My DC neighbor Rick Ballard, a master of invention and a linguist of note, stopped by to show me his newest creation.
"I call it the Way Forward machine," he said, explaining it was a takeoff on the reverse phenomenon in the movie ,"Back to the Future" where the Professor was able to transport the souped-up De Lorean backwards in time.
"If you press the button on the right as you aim the machine at a room, it tells you what is happening there now and what will happen there in the future."
"How far forward can it go," I asked, curious but skeptical.
"About two and one-half years -- after which I've been getting so much static that it's hard to understand what's happening."
We live not terribly far from the Chinese Embassy and Chinese is one of the languages he's fluent in, so I asked if he wouldn't like to try it out there and after his enthusiastic agreement we bundled the blinking, chirping thing into the back of my car and headed off to Kalorama. There, in a friend's apartment which overlooks the Embassy, we set it up to focus in on the only ground floor room apparently large enough to serve as the Embassy staff meeting room.
After a few adjustments we could make out reasonably clear pictures of the economic and technological consular officials who appeared concerned.
"What are they saying?" I asked.
"They're talking about the latest unemployment figures from home. "
"The papers here are saying 20 million, "I noted.
"Well," said Rick, "They say the last report they got from home is the figure is twice that, more like forty million. And the party bosses are getting more concerned every day. Most of the unemployed are related to the manufacture of goods for export. The unskilled workers are from the rural areas and are not going back, leaving large numbers of destititute and angry young people in the urban areas. And now it's spreading to the new college grads that were to deal with the marketing and financial end of these operations for companies now defunct or nearly so."
I could see one of the discussants, apparently the highest ranking participant from the deference the others accorded him, obviously shouting and flailing about.
"What's he saying?"
"He's listing all the Administration announcements over the past two weeks, and screaming intemperately that this President is ruining them.
"Sure, the Chinese economy depends on making stuff for the export market. And that market is still largely the US. There's no other place on earth that can consume this much and if we don't buy and consume it, those factories get shuttered and the people forced back onto the land and poverty. But there's more to that. With all the money the Administration is spending on "stimulus", the value of the dollar is going to vastly shrink. The Chinese have been investing their trade surplus funds back here, for it still is the safest place to put them, so with an aging population, no really safe place to put that money to work elsewhere, no social safety net to take care of their future needs, they were counting on us to keep being capitalists and making money -- for us and for them.
China's future needs really, really depend on a nice capitalist return on their investment because with the one child policy, their population in future generations getting smaller .In fact, because of the preference for boys, there are already 35 million more men than women, so tens of millions Chinese men are unlikely to be even able to reproduce and have ONE child. He's screaming that if Obama's destruction of the U.S. economy keeps up much longer China will be in terrible trouble and the Party and its leaders want to stop this shift to socialism in the United States as fast as they can."
Now it was time to push the button and see if the machine could really see into the future.
"Go ahead. Give it a try," Rick said, pointing to the red "reset" button on the side.
After a few minutes we were back in the meeting room at the Embassy but it was 2011. The same officers, now looking more haggard and frenzied, were seated around the same table.
"What are they saying now?"
"That it's now or never. They have to prevent Obama's re election or have an internal revolt and economic ruin. They're pouring over the FEC and newspaper accounts to learn how Obama got away with all those unaccounted for overseas donations in 2008 and how to find a pro China billionaire to set up a group called Move Him Out Now and generally duplicate Soros' network but this time to defeat Obama . "
"Do you think, they'll succeed? Can we push the invention to go a bit further into the future?"
"I'll give it a try," Rick said.
But that was the last I heard him say. He and the machine vanished in a puff of smoke.
It's happened before though. Somehow he always manages to jimmy something in his creations that returns him to his garage and a chance to create something even more remarkable.illustration by Big Fur Hat of iOwnTheWorld.com