Belmont Club

Von Bama's Express

We like our engineers brave. It makes us sleep better as the society rockets through the turns and twists of history. And when the night is darker than usual, and clatter on the rails more insistent, we sing ourselves songs to remind ourselves that all is well, all is well!

Come all you rounders, for I want you to hear,
The story of a brave engineer.
Casey Jones was the rounder’s name.
On a big eight wheeler of a mighty fame.

Caller called Casey ’bout half-past four,
He kissed his wife at the station door,
Climbed to the cab with the orders in his hand,
He says, “This is my trip to the holy land.”

Out of South Memphis yard on the fly,
Heard the fireman say, “You got a white eye.”
Well, the switchmen knew by the engine moan
That the man at the throttle was Casey Jones.

But sometimes it’s hard to keep up the confidence in the crew in the cab. Richard Perle argues that Libya is ceded to forces bound to be sympathetic to America’s enemies. “Now the administration is said to be debating whether to ask the Saudis to send weapons to the rebels–because we don’t have the courage it do it ourselves. Guess who will wind up running Libya?”

Maybe the same people who brought down the World Trade Center. But that thought is too horrible and we banish it from our minds.  George Friedman thinks losing of Libya to al-Qaeda is the least of America’s worries. President Obama’s strategy is in danger of ceding the entire Middle East to Iranian hegemony. Watch Bahrain, he warns. It will be the focus of Iranian subversion and only the beginning. “The largest target of all is, of course, Saudi Arabia. That is the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, and its destabilization would change the regional balance of power and the way the world works.” And is now all — all — within Iran’s reach.

The instability in the Persian Gulf allows the Iranians a low-risk, high-reward parallel strategy that, if it works, could unhinge the balance of power in the entire region. The threat of an uprising in Iran appears minimal, with the Iranian government having no real difficulty crushing resistance. The resistance on the western shore of the Persian Gulf may be crushed or dissolved as well, in which case Iran would still retain its advantageous position in Iraq. But if the perfect storm presents itself, with Iran increasing its influence in Iraq and massive destabilization on the Arabian Peninsula, then the United States will face some extraordinarily difficult and dangerous choices, beginning with the question of how to resist Iran while keeping the price of oil manageable.

It’s hard to keep the faith when the buzzards start to circling. The weakness and incompetence in Washington has allowed even George Galloway to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Now a star on Iranian TV, Galloway is pushing Days of Rage in Saudi Arabia. He smells blood and the administration is bleeding from every pore. Why is America seemingly powerless to stop the advance of even a fourth rate power? One possible answer is the dysfunction of the US political class, which has almost literally lost the plot.

Michelle Bachman claims that hidden deep within the Obamacare billing is a giant sized preapproved spendng package that Congressmen are only now discovering. “Practically no member of Congress even knew that $105 billion of funding was contained,” Bachmann said. It’s like a huge time bomb just waiting to blow the Federal budget — and the US economy — apart.  Video here.

It’s an astounding claim. How can such vast sums of money be spent undetected? Who would believe it? But Pensions and investments says the CIA pension fund is broke. If America’s premier intelligence agency cannot anticipate its own financial crisis it’s easy to see how Congress can lose track. Now, unless it gets half a billion more the CIA pension fund will go under immediately. It is underfunded to the tune of $6.4 billion.

Wow. Not wow. That’s chicken feed. The states have unfunded pension liabilities of about $3 trillion. Oklahoma will go under first, followed by Louisiana, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, Arkansas, W. Virginia, Kentucky, Hawaii and Indiana. Maybe one way to stop it is to get Jesse Jackson Jr to offer up a Constitutional Amendment to prohibit anyone from going broke. He might just go for it.

It is conceivable that nobody actually knows what is going on.  The Washington Times reports that in “testimony last week, the HHS secretary admitted to double-counting Obamacare’s cooked books. The question posed was whether a $500 billion cut in Medicare should be counted toward preserving Medicare or funding the new law. Her own actuary previously acknowledged they must choose one or the other. Mrs. Sebelius‘ reply? ‘Both.'” Well why not both? As Yogi Berra once said “When you come to a fork in the road, take it” and “I didn’t really say everything I said”.

The worst of it may be that those in front may know, like the bridge officers on a sinking ship, that it’s over; time to edge toward the lifeboats.  And maybe Casey Jones isn’t up forward anymore. Suppose he got out at the last water stop and is watching the dark train pull away.

Paul Rahe asks, in exploring why so many big-name intellectuals endorsed Khadaffi, “what would it take to elicit servility from an intellectual?” He answered his own question: “money would help, of course”. He forgot to add the knowledge that retribution would not be forthcoming.  That the passengers would not be coming back for them. Because when you come right down to it, what makes it easy to be servile, even cravenly so, is the certainty that not only will you escape punishment for betraying those you have sworn to serve, but you will be severely handled by the thugs that you fail to serve. When society loses its ability to sanction while its enemies retain theirs, the incentives go all the wrong way.

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When nobody is punished and nobody except the victims of incompetence and the human debris cry in the night, the 3 am crisis call comes and rings unanswered. Where’s the strategy? Where’s the accountability? Where’s the money? Where’s this train bound for? Well who gives a damn.

Around the curve and down the dump,
Two locomotives was a bound to jump,
Fireman hollered, “Casey, it’s just ahead,
We might jump and make it but we’ll all be dead.”

Around the curve comes a passenger train,
Casey blows the whistle, tells the fireman, “Ring the bell,”
Fireman jumps and says “Good-bye,
Casey Jones, You’re bound to die.” …

Who is in charge of the clattering train?
The axles creak, and the couplings strain.
Ten minutes behind at the Junction. Yes!
And we’re twenty now to the bad–no less!
We must make it up on our flight to town.
Clatter and crash! ‘That’s the last train down,
Flashing by with a steamy trail.
Pile on the fuel! We must not fail.
At every mile we a minute must gain!
Who is in charge of the clattering train?