Monday, February 28, 2011

"Dude, where's my gig?"

I don’t agree with much of what Franklin D. Roosevelt stood for. Despite the fact that he led The Greatest Generation—that of my father—through the most decisive conflict of modern times, I consider him to be one of the most dangerous men of the 20th century. He didn’t engage in genocide, and managed to preserve some important remnants of the Founding Fathers’ ideals, but his socialistic beliefs leave me cold, and paved the way for the turmoil that is engulfing America today.

However, I am in accord with him on one thing. When he stated that the notion of public servants engaging in collective bargaining with the politicians who are elected by the taxpayers represents the worst sort of conflict of interest, he was spot on.

Class warfare is breaking out across the United States. Those cradle-to-grave-robbers who have bought the Democrat rhetoric about “the richest one percent” are now taking to the streets because some politicians are suggesting that they contribute to their own future well-being instead of expecting European-style entitlements simply for showing up at the office for a few years. I’m fascinated at how this is going to shake out in the coming weeks.

When I finally stumbled into college, and spent more time playing rock & roll than studying, I got my first taste of union largesse. I got into a band that was moderately successful in the local market—Atlanta; a launching pad for national acts—and we were continually visited by representatives of the musician’s union during the late ‘70s. These erstwhile individuals, who usually resembled Burt Young in the “Rocky” movies with the porkpie hat and cigar, would show up at gigs, stopping us at the stage door and asking if we were members of the union. We weren’t, and would tell them as much. The entreaties that would follow ranged from proffered union cards to threats that we were violating the rights of dues-paying musicians, and should we ever be offered a big-league recording contract, we would never be allowed to sign unless we were card-carrying union members.

The last, and most memorable confrontation, came outside the back door of The Great Southeastern Music Hall, a long-gone but much-revered venue in its day. (Among other events, the SEMH was where The Sex Pistols opened their American tour a week before we opened for the B-52s back in the day.) An ice storm had delayed our arrival for sound check, and since we had no roadies, we were humping several tons of amps, stage props, and drums into the club from a back alley crowded with vehicles. The bulk of the equipment was inside, and Tim Trautman—the composer of our biggest local radio hits, “Disco Chainsaw” and “Pet Rock”—and I were leaning on our trucks, having a smoke before we went in to assemble the R&R paraphernalia.

Suddenly, a shadowy figure appeared, replete with the aforementioned cigar and hat.

“You guys playing here tonight?” he asked. (He might as well have said “Youse” like a movie gangster, to make the image complete.)

We nodded. We’d been here before.

The dark figure launched into a spiel about the union, starving musicians earning fair compensation for our slavish hard work, and how anybody that was anybody belonged to the AFM. [American Federation of Musicians]

Tim brought the conversation to a sensational halt.

“Hey!” he asked the guy. “You gonna get us any gigs?”

“Uh, er, ah, well, no…” came the reply.

“Then what good are you?” Tim walked inside the club to set up his equipment, and I followed a moment later.

We continued to work, opening for national acts like the Ramones, Ronnie Montrose, The Tubes, The Police, Joan Jett, and several times for the B-52s after they hit the big time. We signed a recording contract, I played drums for Joe Walsh on the “Turn to Stone” track on his album “The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get” before he joined The Eagles, and our vinyl EP got extensive radio play on Atlanta stations. No one from the AFM or any other union ever approached us again. Our band was mentioned in a “Newsweek” article about the resurgence of Southern rock in 1988. Personnel changes doomed the band, not the threat of an amorphous union. Our modest success was based on talent and ambition, not on the collective bargaining of a parasitical entity.

Unions had a place in history and served a useful function in society when they protected hard-put laborers from exploitation and other predations of the robber barons. Those days are long gone, and aside from minimal oversight functions, there is no need for the antiquated “Organized Labor” movement as it exists today. Morons chanting partisan political slogans while blocking traffic and clogging lobbies have nothing to do with the plight of the working man.

And FDR was right: public servants negotiating with public servants is a horrible conflict of interest. Taxpayers elect the politicians, who promise OPM [Other People’s Money] to union members—other public servants, as in the Wisconsin brouhaha—in return for the support and votes of those union members. Somewhere in this loop, the taxpayers are excluded. “Public service” becomes the public serving the elite few, not the other way ‘round as it should be.

This morning’s news contained an item about 200 ill or disabled outpatients in New Jersey kicked to the curb because two-thirds of the [unionized] transit drivers of Monmouth County called in sick so they could attend a “day of solidarity” rally. I keep seeing a sign displayed in Madison: “RNs [registered nurses]…Strong unions protect our patients.” Every time I see that clip, I wonder, when the nurse’s union calls a strike, how many sick people will be left gasping for life in their beds? Who’s going to protect the gravely ill when the “strong unions” are calling in “sick” because their wages are only 25% higher than the private sector?

I don’t even want to get started on the teachers who are not only denying education to their charges in state-run schools in Wisconsin, but are being urged to co-opt children as pawns by dragging them to the partisan rallies. Hillary Clinton was the pre-eminent example of pimping kids for political ends, but today’s liberal agenda goes way beyond her simplistic “It Takes a Village” collectivism. I think there is a viable argument against state-schooling of any sort. There is no constitutional guarantee of “an education.” Back in the day, you got it from your parents, you learned it on your own, or you made your mark and hoped for the best. An educated society is a strong society, but until there is a national system of charter schools, vouchers, recognition of home schooling without governmental intervention, and agenda-free public education for the neediest among us, I don’t want to hear any more bitching about how hard a teaching career is. Like the military and the ideal of politics, it’s volunteer work. If you’re not motivated by a genuine concern for those you serve, then take your degree in basket-weaving and obscure European literature to the private sector, and let me know how that works out for you.

“You gonna get me any gigs? No? Then what good are you?”

Ka-Daffy Duck and the Pirates

I’m deliberately steering away from the Middle East situations until Muamar Qadaffi is dead or in hiding. There’s too much rhetoric about “freedom-loving people” looking for “change they can count on” for me to be easy about the dominoes tumbling in those countries. The majority of Americans voted for “fundamental change” in this country, and how’s that working out for you?

I see the coming of a unified, global caliphate dedicated to the worst tenets of Islam, not anything resembling our Western ideals of democracy. Remember, “democracy” is the simplest form of majority rule, and the best example of that is a lynch mob.

Bear in mind, also, that a “People’s Republic” is, in theory, a nation of law, but only a chosen few of “the people” get to make the laws.

Pirates weren’t unionized. They didn’t engage in collective bargaining. They took what they wanted, and those resisters who survived their initial onslaught were shoved overboard or sodomized and sold into slavery.

I suppose, in the romanticized sense of pirates, we could classify Qadaffi as one. He took what he wanted, his rule was absolute, and if you disagreed with him, your life was short and miserable. He was a terrorist madman until George W. Bush started slapping dictators and terrorists around in the region; Qadaffi’s rapprochement with the civilized nations of the world after the invasion of Iraq proved that he is also a coward; nothing more. Even when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Libya, gasoline soars to $7 a gallon, and state-sponsored terrorism becomes the norm, the world will be slightly better off when Qadaffi goes to claim his 27 virgins in heathen’s paradise.

Meanwhile, real pirates are under sail in the Gulf of Aden, the Indian Ocean, and environs. Those who originally undertook the traditions of the Barbary Pirates captured cargo and took hostages; they understood that the weakness of the infidels is our resources and assets, and we will pay any price to recover them undamaged.

Now, the pirate “industry” has been taken over by a new generation. These children of anarchy are prone to panic, and have wasted their assets, most recently murdering four Americans in a blind panic because they—the pirates—were being tracked by a US warship after capturing the yacht the Americans were sailing on to circumnavigate the globe. The pirate “problem” is like the weather; everyone talks about it, but no one seems to be able to do anything about it.

I have a cheap and easy solution to this problem. Private carriers are reluctant to arm their commercial crews. Like bank tellers, merchant seamen operating in the hazardous areas are instructed to comply with hostage-takers. The parent company will pay up, and hope for the best. It’s only a matter of time before we have a repeat of the Achille Lauro horror of the 1980s, wherein a cruise ship was hijacked and a crippled Jewish man in a wheelchair—Leon Klinghoffer—was murdered and shoved overboard by Islamic terrorists.

I had a vigorous argument with a like-minded friend when I first floated this proposition a while back. He insisted that my concept was based upon incidents occurring during War I, and I insisted that at the beginning of War II, similar tactics were employed, with diminished returns. Further research shows that two waves of these specialized ships were dispatched from Germany during the early days of War II, winning my initial argument. (Sorry, Mack!) They had better luck during War I, when the world was a simpler place, but they scored in 1939-41, too.

What we need now is a couple of hilfskreuzers; also known as commerce raiders.

The idea was that these converted refrigerator ships—faster than conventional freighters—would conceal six-inch deck guns and other armaments. Flying false flags of neutral countries, these ships would draw to close quarters with merchantmen of Allied countries, drop disguising panels, raise the German flag at the last moment, and sink the unarmed prey.

The open sea is a huge place, and a modern warship is distinguishable for miles. (The median visual distance to the horizon from sea level, i.e. standing on the beach at water’s edge, is 18.5 miles.) A cruiser, destroyer, or fast frigate is not going to sneak up on anyone. Besides, the point isn’t to go after anybody. What we want to do is run a “honey trap.”

The trend among the modern pirates is to go after oil tankers, with yachts running a close second. Container ships are also high-priority, as they carry millions of dollars worth of goodies. The crews are invaluable, and the pirates count on our regard for human life as a weakness they can exploit, too.

I’m sure that somewhere on the world market, there is a disused oil tanker, container ship, cruise liner, and yacht. While we, as a nation, are spending billions of dollars for liberal vote-buying schemes, surely we could spare a few million to buy some of these derelicts. Those ships could then be run into northern shipyards—languishing since our foreign trade deficit has destroyed the shipping industry—and a few jobs could be “created” by the government to refit these hulls into commerce raiders. Lots of rust scraping and painting, and while we’re at it, installation of drop panels on the sides, high-velocity 105 mm deck guns, 40 mm Bofors quad guns, and some suitably disguised 20 mm radar-guided Phalanx Gatling guns. Oh, and some M-2 .50 caliber Browning “Ma Deuces” that can quickly be carried on deck and dropped into rail mounts for the small stuff. The heavier weapons can be deck-mounted behind the drop panels, ready for the crew service of regular-service US sailors upon command.

It is arguable that you don’t want to put cruise-ship passengers or civilian merchant seamen at risk by arming them and encouraging resistance to boarding by pirates. The response of the crew of the Maersk Alabama two years ago proves that merchant seamen will fight when hijacked, but I am advocating a strict military response; short, fast, and to the point.

Once equipped, put these false-flag vessels out into the region of piracy. Move them covertly to ports of origin for many of the favored pirates’ targets, then have them sail slowly past the coast of Somalia (since that’s where most of the lawlessness seems to originate.) When the seagoing cowboys ride out in their speedboats and fire the first shots at their “easy” prey, heave to in the water, drop the sides, and sink the bastards. Problem solved.

Yes, modern pirates use GPS technology and sophisticated radio communications. The first few assaults may be sunk so hard-and-fast that they may not have time to get a radio message off, but the word will get out. There are ships out there that are not what they appear to be. Suddenly, the odds have gone up dramatically for the quick-buck artists. That oil tanker may only be carrying water for ballast to make it ride low in the water, and the only passengers on that cruise ship may be the Marines bunking below deck. That yacht they thought carried four innocent civilians may suddenly separate into two components like the Disco Volante in “Thunderball”, and come after them on hydrofoils with guns blazing.

I used to dissuade wild game hunters with the remark that if the rabbits and deer could shoot back, a lot of those fearless hunters would suddenly take up needlepoint. If we possessed the national will to undertake my proposal, the world would be a safer place, and lawless savages would have to think of another scam. The ships would be manned by volunteer military personnel, and all acts of aggression would transpire in open [international] waters. A lot of governments and families would be spared a lot of grief without raising a finger. As in the past, sit back and relax. America will take care of it.

Unfortunately, this is just a juvenile maritime fantasy. More people are willing to apologize for the conditions of poverty that allegedly drove the pirates to their way of life than are willing to do something about the “problem” of lawless savagery.

Still, I’d have the commerce raider’s PA blaring Cheap Trick’s rendition of Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” when the sides dropped and the deck guns swung to bear. That might give somebody something to think about.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Summertime Blues/Wintertime Blues

I find myself caught in that strange purgatory that results from Seasonal Affective Disorder, a.k.a. SAD, combined with depression, hibernation instinct, disgust with the world, and a mild amusement at the disintegration of Life As We Know It.

There is a birthday coming up; not a significant one, but every year at this time, I feel that I should poke my head out from under the flat rock and look at the world I’m still living in.

It is not a happy place.

The blood had not dried on the floor of the Tucson Safeway before the gun-grabbers and the speech police jumped out of the woodwork with their inevitable proclamations. Those People never learn, and they never let a catastrophe go to waste when there is political mileage to be made. The “memorial” pep rally that dishonored the dead was more upsetting than the actual fact of the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords and the others. I wanted to write something timely about it, but gave in to the inner voice that cautioned me to wait a while. The Manchurian Candidate was passingly presidential in his call for civil discourse; a call that was promptly ignored by his myrmidons. I prayed for that woman, and God gave her a break. I know way too much about the secular aspects of the incident; a 9mm is a high-velocity bullet, and at a range of thirty inches, passed through so swiftly that it had little time to do damage. I keep getting bad vibes and resonance off a recent remark about not assigning too much credence to “the supernatural,” but thank you anyway, Lord. Gabrielle Giffords will continue to enjoy your greatest gift of life for a while longer. If he goes up, may her husband fly and return safely from the last mission America will fly in outer space.

I looked up “deranged” in my American Heritage dictionary, and there was a picture of Jared Loughner; the grinning, shaven-headed mug shot that has confronted us for over a month. I am making this up, of course, but he is the poster boy for lunacy for the foreseeable future. The opportunistic hypocrites who seek to make him out to be a product of free speech and “vitriolic rhetoric” will reap what they have sown. Hopefully, so will he. After a thorough grilling by forensic shrinks and profilers, he will get the Really Big Shot and cease to be a waste of protoplasm.

As for the caliber of intellect that guides our country, I refer the Constant Reader to Charles “Chuckie-doll” Shumer, the senior senator from New York. This dork is on record as saying that the three branches of government are the Congress [House of Representatives], the Senate, and the White House.

Before I dropped out of high school, I already knew that the three branches of government are the Legislative [House and Senate—where the laws are made], the Judicial, and the Executive [that CEO office in the White House that we pay way too much attention to].

I got an e-mail the other day about “common tater” Chris Matthews believing the Panama Canal is the primary waterway of the Middle East. (I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” and happen to know that’s the Suez Canal. I think Panama’s down south somewhere on this side of the world.)

My reply was this: “What do I expect from a blow-dried plastic banana mouthing the party line on the liberal network? Exactly what I expect in the way of decisive action from The Manchurian Candidate in dealing with the tumbling dominos in the Middle East...nothing.”

I love a revolution as much as the next radical, but I don’t see anything good coming out of Egypt or any of the other tumbling tyrannies in the Middle East. There is no such city-state as “Terror,” and the whole “war on terror” has been an unfortunate euphemism for a fact of life that no one wants to face up to: the terrible clash of cultures and beliefs that we are involved in. A few years ago our interventionism in Iraq and Afghanistan was called “the new Crusade” by radical Islamists. It goes far beyond that. When Nikita Khrushchev banged his shoe at the UN and said “we will bury you,” he was talking trash. Those who preach the inevitability of sharia law and the dhimmitude [slavery to Islam] of the “infidels” are far more serious and determined than the communist utopians of my childhood.

What big brains like Chuckie-doll Shumer and Osama Bamalama refuse to realize is that events since War II have been determined by brush wars between “our” dictators and “theirs.” We already fought World War III in slow motion on this premise. Now, we are in War IV. Hosne Mubarak rose to power literally soaked in the blood of Anwar Sadat when the Egyptian military blew Sadat’s hapless ass away. The United States has depended on the allegiance of erstwhile dictators in places like the Philippines, Panama, Vietnam, and numerous South American countries since America became an empire. When those dictators—Manuel Noriega comes immediately to mind—wandered off the reservation, we swatted them down. JFK told Fidel Castro to take a hike when the latter approached the US for recognition, driving him into the bosom of the Soviet Union. Does the name Salvador Allende ring a bell with anyone? (Can any state-schooled American still find Chile on a world map?)

And make no mistake about it, America is the last empire. What differentiates us from those of the past is that—as a people—we never sought some imperial aspiration. It devolved upon us as a kind of karma for being the last, best hope of humanity. There is much in our national past that still brings shame to this very day, but those were the growing pains of a great nation. As someone much wiser said a long time ago: “Never apologize. Just move ahead and do the best you can.” (What, you want a quote citation? Okay, I said that. So there…)

Maybe it’s just the gloom of the weather, the winter blues, and all this snow that has me so down. There was a flash of hope last November, when the people made their voices heard at the polls in a massive rejection of the current administration’s policies. For a brief moment, it seemed that I was in step with the majority who spoke out against the socialist utopian fantasies that have determined our national policy for the last two years. I thought that the United States of America had a fighting chance to survive.

Now, I don’t think we’ll survive the next twenty-three months.

I had hoped that we could weather four years of incompetent leadership and avoid a major shit-storm until we turn The Red Herring out late next year. Alas, events have overtaken us.

We have lost.

Call it “the war on terror,” call it the “holy war,” call it anything that makes you comfortable enough to watch “American Idol” instead of the news. We have lost. There is no national will to win, as with The Greatest Generation when War II engulfed us. In our guilty rush to “inclusiveness” and “diversity” we have laid ourselves bare and become helpless. The enemy of humanity is not at the gates; it is inside the compound.

Maybe it’s seasonal nihilism, but the only solution I can see to the problem is to break out the nukes and burn the house down to rid it of a cockroach infestation. This is untenable and unthinkable; it recalls a reproach from my war-gaming days: “If you want to move from tactical to strategic nuclear response, you might as well pour lighter fluid on the map and set a match to it.” [This from Ye Olde Days when war games were played with cardboard counters and paper maps.]

As I said in my e-mail about Matthews and his ignorance, I’m glad I’ll outrun the worst of it. If my cancer comes back tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll seek treatment again. I’d rather draw my last breath remembering America as it was than acknowledge the nation becoming some caliphate of a heathen devolution into a past where unquestioning obedience to the “supernatural” was the law, and venal “sins” are punishable by death or mutilation.

Like Puxatawney Phil, the groundhog, I stuck my head up for a moment. The shadows I see don’t portend another six weeks of winter. They are harbingers of the end of civilization, and the onset of The New Dark Ages. If you’re a woman, better get started sewing your burqhua, and if you’re a man, get ready for submission or death by stoning if you’re not a True Believer.

We have lost.