Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now. Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???
** And the Oscar for best cult of personality goes to... It's nice that in today's hyper-politicized world, dominated by a President who enjoys the services of a downright creepy cult of personality, Americans can relax and enjoy a little escapist entertainment without... oh, look, there's Michelle Obama popping up to award the Best Picture Oscar to "Argo," and deliver a little pat on the head from the Dear Leadership to the magical power of film. The Best Picture nominees, said Mrs. Obama, "took us back in time and all around the world. They made us laugh, they made us weep, and they made us grip our armrests just a little tighter." Funny, that's exactly what those of us who pay attention to such things have been doing when each month's unemployment reports came out during her husband's presidency. A roomful of people who have raked in millions from special Hollywood tax breaks thunderously applauded the appearance by Mrs. Class-Warrior-In-Chief, while taking care not to knock over their $47,000 gift bags.
If the Academy had to drag a politician into the Oscar telecast, why didn't they invite Jimmy Carter to give the award to "Argo?" And why didn't Best Picture go to "The Hunger Games?" We're pretty much living it right now. The glittering capitals of Hollywood and Washington accumulate wealth and power while the rest of the nation sinks into penury, while the political class works hand-in-glove with the news and entertainment media to keep the populace divided against itself. And there's no escape from the omnipresent ruling class - you're not even allowed to forget about them during Tinseltown's annual self-congratulatory ritual.
"I don't understand this very obvious attempt to infuriate right-leaning audiences," wrote Nikki Finke of Deadline Hollywood, who was live-blogging the Academy Awards. "Clearly the studios only want to sell their movies to only half of America." Actually, Nikki, I think it's a combination of ideological blindness - Hollywood loves the Obamas so much that it doesn't think anyone could object to Mrs. O's appearance - and a growing desire to punish and ostracize the half of America you're talking about. If you want to hang with the cool kids, middle America, you'd better learn to worship their idols and chant their slogans.
** Raul Castro announces retirement: Cuba's auxiliary backup Castro, Fidel's brother Raul, announced on Sunday that he would step down after one more 5-year term as Dictator for Life. That means 2018 will bring the first post-revolutionary non-Castro leader. Raul has hand-picked "rising star" Miguel Diaz-Canel as the next Maximum Leader, although the Cuban people will probably be given a chance to pretend to vote for him at some point. According to the Associated Press translation of Castro's speech, he "hinted at other changes to the constitution, some so dramatic that they will have to be ratified by the Cuban people in a referendum," but he "scotched any idea that the country would soon abandon socialism," so everybody except the regime will get to remain poor. Hollywood now has only five more chances to invite a President Castro to appear at the Oscars.
** Nation of Islam recruits from Chicago gangs: Students of the Chicago experiment in strict gun control and one-party rule may recall Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan dispatching his minions into the streets to keep the peace as a vigilante army, right around the time Democrat Mayor Rahm Emanuel was ineffectually pleading with gang-bangers to aim more carefully when they shoot each other. Well, now Farrakhan is looking to recruit new Nation of Islam members from the ranks of less well-tailored gangs, calling them "natural soldiers" who could be "taught the 'science of war' to become protectors of the Nation of Islam's assets in the future." Their tributes will probably do very well in the Hunger Games.
Farrakhan also urged blacks in general to "pool money and buy as much land as possible, in order to 'control the means of production' and produce food and other goods," because "collectively owning land is a way for black people in America to propser economically." Sounds like a great idea! Has anyone ever tried collective ownership before? How did it work out? Did they all get rich?
** Everyone blames everyone else for sequestration: Why, if only those rascally Republicans would agree to even more tax increases, just a month after the biggest round of tax increases ever, we could have a "balanced approach" in which the Democrats agree to pretend to think about considering a spending cut here and there, one of these days! But no, it looks like we'll have to sacrifice the magical 2.3 percent of the $3.6 trillion federal budget upon which everything depends. Did you know that 90 percent of our central government's essential duties are performed with only 2.3 percent of its budget? Well, you do now. Thank President Obama for arranging the lesson.
The interesting undercurrent to these final days of pre-sequester hysteria is uncomfortable muttering on the Left about their worst-case scenario: sequestration hits, and the American people do not see their lives coming to an end. What if all of Obama's theatrics, and even his insistence on punishing Americans by making that 2.3 percent reduction in future growth as painful as possible, are for naught? What happens if the actual effect on middle-class life proves to be negligible? Then you've got the Democrats looking ridiculous, and the public receptive to talk of even more spending reduction. There's an old saying that success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan. What does that make sequestration? Success through failure?
** Head Start kids do worse in math, social interactions: One of the ostensibly crucial areas of American life that President Obama is holding hostage for tax increases is Head Start, a program for pre-school children that gobbles up $8 billion per year without producing any measurable benefits. But it sounds good - who could possibly be against giving the wee little ones a "head start" on life? - so it's become a permanent sinkhole for tax money. The Department of Health and Human Services just released yet another study that "concluded the program provided no measurable benefit for children by the time they reached the third grade compared to those children who were in a similar socio-economic group but were not in the program." In fact, Head Start kids actually did worse in math and "had more problems with social interaction by the third grade." It's a good thing American taxpayers don't demand any sort of value for their money out of Big Government. That could get ugly, fast.
** Bob Menendez update: The Daily Caller turned up a high-priced call girl... er, "professional escort"... who claims that Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was among the clients for her services, which involve "having sex with men in upscale hotel rooms." She described Menendez as a "hobbyist," which apparently means men who like to retain the services of many different sex workers. Casting some doubt on the story is the Daily Caller's description of the escort as being in her "late 30s," which is well outside the tastes that other reports have ascribed to Senator Menendez.
Meanwhile, it appears eyewitnesses have placed Menendez at a diner near the airport during a flight taken by his best buddy, business partner, and hobby enabler Dr. Salomon Melgen on Easter Sunday, 2012. This particular excursion of Melgen's private plane originated at his home airport in West Palm Beach, Florida, zipped up to New Jersey for just two hours, and then shot down to the Dominican Republic. Unless we are to believe Melgen burned a huge amount of jet fuel just to have a quick Easter lunch with Menendez at a local diner, that means the Senator took at least one flight on Melgen's plane that he has refused to disclose. Menendez responded to these latest revelations by slapping down the Race Card, which means the Democrat Card isn't a winning hand all by itself any more.
** Swedish meatball alert: Let us now turn to panic about our food, because that's always fun. Swedish prefab furniture giant IKEA has halted all sales of its prefab meatballs in Sweden because Czech authorities found horsemeat in them. Yes, IKEA makes meatballs. They have wonderful little Swedish restaurants in their super-stores. Well, they did up until now. I thought those meatballs had a little kick to them. In other news, the spring debut of the new Soylent Green furniture line from IKEA has been delayed indefinitely.