith" gesture towards the Russians - odd, considering that in international diplomacy, the country being offered the "good faith", so to speak, must have something to reciprocate. America and it's allies got nothing in return but a smirking Putin shutting down newspapers and hurling insults at the United States.

Israel bashing is anti-Americanism by proxy. So fervent and irrational is the of hatred of the United States that any of its foreign interests and allies are immediately treated with intense suspicion - but how did we get this far? How can Western liberals continue to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that have been heaped upon Israel for just short of half a century? As Victor David Hanson noted in his brilliant article published earlier this year;

"First the terrorists of the Middle East went after the Israelis. From 1967 we witnessed 40 years of bombers, child murdering, airline hijacking, suicide murdering, and gratuitous shooting. We in the West usually cried crocodile tears, and then came up with all sorts of reasons to allow such Middle Eastern killers a pass.....When the U.N. and the EU talked about “refugee camps,” none asked why for a half-century the Arab world could not build decent housing for its victimized brethren, or why 1 million Arabs voted in Israel, but not one freely in any Arab country. "

We in the west are indeed to blame for turning our heads the other way for so long, but post 9/11, you would think that many of us would have awoken from our ambivalence.

Liberal intellectuals continue to slander Israel, and their irrational rantings are all the more vehement because of Israel's relationship with the United States. Recently, Brandeis University made the astonishing decision to bestow an honorary doctorate to the self professed "secular Jewish left-wing" playwright Tony Kushner, who once said in an interview that;

"...the biggest supporters of Israel are the most repulsive members of the Jewish community and Israel itself has got this disgraceful record…Israel is a creation of the U.S., bought and paid for…There are lots of beautiful little orange groves and olive groves which the Palestinians had before the Jews were there"

"Bought and paid for"? ...really, Mr. Kushner?

Other leftist Israeli detractors seem to be fueled by disturbing comments made by public figures such as Kushner and Noam Chomsky, simply because they are Jewish (in name only), giving them license to take their rhetoric a step too far, such as Reverend Wright did.

The UN is also ready to lob its hostility towards Israel at every opportunity. On Wednesday, President Obama addressed the National Assembly proclaiming that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”, a sentiment that was greeted with a chorus of raucous cheers and applause.

The Western media saturates the airwaves with gruesome images each and every time Israel is forced to defend itself, portraying their actions as heavy handed and negligent. However, little is heard of the almost daily attacks on innocent Israeli and Palestinian citizens at the hands of Hamas and other extremist groups in the region. Since the year 2000, 1176 people have been killed by Palestinian terrorists. This number includes 18 Israelis who were targeted while abroad, and 3 American service personnel working to help the people of Gaza. The number of wounded at the hands of militant Palestinians tops the scale at an astounding 8300, for a total of close to 10,000 wounded and killed in just 8 short years.

Nor is any attention given to the horrific cartoons that are aired on a daily basis to indoctrinate innocent young Palestinian children into a culture of anti-Semitism, hate, and violence. Even when confronted with this disturbing footage from a popular children's show, CNN made the bizarre decision to defend the video, a sickening propaganda piece that could have come straight out of Hitler's Germany. I was shocked.

Another curious trend I noticed while researching this article was the countless number of sites purporting to be tourist information for people visiting the Nazi death camps, and others claiming to be educational in nature. The sites would, more often than not, turn out to be holocaust denial propaganda.

Indeed, Heydrich's ghost still haunts us. He haunts us in the writings and speeches made by left-wing intellectuals who defend Hamas and their ilk; He haunts us in the world's apathy to the unapologetic bile broadcast each day on Palestinian tv; And most disturbingly, he haunts us through those in the media who make apologies for terrorists that promote genocide and declare that Israel must drip with the blood of every last Jewish child until it is wiped from the face of the earth.

As my Jewish friend remarked, it is indeed a scary time to be a Jew. In a world filled with ambivalence and apologists, anti-Semites masquerading as intellectuals, and major news organizations who try and convince us that a children's TV show that depicts a popular Palestinian children's character being stabbed to death by an Israeli Government official is just "misunderstood", my Jewish friend undoubtedly has much to fear.

Golda Mier once famously remarked; "We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us."

I wonder if Eichmann would have felt the need to so carefully code his language in 2009 as he did in 1942.



Friday, October 09, 2009

Weekend of Weirdness and Thanksgiving

It's the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, where we give thanks for being obscenely taxed for sub-standard health care, being dragged before "human rights" tribunals for writing books or letters to the editor, being dragged to the polls every other year because the Liberal party can't accept the fact that it's not 1974 anymore, and of course, those little bottles of maple syrup at the airport.

Seriously, I love Canada. Our Prime Minister is slowly trying to turn around over 25 years of damage to this country. We are weathering this recession very well, because Prime Minister Harper understands the basic free market conservative principles of tax-cutting and realistic deficit reduction in the context of this economic climate. He is also healing our relations with Israel, after our previous government's embarrassing (and borderline immoral) refusal to put Hamas on our nation's list of terrorist organizations.

Speaking of Israel, I am working on a piece tackling anti-semitism masquerading as clever cocktail conservation among westerners, and the similarities to some of the same language that was being bantered about 50 years ago. It is taking a lot of research - and a great deal of tact - to avoid stepping over the line. It's going to be a great follow up to one of my favourite articles that was well received by readers and actually brought some wonderful friends into my life (that would be you Leah - the most Hebrew-tastic person I know!).

I am feeling a pang of sympathy for the recent embarrassment that has befallen my dear American friends. Losing the Olympic bid? Well, that's a big ouchie, but I'm actually referring to President Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Everyone knew the left-wing intellectuals who hand out the award would eventually do this, I just didn't think it would happen this soon. Not only has the President been unable to do anything noteworthy to deserve such attention as of yet, he is actually - as NRO'S Mark Hemingway noted - making an ungodly mess of everything:

"The economy may be the worst since the Great Depression, the situation in Afghanistan rapidly deteriorating, and a psychotic regime in Iran on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons — but thank goodness the administration's self-regard is holding up."

Upon hearing the news, Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton remarked:

“I was nominated three years ago and I’m still waiting for the call. Today’s news is just another demonstration of how politicized the Nobel Peace Prize has become, from President Carter winning in 2002, to Al Gore in 2007, and President Obama in 2009. When the award was given to President Carter, the chairman of the committee said that it was a ‘kick in the leg’ to the Bush administration,” recalls Bolton. “This is yet another ‘kick in the leg’ for the Bush administration.”

A kick in the leg indeed, and one that a bunch of 2nd rate has-been Eurocrat nations never miss a chance to seize upon.

One thing I won't be giving thanks for this weekend is Facebook, a tool that I will forever have a love/hate relationship with. Two passive aggressive friends of mine removed (and one blocked) me as a "friend" as a result of, I suspect, their disagreements with my rather mainstream conservative political views. One is a harmless quasi-hippie I have no real problems with; the other is an angst filled young man who believes the world is controlled by a nefarious network of corporations in tandem with shadow governments and the military industrial complex. guys are...weird.

Anyway, I wish a wonderful weekend to everyone! Your continued support, confidence, and freshly baked cookies are not taken for granted - well, maybe I made up the cookies part.