Friday, August 31, 2012
Cosseted Americans have become soft and have lost the can-do spirit
Ancient Carthage became soft on the easy living provided by trade and ended up depending on mercenaries to defend it. As Cato said: "Delenda est Carthago" (Carthage is destroyed) --JR
P. J. O'Rourke
When did America quit bragging? When did we stop punching hardest, kicking highest, roaring loudest, beating the devil, and leaving everybody else in the dust?
We’re the richest country on earth—four and a half percent of the world’s people producing more than twenty percent of the world’s wealth. But you wouldn’t know from the cheapjack spending squabbles in Congress. We possess more military power than the rest of the planet combined. Though you couldn’t tell by the way we’re treated by everyone from the impotent Kremlin to the raggedy councils of the Taliban. The earth is ours. We have the might and means to achieve the spectacular—and no intention of doing so.
Witness our foreign policy deliberations, mired in snits about what kind of underachievement to pursue. Should we quit following North Korea’s Twitter feeds? Unfriend Iran on Facebook? Withdraw our troops from the nuclei of terrorism too soon or much too soon? Aid Bashar al-Assad or abet him? Appease China little by little or all at once?
Consider our domestic policy debates—a people once proverbial for our risk-taking, our biggest election-year issue is now health insurance.
And we fret ceaselessly over balancing the budget as if the first duty of nationhood is to be a thrifty parent trying to skimp on a country’s infrastructure with a box of “Highway Helper.”
The United States has set itself on a course of willful self-diminishment. Seventy-four years ago the perfect American was Superman, who happened to have been, like many of our forefathers, an undocumented alien. If Superman arrived today—assuming he could get past the INS and Homeland Security—he would be faster than the postal service, more powerful than a New York Times blogger, and able to ascend tall buildings in a single elevator.
But they wouldn’t be the tallest buildings, at least not if Superman stuck around Gotham. Nine out of ten of the tallest buildings in the world are now in Asia or the Middle East. Tallest is Burj Khalifa in Dubai. At 2,723 feet, it’s nearly twice as high as Chicago’s Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower. The last time America built the tallest building was when people were still ordering things by mail from the Sears catalog in 1974.
The fastest car you can buy is the French-built Bugatti Veyron, which, at 267 miles per hour, is quicker than a Dominique Strauss-Kahn seduction. The fastest train is the Shanghai Maglev, which goes 268 mph just to get from the airport to downtown.
The biggest passenger airplane is the EU’s Airbus A380. The biggest airplane of all is the Russian Antonov An-225, now based in that hotbed of progress, Ukraine.
The fastest commercial aircraft was the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic transport, which began scheduled flights in the disco era and went out of service in 2003. America helped kill it by banning flights over the US landmass for fear that the sonic booms would interrupt us while we were talking to our plants or something. And America helped kill a newer generation of longer-range, more fuel-efficient SSTs by cutting off government funding in 1971.
The US does hold the record for the fastest military aircraft, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, flying at just over 2,193 mph. But that record was set while Gerald Ford was president, in an airplane built when President Obama was still in pull-ups.
The fastest passenger ship is American too, the SS United States, with a top speed of 38 knots. On July 7, 1952, it won the Atlantic crossing “Blue Riband,” beating the fourteen-year-old record held by the RMS Queen Mary by ten hours and two minutes. Today the United States sits derelict and rusting at a dock in Philadelphia.
The largest passenger ships in service are Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class trips-to-nowhere cruise vessels, built in Finland. The largest container ships, floating testimonies to the decline in American manufacturing, are launched in Denmark. The largest supertankers, with their proclamation of continuing dependence on nineteenth-century energy technology, are made in South Korea.
But America has both the largest and the fastest warships, useful for getting numerous military personnel stateside quickly so that the next wars can be fought by the Afghan army, our NATO allies, African Union troops, Israel, and UN peacekeepers.
The list of our sub-marvels and un-wonders goes on. The Hoover Dam is by no means the world’s highest. It doesn’t even rank in the top twenty. Number one is the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan, a country that hardly has any water.
For fifty years, from 1931 to 1981, the US had the longest suspension bridge spans, first with the George Washington Bridge, then the Golden Gate, then the Verrazano-Narrows. Now even Hull, England, has a more spectacular place to make a bungee jump. Although we are in the lead with that. The elasticized drop from Colorado’s Royal Gorge Bridge is 1,053 feet long, showing that whatever America has lost in technological superiority we’ve made up for in sheer idiotic behavior.
Speaking of which, there’s our space program, which has basically ceased to exist. We have a NASA that might as well have been dreamed up by Alger Hiss. In order for Americans to get to the International Space Station, they have to go to Russia.
And in order for Americans to get to the bottom of how the universe works, they have to go to Switzerland. We were planning to build a high-energy particle collider in Texas that would have had a circumference of fifty-four miles—three times the size and power of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva. But Congress canceled the project in 1993.
America has had plenty of reasons to abdicate the crown of accomplishment and marry the Wallis Simpson of homely domestic concerns. Received wisdom tells us that, in the matter of great works and vast mechanisms, all is vanity. The Nurek Dam probably endangers some species of Nurek newt and will one day come crashing down in a manner that will make the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima tsunami look like an overwatered lawn. And we have better things to spend our country’s money on, like putting a Starbucks on every city block. But I suspect there’s a sadder reason for America’s post-eminence in things tremendous, overwhelming, and awesome.
My sad generation of baby boomers can be blamed. We were born into an America where material needs were fulfilled to a degree unprecedented in history. We were a demographic benison, cherished and taught to be self-cherishing. We were cosseted by a lush economy and spoiled by a society grown permissive in its fatigue with the strictures of depression and war. The child being father to the man, and necessity being the mother of invention, we wound up as the orphans of effort and ingenuity. And pleased to be so. Sixty-six years of us would be enough to take the starch out of any nation.
Much more HERE
Only conservatives can commit hate crimes
Last week, a man with a master's degree from George Mason University, a gun and 50 rounds of ammo walked into the Family Research Council. When a building manager named Leo Johnson blocked his entry, he shot Leo in the arm.
Leo Johnson wrestled the shooter to the ground, saving untold lives. The shooter then begged for mercy from the unarmed man, saying something like, "Don't shoot me. It was not about you. It was what this place stands for."
In the shooter's backpack were 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, which he apparently planned to drop on the bodies of the many people he wanted to kill. The shooter's parents later told police that he "has strong opinions with respect to those he believes do not treat homosexuals in a fair manner."
The shooter (whom I refuse to name) has been charged with assault with intent to kill and with bringing a firearm across state lines. But he has not been charged with violating D.C.'s hate crime laws.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has come under considerable just criticism for lumping in "anti-gay" groups like FRC with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan. But a more serious double standard has so far flown under the radar screen.
It's bad when a private group misuses its social capital fighting genuine civil rights abuses to label a mainstream Christian advocacy group a hate group. But it's far worse when the police fail to enforce the law equally. And that is what I believe is happening. Why has the D.C. police refused to prosecute as a potential hate crime what the FBI is investigating as an act of domestic terrorism?
The D.C. anti-bias statute is quite broad and its language clearly includes politically motivated crimes:
"'Bias-related crime' means a designated act that demonstrates an accused's prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, family responsibility, homelessness, physical disability, matriculation, or political affiliation of a victim of the subject designated act." D.C. Code 22-3701.
On Aug. 16 the Anti-Defamation League issued a press release and called on the Metropolitan Police to investigate the crime as a possible hate crime:
"We are confident that the Metropolitan Police Department will fully investigate this crime. If the facts reveal that the perpetrator was motivated by unlawful bias, law enforcement authorities should consider prosecution under the D.C. Bias Crime Statute."
So why hasn't the shooter been charged with a hate crime?
The Family Research Council opposes hate crimes laws, but that should have nothing to do with whether a law on the books gets enforced equally. Bias crimes are based on the theory that the victims of a bias crime are not just the individual harmed, but all others in the class intended to be terrorized by the crime.
Is political pressure in liberal D.C. keeping the police from enforcing the law?
I ask this question in part for a personal reason. The FRC shooting came a week after a package addressed to me personally showed up in the National Organization for Marriage offices filled with feces and hate and used condoms. (I have stepped down from the NOM board, but apparently the guy who dropped off the package isn't keeping up with the latest.)
According to NOM office workers who were there at the time, the police wanted to investigate it as a potential hate crime. The police LGBT hate crimes division was called to the scene (odd, because obviously the hatred thus expressed against me and NOM was not directed at LGBT people) and told the cops not to investigate it as a hate crime. The cops tried to argue with them, but no deal.
In at least two instances, to my direct knowledge, a crime directed at a person or organization who opposes gay marriage was not investigated by D.C. cops as a bias crime.
A nasty package is a minor event. A shooter who intended mass murder is deadly serious.
Together they make up a pattern.
Do we have to wait for a third incident before the police of the District of Columbia, which is ultimately controlled by Congress, act to make sure the laws are enforced equally for all?
Must not try to brighten up common areas of British welfare housing
Residents of a block of flats have been ordered to take pictures down from communal walls because they are dangerous and breach health and safety rules.
Housing bosses have warned the tenants of nine properties in Stockport, Greater Manchester, that any ‘non-compliant’ photos and portraits will be removed and eventually destroyed after an inspection tomorrow.
Even doormats are being outlawed by the killjoys who say they are too dangerous.
Those living there say they have put up their own pictures to brighten up the corridors and some photos belonged to a former neighbour who has died.
But to their dismay they were warned of the inspection in a letter from social landlord Stockport Homes, which runs their building.
It said ‘obstructive’ or ‘combustible’ items - including doormats as well as picture frames - were banned from communal areas because they could potentially pose a fire hazard.
The letter, signed by neighbourhood housing officer Abbie Booth, said Stockport Homes was prepared to allow just two pictures in the entire ground floor corridor - one on each side of the hallway.
The letter warns anyone who fails to do so will be in breach of their tenancy agreement.
Resident Stewart Edge, 64, said he and his neighbours had been ‘gobsmacked’ by the warning. Mr Edge, who has lived in the block for 12 years, said: 'It seems ridiculous. We were just trying to brighten up our home and we’re really hurt that we’re going to have to take them down.
'It’s very heavy-handed and I just can’t believe they see this as a priority and something they should be devoting time to enforcing.
'If a picture frame is a fire hazard then I don’t know where you draw the line. Surely sending out these pointless letters could be classed as a fire hazard as well?
'It’s just so over the top and bizarre it’s hard to know whether to laugh or actually get quite angry about it.'
Stockport Homes was not available for comment.
Joan Marshall, 68, told The Sun: 'It’s stupid — we all want to keep the pictures up. We all see the corridors as part of our homes.'
End of welfare culture as young Brits must work unpaid before claiming benefits
Young people will have to complete three months of work experience before they can claim unemployment benefits under Government plans to end the “something for nothing” welfare culture.
The plans are the first step toward establishing a “contributory” benefits system, where only those who have put something into society can expect payouts.
Chris Grayling, the work minister, and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, announced a pilot scheme which will involve about 6,000 people who have not worked for six months being forced to gain job experience.
The scheme will be rolled out nationwide next year. Mr Grayling said: “Many other countries don’t allow young people to claim any benefits at all until they have made contributions through a job.
“This trial will give a clear idea of the impact of an approach that says, effectively, you can’t get something back until you have put something in.”
He added: “Its time to look at a different way in Britain. A 'something for nothing’ culture does no one any favours. It makes those who are doing the right thing cynical. And for those who head straight into the welfare state, it sets them out in life on precisely the wrong footing.”
Areas that were hit by riots last summer, including Croydon and Haringey, will be among the first where the scheme is tested. Currently, people can claim benefits for at least six months before being pushed into back-to-work programmes. Unemployment benefit is worth £56 a week but claimants also qualify for a range of other handouts.
The Conservatives are expected to make further toughening of the welfare system the centrepiece of their next election manifesto.
Ministers are studying foreign benefits payments which often limit how long people can claim state payouts, or which attach other onerous conditions.
Official figures are expected to show that there are still hundreds of thousands of British households where no one has ever worked.
Teenagers from these homes often sign on to benefits as soon as they leave school, with little prospect of ever entering the workplace.
Under the new pilot scheme, those aged between 18 and 24 with less than six months history of paid work will have to complete 30 hours a week of work experience for three months. They will also be given training on writing a CV and interview technique. They will not receive benefits unless they attend the placements.
Boris Johnson said: “It’s no secret that work experience can be the key that opens the door to a successful career and more young Londoners need to be given the opportunity to do it.
“Right now, it’s a tough labour market out there and we have to ensure that all young people get the skills they need to succeed and for which employers are crying out.”
The Government recently won a legal case after young unemployed people objected to being asked to complete voluntary work experience schemes. A judge dismissed claims that the schemes amounted to “slave labour”.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.