You Can't Hide
Newcastle — I have just returned from a sailing adventure which permitted me to spend fourteen days with no computer, no mail, no phone, no television, no radio, and no newspapers. That should have been enough to ensure bliss and tranquility, but unfortunately I chose to read books, and these, regrettably, reminded me of the pathetic situation in which we find ourselves.
The first book I read was Michael Chrichton’s Rising Sun, an entertaining mystery involving Japan’s invasion of America’s industry in the sixties through eighties of the last century when they bought everything we had, from Rockefeller Center to the Pebble Beach golf course (and, of course, the state of Hawaii). Chrichton has a habit of nesting political commentary in a good story, and this book is no exception. Witness: “The Japanese say America has become a land without substance. We let our manufacturing go. We don’t make things anymore. When you manufacture products, you add value to raw materials, and you literally create wealth. But American has stopped doing that. Americans make money by paper manipulation.” Or: “We have four percent of the world population. We have eighteen percent of the world economy. But we have fifty percent of the lawyers. And thirty-five thousand more every year…America has become the Land of Lawyers. Everybody suing. Everybody disputing. Everybody in court...And the kids I see are lazy. Nobody wants to work. All the kids want to make a million dollars before they’re twenty-eight. The only way you can make that kind of money is in law, investment banking, Wall Street. Places where the game is paper profits, something for nothing.” These words were written in 1992. Seems prescient to me, and discouraging.
I also read Dexter Filkins’ The Forever War. It deals some with our Afghanistan disaster but mostly with the Iraq fiasco. It is mind-boggling to learn how incompetently we have dealt with these issues. Everyone knows we dun bad, but I doubt you know the extent elucidated in Filkins’ book. I grieve for the lads and lasses dispatched to play these games. The waste of money I don’t care about. As I have said before, there is no money; it’s an illusion.
Poverty is no illusion, and Filkins paints this picture in the grimmest of fashion. I read this as I sat on a yacht off the Amalfi coast, surrounded by a plethora of sumptuous wealth. I saw ships I thought only navies could afford. Some are for rent at 100,000 euros a week. We anchored next the “Aquarius,” 64.5m long, 18-20 guests in 9 cabins, crew of 18. At one point a bay opened and disgorged a litter of jet skis and paddle boards. Jesus! It originally listed for $103 million but was sold for a bit less. And the Aquarius, a paltry 212 feet, doesn’t make, by a long shot, the current list of the 100 biggest motor yachts, the largest of which is “Azzam” at 180m.
Inequality of wealth is a major problem for almost every country. On my way home, during the four hour layover in Charles de Gaulle, I wandered the duty-free shops. I found a liter bottle of cognac priced at 6,200 euros. I asked a clerk if this item ever sold. He smiled and said: “Two, three a day, mostly to Chinese.”
War, poverty, inequality; I left the U.S. when our saber-rattling leader was threatening intervention in Syria. I returned to learn that our nation is virulently opposed to this. Good! Wake up Mr. President! Don’t get involved! The only war we’ve won in the past 60 years was when we kicked Panama’s ass, “Operation Just Cause”. And the Secretary of War believes we can project our will without (to use a revolting expression) “boots on the ground”. No sir! That would be impossible; always has been.
The current issue of Time describes Mr. Putin, and Russia’s Russ Limbaugh, Alexander Prokhanov, as becoming more belligerent towards the U.S., because they believe we are rapidly becoming a failed state. Certainly there is evidence to support this, as suggested above.
Maybe I should have stayed on the boat. But as Joe Louis once said of Billy Conn: “He can run, but he can’t hide.” I know I can’t hide either.