Friday, February 27, 2009

Miss Clifton Wades In

Today there is much rejoicing. Our Federal Government, the one that dictates how fast we can drive, what light bulbs we use and how much water we need to flush the damn toilet, is ceding to the states the right to legalize weed. And of course, the Bay Aryans are all a-dither in their adulation of the extremely clever and humane administration of our only president. I swiped that last bit from Molly Ivins. She won't care. She's dead from cancer or drinking or an ugly disposition. Something. Anyway, back to the potheads.

I have a series of questions for you, ahem, smokers out there. If you read the comments you get the same old blather about Prohibition and lost tax revenue, yada yada. OK. If marijuana is harmless, why were we subjected to The Grateful Dead for freaking decades? They only made two good albums! Only TWO!!! Why hasn't anybody come up with a more evolved, compelling comparison than Prohibition? Why is this the only time stoners care about something dull like tax revenue? Why is this the singular instance of their noodling out the math? That and mentally doing metric weight conversions. And you know what, Ben and Jerry's isn't exactly good for you.

Oh, not you, of course. You're a productive citizen. Never broke any other laws, always held a job, paid your own way, the whole nine yards. That may be. But you have to know, in your more lucid moments (like the day before payday when you've been smoking resin since Tuesday) how much more productive you could be if you didn't have to spend all that time finding your keys. But today's payday and you have your mind on other things, like working groceries and rent and dope. So I'll tell you why this is a crappy-ass idea from a government that doesn't give a damn about you, that uses you like a punk every two years when it's time to vote for them to continue living off you. Think of it as my public service. I'm a giver.

Legal dope means more people can get it cheaper. Woo Hoo!! I hear you. But think on this: You know how you'd rather not be bothered with certain details when you're high? Or you hear stuff and then forget about it? Or you hear stuff, period? Or you get these big ambitious ideas you never follow through on? Yeah. That's what they're counting on. You like conspiracy theories? Almost as much as you like Sunchips? Mmmm, French Onion... where was I? Oh, yeah. Our government is kind of saying that they'd really dig it if they could keep you... well, suggestible. That it'd be the path of least resistance to just do as you're told, and since you won't remember what you're told that could be a new thing every week. "Giving" your state this "right" is a means by which to buy loyalty through the indenture of your addiction. Because this isn't about sick people. Sick people take Marinol or eat weed; addicts smoke, and you know it as well as I do.

Every worker works because they have a lifestyle to maintain. Nobody has any incentive to earn more than they absolutely need when they know any surplus will be confiscated. Children provide a pretty good incentive. So does a drug habit.

This isn't giving you "the right" to anything. This is cynically preying on people's weaknesses. It's what the British did to the Chinese with opium, to make them malleable and less able to resist The Crown's predation. Read up on the Boxer Rebellion. And you'd celebrate the guy you voted for doing the same to you? You must be on drugs.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

Perhaps you've heard of the recent natural gas shortages in Europe caused by Russia's decision to cut the supply. Gazprom is the leading gas utility and through various bailouts and sweetheart deals is a defacto entity of the Russian government. Like General Motors over here. Gazprom's reasoning behind turning off the taps was that the Ukraine owed them money so they weren't going to send their gas through Ukraine's pipelines until they were paid. Gas to most of the rest of Europe also flows through those pipelines, so reducing the pressure in the lines reduces the amount of heat everyone down the line gets. People are freezing. If this ever gets resolved and Gazprom turns the gas back on, my money's on them doing it all at once so it blows out the lines. It would be exquisitely Russian. Of course the real purpose behind all this is to show Europe the extent of Russia's reach. We have the power to freeze you and starve you. Do things our way, 'kay?

Ok, that's worrying, but it's Europe's problem. We have troubles enough over here, right? Not yet, apparently. The model Russia perfected with natural gas is now being applied to the steel industry. As in, our steel industry. Roman Abramovich is one of those Russian 'oligarchs' -- really rich young dudes with no past who seem to have risen from the waves on a clamshell. Amongst other holdings, he is one of two primary shareholders in the Evraz Group. They own steel mills. American steel mills. They've already renegotiated the existing sales contracts through the established business practice of tearing up the old ones and dictating new terms. So now every construction project that requires steel (that would be all of them) faces the prospect of paying the Russian government, since they've provided Abramovich with unsecured bailout funds to keep Evraz afloat. He's in a bit of a pinch right now, since Evraz is also trying to buy Delong Holdings Ltd., a Chinese steel maker.

A couple of other guys, Vladimir Potanin and Oleg Deripaska, plan to merge their mining company with Evraz, as well as with another couple mining companies and a producer of coal and steel. Russia's government would receive a quarter of the new company in exchange for paying off their debts.

They're going to take us without firing a shot. You could almost admire the efficiency of it.