Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Chicken Little Fifth Column

I have been meaning to post this article from the AP and my comments about it for a week. I am going to intermingle my commentary with the article and I'm fairly certain you won't have any difficulty telling who is who.

Everything seemingly is spinning out of control

By ALAN FRAM and EILEEN PUTMAN, Associated Press Writers

Sat Jun 21, 3:14 PM ET

Is everything spinning out of control?

No. Why do you ask?

Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism.

Horatio Alger, twist in your grave.

Yes, yes - levees burst from time to time. Anyone that lives in that part of the country understands it could happen. I can only speak for myself but my home value is stable because I don't live in a hyper-inflated coastal region and I manage to pay for college tuition for our two children, our health care needs as well as our gasoline usage while continuing to move financially forward. In case you didn't notice (since it isn't getting a significant amount of coverage in the media) we are winning the war against Islamofacism and yes, it will continue for some time. But make no mistake - we will prevail.

If Horatio Alger is spinning in his grave it's because of "news" stories like this one.

The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche is under assault. Eroding it is a dour powerlessness that is chipping away at the country's sturdy conviction that destiny can be commanded with sheer courage and perseverance.

"The can-do, bootstrap approach embedded in the American psyche" is alive and well, no thanks to the doom saying minions of the Fourth Estate.

The sense of helplessness is even reflected in this year's presidential election. Each contender offers a sense of order — and hope. Republican John McCain promises an experienced hand in a frightening time. Democrat Barack Obama promises bright and shiny change, and his large crowds believe his exhortation, "Yes, we can."

Don't get me started.

Even so, a battered public seems discouraged by the onslaught of dispiriting things. An Associated Press-Ipsos poll says a barrel-scraping 17 percent of people surveyed believe the country is moving in the right direction. That is the lowest reading since the survey began in 2003.

An ABC News-Washington Post survey put that figure at 14 percent, tying the low in more than three decades of taking soundings on the national mood.

This is the most overused and least relevant straw man question in polling. It is, by it's very nature, designed to provide a negative result which means very little.

"It is pretty scary," said Charles Truxal, 64, a retired corporate manager in Rochester, Minn. "People are thinking things are going to get better, and they haven't been. And then you go hide in your basement because tornadoes are coming through. If you think about things, you have very little power to make it change."

I am sorry Mr. Truxal finds the current state of affairs to be "pretty scary" but his assessment that things haven't been getting better only pertains to him. The vast majority of people in this country live in greater affluence than their parents and grandparents. And I'm not quite sure how being in the basement during a tornado and having very little power to make it change go together.

Recent natural disasters around the world dwarf anything afflicting the U.S. Consider that more than 69,000 people died in the China earthquake, and that 78,000 were killed and 56,000 missing from the Myanmar cyclone.

We consider ourselves to be fortunate and we are extremely generous in sharing that good fortune when natural disasters of this magnitude strike anywhere in the world. The United States is always ready to lend a helping hand.

Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire.

Floods engulf Midwestern river towns. Is it global warming, the gradual degradation of a planet's weather that man seems powerless to stop or just a freakish late-spring deluge?
It hardly matters to those in the path. Just ask the people of New Orleans who survived Hurricane Katrina. They are living in a city where, 1,000 days after the storm, entire neighborhoods remain abandoned, a national embarrassment that evokes disbelief from visitors.

I vote for "freakish late-spring deluge". I also agree that New Orleans is a national embarrassment, but not for the reasons you might expect. For anyone to have as much advanced notice as New Orleans had and fail as utterly to evacuate the city as they did only speaks to their ignorance, incompetence and stupidity. You live in a city that is below sea level. If you can't handle the fact that major storms and flooding will occur occasionally - then move.

Food is becoming scarcer and more expensive on a worldwide scale, due to increased consumption in growing countries such as China and India and rising fuel costs. That can-do solution to energy needs — turning corn into fuel — is sapping fields of plenty once devoted to crops that people need to eat. Shortages have sparked riots. In the U.S., rice prices tripled and some stores rationed the staple.

When is someone going to demand that China and India control their "runaway consumption of food and energy"? I have noticed that food prices have risen but it seems like a huge increase only because prices have been relatively flat for the last 16 years. And here all this time I thought ethanol was a "green" solution to our energy situation. Since we have virtually legislated new domestic refineries out of existence and we're not allowed to drill for oil, yet, what did you expect? By the way, those people who need to eat those crops can have them if they are willing to pay more for them than the ethanol plants. I believe capitalism still works that way. Or they might even consider growing their own. I also remember hearing that Sam's Club limited rice sales for awhile to three 40 pound bags per customer. How much rice do you eat in a year?

Residents of the nation's capital and its suburbs repeatedly lose power for extended periods as mere thunderstorms rumble through. In California, leaders warn people to use less water in the unrelenting drought.

Well, at least now, with the Heller decision, DC residents can defend themselves when the lights go out. The same thing goes for California as New Orleans or Iowa - if you can't abide the weather - move. And do us all a favor and send a postcard when you find Nirvana.

Want to get away from it all? The weak U.S. dollar makes travel abroad forbiddingly expensive. To add insult to injury, some airlines now charge to check luggage.

OK, so you can't go to Europe. Big deal. We live in a very large, very beautiful country and few of us have seen it all. If some airlines want to charge for luggage, fly an airline that doesn't and we'll let the market sort it out.

Want to escape on the couch? A writers' strike halted favorite TV shows for half a season. The newspaper on the table may soon be a relic of the Internet age. Just as video stores are falling by the wayside as people get their movies online or in the mail.

Good God! A writers strike - heaven forfend! Try something new and pick up a book for a change. Newspapers and video stores? Next thing you know we'll be subsidizing buggy whips.

But there's always sports, right?

The moorings seem to be coming loose here, too. Baseball stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens stand accused of enhancing their heroics with drugs. Basketball referees are suspected of cheating. Stay tuned for less than pristine tales from the drug-addled Tour de France and who knows what from the Summer Olympics.

Gee, sport stars doing drugs. In this day and age? My perpetual innocence has been wounded. Find 'em, bust 'em and boot 'em. Sorry - but that's how it should work. And anyone that is surprised about NBA refs has never watched a basketball game.

It's not the first time Americans have felt a loss of control.

Alger, the dime-novel author whose heroes overcame adversity to gain riches and fame, played to similar anxieties when the U.S. was becoming an industrial society in the late 1800s.
American University historian Allan J. Lichtman notes that the U.S. has endured comparable periods and worse, including the economic stagflation (stagnant growth combined with inflation) and Iran hostage crisis of 1980; the dawn of the Cold War, the Korean War and the hysterical hunts for domestic Communists in the late 1940s and early 1950s; and the Depression of the 1930s.

"All those periods were followed by much more optimistic periods in which the American people had their confidence restored," he said. "Of course, that doesn't mean it will happen again."

But your point is every step back has been accompanied by two steps forward, right? Why should this time be any different?

Each period also was followed by a change in the party controlling the White House.

I'm not quite sure what the point of this observation is since by my reckoning it's about a 50-50 split.

This period has seen intense interest in the presidential primaries, especially the Democrats' five-month duel between Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Records were shattered by voters showing up at polling places, yearning for a voice in who will next guide the country as it confronts the uncontrollable.

"Uncontrollable"!? Since when has history ever been controllable?

Never mind that their views of their current leaders are near rock bottom, reflecting a frustration with Washington's inability to solve anything. President Bush barely gets the approval of three in 10 people, and it's even worse for the Democratic-led Congress.
Why the vulnerability? After all, this is the 21st century, not a more primitive past when little in life was assured. Surely people know how to fix problems now.

We have finally stumbled on the truth - "Surely people know how to fix problems now." Indeed, they do and always have. Government, if the opinion polls are to be believed, is the problem, not the solution. We have always had the ability to do things for ourselves in this country, if we only will.

Maybe. And maybe this is what the 21st century will be about — a great unraveling of some things long taken for granted.

Or maybe what will take place will be the greatest growth of freedom in history powered by a capitalist world economy which will catapult mankind to new heights we can only imagine.

Pull on your boots - we've got work to do.


Anonymous said...

Very nice. I needed a reminder that America as a whole grows stronger through adversity.

Country Squire said...

Thanks for visiting taking the time to leave a comment.

I do wonder about those, especially in the media, who would have us believe that the glass is half or completely empty. Not only that, but we should stand by passively and wait for the government to handle it or, at the very least, tell us what to do.

I am quite capable of making my own decisions, implementing them and living with the results. And that doesn’t make me, by any means, unique. I believe that is what we call "the pursuit of happiness".