I have spoken before about the Miscellaneous Crap Pile near my desk, comprised of tidbits of information that I found enlightening, interesting, or simply bizarre that I hadn't yet managed to find a use for. The MCP however, is as much mental as physical, requiring periodic review in a mostly useless though never-ending attempt to maintain both stability and storage capacity, both of which appear to be woefully limited around here. These periodic purges allow me to take on a variety of subjects in a form whose brevity is as welcome by JBS readers as it is unusual for me. Since the unusual has long been something that we embrace here at JBS, I am therefore happy to oblige.
The French threatened yesterday to pull their forces out of Afghanistan after four of their ranks were killed and fifteen wounded in what has been deemed an attack by a 'rogue Afghan soldier'. Apparently the fact that the French are out of practice in the act of surrendering, means that in spite of their threat, they're still there today. Of course France's contribution of 4,000 of the 130,000 NATO forces currently stationed in Afghanistan, troops which were scheduled to leave next year anyway, will probably not end either NATO or US involvement in an area that cries out for a lack of involvement. Afghan President Karzai (speaking of both 'rogue' and 'lack of involvement') is due in Paris in a week, and has already offered his condolences to the families (and here many of us thought that President Obama was the only world leader to travel around the world apologizing). Maybe while he's visiting he can also explain how bad guys keep apparently infiltrating the ranks of his army, or how to tell the difference between a rogue soldier and any anyone else in the Afghan army (other than not being ineffectual of course).
For those of you who have somehow missed it, the Costa Concordia is still lying on its side on the coast of Islo del Giglio. To say that no ship's captain has made more mistakes since 'The Skipper' took some folks out for a purported three hour tour with Gilligan is an understatement. I don't mean to make light of a situation in which human life was needlessly lost, but one cannot help but see a certain 'gallows humor' in this tragic example of the vaunted technology of Mankind failing on an epic scale. That one of these floating islands managed to crash into a real one is ironic on a scale seldom seen in fact or fiction. That the circus currently surrounding the circumstances of this maritime disaster involves a ship that's part of a cruise line named 'Carnival' only adds to the incongruity. The concept that environmental scientists are as concerned with the food stored in the ship making contact with the local environment as they are that the fuel will speaks volumes about environmental scientists and what we stuff in our pie holes.The pathetic excuses of the ship's captain in shirking his responsibilities and abandoning his charges to their own fate cannot help but make one believe that this miserable example of humanity has a lot of time to look forward to in prison ... or in politics. In Italy, perhaps both.
Speaking of miserable examples, last week's self-serving announcements by two former Mayors in Toledo about how the current office holder is doing his job is apparently a plot that's thickening. While these lamentable examples of alleged political leadership only sought to take the stage after a story reported in the Glass City's daily paper, we now see that rather than it being a shining example of that institution's fading star of investigative journalism, the facts of the tale were fed to the Blade based on the investigations of a member of City Council. Fortunately, the Toledo Free Press is on the case, and there is little doubt that the facts of the case will now come out.
As for lauding the stalwart former detective / politician / investigative reporter's channeling of Columbo (or was it Woodward and Bernstein), one may want to look a little closer before awarding the laurel wreath. D Michael's legislative aide is a former well-known Toledo blogger whose talent for sniffing out facts, knowing who to talk to in getting them confirmed, and gathering them into a consistent narrative are far more likely to deserve the actual credit than the Councilman. Lest one seek to deride the man in question for taking all the credit for the detective work involved, for failing to first approach the Administration with its results of the investigation, or for handing the story over to the daily in the hopes of embarrassing the Administration; one should first listen to his smug attempt to present his case at a City Council meeting a while back. It seems that his false attempts at humility (he thought he would accused of political grandstanding) and his failures to live up to Peter Falk's portrayal of the intrepid cigar chewing detective are only exceeded by his even greater inability to channel the late Raymond Burr's portrayal of Perry Mason (as well as his failure to distinguish the difference between a hypothetical and rhetorical questions).
The Republicans had another debate this week (yawn) as a prelude to the South Carolina primary (yawn). It was somewhat easier to bear, as with the withdrawal of Rick Perry we were down to a number of candidates on stage that didn't require a wide angle lens. Unchanging however, is the fact that the debate moderators still haven't managed to get most of the contestants of this political version of 'American Idol' to hand out more than political standards and show tune sound bites that the pundits can later congratulate them for. Along the way however, all seemed to have added a number to their repertoire that includes a healthy dose of ridicule for the media themselves, whose feeding frenzy for irrelevancy is only equaled by the candidates willingness to chum the waters for them, and whose inclusion guarantees them a standing 'O'.
This however, is apparently a truly sorry bunch of candidates. Mitt Romney is sorry he made so much money in the private sector (which leaves one questioning why failure should be more laudable in a candidate for this nation's highest office). Newt Gingrich is sorry that he got married so many times, but happy that he paid a higher tax rate than Romney (which leaves one questioning why paying more taxes is good). Rick Santorum is sorry that he can't reconcile his supposed Conservative credentials with his Statist pronouncements and voting record (not that we've ever demanded logical consistency of Presidents). Ron Paul is sorry that no one took him this seriously 20 years ago, that he never learned to speak 'soundbite' well enough to play at this level, and that no matter what he says they're still going to treat him like a crazy relative with turrets syndrome that everyone hopes will leave. The ponderous political process continues however, with all of faux drama of a poorly written reality show, and all of the excitement of the Tic-Tac-Toe championships.
OK, that's enough natural fertilizer for one sitting (though it is a miscellaneous CRAP pile after all). I've cleared enough of the pile away to show me the many other useless writing assignments that I need to work on, so I'm going to get to work.
Smoke em if you got em.