"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tipping into insanity

In prayer of late, I can't escape the feeling that the world is at a tipping point. It is time to offer ourselves for whatever role God has in mind for us on the other side of that point.


1. The only creatures on Wall Street who seem able to make a deposit on a BMW this week are the pigeons. Congress blames the near-collapse of our financial system on the greed and heedlessness of basically everybody other than itself, just as most of its constituents blame it on the greed and heedlessness of...well, of everybody other than themselves. Meanwhile, the members of Congress chiefly responsible for investigating the crisis, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), have been among their respective bodies' chief recipients of Fannie and Freddie largesse. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), is now under investigation for violating the very tax laws that his committee is responsible for writing and reviewing.

Beyond conflicts of interest, which the MSM consider petty for Democratic officeholders, the current wrangling is about a bill proposing that the long-suffering taxpayers of America pony up hundreds of billions of dollars for the salvation of Wall Street. Mind you, such a bill is on the table not because anybody thinks Wall Street actually deserves a bailout, but because we would like the consequences of the financial industry's collapse even less. The alternative to mercy for the few just does appear to be hell for the many. But the wrangling, which is entirely bipartisan, is about how many sugar pills are needed to blunt public bitterness about helping guys who had pocketed billions while the value of their companies' assets was tanking. (Maybe we should forget bailing out the Street directly, and just give all homeowners, including those currently in default, subsidized mortgages instead. People who pay their mortgages make money for the mortgage-issuers. Just not as much money as they had grown accustomed to.) If the bill's core provisions pass, appointed Federal officials will have virtually unlimited power over the nation's economy. And they probably won't be able to use that power with any confidence, because nobody can figure out how to price the junk securities that would have to be taken off the holders' books and sold off. I mean, $700 billion here, $700 billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money.

"He has scattered the proud in their conceit" indeed. But basically, we did all this to ourselves.

2. We are losing the war in Afghanistan. I'm sure it tickles Satan that we are losing despite a combat kill-ratio of at least 50-1 in our favor (and I'm talking dead militants, not civilian deaths that are tragedies it would be macabre to count in anybody's favor.) We are losing because the enemy has sanctuary in Pakistan but we are limited to fighting almost entirely within Afghanistan. This is the war that Barack Obama says ought to be our main focus. Given the impending "security agreement" with the Iraqis, the Afghan/Pakistan war front will indeed be the next president's main focus whether he wants it to be or not. But I wonder how he'd manage it. I wonder how anybody anywhere would manage it. We could win if we were free to eliminate the al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in the lawless FATA regions of Pakistan, but the Pakistanis fire on us if we so much as fly a chopper a few hundred yards over the border. Instead, the Pakistani Army has made costly and inconclusive efforts of its own to keep the enemy at bay. It is clear both that Pakistan can't win this thing on its own and that its government would not survive accepting from us the direct combat help they really need. So the problem just gets worse, and worse, and worse as the body count mounts on both sides. It's useless and tragic. Just the way the Enemy likes things to be.

The new President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, is not one to inspire confidence. He is president only because people really wanted his far more talented, dynamic, and courageous wife to be, but she was assassinated last year by the terrorists. This past weekend, Zardari barely escaped assassination himself when the Islamabad Marriott, along with about 60 lives, was destroyed by a suicide truck-bomb; he and most of the government leadership avoided incineration only because they decided at the last minute to dine at the Prime Minister's house instead. Such is the precarious situation of the only Muslim country in the world with a nuclear-weapons arsenal. That's right: a nuclear-weapons arsenal. Swell.

I hope that Presidents Bush and Zardari, who met last night in the White House, are able to come up with a workable strategy. But action that might make a substantive difference will probably have to await the inauguration of Bush's successor. By that time, things will be worse. I'd rather have an old warhorse like McCain than a lightweight like Obama dealing with such problems by then. But I don't even know that I have that comfort to look forward to.

We didn't really do all this to ourselves. Islamic extremism and 9/11 are not our fault, despite what some in the West prefer to believe. But a lot of people, including some who are not our enemies, think we've invited all this by how we've behaved before and since 9/11. And whether or not that's true, the fact that a lot of people round the world believe it's true means it might as well be true. Whether or not we broke it, nobody else is going to fix it for us. The Russians almost seem to enjoy the pickles we're in.

3. I said that Pakistan is the only Muslim country in the world with a nuclear-weapons arsenal. If current Iranian boasts, the IAEA report, and Israeli intelligence estimates are any guide (the CIA doesn't count any more), that may cease to be true sometime next year. The Thug-in-Chief is enriching uranium, testing ballistic missiles, and building swift-boats for the Strait of Hormuz at breakneck speed, even as Iran's oil production declines due to lack of infrastructure investment. He was in New York just yesterday to rub our noses in our problems, announcing before the UN General ASSembly that the end of both "the American empire" and "the Zionist entity" is at hand. (At least this time he didn't go uptown to my alma mater and inform the students that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Maybe he finally realized that he hadn't yet killed them all.) We had better take this creature very seriously indeed. I can almost hear those 3,000-plus centrifuges humming.

I once imagined that the Thug-in-Chief was just a garden-variety psycho, a convenient front-man and potential fall-guy for the real power, Ayatollah Khamenei. But each is just as vicious and focused as the other. They are not psychos. They are hate-filled religious fanatics who believe that the Mahdi is coming soon, and that it's their job as his servants to hasten the chaos and destruction which will make his return timely. They are serious about destroying Israel and driving the U.S. out of the Middle East. Their reverses in Iraq have only made them angrier, more determined than ever to hold The Bomb over our heads. Negotiations serve only to buy them time for their schemes, and sanctions don't hurt them enough to matter. I expect that the next Israeli government, currently in the process of formation, will be the one to proceed with destroying Iran's nuclear facilities—with quiet blessings and covert forms of backup from the West. It will be necessary; it is already necessary. But once it happens, more hell will break loose, even as it's been gathering force in Pakistan. Lovely.

4. The above are only the most obvious things to Americans who follow real events as opposed to celebrity gossip and media-driven gotcha politics. There's much more scary stuff going on in the world, and I'm sure I haven't heard the half of it. But the one thing I can't leave out is genetic engineering.

Scientists appear to be on the verge of creating the first artificial life-form. I do not believe that God will permit humanity to alter nature in that way to any great extent.That's because I believe God's plans for us are good but not yet ripe. He won't allow us to destroy the balance of nature, and thus ourselves in due course, before his plans are ripe.

I can't help feeling that we are approaching some sort of apocalypse. I do not say it will be the Second Coming; nobody has any idea when that will happen. But I sense that divine intervention, unmistakable to any with eyes to see, will be needed and granted. Prepare by learning complete trust in and love for God. You won't be able to control even your little patch when the world, which prefers other gods even when it gives lip service to God, tips more and more into insanity.
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