Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Technocomony

“Get busy living or get busy dying.” The Shawshank Redepmtion

Memory loss, not job loss, may be the worst effect technology has had on our society and economy if we’re to judge by Obama’s comments in an interview with NBC’s Ann Curry. He’s clearly suffering from technology-induced amnesia or Alzheimers if he doesn’t remember technology is what got him elected.

He’s forgotten all those Ipod, Blackberry-carrying shills of his who put their boots on the ground to drum up the youth vote. He must have forgotten his website (which allowed donors to donate money without identifying their nationality). He must have forgotten all those social networking sites where his cheerleaders anonymously talked him up to the kids, who didn’t realize they were hacks sitting behind banks of computers luring them in.

Ohhhhh….that technology. Yeahhhh. He forgot about that. That’s probably why he needs a teleprompter because his memory is gone. All he sees are his golden words, his soaring prose, his insights and wisdom scrolling up the screen. He doesn’t see all the wiring and electronics behind it. But, if he wants to go back to writing his speeches on the index cards, that’s fine with us. He might actually have to learn how to look at the audience, no his ghostly image on the teleprompter screen. He might have to learn to ad lib without stammering.

Obama sure remembers his Karl Marx, though. Marx, in his Communist Manifesto, railed on about the havoc industrialization and mechanization would have on the workforce of the future.

“The feudal system of industry, under which industrial production was monopolized by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guildmasters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labor [see Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations] between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labor in each simple workshop.

“Meanwhile, the markets kept on growing [with the discovery of America and the advancement of world trade]; demand went on rising. Manufacturing was no longer able to keep up with this growth. Then, steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant modern industry [Marx’ highlight]; the place of the industrial middle class, by industrial millionaires [!!!], the leaders of whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois [boo, hiss!!]

Still, Marx observes:

“Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way [so that’s why the world hates us]. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land [what he think of satellite technology?!]. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

“We see, therefore, how the modern bourgeoisie it is itself the production of a long course of development, of a series of revolutions in the modes of production and of exchange.”

The smarter people, who created the new innovations and creations, risked their capital on them, and gave jobs to people who would otherwise still be working on a feudal lord’s farm, have pushed those somewhat less capable people into the background. Shocking!

There is good news for Marxists like Obama and his cheerleaders – beat them with their own Ipads.

“From time to time, the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battles lies not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers. This union is helped by the improved means of communications that are created by modern industry and that place the workers of different localities in contact with one another.”

Use the technology those evil capitalists have created to call upon your union brothers and sisters to descend upon Madison, Wisc., to occupy and vandalize the capitol building to protest the governor’s budget cuts. They have to protect those teacher’s rights to lifetime health care and vacation homes.

My company has made good use of current technology. So good that they employed us writers to communicate management’s intentions to do away with our jobs. How funny is that? My co-workers met the news with varying degrees of dismay, especially the writers who had to write the executive communications (which I skirted away from – I’m not anti-management, but I’m not going to sign my own job death warrant, either).

Our first notice was the Spring of 2010. Just a hint or two. The company was doing a job production study. “You’re going to fire us?” I thought. Oh no, they said (my supervisor reads this – don’t worry, S.D. I’m just a fan of irony, that’s all). They were just studying our jobs to see how we could do our work more efficiently.

Uh-huh. Except I worked for a company that specialized in such studies, and the result of such studies was down-sizing. That’s when I started my blog. Then at a meeting that summer, our managers announced that an announcement would be coming in December. We were given a bit more of a hint about what was coming. I bought some economics books because I knew in my future state of employment, it was a subject I would definitely need to know. All that the managers would say was that there would be fewer jobs, but not too much of a cut, and that in comparison to other companies, our company’s public relations department was too big.

Uh-oh. See – the thing is, my brother works in the construction trade. He asked me to come to his office (about ten minutes away) to take photos of a project he was heading up. I wondered that they didn’t have their own photographer. They did, but she was too busy. She was curious to hear about how large our department was. I told her the number of communications people we had.

“You need that many people?” she asked, incredulous. “We have four people for our entire company, two web designers, one writer and one writer/photographer [her].” My brother’s company is international; they have offices all over the world.”

‘Double uh-oh!!’ I thought. By December, I knew exactly how much trouble we were in. I was hardly surprised when the manager told me that I could apply for any writing job except the one in my area. They said external public relations people’s jobs were on the block to, but as this, I scoffed. No way. They need those people on the ground, in the communities, holding those photo ops. That’s not something you can do from a computer. It’s the writing and web design jobs that are going to.

I began ordering books on my favorite topics – politics and history. I’ve discussed some of them here on this blog. I’ve made quite a lot of progress, from The 5,000 Year Leap, to Liberty and Tyranny, to The Coming Insurrection (scary stuff), not to mention The Grand Jihad (go, Andrew McCarthy! He’s one of my favorite authors). A few books I already knew to read. I just finished up on Paul Revere: His Life and Times (that’s my next post, I think) and started on The Real George Washington – so far, I LOVE it!! This bio has all the wonderful details that allow you to really get to know him, the details that will really make you remember our first president, as an individual and as a true hero.

I haven’t just been reading these books but taking notes on them as well. You fans of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck think they’re taskmasters (especially Glenn Beck). But if you really believe in the Conservative cause, you must do the reading. You must be literate and conversant on those subjects I mentioned – history, economics, and politics. The teachers are not going to teach your children and grandchildren these subjects; you can’t depend upon them. Their first loyalty is to their unions, not their students.

You need to get directly involved with your local school boards as well. They’re the ones who make the decisions on curriculums and what textbooks your kids are going to be reading. Leave it up to the teachers, and your kids will be reading My Mommies Have Two Daddies.

At our Tea Party meeting this past week, we listened to a school board member describe what it was like to be on a school board. Constant battles with the unions, too many empty seats in the auditorium, and too much money being spent on the wrong budget items. One of out every one of you parents out there needs to get to that school board meeting. Most are held once a month, as I recollect, so it’s not like it’s a big time commitment. Never mind the kid’s soccer game; that school board meeting is much more vital to your child’s future. In fact, bring them with you and let them see what a stand-up Mom or Dad you are.

I digress. So much has been happening what with Weinergate and Obama’s War on the ATMs. This week, our company took us down to the next level of transition – the really bad news. Up until this time, our managers told us we were in a pretty good place and my co-workers believed it. We went on churning those happy-face memos and articles.

Alas, the time had come to drop the ball. I sincerely believe that our corporate offices were leading our local managers and supervisors along. I don’t think my supervisor knew what was coming. She’s a nice person. Unfortunately, as she and I have discussed, it’s the Day of the Bean Counter. I’ve already told her I no more believe that there’s a place for me in the New Order than that I’m going to be find the Fountain of Youth and be 25 forever.

She knows I’ve been looking and figure on looking. As long as I didn’t tip off my co-workers (which she knew I would never do and didn’t), everything was okay between us. Poor S.D. They say she looked so shocked when she heard the news. She’s such a nice person, she came down from our upstate New York offices to visit with our group to see how we were taking it. The young woman who took it the worst wasn’t in that day because of jury duty.

We weren’t fine. That would be a lie. It’s never really “fine” to hear that you job is going away. Some of us may have some small chance at the new jobs. Others know we’ll be looking outside our company. Nearly all of them have been with the company over 15 years. They can understand changes in technology. Most of them have benefited, at least in the long run, by those changes. They’ll go into the job market with greater skills than they had when they began back when they still layed out the magazine in typeset.

By lunch we were laughing and joking. We could either cry, “Boo-hoo! I’ve lost my job!” Or shout, “Yahoo!! I’ve lost my job!” I’m somewhere in between. What will be hardest to say good-bye to (after the paycheck) is all the friends we’ve made. It’s been very convenient having so many friends in one place, for so long (it’ll be 14 years at the end of November).

That’s where technology comes to the rescue. Friends I thought were long since gone have returned on Facebook. I can e-mail or Facebook them any time (but working hours) I want. Technology has made it possible to keep in touch with your friends. How great is that? One person who will never be on my FB page is Obama.

The next day, after the Big Announcement, I went to Best Buy and bought my own router. Tomorrow, I’m going to give myself one of those Ipads for Father’s Day. I need to be prepared to prove I know and am familiar with this new technology. I want to be able to type as quickly as I see the young people typing – with their thumbs. That will be my new skill set – typing 80 WPM on a keyboard about the size of my credit card.

At this announcement, they announced that they had no idea when the interviews for the new positions would begin. They have no idea yet of what the pay or job titles will be (how’s that for being prepared for the future? Sorry, S.D. ) . The word along the optic cable wires is the interviews will begin in September. Since our managers are hoping for October, but our Corporate offices have let them down every step along this transition route, it probably will be September, to be completed by November. By January 1st, Corporate expects to be up and running.

Anyone who expects to get their severance pay must apply for one of the new positions. Lower level employees can’t apply for positions above pay-grade (that’s been a standard practice with this company since I began there) but higher level employees and managers may post for lower level positions. The company won’t force us to accept a position more than 50 miles or one hour commute away or is below our current pay level (unless we want it).

They passed out an expensive-looking PowerPoint presentation, 75 pages long, giving us all the details that were available and they were willing to disclose. Our manager is such a laugh. She told us to flip ahead any pages but wait for her. ‘Do not the flip the pages.’ Our video guys raced either other to see who could find the bad news first. Always being the one to get caught, I discreetly flipped the page and found it – just what I expected – immediately.

It was still a depressing shock but I had the comfort of knowing that I’d known it all along and was in the midst of preparations. Tomorrow – the Ipad. I’ll have to rearrange my service providers. Still have to figure out how that all works. But I’ll be one step closer to my future.

Whether you’re expecting a lay-off or Doomsday in 2012, the secret is to be prepared. I started preparing for this eventuality back when I was deciding on where to live and what I was going to live in. I decided a condo was the most practical option financially and logistically (less space to clean and more time to devote to writing). I decided on ownership rather than renting because I didn’t want a landlord telling what I could and couldn’t have. I shopped around and got the place on a short-sale (unfortunately for the seller).

We’ve been guessing when the “end” will come for our jobs. The company has assured us (and in this I trust them), that the date will be sometime in the first quarter of 2012. Knowing these Bean Counters, I’m counting on the first business day of January. Others are hoping for March 31st. That would be nice; March 30th will be my 16th anniversary of owning my condo. That will mean four years left on my mortgage. I can manage, one way or another.

At the most optimistic, I’ll have until next August to adequate means to support myself. At the worst, next May. This is where we have to play The Game. Happily, my anniversary date will be past. One of my poor co-workers in one of the other offices has a February anniversary date. The glum news is we’ll be competing with our managers and supervisors for jobs (that’s okay, S.D. Don’t worry about it.). The better news is we’ll know fairly quickly what that final date is before we have to start sending out the resumes. If it’s March 31st (and I doubt it) that will be the better news. If it’s January 1st (that’s the not so good news). One savvy co-worker thinks it’ll be Jan. 31st. It could be worst.

I tell you all this personal stuff not to bore you but so you understand why you have to think ahead and be prepared for every day. How technology can do away with one job but create another. Why it’s better to listen to your mother (“Learn to type!”). Not so good to believe everything Corporate tells you., which is phoney. Not so bad to listen to your employees when tell you, “That’s baloney!” Not so good to stay in a job that bores you and not so bad to look at doing something new.

Not so good when hackers use new technology to cheat and rob. Not so bad when new technology may mean a new job. Not so good when politicians shine you on. Not so bad when a cheater is gone. Not so good to stay past your prime. Not so bad to show a new employer you can rhyme.

Obama was okay with technology when it suited him. The unions are okay with technology. When it suits them. They’re not so okay with technology when it creates a new job and new investments for capitalists. They don’t like it that we might just control the future after all – and we’re using the technology they tried to trap and ruin us with.

The future holds more promise than you might think.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Zawahiri Zeitgeist

Since the early 1990s, Osama Bin Laden was the face – and originator – of Al Qaeda (the “Base” or more likely, according to some Al Qaeda watchers, the “Database”).  Ayman al-Zawihiri, approximately four years Bin Laden’s senior, was content to play second fiddle as Osama’s doctor and advisor in all things Islam.  After all, Al Qaeda was Osama’s creation, his baby.

The same scholars had long cautioned that al-Zawihiri was the more dangerous of the two.  Now that Osama is dead and Zawahiri has taken command of the organization, we’re about to find out if they were right about Zawahiri.  Bin Laden’s death couldn’t have come at a more propitious moment, what with the “Arab Spring” and the riots in Egypt, for Al-Zawahiri – an Egyptian – to take over.

There couldn’t be a more striking contrast between two men – the tall, at one time good-looking (sorry; anyway, not so much later in life, was he?) and charismatic (well, to Muslim adolescents) Bin Laden to the more diminutive, scholarly, and pious Al-Zawahiri.  While the very wealthy Bin Laden was enjoying his college education in Arabic, but westernized Saudi Arabia, Al-Zawahiri, a scion of a well-to-do but not as quite-as-well-to-do Egyptian family.  One of his relatives was the president of an Islamic university.

Al-Zawahiri was radicalized at an earlier age, and was enough of an Islamic scholar that it’s not likely he’ll meet his fate watching porn videos on an ancient television, trying to escape his 9 wives and 23 children.  Al-Zawahiri spent time in prison and claimed to be tortured.  Evidently, so was Bin Laden.

According to Wikipedia (always a caution sign), he was born to a prominent upper middle class family in Maadi, Egypt, a suburb of Cairo, and was reportedly a studious youth. His father, Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri, came from a large family of doctors and scholars. Mohammed Rabie—a Muslim fanatic—became a surgeon, and a medical professor at Cairo University. Ayman al-Zawahiri's mother, Umayma Azzam, came from a wealthy, politically active clan. Ayman excelled in school, loved poetry, hated violent sports - which he thought were inhumane  (they must have made him play dodge ball)  - and had a deep affection for his mother.
Under the influence of his uncle Mahfouz Azzam, and lecturer Mostafa Kamel Wasfi, he became both quite pious and political. He was also a follower of Sayyid Qutb, who preached that to restore Islam and free Muslims, a vanguard of true Muslims modeling itself after the original Companions of the Prophet had to be developed.

By the age of 14, al-Zawahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood. The following year, the Egyptian government executed Qutb for conspiracy, and al-Zawahiri, along with four other secondary school students, helped form an “underground cell devoted to overthrowing the government and establishing an Islamist state.”  It was at this early age that al-Zawahiri developed a mission in life, “to put Qutb's vision into action.” 

His cell eventually merged with others to form al-Jihad or Egyptian Islamic Jihad.   Al-Zawahiri graduated from Cairo University in 1974.  He then served three years as a surgeon in the Egyptian Army after which he established a clinic near his parents.   In 1978, he also earned a master's degree in surgery.  He ultimately became one of Egyptian Islamic Jihad's leading organizers and recruiters. Zawahiri's hope was to recruit military officers and accumulate weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch “a complete overthrow of the existing order.”  Aboud al-Zumar, Chief strategist of Al-Jihad and a colonel in the military intelligence, planned was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing – he expected – a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country.”  Al-Zumar, it appears, was simply ahead of his time.
The plan was derailed when authorities were alerted to Al-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an  operative carrying crucial information, in February 1981.   Pres. Anwar Sadat ordered the roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Al-Jihad members, but missed a cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who succeeded in assassinating Sadat during a military parade that October.   Al-Zawahiri was one of hundreds arrested following Sadat's assassination.  He was convicted of dealing in weapons and received a three-year sentence, which he completed in 1984, shortly after his conviction.

In 1985, al-Zawahiri went to Saudi Arabia on Hajj and stayed to practice medicine in Jeddah for a year.  He was reported to have first met bin Laden there a little later in 1986.  He then traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan where he worked in a Red Crescent hospital treating wounded refugees. There he became friends with the Canadian Ahmed Khadr, and the two shared a number of conversations about the need for Islamic government and the needs of the Afghan people.  During this time, al-Zawahiri also began reconstituting the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) along with other exiled militants. In Peshwar, al-Zawahiri is thought to have become radicalized by other Al-Jihad members.  He also met up with Osama bin Laden, who was running a base for mujahideen called Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) founded by the Palestinian Sheikh Abdullah Yusuf Azzam. The radical position of al-Zawahiri and the other militants of Al-Jihad put them at odds with Sheikh Azzam, with whom they competed for bin Laden's financial resources. Zawahiri carried two false passports.

In 1993, shaving off his beard and wearing Western clothes, Zawahiri traveled to the United States, where he addressed several California mosques under his Abdul Mu'iz pseudonym, relying on his credentials from the Kuwaiti Red Crescent to raise money for Afghan children who had been injured by Soviet land mines.  Meanwhile, he sent his younger brother, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, to the Balkans to help lead the mujaheddin fighters in Bosnia.  Muhammed is known as a logistics expert and is said to be the military commander of Islamic Jihad.  Muhammed worked in Bosnia, Croatia, and Albania under the cover of being an International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) official.  While hiding in the United Arab Emirates, he was arrested in 2000, then extradited to Egypt where he was sentenced to death.  He was held in Tora Prison in Cairo as a political detainee.  Security officials said he was the head of the Special Action Committee of Islamic Jihad, which organized terrorist operations. However, after the Egyptian popular uprising in the spring of 2011, on March 17, 2011 he was released from prison by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the interim government of Egypt.  His lawyer said he had been held to extract information about his brother.  However, he was re-arrested three days later.

If even half of what Wikipedia states is correct, he is bad news.  Now that the Muslim Brotherhood basically controls the Egyptian government, and other regimes, flush with the funds of exiled leaders, they have both the money and the power to accomplish goals, or will have soon.

A better source of information on al-Zawahiri are authors like Andrew McCarthy, who wrote about Sheik Abdel Rahman, another radical Egyptian who spent time in the Egyptian prison right alongside Qutb.  He writes about al-Zawahiri as well, describing his scholarly upbringing and his youthful radicalization into the ways of Islamic Jihad.  In his recent column, McCarthy writes about the Islamic radicalization hearings being conducted by Congressman Peter King of New York.

McCarthy advises King to consult the real experts in Islamic radicalization – those intelligent intelligence gatherers who’ve gotten their information through research and investigation, rather than through Radical Islam’s public relations arm.  McCarthy notes that a recent study has revealed that 80 percent of mosques in America distribute violent, anti-Western Islamic propaganda.

Osama Bin Laden may have been able to recruit stupid young Muslims to blow themselves up in the name of Islam.  But once Islam’s boot is on the throat of the West, an al-Zawhiri will be needed to bring together all the high-level players to “restore the Caliphate” and prepare the way for their Mahdi.

Bin Laden was scary.  We’re all relieved that he’s at the bottom of the sea.  But another, worse monster is rising up in his place, and possibly another in his.  Al-Zawahiri is shaping up to be a man for his times.  Now we just need to elect a man for ours.  The Arabs may have had their Spring.  Summer approaches, and Autumn behind it.  Autumn of 2012, however, is the time we must look to for new leadership. 

Who will be the man – or woman – for America’s times?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Auf Weinersein

Thus ends the ignoble career of Congressman Anthony Weiner, representing New York’s 9th Congressional District (mainly Queens). A man who was said to have spearheaded a program putting troubled teens to work cleaning up graffiti wound up besmirching whatever was left of honor in the United States Congress.

If there was anything more appalling and disgusting than his twitter-pated, lewd twitters of himself to various female recipients, manhandling himself in his underwear, it was the cavalier attitude his own constituents displayed towards his abnormal and disturbing behavior.  Not even the Democrats could countenance his unseemly behavior; they called strongly for his resignation and today, he finally gave in, and announced his resignation. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi must have had to use her outdoor voice with this clueless man. The cries of the Media, the rest of Congress, the Nation, and even the President of the United States fell on deaf and dumb ears.

Mercifully, we should hear – and more importantly – see no more of this pathetic man or his cringe-inducing photos, preening before a mirror in the Congressional gym. The nation will suffer no longer under such embarrassment. We pray this man will find help, indeed, if for no other reason than the sake of his poor wife and unborn child.   Besides, the cartoonists and punsters would soon have run out of ideas for mocking this ridiculous excuse for a Congressional representative.

After pursuing Glenn Beck for so long, unjustly accusing him of poor ethics, Weiner was hung on his own petard.  "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly well."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Great Tuesday Experiment

The New Jersey Department of Motor Vehicles called it “The Great Monday Experiment.” In an effort to save the Garden State money, the DMV closed all its motor vehicle agencies offices on Mondays for the last eleven months, with extended hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Four offices were permanently closed, three for austerity purposes. That left 39 remaining offices. A study the DMV had done found Monday was the least busy day, so that was the day they cut. Monday customers would have to come on Tuesdays. There were now two days you never wanted to come to the DMV – the last day of the month and Mondays.

I happened by the DMV office on the last day of the month, though I still had time to get my license renewed; the line that snaked right out of the door of the building – the building mind you, not the office – changed my mind for me. Arriving two weeks later, on a Tuesday, I found the line a little bit better; the line cordon outside the office but inside the mall, designed to accommodate five rows of frustrated motorists, only stretched halfway down the second. I considered myself lucky.

Once inside, a scolding but funny receptionist waved her feathered pen at us. The office only held about 250 people and there were decidedly more than 250 people inside. One line was for the license renewal, the other for vehicle registration and other matters of automotive import.

It’s been ten years since Mohammed Atta, with his colorful collection of state driver’s and pilot’s licenses, drove back and forth past the old Wayne DMV, and then flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Still, New Jersey residents haven’t learned that you need at least as much documentation as he carried in order to renew your New Jersey driver’s license. At the minimum, you must have your birth certificate, a valid passport, and some other form of resident ID if you don’t have a passport.

In addition, if you’re a married woman, you must have your wedding certificate. We wondered why the line was so slow. One of the hold-ups was a couple about 100 people ahead of us in line, whom I heard the story from later on.

The man is very meticulous and had all the papers in order, with identifications between them to spare. However, only the woman’s married name appeared on the wedding certificate. No matter how many IDs they showed the DMV agent, she refused to accept the wedding certificate, without which, the woman could not renew her license. The agent wanted some documentation the couple hadn’t brought with them.

Like many other “defaulters,” they had to return home. They were also renewing some vehicle registrations and the wife thought she had accidentally shredded it. The husband had a terrible fit and yelled at her. They had a colossal row until they found the document intact. Then they returned to the DMV where, like the other defaulters, they were allowed to go to the head of the line (where we who had our papers arranged in good order were all berating the defaulters for being nincompoops).

I got past the first receptionist, and came to the second receptionist, who spent ten minutes examining my birth certificate. Like Obama, or maybe unlike him I should say, I do not have an original birth certificate. The hospital where I was born burned to the ground when I was small. My parents had to apply to the state of New York and they had to bureaucratic hokey-pokey to get a certified copy.

It was hilarious. Well worth the eventual two hours that it took to get my license renewed. She read the front. She read the back. Then she turned it over and held it practically right up to her eye to read the embossed imprint. She held it away then looked at it again. And then again. Then she turned the paper around on all four sides to read the complete seal.

When she’d read the seal all the way around, she turned the paper over to read the seal on the reverse side. Her mouth opened and shut several times. Then she read the fine print on the back of the certificate. Every word of it. She showed it to a passing colleague, who shrugged. She read the fine print a second time, flipping the paper over several times, in the process.

At last, my birth certificate passed her scrutiny. I was born and could go on to the next stage of bureaucratic boredom – the dreaded photograph. I could have been born and born again on this line. The wait, when it was finally over, was 90 minutes. Fortunately, not only had I brought all the proper documentation; I’d brought a book as well.

This line-up of motorists was a diverse group. Every age group was represented. The seasoned citizens took the wait in good striding. As long as they could sit, they were good. The younger people, however, found the sitting and waiting intolerable. One young lady, whose packet was number 91 tried to bribe number 50 to let her into line.

She put up quite a howl the entire time, complaining about how she had to be someplace and was going to be late.  Her companions finally tried to shush her catawaulering. She refused to be shushed and threw herself at the mercy of one of the DMV agents. Another young couple simply inserted themselves into line a few numbers ahead of the adults before them, one of whom was me.

We could all see their packet numbers. Mine was in plain sight. I reminded them that they had number 78. ‘Oh yes, ma’am, number 78.” But they never moved from where they stood in line. The gentlemen they cut in front of had reminded them also, to no avail. Several other adults gave broad hints about mind our numbers. The young man simply looked up at the ceiling. The young lady smirked.

They had us. If they refused and we made a fuss, we’d appear petty. If no one said anything, they’d get away with cheating. Who was without sin and going to be the one to cast the first stone? Who there hadn’t used the express lane at the supermarket when they should have been elsewhere? Who hadn’t returned their library book or DVD three months late without ever paying the fine (actually, not me; but still I wasn’t stainless). We had to bear patiently with their immaturity and let the infraction pass. We, who knew better than to cut in line, had we been better people, could have reminded them to be better people. That epiphany for them, however, would have to wait until they were middle-aged and some silly post-adolescent cut in front of them in line.

At last, it was my turn. The photo agent chose me to explain to all sundry why there was this colossal line. The DMV had only shut four offices. Between them, they should have been able to handle the relatively small Monday overflow. He said, though, that service was so bad in other centers, the efficiency so lax, that motorists were flocking to the tiny little Oakland office to renew their licenses.

Oakland DMV, to its credit, was doing the best it could to provide efficient service. Evidently, other DMVs are deliberately not doing their best to provide better service. They want their $4 million back. If there are people complaining, it’s probably the young people, who always have someplace to go and never have the patience to wait (I wasn’t patient when I was younger, either).

The Progressives depend upon young people, our hope and change for the future, to keep things exactly the way they are. Maturity is needed to manage our country with efficiency and common sense. Gov. Christie did the right thing when he demanded efficiency from the DMV; it was the young people who were cutting in line, holding their heads in their hands, and trying to bribe their way to a better place.

Incidentally, I wonder whether Pres. Obama would have the patience to endure a ten minute-long examination of his birth certificate? If he had just allowed the public those ten minutes, we would have been spared three years’ worth of inefficient, conspiracy-theory silliness.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Flag Day, 2011

Ten years ago to the day, I walked up and down the hallways of my office building waving two American flags.  My co-workers laughed at me.  Little did I know that a mere three months later, flying the American flag would become the latest trend in the wake of the September 11th attacks.

The Star-Spangled Banner truly is “a grand old flag.”  It has a very handsome design with its 13 alternating red and white stripes, symbolizing the original 13 colonies, and the orderly box of white stars splashed on a blue (for loyalty) background.  Old Glory, as she’s sometimes called, is a stand-out, stand-up-and-cheer flag.

Little children wave miniature flags at parades and carelessly toss them away.  Old gentlemen take off their hats and hold them over their hearts as it passes in review.  It flutters over veterans graves and cemeteries, schools, post offices, fast-food franchises, car dealerships, and office buildings, both private and government.  Since 9/11, America has found a new, and more determined affection for their national emblem; a far cry from the days of the Sixties when, to our horror, protesters burned the flag.

Old Glory is probably the most easily recognized symbol in America.  She’s our standard in war, our symbol in peace, our territorial marker announcing to others that they’ve entered the United States of America, and our reminder of the sacrifices made in the name of freedom and liberty.

An older version of the modern flag flew proudly at the victory of Yorktown, struggled through the Civil War before finally prevailing, went to the aide of our allies in Europe in World War I, flies over the cemetery in Normandy honoring the American soldiers who died defending freedom during World War II, rose famously over Iwo Jima (if you notice in the photo, you don’t see the faces of the soldiers raising the standard; in that way, they came to symbolize all our soldiers, those who perished as well as those who returned to tell us their stories).

She flew from our sailing ships and our jets over Korea and Vietnam, only to return home to a seemingly ungrateful nation.  She went on to fly on the moon and celebrate the Bicentennial.  Then came that terrible day in September 2001.  She reached photographic fame with a photo taken by Thomas Franklin, of the Bergen Record, as three hero firefighters raised her aloft, borrowed from a yacht moored on the Hudson River.  Just like Iwo Jima, the original flag was reclaimed and a second installed when she was requested by the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, heading to war in the Middle East.

Not as many car flags are flying now as they did ten years ago.  But that’s to be expected.  We were in mourning and shock then.  Honoring the dead has always been one of the flag’s sad but honorable duties.  She also has the ability to bring cheer to the heart of anyone with an ounce of love for true freedom and liberty in their veins.

My flag is now mounted aloft on Mount Cabinet, for all to see.  I’ll also be festooning my Facebook page.  Happy Birthday, National Emblem!  You truly are “a grand old flag, a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave!”

Monday, June 13, 2011

Arab Spring Means Unsettled Summer

The Arab Spring, if it’s anything like Irish Spring soap, is leaving pundits scratching their heads.  The Arab world is certainly in an itchy lather.  In some countries, the monarchs have been completely overthrown.  In Libya, military leader Moammar Gaddafi is giving his rebels a run for their money to see who’s more “revolutionary.”  Saudi Arabia is trying not to wring its hands while the Gulf States are going out of their way to prove how Muslim they are.

Then there’s Jordan.  One Muslim website is convinced he’s the Muslim Anti-Christ, while the Muslim Brotherhood, according to the latest AP report, considers him “a stabilizing influence.”  Some reports have youthful protesters throwing rocks and bottles at his motorcade, while others say the youths only started clamoring when they were prevented from shaking hands with the monarch. 

He was on his way to inspect the infrastructure in southern Jordan and to meet with the head of the Libyan National Transitional Council.  At the meeting, he promised Jordan's support to the Libyan people in achieving their aspirations and ambitions for a better future, providing humanitarian, medical, and logistic assistance.
Since his coronation in 1999, King Abdullah II has claimed that he welcomes a transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, complete with an elected parliament.  The State Department lists Jordan already as a constitutional monarchy.  His critics say they’ve been waiting for over 12 years for this more democratic form of government to emerge.

He is a Sunni Muslim, as is 92 percent of his country.  They also regularly criticize his Palestinian, Westernized wife, Rania.  Attractive and fashionable, she is one of the darlings of the Western Media.  Abdullah’s mother either is or was Muslim, although she was born in England as Doris Elizabeth Sutton.  She still retains her Islamic name, Muna al-Hussein.

According to Wikipedia, Abdullah was born in Amman, Jordan, but according to the New York Times of that period, his birthplace was London.  In any case, he attended school in America and England, studying at Oxford and Georgetown.  Critics complain that his Arabic is dreadful.

Just how well his subjects, increasingly inspired by the Arab Spring revolution and their embrace of Islam (and all the baggage that comes with it, filled with explosives and bile for Western civilization), will embrace their king is unclear.  They’ll want to know whose side he’s on and with his lineage, that is also unclear.  His country hosts the most Palestinian refugees in the Arab world, or so it is said.

With an English mother, an Arab father whose lineage is said to date back to Mohammed himself, a Palestinian wife, and degrees from Western schools, he’s walking a very cagey thin line.  The Islamists are no more sure of this guy than we are about Obama.

How long can either of them bestride the world before they lose their balance?