DEAR JON LETTERS
Sort 419: The Russian Olympics Team
and Other Weirdness
by Dear Jon
March 2, 2010
I have it on good authority from a conversation with a libertarian pundit, that "things are getting weirder." We did not mean, although we could have meant, that experiencing two catastrophic earthquakes in the same hemisphere only 6 weeks apart is weird. Half-way between Haiti's disaster and Chile's disaster, we felt an earthquake in the Chicago area, enough that a local insurance adjuster has listed that as a cause for a northwest suburban neighborhood church's claim concerning a collapsed ceiling.
Now THAT's weird. Not even so much that a plate shifted somewhere between DeKalb and Pingree Grove in northern Illinois, but that an insurer would list that as the cause for the collapse of a ceiling a week later.
A quarter of a million Haitians killed, versus fewer than a thousand Chileans in a quake of a much larger magnitude--now THAT's weird.
A quarter of a million killed in an Indian Ocean tsunami, versus the Chilean navy encouraging coastal residents to remain in their homes only to have a wave crash in an hour after the quake--now THAT's weird.
Take the story of the Titanic. It is not so weird that a collision with an ice-berg would cause an ocean-liner to sink. What IS weird is that a radio operator was sleeping at his post on an American-flagged vessel just an hour's voyage away, and never received the distress signal.
Why Islamicists Hate Us is not so weird. New York Port Authority officials telling tenants to return to their offices in tower 2, now THAT's weird. A subway dispatcher stopping trains short of the destination is not weird at all--that's good thinking.
Weird is not mysterious. Weird can be explained. And when it is all investigated and explained, you are still left, to quote a pop hit from decades ago, with "things that make you go "hm." The explanation has you scratching your head as much as the event itself.
Picking your own low-seed Wild-card tean as the favorite to the win the Super Bowl is not weird if you are its coach. Kudos to Ryan of the Jets. It is inspiring. He taught young players that he believed in them, and they reached higher and farther faster this season than anyone expected. At the same time the goal of the championship has not been met--and championship is the ONLY goal worth setting. I predict that the Jets will be post-season factors for years to come.
Setting a national expectation that a single country would bring home 40 Olympic medals--now that is weird. The bravado of the Russian Olympics Chairman was without foundation; worse, the entire team has become a disappointment, which diminishes the joy and pride for those Russians who are champions and did earn medals.
The Whistler track that killed the Georgian was Weird. Sending another skier downhill when one has crashed is Weird. Robot totem poles are Weird.
A rich man having mistresses is not weird. It is certainly immoral, and egregious if the man is married and his wife is neither consenting nor aware of such arrangements. It is not, however, weird. Lying unconscious in the street with your mouth filled with blood at 2:30 in the morning after wrecking your SUV into a fire-hydrant outside your own driveway--now THAT's weird.
It is not weird to hand on the baton of late-night television. It is weird to think that late-night antics work in Prime Time. But none of that is as weird as seeing ESPN on NBC. I guess our networks are cosier with each other than they are internally.
No Child Left Behind is a weird law. Expecting that by 2014 100% of all Americans in school will perform at grade level is just really weird. Firing administrations and staffs in the race to keep up with the steepening standards is not weird, because that's the law of the land. However, due to the declining tax base that props up local school systems, many districts are having to cut teachers from the payroll and enlarge class sizes. All the evidence, of course, is that the more kids there are per teacher, the less effective the pedagogy. So schools will be increasing class sizes at the same time that the NCLB standards get steeper.
What is weirder is that I seem to be the only person in America who gives a rip. Can someone please write me back a comment that says, "Yah Jon, NCLB is one weird law."
Thinking it is okay to enlarge a debt in the double-trillions of dollars with trillions of more dollars in new spending--that's weird. There seem to be two weird agendas. The right wing appears to want to bankrupt federal government, thus forcing it to be smaller, so they will elect ne-cons and other idealogues to continue the bribery of the middle class and of senior citizens until the system of entitlements collapses on itself. The left wing appears to want to bankrupt government, more likely in order to force us into the arms of a globalizing international government. Both sides of the aisle have figured out, meanwhile, that continuing wars without declarations from Congress or exit strategies or definitions of victory, are the fastest way to drive our economy down the tubes.
These conspiracies are vast. Their premises are explainable. And Weird.
What is not weird is saving in order to spend. What is not weird is cutting expenses when income is short. What is not weird is peacable commerce with the global community. Neither providing for the common defense nor promoting the general welfare are weird. Subsiding 3 trillion in new deficits with the backing of Chinese banks--I just think that is really weird.
The government subsidizing ethanol is not weird. The state government of Illinois offering vouchers for ethanol use is not weird. Managers at the Illinois EPA pretending that E-85 is just fine for flex fuel cars to run and that any problems with the ability to take the emissions test are just mechanical: that's weird. Maybe Illinois consumers of E-85 need to consider a class action to wake up an industry and a government.
I think I am coming up on a definition of Weird. Behavior contradictory to one's self-interest and the interest of others, within the context of new or unfolding circumstances, is weird. Sometimes Weird can be attributed to poor judgment in stressful, rapidly changing situations. It is really weird when circumstances have established themselves and the self-defeating behavior persists, as with NCLB, enlarging entitlements during a debt crisis, running athletes down a slide that had killed someone the day before, etc. Forgetting to take out the trash for curbside pick-up one week is not weird. Forgetting three weeks in a row--that's Weird.
This column might not have struck your funny bone, but maybe it has you feeling just a little bit weird.
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