Friday, September 30, 2011

Class Warfare and Bank of America

Bank of America is firing a volley in the one percent's continuing war against the rest of us.

BofA is instituting a $5 monthly fee for using a debit card. Of course, the fee will only be applied to regular accounts. Rich people with premium accounts are exempt and may use their debit cards for free. This is in addition to the fees they charge just to hold your money that the rich are also exempt from.

Go Galt, Middle Class, Go Credit Union
The best way to strike back is to withdraw your money and join a credit union. These non-profit coops have volunteer directors elected by depositors, not highly paid boards selected by the richest sloths for the richest sloths.

But, all is not rosy for credit unions. Banks spend millions lobbying for regulations and filing lawsuits to hobble credit unions. Bankers want to restrict their ability to lend to small businesses; you know, those businesses that bankers want the exclusive right to torment, oppress, and bleed white. Bankers are also aggressive in blocking people from joining credit unions.

Then there are companies like this who are dedicated to seducing credit union boards of directors into converting their non-profit credit union into a for profit bank. The seduction is that the directors stand to make millions as depositors ownership of the coop is erased and replaced with investor purchased ownership.

The war on credit unions is part of the one percent's continuing class war on the rest of us.

Update: The Bank of America website crashed today in what is likely a people's uprising against them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rick Perry Apologizes

Rick Perry apologized today to the Republican base for not being the heartless bastard they had wanted.

Sister Sarah and Me

Freaky deakies need love too. ~ Tracy Jordan, 30Rock*
Yesterday Sarah Palin used the same words to describe Herman Cain as I did two days earlier. I don't know which is worse, the thought that Sister Sarah draws her political inspiration from reading my blog or (and believe me this is infinitely more distressing) that she and I are beginning to think alike.

I'm feeling an urgent need to wash out my brain with a high pressure fire hose.

* Every time I hear this line I understand the strange, forbidden love some people have for Sister Sarah. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Christie: Latest Flavor of the Week

It appears that New Jersey governor Chris Christie is the favorite to be anointed as the latest Not Mitt for Republicans. Of course, Christie has his own set of problems.
Christie won't survive much beyond his first televised debate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Israel and Palestine

Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
I was in high school when I first became aware of Israel. It was 1967, one of my best friends was Jewish and we followed closely the events of the Six Day War. Surrounded by enemies openly declaring the goal to "wipe Israel off the map" and outnumbered more than 10 to one, the war was both heroic and miraculous.

Afterwards I read all I could about Israel. I learned more about the Holocaust than the pablum fed me by high school text books. I read Rise and Fall of the Third Reich and Leon Uris' epic novel, Exodus. I read how Mossad captured and brought to justice Adolph Eichmann. I listened to Israeli folk music along with the Beatles. As much as any secular gentile could, I fell in love with the nation of Israel. I still am viscerally in love. Leave out my brain and my gut would support her unconditionally. This is why I ache every time I criticize her, as I often do these days.

One of the reasons I respected Israel was the honor with which they fought which was in sharp contract to how the US Army behaved in Vietnam. Only very much later did I discover that this philosophy had a name, the Purity of Arms,  and as a creed predated the State of Israel and was the basic principle of the Haganah and Palmach. All this began is change in 1973.

Yom Kippur War
Sea of Galilee with the Golan Heights in the distance.
The war Israel nearly lost. The surprise attack by Syria and Egypt on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar caught Israel's vaunted military intelligence completely unaware. Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal in force while Syrian tanks advance quickly down the Golan Heights and came close to invading Israel proper. Had Jordan joined the conflict rather than warn Israel of the pending attack, a warning Israel choice to ignore, Israel might not had been able to blunt the attack and stage a counterattack.

For the first time since 1948, significant number of Israelis had been captured. While Egypt treated their prisoners well, the Syrians tortured and murdered their captives.

The result of the war was a nervous Israel that was no longer completely certain it could defend itself.

Rise of Likud
Menachem Begin founded Israel's Likud Party in 1973. He also once led the Jewish terrorist group Irgun. Unlike the Haganah, the Irgun never subscribed to the philosophy of Purity of Arms. Begin and his allies believed that any tactic in defense of Israel was valid.

Since the 1930's, the Irgun believed that all territory described as Palestine was rightfully part of the Land of Israel.
The Irgun foresaw modern Jordan in the nation of Israel.
Begin refused to use the term "West Bank" to describe the West Bank. He insisted on the term "Judea and Samaria" which transparently implied the land was properly part of Israel.

Israeli settlements
Between the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars there were only a few Israeli settlements established on the West Bank. All of Jerusalem was annexed in 1967, that made sense because while Jerusalem is one of several Islam holy cities it is the only Jewish holy city. Also a handful of communities that had long predated the formation of the State of Israel were reestablished.

With the rise of Likud Jewish settlements on the West Bank blossomed. Hell, they metastasized. Seventeen percent of the 2.5 million people living on the West Bank are Israeli settlers. 

The Wall
Modern Israel has learned two lessons from the horrors of the Nazi Holocaust. Foremost and properly they learned "Never Again." Israel will fight when threatened not just for their national survival but for the survival of the Jewish people.

The other lesson is one nobody should learn, how to treat other people like sub-human animals. Nowhere is that lesson more obvious than in the West Bank Security Fence.

Israel has surrounded the Palestinian population of the West Bank with prison walls. The walls are supposed to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks within Israel and I have no doubt they accomplish that goal. The price is turning Palestine Arabs into a nation of prisoners and turning Israelis into a nation of cruel jailers. While I believe Adolph Eichmann would view the Wall as an eminently practical solution I also believe that David Ben Gurion would be repulsed by the very idea.
The Nazis built a similar wall around the Jewish population of Warsaw.
So where do I stand now? My viscera are steadfast, they support Israel whatever she does. The rest of me is troubled. Israel is no longer the noble Jewish warrior nation. They have attacked the civilian population of Gaza with chemical weapons. They treat Palestinian Arabs like animals, caging them behind high walls. And they have reneged on many of their negotiated deals.

I want to love her but she is making it impossibly difficult. And I can't believe what she is doing will lead to a lasting peace.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Republican Flavor of the Week

The carousal that is the Republican presidential race is a funny carnival.

There was Michele Bachmann in front as the Great White (hooded) Hope. It didn't take long for people to realize that she was so crazy she made batshit look sane.

Then came Rick Perry. Texan through and through, he had a lock on the nomination until he opened his mouth and couldn't spell cat even if you spotted him the C and T and gave him three shots at the middle letter.

This week's favorite, Herman Cain, has a lot going for him with the Republican base. He has looked back nostalgically on Southern segregation and supports restoring slave wages. Of course, Cain has a subtle flaw for the Republican base. Imagine how they would react if both major parties field black candidates.
The Republican Wing of the Republican Party.
I bet Rick Santorum will get his chance next week. He is whiter than Wonder Bread, an advantage to the base. His plan is to restore American greatness by replicating the economic system of medieval Italy using the philosophies of Niccolò Machiavelli and Cesare Borgia including an Inquisition for those insufficiently Christian.

Behind them all lurks Mitt Romney. Always everyone's third or fourth choice, Mitt is universally loathed. But, he has one advantage over all the other candidates, the base can't hate him any more than it already does.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rick Perry: Goober

It seem conservative pundits are just now learning what most of us knew from the start, that Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has barely enough functioning brain cells to keep a jellyfish alive. As Jim Hightower so eloquently phrased it, "He puts the Goober in Gubernatorial."

Goober (n) ~ a goofy, silly, or slightly strange person. Also a dumbass and a prick.
A fool or nerd that acts worse than a Gomer. ~ Urban Dictionary

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Palestine Statehood

Most of the arguments against Palestine statehood are phony.  The only substantial argument is hardly ever mentioned. There is a big difference between the territory the Palestine Authority controls and the land they want. Particularly difficult will be the settlement bubble southwest of Nablus and the land surrounding Jerusalem (See this map). Given history (see yesterday's post), the fundamentalist Jewish settlements in Hebron will certainly become violent flashpoints as well.

The other, much more frequent, arguments are bullshit.

It's Unilateral
If the UN General Assembly votes Palestinian statehood it will be repeating what happened in 1947 when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. When over 100 nations vote on an issue it is hardly unilateral.

Palestine Has Divided Government
Fatah controls the West Bank; Hamas controls Gaza. This argument claims that only when Palestine has a unified governing structure can peace be achieved. That's nonsense. Israel, the US, Britain, and almost every democratic government on earth has divisions.

It Will Endanger Israel
This is not new. Israel has been under attack since before it was created. This very small country in a giant sea of hostile Arab nations will continue to be under daily threat regardless of the status of a Palestinian state. With official nationhood status, Palestine may actually have to start bearing responsibility for its actions.

The Issue Will Become a Lightening Rod for Mindless Demagogue
You got me on this one.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Palestine Revolt of 1936
and Other Arab-Israeli Prehistory

Outside of a perennial longing of Jews to return to the land from which they had been exiled millennia ago the Zionist movement traces to the Dreyfus Affair. Russian pogroms had already taught Jews of their tenuous existence in eastern Europe;
Dreyfus showed that even in liberal France where Jews had legal equality safety was at best an illusion. The goal of Zionism was simple, find some land, somewhere, where Jews could live in peace.

Balfour Declaration
From a Zionist point of view the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which stated British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, was a simple advancement of their stated goals. The British hoped the declaration would stimulate interest in the United States to enter World War I and encourage Jewish Bolsheviks in Russia to continue fighting Germany. Of course, at the same time others in the British government were promising Palestine to Arabs.

Hebron Massacre
By 1929, Arab resentment against Jewish immigration and the British failure to keep their promises of independent Arab states boiled over. A minor dispute over a screen erected at the Wailing Wall escalated into a pogrom. Arab rioters attacked Jews throughout Palestine. The worst of these occurred in Hebron. Rioters ravaged the city, breaking into homes and murdering the inhabitants. In all, 67 Jews were killed and British troops took all of the remaining Jewish survivors out of the city for their own safety. Jews were not allowed in the city again until 1967.

There was another Hebron Massacre. In 1994, an Israeli born in the United States attacked worshipers in a Hebron mosque killing 29, although some Arab sources claim the death toll equal to the 1929 massacre.

Hebron, where Abraham settled and made his covenant with God, is holy to both Arabs and Jews.

The Palestine Revolt of 1936
Now we come to the meat of things. The 1936 revolt was a defining moment in Arab-Jewish relations and, strangely, saw the first uses of some now common strategies.

The riots started after the Mufti of Jerusalem called for a general strike and boycott of all Jewish businesses. Gangs would attack Jewish buses by throwing rocks (as in the later Intifadas). The picture above shows an armored bus of the time. The Irgun responded with a program of terror bombings targeting non-combatants that became the template for modern Palestinian terror campaigns.
The British were initially overwhelmed. One of the strategies they developed was the use of human shields. They would take Arab hostages and tie them to the front of trucks ("the bonnets of lorries," to use the British expression), or place them in front of trains so any attack on troop transports would first kill innocent Arabs.
when you'd finished your duty you would come away nothing had happened no bombs or anything and the driver would switch his wheel back and to make the truck waver and the poor wog on the front would roll off into the deck. Well if he was lucky he'd get away with a broken leg but if he was unlucky the truck behind coming up behind would hit him. But nobody bothered to pick up the bits they were left. ~ source
The British also tortured both Arab and Jewish prisoners (although mostly Arabs) using electronic shock, whippings, and waterboarding. The British used a strategy that the Israel Defense Force has adopted of demolishing the homes of suspected Arab "troublemakers."
British Army Captain Orde Wingate organized elite counter-insurgency units called Special Night Squads (above, during the day). These units were manned by Jews and led by Brits. Wingate was an evangelical Christian who devoutly believed there had to be a Jewish state in Palestine for the anti-Christ to annihilate as a precursor to the second coming of Jesus.

The Arab Revolt of 1936 caused the flight of Palestine's intellectual and financial leadership. Much like in Iraq, any Arab who could leave did. The number of Palestinian Arabs willing to work with and coexist with Jews evaporated.

Of course, the British paid back the Jewish leadership that stayed loyal to England during the revolt by stabbing them in the back and cutting off German Jewish refugee access to Palestine

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Millionaire Tax

Business Insider (hardly a hotbed of communism) eviscerates Republican arguments against President Obama Millionaire Tax.

The highest marginal tax rate was 50% during most of the sainted Ronald Reagan's reign. During the halcyon days of the 1950's that Tea Partiers look back to longingly the tax rate reached over 90%. While Obama has not been specific, I doubt he plans to reach those levels.

Still, be prepared for a cascade of whining from the GOP that taxing the wealthy a bit more than they pay now is unfair, class warfare, and will cause the Koch brothers to curl up into fetal position and poutingly go Galt.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Butch, Sundance, & Etta

Not politics, just some fun history (guess what movie I watched last night).

The Real Etta Place
There is a lot more fiction about Etta Place than known facts. She was a teacher or prostitute or rancher born in Texas or Utah or New York. Her real name was Ethel or Eva or Anna....I give up. What is certain is this picture is of Etta Place. She traveled to New York in 1901 as Sundance's wife and with Butch and Sundance went to Patagonia where they owned a ranch. Pinkerton detectives traced alleged movements, they supposedly went to the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. Truth or not, Etta Place disappears from history in 1905.
Let's play Where's Etta?

The Hole-In-The-Wall
The notorious hideout for Butch and Sundance was named for the Hole-in-the-Wall Pass in remote Johnson County, Wyoming. There is only one way in or out and and anyone approaching the pass can be seen for miles.

Patagonia (not Bolivia)
When Butch, Sundance, and Etta sailed from New York they traveled to Argentina. This photo is allegedly of Sundance and Etta outside their cabin along the Rio Tigra near Cholila, Argentina. The cabin is still standing and has become a tourist attraction.
Tour buses pass frequently.
 Cholila butts up against the southern Andes and according to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, the three traveled frequently to Chile and Bolivia to commit robberies or hide out. Etta and Sundance were also supposedly tracked traveling back and forth to the United States several times.

It is fact that two yanqui bandits were killed in a shootout in San Vicente, Bolivia in 1908.
Also a tourist attraction.
There will always be a question if those two were Butch and Sundance. A Pinkerton report claims the Sundance Kid was jailed in Peru in 1921. He would have been in his mid-50's. Butch Cassidy's family members claim Cassidy attended a family reunion in 1925.

Another source.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Anti-Semitism - Compare and Contrast

From the cradle, the Jew is not being taught, like we are, such texts as, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' or 'If you are smitten on the left cheek, offer then your right one.' No, he is told: 'With the non-Jew you can do whatever you like.' He is even taught that the slaughtering of a non-Jew is an act pleasing to God. ~ Julius Streicher, Nov. 1938
Streicher was a major Nazi propagandist and editor/publisher of Der Stuermer. He received the death penalty at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials.
[Islam is] the only religion in the world that has a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates violence against unbelievers and mandates that Muslims must wage war in order to establish the hegemony of the Islamic social order all over the world. ~ Robert Spencer, Director of Jihad Watch, Aug. 2006
 Spencer is the author of several Islamophobic books. The FBI has used Spencer to teach their agents about Islam. You may have come across this FBI training aid that, with only minor editing, reads like an SS field manual.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Racism and Modern Air Travel

Lessons gleaned  from the story of the American housewife strip searched at a Detroit airport.
  • Don't fly if you have an olive complexion and Mediterranean features.
  • If you are traveling alone be careful who sits next to you.
  • Especially if the people sitting on either side of you are men with dark skin.
  • If your seatmates go to the toilet, report it immediately to the stewardess. 
  • Don't eat anything before flying that might give you the trots; better to shit your pants than go to the toilet because only terrorists use toilets.
  • Don't make any plans for the first five hours after you arrive to allow for armed detention and interrogation. 
Remember, they (flight attendants, air marshals, TSA agents) are more frightened of you than you are of them. Remain calm (because God know they won't) and always wear clean underwear when you travel because you never know when you will be forced to strip in front of strangers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

'Sick and Sad' for the GOP

Some Republicans are disturbed by the "kill the prisoners and let the sick die on the streets" philosophy of rank-and-file Republicans. Even Rick Perry is pretending to be surprised by the bloodlust rampantly on display at recent debates. Haven't they been listening?
I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off? ~ Rush Limbaugh on Abu Ghraib torture

This savagery is exactly the faith that the Republican priesthood (Rush Limbaugh, Ayn Rand) has been preaching for generations. And the Tea Party is the purest expressing of that faith. Tea Partiers are Puritans in the politics of barbarism.
There is no telling to what extremes of cruelty and ruthlessness a man will go when he is freed from the fears, hesitations, doubts and the vague stirrings of decency that go with individual judgement. When we lose our individual independence in the corporateness of a mass movement, we find a new freedom- freedom to hate, bully, lie, torture, murder and betray without shame and remorse. Herein undoubtedly lies part of the attractiveness of a mass movement. ~ Eric Hoffer 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Afghanistan Forever

Remember last spring? The snows were still melting in the hills overlooking Helmand Valley and American generals were optimists. They had encountered few rebels during the winter and had convinced themselves they were clearing the provinces of Taliban insurgents.
The past eight months have seen important but hard-fought progress in Afghanistan. ~ Gen David Petraeus, Mar. 2011
That was then. Today the Taliban captured an unfinished building in the capital and used it as a platform to bombard the US embassy and the homes of prominent Afghans. There have been repeated Taliban attacks on NATO bases. They haven't over run a base (yet) but they have racked up some impressive casualties with a combination of hit-and-run and suicide bomber attacks.

The official Pentagon calculation for the cost of the Afghan war in 2011 is about $6 billion a month. That is the official number; the actual cost is probably three times that. The Pentagon optimists figure on needing only another 13 years to finish the job.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Worst Than Terrorists,
According to Republicans

Republicans are a complex breed who hate a whole lot of humanity.

It isn’t that some gay will get some rights. It’s that everyone else in our state will lose rights. ~ Michele Bachmann
Republicans believe in something they call the "Homosexual Agenda." According to Republicans, all gays have this grand conspiratorial plan to turn then entire country into raging sodomites. Gays plan to indoctrinate children, force women to leave their husbands and grow mustaches, and end marriage by getting married.

if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem. ~ Rep. Virgil Peck (R-KS)
While generally xenophobic about all foreigners be they French, Chinese, or Hawaiian, there is a special place in Republican black hearts for Hispanics. To them everyone who speaks Spanish is Mexican and anyone with a Mexican surname is an illegal, even if his grandparents were born in this country.

The Elderly
If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population. ~ A Christmas Carol
Republicans don't hate the elderly but they do consider them leeches sucking the nation's wealth with their Social Security Ponzi schemes and Medicare bills. They don't want to jail them but do want them to hurry up and die.

I believe that what Americans are seeking is not the elitism, the kind of a spineless -- a spinelessness that perhaps is made up for that with some kind of elite Ivy League education and a fat resume that's based on anything but hard work and private sector, free enterprise principles. Americans are -- could be seeking something like that in positive change in their leadership. I'm not saying that that has to be me. ~ Sarah Palin
Educated people think they are so smart what with all their book learning. Republicans believe that knowledge is grossly overrated. Intellectuals, scientists and such, believe in evolution and that burning fossil fuels has increased the carbon content of the atmosphere to the point it is altering the global climate.  And where is their evidence for these claims? Why nothing but facts.


Let's reintroduce corporal punishment in the schools - and use it on the teachers. ~ P. J. O'Rourke
Teachers are a special case of intellectuals. Teachers teach useless intellectual subjects like science and math but refuse to teach useful subject like how to stone sinners. Teachers would punish Republican bullies when there were in school. For many Republicans, teachers are the only intellectuals they have ever met and they kept giving these young conservatives poor grades just because the got the facts wrong. Besides, most teachers draw public sector salaries which makes them no better than welfare recipients. Even worse, as salaried employees teachers are...

if we took away the minimum wage—if conceivably it was gone—we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely ~ Michele Bachmann
 To Republicans there are two kinds of people: entrepreneurial capitalist producers who sit in the their offices all day moving money back and forth in an effort to make still more money, and everyone else. The worst of the others are workers. Workers steal wealth from capitalist producers by demanding "a living wage" or, even worse, "an honest day's pay." Workers don't realize the sacrifices that entrepreneurial capitalists make skipping a round of golf to trade pork futures. Selfishly, workers worry about feeding their children even though their bosses can't possibly profit from such trivial acts.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

History's Worst Terrorist Groups

Terrorism is not some new social disease, it has been around a long time. One rule: these have to be non-governmental organizations. Governments are far more effective at infliction terror on their citizens than NGOs. If I allowed governments then this list would be the SS, Cheka, and the Tonton Macoute.

Brown Shirts
The Sturmabteilung, the SA. Before Hitler rose to power he organized an army of thugs to intimidate opponents. They would attack rallies by other political parties, vandalize Jewish businesses, and parade the streets beating anyone who didn't properly salute. After Hitler was elected Chancellor, the SA became a dangerous rival to the governmental terrorists, the SS. On a day known as the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler had his SA leadership arrested and executed.

Ku Klux Klan
Founded by in the Southern US by former Confederate soldiers their goal was to drive freed blacks back into powerless servitude. Their weapon of choice was the lynching.  Acts that could get a man lynched included looking at a white woman, registering to vote, and not stepping into the gutter when a white man passed on the sidewalk. The KKK still exists today and work underground with neo-Nazis and Christian Identity fanatics. Membership peaked in the 1920's at over five million.

Ribbonmen and the Orange Order
The English have been trying to control Ireland for a millennium, generally unsuccessfully. Henry II in the twelfth century, Henry VIII in the 16th, Cromwell in the 17th, and so on. A major part of these wars was for Protestant England to rid Ireland of its Catholic blight.

The Catholic defenders evolved into organizations like the Molly Maguires and the Irish Republican Army. The Orange Order gave birth to the Ulster Volunteer Force. The Troubles they caused killed thousands.

Palestine Liberation Organization
One could argue, and not be wrong, that all Arab terrorist organizations (Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda) are the step children of the PLO. They have perfected the strategy of attacking soft targets, most often with bombs.

Jews invented the art of Middle East terrorism 2,000 years ago with their fight against Roman occupation. Often mixed terrorism with outright civil war.  Their assassins used a strategy of dressing up as women, seducing their victims, and killing them. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem to snuff the rebellion.

Friday, September 09, 2011

September 8, 2011

An Uneventful Day.
  • Our water was shut off for seven hours for routine maintenance.
  • Twenty minutes after water was restored the power went off.
  • About an hour later I found out the scope of the outage was from Arizona to the Pacific Ocean, from miles inside of Mexico to Orange County. In total over four million people are affected. This is going to take a while.
  • The temperature at the time was 106 degrees F.
  • Only a few radio stations are operational. The best source for information is, unfortunately, a right-wing, all-talk, Clear Channel station. Their announcers think the darkness is creepy and scary. 
  • Almost everyone else thinks it's kind of neat. People were sitting outside by candlelight and moonlight just talking and gazing at stars that haven't been visible in Southern California for a generation. 
  • About 4:30 this morning my power was restored.
What happened, apparently, is that some guy in Arizona was swapping out a component at an electric utility and tripped a circuit breaker. That tripped other circuit breakers which ended up shutting down the power link between San Diego and Arizona. That shutdown caused a surge that triggered an automatic shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. That triggered an overload on the power link between San Diego and Los Angeles so it shut down too. It's the Domino Theory of modern American electric transmission.

The only problem was that because of the blackout I was not able to watch President Obama's jobs speech because I was so going to watch that instead of the exciting football game I also missed.

As disasters go, losing power for a few hours is way, way, way, way better than a massive, all consuming brush fire.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Republican Debate

M. C. Escher's "Encounter"
I didn't watch it having better things to do like not vomiting my dinner. I have read enough of the commentary aftermath to conclude that liberals are certain that Mitt Romney won hands down while Tea Partiers are equally convinced that Rick Perry took the prize.

At least everybody agrees that Michele Bachmann is dog meat.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Bankrupt Banks

I know I'm old fashioned, but I remember a time when banks were where money went to hide. They had safes and ATMs and everything.

Sure, banks loaned out money, that's how they made money, by investing prudently. Banking wasn't an exciting profession, it was, in fact, a staid and boring job.

Somewhere down the line bankers started looking at all that money just lying around being secure and thought how much more fun they could have if they worked in a casino. Rather than quit Lehman Brothers and find a job at Bellagio they decided to turn their banks into betting parlors.

As any gambler knows smart casinos work like banks used to. They rig the games to insure a small, prudent, safe profit. At a casino, being the bank is the only safe bet. But that was too boring for the bank bankers, they didn't want to be casino bankers they wanted to be casino gamblers. In the United States, bankers went on a betting spree and lost their shirts. They then went crying to their rich Uncle Sam demanding he cover their debts.

European bankers saw the fun and decided to play too. Now we are witnessing again what once was impossible, the biggest banks don't have enough money for their day to day operations and nobody will loan them any money. Only Europe doesn't have any rich uncle to bail them out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Political Faith of Rick Perry

Perry, Mitt Romney (as a Mormon), and to a greater extent Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin, possess a political doctrine called Dominionism.
We are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government ... our entertainment media, our news media, our scientific endeavors - in short, over every aspect and institution of human society. ~ televangelist. D. James Kennedy
The term comes from the divine instruction in the Bible and narrows its focus from all of mankind to just Christians. They see it as their duty to take over governments and impose a strict Christian orthodoxy on all public and private matters. Dominionists never honestly and openly state their goals, as anyone who has seen the effects of a fundamentalist takeover of a school board can testify. But their goals can be expressed in a few simple concepts.

Christian Nationalism
The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. ~ John McCain
Central to Dominionist philosophy is the notion that the United States is a Christian nation in the same way that Iran is an Islamic Republic. They believe that the Constitution, first and foremost, must be interpreted as a Christian document. By their reading, the First Amendment's freedom of religion applies only to Christian sects. The Constitution Restoration Act would prevent courts from reviewing any government action taken in "acknowledgment of God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."

Christian Imperialism
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. ~ Anne Coulter
Wherever the US military has gone in recent years it has brought Christian imperialism with it. In Iraq and Afghanistan the military has aggressively proselytizing Protestant Christianity. Both wars have been made infinitely more difficult by the ham-handed preaching of the United States. 

This Is War
Christians, are under constant attack by radical secularists, homosexual activists, federal judges, non-believers and pagans.
To hear Dominionists talk you'd think things are worse now than when Nero was Roman emperor. By playing the victim, they justify attacks on gays, liberals, and non-Christians as simply self-defense. Their goal is to defeat all these enemies and exercise "godly dominion" over everything. Exactly how far Dominionists will go to wage their war again the ungodly we will not know until after they gain power.
Homosexuals in concentration camps wore pink triangles.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Dutch Mountain Mania

Several centuries ago the Dutch bankrupted their country over tulips, now it is a mountain. The Netherlands is a notoriously flat, partially underwater country mostly known for windmills, dikes, and a kid with a thumb. But the Dutch always wanted to be Switzerland so they have decided to build a mile-high artificial mountain.
 Currently the highest point in the Netherlands is in the Caribbean Sea (Mount Scenery on the island of Saba) at just 862 meters. In Europe, the highest spot is a hill at the tripoint of Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. But the Dutch have always wanted a real mountain that the can climb up, ski down, and jump off of. When a journalist wrote a joke about building a Dutch mountain complete with alpine villages the people decided it was a nifty idea.

They still have plans to make. Do they want a Matterhorn-type mountain (top photo)? Another idea is a broader summit like Mont Blanc. Then there is the question of whether they want to build it on top of farmland or in the North Sea.

The cost is no obstacle. The estimate is $300 billion or about half of the Netherlands GDP.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Heroes of the Peace Prize

Not all winners of the Nobel Peace Prize were undeserving, well connected hypocrites. Some were so deserving they put the Noble in Nobel.
  1. Carl von Ossietzky (1935) - An opponent of the Nazi regime before it was common, von Ossietzky was awarded the Peace Prize while imprisoned in a concentration camp. He died a prisoner three years later.
  2. Aung San Suu Kyi (1991) - The champion of Burmese democracy she was held under house arrest for 15 years between 1989 and 2010. 
  3. Shirin Ebadi (2003) - Iranian lawyer who courageously defended people targeted by the Iran government in the face of frequent death threats. She sued the Bush Administration when the US government attempted to ban the publication of her memoir in 2004. She won.
  4. Liu Xiaobo (2010) - Chinese democracy advocate currently serving an eleven year sentence for subverting the country and authority by helping to write and signing Charter 08 which supported human rights, free elections, and an independent judiciary for China.
  5. Mohandas Gandhi (never) - The Nobel committee has been open about their embarrassment over the fact that the greatest advocate for peaceful non-violence in the past two centuries was never awarded the Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi have all studied the philosophies and tactics of Gandhi. He was nominated five times for the prize and made the short list twice (1937 and 1947). In 1937 the Nobel Committee choose over Gandhi a notably uninspiring British and League of Nations diplomat (Lord Cecil of Chelwood). Cecil was most noted for urging pedestrian rights versus cars and supporting the made up language Esperanto.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Least Deserving Noble Prize Winners

Most people have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their good work towards peace, justice, and an equable global civilizations. A few have won for what they were not - Barack Obama won in 2009 for not being George Bush or John McCain. But there were some who completely did not deserve being feted as peaceniks.
  1. Henry Kissinger and Le Doc Tho (1973) - By 1972 the Vietnam War was as popular in the United States as scabies. The US needed something that looks like peace to appease a restive population. The Vietnamese needed a respite after the pounding their regular army took during the Easter Offensive. The Paris Peace Accords was the most cynical peace treaty in the history of mankind. Neither side had any intention of keeping up their end of the bargain. Only Watergate prevented Nixon from resuming his carpet bombing of Vietnam. After a couple of years to rearm, the North Vietnamese army was ready for a quick push to conquer the south. Le Doc Tho, at least, was honest enough to refuse his share of the prize. 
  2. Yasser Arafat, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin (1994) - The Oslo Accords are only slightly less cynical that the Paris ones. The Israelis, particularly Benjamin Netanyahu, "interpreted" the text in ways that undid the Accords while Arafat continued to support terrorism as a persuasive tool.
  3. Nicholas Murray Butler (1931) - Got the prize for convincing Andrew Carnegie to fund the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. President of Columbia University. He didn't actually accomplish much of anything towards peace but he was influential and knew all of the important people of the time. The prize award was more of a present that academics like to give each other. And, Butler was a renown racist, anti-Semite, and supported Nazi ideas. He preferred dictatorships to democracies, saying that totalitarian regimes brought forth "men of far greater intelligence, far stronger character, and far more courage than the system of elections."
  4.  Elihu Root (1912) - As US Secretary of War crafted the genocidal suppression of the Philippines independence movement (1898-1911). Got the prize for encouraging arbitration of European spats (he helped resolve a North Atlantic fishing dispute) that worked so well World War I started two years later.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The Speech Game

As conflicts go the Jobs Speech vs. GOP Debate Kerfuffle ranks somewhere below the Great Squirrel-Chipmunk War. The question for historians is how did it happen?

The detail decisions about major Presidential speeches is made at the Chief-of-Staff level, so Bill Daley choose Sept. 7 for the speech. Either he knew about the GOP debate or he didn't. If he didn't then Daley and every single member of his staff is an ignorant twit incapable of reading and understanding the Washington Post. It's a safe bet he knew.

So why that date? Party primary debates are ugly, petty affairs at best; presidential addresses to joint sessions of Congress are grand events filled with pomp. Juxtapositioning the two would make President Obama look like a giant while Republicans look like a field of Lilliputs.

Speaker Boehner was in a weak position with few options. He could lead a Republicans boycott of the President's speech, which would have looked absolutely horrible. He could have physically prevented the President from entering the House chambers by, say, chaining the doors shut; that would have looked even worse. He could have threatened to not cooperate in future negotiations but that was no threat because he was going to do that anyhow. He could threaten to drown the week before the speech with insistent whining but he's going to do that anyhow, too.

The result should have been CoS Daley winning a cute little round of political gamesmanship. So, why then did the day end with the White House moving the speech to the following day?

I've pointed out before that President Obama suffers from Allodoxaphobia, a morbid fear of confrontation. The move was an example of that disorder. Obama gains nothing from the move while losing face.

The White House staff set up a skirmish where they held the high ground for a small but easy victory. The President stabbed his staff in the back and retreated from the high ground because he desperately wanted to avoid confrontation.