Work and Days

Crazy World

The Airlines

Flying has become worse than a root canal or prostate exam.

Some one hasn’t quite explained why the airlines are not subject to the full rules of capitalism, in that the way they seem to treat customers terribly, charge about the same prices, and now give wretched service?

Is it the intrinsic nature of air travel? You go out to a distant airport and once there are stuck with no other choices—with very little recourse to trains or cars? Or do they do a pretty good job getting us in one piece across treacherous skies, late but alive? Millions of miles each year without an accident are impressive, after all.

Or do they charge too little, and therefore are overcrowded with too small a profit margin? (Note those stewardesses sometimes counting the pretzel bags at the end of service).

Or is it our fault? Count the ways. In security lines, some use up to 4-5 pans with everything imaginable, from laptops to all sorts of gadgetry and cosmetics to an entire metal shop in their pockets. And many hold up things by dragging along too much carry-on luggage. They don’t listen when asked to sit down quickly when boarding. One person on a cell phone struggling with an oversized carry-on that won’t fit in the overhead space can stop 50 behind him as he blocks the entire aisle for 5 minutes.

When called by successive zones to board, many elbow ahead anyway. And at the desk—I testify to this after this week’s nightmare connections in NY and Pittsburg due to weather and the PGA tournament—travelers become almost homicidal in demanding instant redirects, in turn, causing the service reps to become coarse and cynical.

Solutions? Try to take the pressure off through regional travel by better trains and freeways? The use of more satellite terminals like Oakland or Orange County? More smaller or is it fewer larger planes? More honesty from government and the airlines on frequencies of delays and percentage on-time arrivals?

When flying across the country now with a connection, I think that most assume they will miss a connection, be late, or have some sort of unexpected catastrophe. For now, 2-3 beers is about the only antidote.

Just another day

More suicide mayhem in Afghanistan. Another democratic reformer blown up in Lebanon. Iraq of course. And then the non-civil war in Gaza. No pattern here apparently other than ubiquitous radical Islam, probably Chinese and Russian weapon sales, the stealthy role of Syria and Iran to subsidize the mayhem, and Western furor that George Bush is the root of it all.


The solution we adopted for Gaza? Pressure Israel to make “concessions” to give Fatah symbolic stature to allow it some legitimacy to outscore Hamas. But Fatah has no stature because it was always a whiny plutocracy (cf. those hilltop mansions on the West Bank, thanks to Western bribes and “aid”). We were told that Fatah, a corrupt has-been of aging terrorists, was preferable to younger, purer, Islamic jihadists like Hamas—never realizing that because it was marginally “better” did not make it anything near “good”, in the sense that Mussolini’s fascism was not as bad as Hitler’s Nazism. Note again that none of the Iraqi war critics will apply their own nomenclature to this mess—like “civil war” or “hopeless.”

Can’t be True.

Hamas has a “military wing,” the Izz el-Din al-Qassam Brigades? I thought Hamas itself was the militant wing of the Palestinians? Can a militant wing have a militant wing? Apparently in the way a terrorist clique like Fatah can be threatened by a terrorist clique like Hamas to the point of now becoming “moderate”.

As they loot and kill in Gaza, someone no doubt will (a) now at least assure us this is a civil war, (b) that it took place because someone disbanded the … what? Palestinian authority?

Hamas apparently has inherited quite a stockpile of American weapons from a now defunct Fatah (cf. the most recent $60 million given by us for “security”)? Apparently we thought that if we poured diesel, rather than gasoline, into the conflagration it would not fuel the flames.

Our policy?

The Palestinians have bisected their country for us. The overcrowded, filthy and desolate Gaza is to be the Islamic republic of Hamas, while the larger, less miserable West Bank goes to what’s left of Fatah. We will apparently deal with Fatah West Bank and isolate Hamas Gaza, and this will no doubt by analogy give impetus to those who wish to trisect Iraq. But watch Gaza—it will soon become Afghanistan light, as Iranian and Syrian money pour into it, and Egypt keeps clear and smiles at the ensuing blood sport with Israel.

And why should Hamas be content with miserable Gaza when the losers may keep losing?

Remember Hamas’s birth: the swindled Palestinians thought they would send a message to the corrupt Fatah by electing Islamists, some perhaps not quite thinking anyone would allow them to be really governed by such killers. But democracy, even in its reptilian form in Palestine, is unforgiving, and you live with what you vote for.

Anti-Americanism British Style

“Why we must break with the American crazies” or so writes London Times columnist Anatole Kaletsky, who goes on to cry about the old bogeyman of a neo-con conspiracy et al. that has ruined the world in Lebanon, the Middle East, Iran, and Iraq (always wise to blame the US rather than the jihadists who are doing the killing).

But I tend to agree with Kaletsky that some sort of polite distancing is necessary between us and his kindred in the post-Blair era. As we speak, British academics and journalists are boycotting Israel. Apparently such British elites see a culture of murdering and racism preferable to the democracy in Israel.

Note too that a Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad was recently feted in London as the guest of the Guardian and was courted by British elites. That London has entire apartheid communities of angry young Islamists and many of them eligible as British subjects to piggy-back on bilateral transportation agreements to travel into the US, likewise make Kaletsky’s ideas of polite distancing somewhat palatable. Whatever the UK is doing in terms of immigration and integration in London, the US should do exactly the opposite. So who exactly are the real “crazies”?

In my limited experience, most of the animus in the partnership comes from the UK and is a mish-mash of aristocratic disdain for our rabble culture, left-wing anger at our “cutthroat” society, general British angst about loss of empire and envy of the US, and special furor with the Texan, bible-quoting George ‘smoke-em out’ Bush. Whether Mr. Kaletsky likes it or not, a new neo-isolation is coming, and the next time the UK and Europe have a crisis—remember the litany from the Falklands to Soviet nuclear tipped tactical missiles to Milosevic killing thousands a few hours from European capitals—I doubt there will be any American public support for much of any US intervention.

And we know now the default British position when pressed: cf. the EU3 collapse in talks with Iran; or the British response to the Iranian piratical attack on its gunboat; or the ongoing withdrawal from Iraq. No need for any anger on either side about any of this, just a fact that trashing the US is so commonplace that it has finally hit home with most of us.

I once had dinner with a British officer, and after a pleasant conversation of about 2 hours, I remarked “This is the first time I’ve dined with a Tory and not heard something about “those Jews”. He laughed and said, “The night is still young.”

The Samson Complex

Democrats may well take the Presidency next time. And with both houses of Congress they’ll change course. But what good will all that do if they pull down the house in the process? If Nancy Pelosi triangulates by going to Syria, that does not mean that the Democrats won’t have to deal with a murderous regime in Damascus that interprets such fawning, as we just saw with the latest bombing, as a blank check for more serial murdering in Lebanon?

And when Harry Reid calls commanders in the field “incompetent” (cf. his remarks about Gens. Pace and Petraeus) and the surge a failure before it has fully unfolded, what will that mean when a Democratic Commander-in-Chief might well have to work with that same military to keep us safe? What will they do on the morning after a 9/11 event? Blame whom? The military that will be called on to save us? The CIA and FBI and other intelligence agencies that they claim trampled our freedoms?


I often think had Scooter Libby, like Richard Armitage (who really did disclose the non-covert status of Valerie Plame) just been a Hamlet-like figure—voicing tortuous doubts about the war, and upon leaving the administration, castigating those who did not listen to his wisdom—he would have been free of his relentless Inspector Javert.

And had Paul Wolfowitz likewise had a change of heart and “deplored” the war, would the Euros on the World Bank really have gone after him for supposedly icing a good deal for a girlfriend?

In contrast, had pro-war Joe Wilson come back from Niger claiming that Saddam really was interested in yellow-cake (and he, in fact, was), and then lied on the pages of the NY Times, while his newly converted neocon wife claimed she was outed by a war critic, would either be current popular victims?