Combat! blog will be flying to Chicago very early tomorrow morning, and the last thing I’ll want to do is assemble links on the plane. But we didn’t do Friday links last week, either, on account of we were firing explosive projectiles into the air, and three weeks without a FriLi would hardly meet the exacting standards of our readership. So I shall fire up my specula-scope and peer into a future where everything is dark and gross yet strangely compel—oh, wait. I accidentally fired up my speculum. The actual future looks much more like the present. Today is Thursday, and Friday seems a comforting inevitability. Won’t you tempt fate with me?
First, the good news: a report based on leaks from Edward Snowden indicates that the US federal government spied on five American Muslims, one of whom is the leader of a civil rights group. Of course, we don’t know why the NSA et al. targeted those people, because telling us would constitute a national security risk. But it definitely wasn’t just because they profess that there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his profit, since the DOJ and the Director of National Intelligence denied that in a joint statement. “On the other hand,” the statement said, “a person who the court finds is an agent of a foreign power under this rigorous standard is not exempted just because of his or her occupation.” The statement then made a clicking sound with its mouth and winked broadly.
Don’t worry, though; for every five Muslims the NSA surveils on purpose, it collects data on 45 other Americans. According to a four-month investigation by the Washington Post, nine out of ten “account holders” whose conversations were intercepted by the NSA were not the targets of investigations, but rather were caught up in a net cast for somebody else. At this point, I think we can abandon the dragnet metaphor and say that the NSA is using a seine. I suppose a 90% accidental surveillance rate is not so bad. It’s like when the cops are looking for a car thief, so they search every house in town until they find his hideout.
That’s the American dream: to achieve perfect safety by letting the government read all your letters. Over at USA Today, which I thought was only an outlet for high-quality MMA journalism, a team of reporters has estimated the cost of the American dream: $130,000 a year. That’s kind of sobering news, given that only 1 in 8 American households actually makes that much. But a close examination of USA Today’s dream suggests that it diverges from mine. For example, their figures include a mortgage on a newly-constructed house ($275,000 over 30 years,) a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle, and cable. Compare to my American dream, which entails everybody leaving me the fudge alone and requires only a well-lit studio and a rocket-powered supertruck that I bought for four grand in 2009. Still, the dream has become either frighteningly materialistic or dauntingly expensive, depending on how you look at it.
My advice is to travel back in time and make sure your parents get rich. It’s not that much harder than working diligently and saving money, and it’s certainly more likely to succeed, at least according to economist and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz. He grew up in Gary, Indiana, a town he knew to be falling apart even when he was a child. Ironically, he did not know then that it was the best it would ever be. Stiglitz warns that we have not seen the worst of American inequality yet, even though the top 1% are capturing their largest share of income since 1928, and the US is now the least equal of all developed nations. J-Stigs agrees with Piketty that postwar wage growth was an economic anomaly, and inequality will only breed more inequality. He’s also got some fun ideas about the Bush and Obama administrations’ decision to bail out the financial sector and leave home buyers in the wind.
It’s probably just a coincidence that our national economy and distribution of wealth so closely resemble 1928, though. I mean, it’s not like we recently elected an incompetent president with close ties to the oil industry. Of course I am referring to Warren G. Harding: perennial candidate for America’s worst chief executive, enabler of the Teapot Dome Scandal and, as it turns out, ace composer of stroke notes. Props to Sensei Chad Dundas for the link. The president who once remarked that “I am not fit for this office and never should have been here” conducted a long affair with one Carrie Fulton Phillips, and his letters to her are finally public. I urge you to read them, and I tantalize you with the following factoid: he consistently refers to his own penis as “Jerry.”
I’ll just wait here while you take a stroll through history. When you get back, sit down on a sturdy surface and prepare to lose motor control as you watch GIFs of malfunctioning robots. I literally cried laughing at these in the laundromat yesterday. I assumed the funniest one was the arm that slams a french fry into a mannequin’s head over and over, but I can’t stop thinking about the one that opens/smashes through doors. That one is as old as comedy itself; he is funny because he does not understand what he is doing.
Neither do I, really. But I know you should be listening to Czarface:
That’s Insepctah Deck if you nasty. Props to the Hawk for the link. My man’s a lazy landscaper: never drop the sawed off.