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Archive for December, 2008

You can tell the War in Iraq is winding down.  Afghanistan doesn’t look like it offers too many opportunities for the major defense contractors either, and the rest of the world looks more or less peaceful – with the usual exception of Israel – a we certainly aren’t going there. So what can our military-industrial complex of inbred brothers, sisters, and first cousins dream up for the military to do?  After all, the principal goal is to have a large military that, in turn, acts as a gigantic customer for all those unique pieces of custom designed equipment that never work right but the manufacture of which does create thousands and thousands of jobs, not to mention gigantic profits and salaries for those involved in their manufacture.  Aha! We have an idea from Washington! The vast U.S. military industrial complex will not have to slow down or cut back after all – we have just discovered a brand new mission for our military – disaster response within the U.S.! Excellunt dudes!

Remember Katrina? When all those people were drowning and our government, under the illustrious leadership of GW Bush proclaimed that the laws of the US prohibit the use of the military on US soil? So, while the 82nd Airborne was readily available to respond – well, sorry, wasn’t permitted – too bad. And the National Guard, which is permitted to help? Oh – you mean them? Uh, they were in Iraq.  Sorry.

So, guess what?  The dimwits in DC, who got their jobs mainly because of our system of giving overwhelming preference in government hiring to ex-military people, have found a way to save our military from downsizing, now that the the war is just about done. We’re going to make them rescue rangers! Yep, just imagine, next time you’re caught in a flood you won’t have to worry – the B-52s will soon be on their way! And if you are caught in a California earthquake, why we’ll have a nuclear powered aircraft carrier over there within three weeks!  But what if you are trapped in a forest fire and you can’t get out?  Not to worry, the M1A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles are on their way!

Almost anyone could have told you that this country is in dire need of a competent disaster response capability – it is, after all, obvious to the entire world.  However, in classic Bushian dimwitted fashion, our government has already begun trying to give the military this mission. What is really needed is a Disaster Response Corps of dedicated, highly trained people, with specialized equipment who are decidedly not part of the military. Why shouldn’t they not be part of the military? Because when you need them you can’t have them off fighting a war in Outer Mongolia or something.  It would be like having a Fire Department that also operates world wide cruise ships as its primary mission.

The problem though is that this type of reasoning isn’t important in DC.  The mililtary is already being trained for this additional “mission” even as I write.  The folks in DC who make these decisions do so because of a terminal case of inbreeding.  Too many ex-military work for the government and the defense contractors and their primary goal is to keep the merry-go-round spinning. That means finding reasons to send money to the military-industrial complex rather than actually solving America’s problems.

It’s good to know that someone, somewhere in the US government has at last seen we have an urgent need for an effective disaster response capability. Now all they need to do is the right thing: begin downsizing the military and create a separate, well-equipped, well-trained, well-funded Disaster Response Corps that is entirely independent of the miltary.  The question is: who in the US government would ever consider such a thing?

The answer? No one.

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It’s official, the Republican Party is in full blown self-destruct mode.  The inmates are now running the asylum as the Grand Old Party lurches towards its inevitable end as a viable U.S. political party.  A candidate for the leadership of the Republican Party, Chip Saltsman, recently sent out CDs of the song “Barack the Magic Negro” to Republican Party Committee members in the belief that it would help him to win the Chairmanship of the Committee.  His actions are being defended by the usual gang of Republican apologists saying that it is all in good clean fun. It’s the American way of satire they say.

Back in May, Rush Limbaugh played the song on his radio show, which still has a few fans in the hills and hollers of Red Neck America.  Rush thought is was great fun and no doubt believed it would advance the cause of the Republican candidates in the Presidential election.  Instead there was an outpouring of criticism by decent Americans who were offended by Limbaugh’s blatant attempt to appeal to the racist inclination of America’s rapidly disappearing population of rednecks.

So this is what the Republican Party has finally come to: a weird collection of extremely rich, self-centered, misanthropes; a group of sadly misled Evangelicals, who in their search for Christianity follow equally misled demagogues who only preach ancient Judaic Law; and ignorant, racist, poorly-educated, hicks who swallow everything Rush Limbaugh has to say as if it were the spoken word of God.  Limbaugh has long tried to use his radio platform to try to define and influence Americans but now, as the Republican Party dissolves into a little puddle  of nastiness, Limbaugh and his followers can now be seen for what they truly are: they are not mainstream Americans, they do not represent America or its values, they have become the definition of America’s lunatic fringe.

While Limbaugh has been chuckling over his adolescent prank of playing racist parodies on the air, the entire world has embraced Barack Obama as no other President since John F. Kennedy.  Remember the crowds that turned out to see him in Germany?  Remember his warm reception by both Arabs and Israelis?  Remember the excitement about Barack in France and England?  He is loved and admired around the world and many nations would be proud to claim him as one of theirs. As an example, listen to this song about Barack from Ireland.

Limbaugh doesn’t get it.  He’s beyond redemption. There are many in the upper echelon’s of the Republican Party who don’t get it either. We’ve moved on.  It’s a new world and the 21st Century will see a blending of the races and cultures. The old, selfish, misers of the Republican Party don’t get it.  Their day is over. Their scheming financial policies, and their complete lack of integrity has nearly destroyed the financial systems of the entire world. Yet, they still think they can rally people to their side with racist songs and idiotic gibberish from people like Rush Limbaugh.

Change is coming and will soon sweep over us like a roaring tsunami, but the blind don’t see it.

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For a long time Hamas has been lobbing rockets into Israel from Gaza.  In characteristic fashion Israel has finally responded with a heavy-handed counterattack. Doesn’t this seem like deja vu all over again? How many times have we seen this scenario? At lot of times, more that I have the desire to count. Now Israel is on the verge of a full scale invasion of Gaza. Is there a message here?  Is there something we can learn? Is there anything we can derive that will help to sort out the fundamental problems and finally bring peace to the Middle East?

Yes, there is something we can conclude.  The United Nations partition of the Mandate of Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state in 1948 was a failure.  From what we have seen in other parts of the world, i.e. Ireland, Vietnam, and Korea, splitting up countries into north and south, or east and west doesn’t usually provide a peaceful solution to problems between different population groups.  Instead it pretty much serves only as an opportunity for each side to set up launching facilities from which they can lob bombs and missiles at the other or from which they can plan and launch attacks at the other.  In the course of time, divided countries are likely to follow the path of Vietnam and merge as some part of a forced or negotiated settlement. Vietnam was a forced merger while Ireland is well on its way to a peaceful merger.  Meanwhile North and South Korea maintain rather hostile attitudes towards each other, although tentative steps have been taken towards an eventual merger.

Time and again the best negotiators in the world have tried to broker an agreement between the Arabs and the Jews and work out a settlement that will provide for separate Jewish and Arab states in the former Mandate of Palestine. All such agreements have failed and the bombing of each other has resumed.  It is time to reexamine the original U.N. settlement that created Israel and to calmly reflect if that was indeed the proper solution to the problem, i.e. the Jews and the Arabs don’t seem to get along too well with each other, but they both have historic origins in the same place.

Let’s suppose that we could recreate the Mandate of Palestine (maybe find a new name for it). Let’s suppose we could create a country that would be jointly occupied by the Palestinians and the Jews – but let’s suppose it was structured that integration between the groups was mandated. Suppose that these two peoples would not be allowed to build Jewish or Palestinian neighborhoods. Suppose they had to attend integrated schools, ride the same public transportation, use the same hospitals, everything completely and inextricably integrated. What does that do to the missile shooters and the bomb lobbers?  What does that do to the opposing armies and the air strikes?  They all become useless because equal amounts of Jews and Palestinians would be killed in all such actions.  The only type of violence left would be one on one encounters – and for that to be curtailed all you need is a really good, and scrupulously fair, national police force that has a dominant presence.

Separation and division have been shown time and again not to be the solutions between racial and ethnic groups. The answer, paradoxically, is integration.  One need only to look at the United States and the way the problems between blacks and white were solved by integration to see that it is by bringing people together that solutions are found.  The old wisdom of Solomon was applied to the Mandate of Palestine and it was a failure.  If the people who engineered the creation of Israel understood the story of Solomon in the Bible they would have anticipated that result.  The baby was cut in two and now no one is happy.  It’s time to start talking about putting the baby back together again and finding a way for these people to live in peace with each other under a fair and unified government.

After sixty years of failure, isn’t it about time to try a new solution?

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It is about 2009 years since the birth of the man we call Jesus.  No one really knows the exact year of his birth and as for the day of his birth, well there are a lot of theories, but the chance of it being December 25th is about 1 in 365. The selection of Dec 25 as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus is really due to the desire of the Roman Church to co-opt the “Pagan” holidays that were associated with the winter solstice.  It turned out to be a pretty good strategy, although, over the years, it did bring a lot of the Pagan symbols – like the Christmas tree – into the whole Christmas package.

The various Christian churches have tried, over the past two thousand years, to keep “Christ in Christmas”, mainly by making sure their members attended church services on Christmas Day, but in recent years Christmas has been co-opted by the business community, particularly the retail industry. This industry has now become so dependent on an annual “Christmas bubble” that they now depend on good Christmas sales to finish their fiscal year with a profit.  This year could be a close call. I guess they might be learning another lesson about depending on bubbles to make money.

Nevertheless, if we look at all the buying and giving of presents during Christmas, it is all happening for one basic reason: people are showing that they care for each other, that they love each other.  So, in a strange way, the retail industry – with all its avarice and manipulation of customers, is essentially helping people to follow the only commandment that Jesus ever gave: “Love one another.”  Today, many people celebrate Christmas gift giving even though they are not Christian. In some ways, I suppose you might say it has almost become a secular holiday.  Yet, this gift-giving by so many people, regardless of their religious affiliations, is at the heart of Christianity. As Martha Stewart might say: it’s a good thing.

The traditional churches have had a long history of c0-opting the teaching of Jesus – even to the point of changing his name from Yehoshua or Yeshua (after all, he was Jewish) to the Romanized  and then Anglicized “Jesus”.  The Roman Empire seized upon Christianity, after hundreds of years of persecution, and co-opted it, turning it into a tool to control the populace – a common practice in the ancient world.  Most religions were associated with theocracies, including the Judaic religion, and they were a very important means of influencing and controlling people.  It was his opposition to the theocracy of Judea, and his teaching that “the Law and the Prophets were until John”, that led directly to the crucifixion of Jesus.

Today, it is the new “Evangelical Christian” Churches that have c0-0pted the true message of Jesus.  Teaching primarily from the Old Testament (i.e. the Law and the Prophets) in their mega churches, they ignore the true teaching of Jesus, because the true teaching of Jesus is directed at the individual person. This message is a message of freedom from theocratic rule – a message that established churches and governments find very difficult, if not impossible, to accept.

The long history of Christianity has been a tragic tale of powerful organizations co-opting the true teachings of a man named Yeshua who dared to oppose the rich and powerful. He taught that one can only enter the “Kingdom of Heaven” as an individual – no one else holds the key and no one else can do it for you.  It wasn’t a popular teaching then among the rich and powerful, and it isn’t now.

So, it is interesting to note, as we again celebrate the birth of Yeshua, that it is not our governments and not our rule-making churches but the rich and powerful merchants of today who, ironically, through their avarice during the Christmas season, are in fact encouraging all of us to follow Yeshua’s one and only commandment: “love one another”.

Merry Christmas

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The old saying is that if a dog bites a man it isn’t news, but if a man bites a dog then it’s news.  Well, we haven’t been bit – we’ve been robbed – by the banks!  That is news I suppose, but somehow in our Bushian world of doublespeak and lies it’s hard to be shocked about anything anymore.  We just sort of shrug our shoulders and go on, just like the peasants in the old Soviet Union.  After all, what can we do? Do we really expect our elected representatives to do anything? They’re the ones who let this happen!  Stampeded by Paulson and Bush, not to mention the pre-debate theatrics of John McCain, our elected representatives gave bushels – no shiploads (I said shiploads) of cash to the big boys of finance: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, and on and on. No accountability needed boys, just spend the money any way you want and get our economy moving again and save us from the next Great Depression.

So here we are. The banks haven’t bought the “Troubled Assets” we were told they would buy. They’re not giving us loans. They’re still giving big bonuses to the idiots who got us into this financial swamp. And the rest of the $350,000,000,000? Who knows – they refuse to say what they are doing with it. It seems that they are mostly just sitting on the money, now that our tax dollars have replaced all the money they foolishly lost in their insane real estate Ponzi scheme.

Meanwhile, the real estate market is in a state of freefall, the likes of which havn’t been seen since the Great Depression. No one wants to say it.  It’s like the Emperor’s New Clothes where everyone just goes along with whatever the Emperor claims. We’ve been robbed! We have been robbed by the banks – it’s as simple of that.   And now they are drooling over the remaining $350,000,000,000 that has been set aside as part of the $700 billion TARP bailout fund.  Just to put this total TARP bailout of $700 billion in perspective, the total cost of the Iraq War, from beginning to end, is estimated by most analysts to be in the same ballpark, many even calculate it will cost a bit less. And the banks stonewall, refusing to give us any accounting at all about what they are doing with our money! Can’t you just see the look of outrage on the faces of Bush and Paulson? Boy, they sure were fooled weren’t they?

No, we were the ones who were fooled – again. If there is one hallmark of the Bush administration it is the constant deception of the American public. Now, in cahoots with the American banking industry, Bush and his cronies have enabled the banks to rob us blind at a time when the nation and the world are falling into an economic abyss.  It is a disgrace without comparison in American history.

I can only wonder, will we ever have justice?

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Barack Obama’s recent selection of Evangelical preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation prayer at the Presidential Inauguration has set off a firestorm of protests among the lesbian and gay communities in America. Warren is one of the leading Evangelical preachers in America and has a very large following. He has very strong views on some topics and is not afraid to state them. Obama claims that by having Warren participate in the Inauguration it will bring us together.

If there is a consistency in Obama’s actions since he won the election it is in his choices of people to be on his “team”. He has opted for diversity of opinions. It is clear that he believes that the answer to America’s fragmented society is a shotgun marriage of the spokesmen for these diverse groups into a single working entity. At least that seems to be the strategy with his Cabinet and it also seems to be the approach he is taking for his Inauguration. I suppose that, for completeness, he will now have to find some other spokesman for the people that Warren preaches against who will also have a role in the Inauguration. It is an interesting approach that Obama has taken, but it leaves me wondering about one thing: what is Obama’s own position now on religion?

For many years he was a member of the black Christian church community, but he decided to put some distance between him and that church after the antics of Pastor Wright caused considerable damage to his campaign. So, does this mean that Obama has renounced the black church? I recall that, in 1961, John F. Kennedy asked Cardinal Cushing to give the invocation at his Inauguration. Although Kennedy was the only Roman Catholic ever elected to be President of the United States, and there were plenty of people who were afraid that he would inflict his Catholic views on the nation, Kennedy went ahead and asked a Roman Catholic Cardinal to give the invocation. He remained true to his religious associations despite the potential for controversy.

While Obama’s search for unanimity and cohesion is admirable, I have to wonder if he is sacrificing something here that should not be sacrificed. What about Obama’s inner core? What about his core beliefs? He has renounced Pastor Wright as his spiritual adviser. Does this mean that Obama no longer has any spiritual adviser? Does this mean that, in his mind, the principal purpose of the invocation prayer is to provide an opportunity for more political and national bonding?

So far, his choice has clearly infuriated the gay and lesbian community and may have turned them against Obama. There are also many of other positions held by Pastor Warren that various Americans disagree with. So has Obama’s choice backfired? Was it a blunder that could burst into Inauguration day protests in D.C.? Has it really served to pull us closer together? How many Catholics are thrilled with his choice? How many Jews? How many Mormons? How many Lutherans or Episcopalians? The fact is that there is no one he could choose for this task that would serve to bring us together. Almost any choice he could make would be controversial. He would have been better searching for a preacher from the black church who more accurately represents his own inner beliefs – at least that would have been an authentic choice.

Barack, this was a blunder. There are times in government when you need to compromise, and there are times when you have to be true to your inner core. This was one of those “inner core” times. There are many Americans, not just gays and lesbians, who fervently hope that Pastor Warren doesn’t speak for your own strongly held inner beliefs.

I wonder, is it too late to reconsider your choice?

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OK, so George Bush has ensured that the U.S. auto industry won’t evaporate on his watch.  Thanks, George. You won’t be forgotten.  So, it’s over to you Barack. You’ve got a month to figure out how to save a multi-billion dollar industry that has been in self-destruct mode for the past forty or fifty years.  Good luck with that.  Clearly George Bush has absolutely no idea how to save an industry that for decades has embraced a policy of planned obsolescence. Like a modern day Icarus or a Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the Detroit executives thought they had it all figured out.  Half a century ago they decided that they could make more money by building  cars that would disintegrate on schedule, pretty much when the odometer reached 100,000 miles.  That way people would have to buy cars every five years or so and they would be assured of a stable market for their little time bombs forever.

So what does Detroit do now?  Everyone knows the Japanese, Koreans, and Germans build better cars for about the same price. And what about the Chinese? They have the ability to build cars every bit as good as the Japanese and Koreans at a lower price.  What happens when we start importing really good Chinese cars that sell for $10,000? George Bush clearly has no idea, so instead of creating a comprehensive restructuring plan and long term loan for the dunderheads in Detroit, he just boots the ball to Obama. Let him be the one to get the blame for the destruction of the auto industry after fifty years of greed and poor business practices in Detroit. The final implosion won’t happen on George’s watch.  Another brilliant stroke by the master of brilliant strokes.

The real question for Barack is this: how does Detroit dig itself out of the mile deep hole it has dug for itself these past fifty years?  First of all the economy is in freefall and credit for car loans is hard or impossible to get anyway. People are out of work. The overall outlook for the automobile industry, whether it is Japanese, Korean, Chinese, or German is very bleak. And now Barack and the geniuses in Detroit have to come up with a plan that will result in people buying even more American cars than they have in the past!  Are you kidding? Is that even possible? Who in their right mind is going to buy a car from these people?  First of all, Detroit already has a huge inventory of cars that no one wants. They can hardly give them away in their 2 for the price of 1 sales.  It looks like Obama’s task of saving the U.S. auto industry will be no less difficult than that of Hercules when he had to clean out the Augean Stables.

Perhaps the greatest problem of all facing the U.S. auto industry is a lack of trust.  Many people who buy Japanese cars fully expect to drive them for 200,000 or 300,000 miles. People who buy American cars pray that their rust buckets will reach 100,000 miles before they disintegrate.  So, even if Detroit started building quality cars tomorrow, who is going to believe them?  In these very difficult economic times who can afford to take a chance on a proven loser?  The answer is no one.  Detroit has to redeem itself and that will take time – years, lots and lots of years. So, if Detroit really does mean it this time, if they really do promise to be good and stop building cars that are deliberately engineered to fail, let them put their money where their mouth is.  It’s the only way, Detroit – you need to offer bumper to bumper 200,000 mile warranties.  You could do it if your new stuff is going to be so good.  If it isn’t – well then, you belong in the scrap heap.  The question then becomes what to do with the present crop of pre-engineered disasters.  There’s only one thing to do: give them the 200,000 mile warranty too.  I know they won’t make it – they’ll fall apart long before they reach 200,000 miles.  So set aside some money from Barack’s impending bailout for repairing these cars.  You need to establish trust immediately with the American car buyer – Detroit, you can’t wait a couple of years.

If the U.S. auto industry wants to survive in these times it has to compete effectively against the entire world. We’re in a global, multi-national economy now, remember?  Sure hybrids and electrics are nice, but with gas at about a buck fifty a gallon that isn’t a big issue today.  And forget about spending all the bailout money on designing really cool looking bumpers and grilles. Nobody really cares – after all they buy Japanese cars don’t they?

Detroit, if you are serious about surviving, start offering  200,000 mile warranties right away. Today.  Right now.  Otherwise, why don’t you just save all of us taxpayers a bunch of money and just call it a day.

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