Funny what cheers you up.  From today’s New York Times, which sometimes still reveals what a great newspaper it once was:

In the grittier parts of this city, where people inhabit tiny tin shacks and bloated dead animals float along garbage-strewn rivers, police officers are not known as heroes. Instead, many residents see them as a menace, prowling around in dark trench coats with AK-47s slung over their shoulders, extorting money from slum dwellers and killing alleged suspects — and sometimes not even suspects but simply poor people they come across.

“They kill for free,” said one young man….

Makes you worry a little less about budget deficits, doesn’t it?  And if you think that Uncle Sam’s appetite for your hard-earned money is unhealthily robust:

Young men in the Mukuru slum said the same two police officers who killed Mr. Muthini routinely shook them down for bribes, threatening to lock them up if they did not hand over the equivalent of 10 or 20 dollars, a week’s wage for most around here.

Of course, there’s always our crumbling infrastructure — but:

Rose said the police had been harassing them for months, demanding a $250 bribe, an impossible sum for a family who lives in three iron-sided rooms in a muddy slum where there are so few latrines that people relieve themselves in plastic bags and then hurl them as far away as possible — “flying toilets,” they’re called.

This is life in modern Nairobi, Kenya, which seems from a safe distance to be a reasonably civilized place.

Unlike Kenya’s thriving business community, its booming safari industry or its reforming judiciary, Mr. Njeru said, the national police service has intentionally been kept weak for decades so it could be manipulated by politicians.

Manipulated?  To what end?  One can only imagine; the Times article does not give much of a hint, but presumably the cops are there to keep the rabble — aka the poor — in line by any means they see fit.  We knew that things can get pretty bad in this world, but — flying toilets?  Can anything survive that?  How?

Sweet potatoes.  Stuffing. Turkey drumsticks in giblet gravy.  Pumpkin, apple, blueberry, mince pies.  And after all that, a toilet rooted firmly on the ground, praise be to whatever gods we may choose to worship.  The season is upon us.  Peace on Earth.  Good will to all.