Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas lies.

Der christliche Entschluss, die Welt hässlich und schlecht zu finden, hat die Welt hässlich und schlecht gemacht.

-Friedrich Nietzsche-

And so it happens every year -- all year actually -- but most appallingly and undisguisedly around the time of Mithra's birthday. You know, Mithra, the son of god by a virgin mother and member of a holy trinity whose cult competed with Christianity for hundreds of years and in large part was the furnished apartment the Christians moved into when they went Roman. So who can be surprised that "Liberal" CNN would trot out another snotty attack on disbelief today, embedded in an interpretation of that mawkish box-office failure It's a Wonderful Life.

The annually erupting movie is a fitting metaphor for a nation absent Christian belief, author Larry Taunton says. Those wanting to do away with the faith should be careful what they wish for. 'Doing away with the faith' of course, means dissuading the faithful from running your life; dictating according to their own set of religious laws and demanding special exemption for their actions. They're sure as hell not equating faith in Indra or Thor with their equally unsupportable beliefs.

No, faith is good when it's Christian faith even when the faithful can't agree with what that is or whether angels are part of it or whether Quakers are heretics or just who it is the god of love hates most. Any other faith is simply satanic, regardless of content, else ol' Larry here would be giving the Zoroastrians with their strict sense of morality a free pass to heaven. And he doesn't.

Of course if there is a nation absent Christian belief, or more repellent, absent that cobbled together self-contradictory chimera they like to call (the Judeo-Christian ethic) it's not the USA and the conclusion that our waning belief is deadly to morality and stability and all other political, economic and tectonic woes including that "general malaise," is part of the same belief package. It's circular. To see that decline, one has first to believe in it, which is to say, if you believe it, it's true. If you're a Christian of the correct sort, it's true; which again is to say, nothing is true but what the Church tells you is true and Après nous le déluge.

Yes, indeed, it would be a sad day for America if people stopped questioning the notion that democracy ( which used to be held as evidence for decline and condemned by nearly every church ) universal suffrage, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, the end of slavery and a more modern sense of morality that includes frowning upon child abuse, torture, spousal abuse and the torture of animals -- all things fine and dandy in the heyday of ecclesiastical tyranny -- were signs of the end times that Christians have been awaiting for 2000 years and which will never come. Why, insinuates this obnoxious Nosferatu from his ancient grave -- we might become savages in the moral vacuum departing Christianity leaves behind: wild and murderous barbarians like the French, Danes, Germans, Dutch, Swedes, English . . .

Face it, without faith that everything is going to hell, Christianity would long since have died out or at most be another kind of Judaism, and people like Larry Taunton would be lying to the empty air and raving to the bats in some secluded cave far away. As Nietzsche said: "The Christian determination to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad"

What the movie is trying to say, is that faith in ourselves will save the day and that's hardly what this damnable deceiver in his contempt for sanity is selling. In fact it's the very opposite and they just can't get through a December without spitting in the face of human values, denying their own bloody history and claiming to be the only rightful leaders of the world and insist they're right because they've made everything worse.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Waiting for Gandhi

Those Polls are hardly scientific nor do they claim to be, but when I read that 76% of participants think the payroll tax cut extension should be approved, I have to wonder at the Republican pose that insists such 'socialist' things are being stuffed down our throats by tyrannical Democrats who don't represent us as well as billionaires and multinational corporations do. Other things like medicare and Social Security and health care reform have been stuffed down our throats even though three quarters of us support them. Yes, Americans can seem like geese sometimes, but it's mostly the people eating foi gras and hating Democracy who want to run the farm.

Even my most intransigently Republican friends are risking an eternity in hell by suggesting that the GOP is deliberately sabotaging the government and the economy and the well being of our citizens for political gain and Obama's approval rating is slowly climbing as the flock of candidates chortle about sin and repealing child labor laws. So perhaps the slow shift in mood has to do with the traveling freak show from whom Republicans will be forced to choose as well as the unavoidable recognition that our definition of "smaller government" smells so much of the 19th century British colonial attitude: do nothing, have nothing done and don't allow anyone to do anything. Gandhi was able to turn it back at them. It should be easier for us. We already have the vote.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

All you need is love

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
-Colossians 3:18-

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
-Ephesians 5:22-

Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands
-1 Peter 3:1-

women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
-1 Corinthians 14:34-

Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to talk back, not to pilfer, but to show complete and perfect fidelity, so that in everything they may be an ornament to the doctrine of God our Savior.
-epistle of Paul to Titus-

I've lived long enough to be familiar with several reversals in the mission of liberal activists and even with the kind of reversal that coexists with its opposite. Is human behavior the result of genes or is it the result of cultural conditioning? Is it both and can we work both angles at different times to support our doctrines?

Are personality types in humans genetically determined as we see in dogs? I certainly don't know and I'm not going to pretend I do, but those who do pretend seem to have had profound influences on our culture and in ways that seem to defy or deny rigorous examination.

Are men, for instance, more prone to violence because our culture teaches that violence is manly or is it genetics driving that view of what it means to be male? Do men tend to have a certain natural role in society and women have a different one? Recent studies seem to lend weight to the idea that in primates in general, the way we organize our societies has more to do with genetics than with the exigencies of our environment; to suggest that gender roles and group behavior have a biological basis. Yes some continue to insist that more women would seek a career in boiler repair or sewer work if we insist on calling a manhole a "personnel access cover" while denouncing any serious research on the subject of gender difference as anti-Feminist.

Some feminists will be alarmed at any such studies, perceiving with some accuracy that it can be used to justify injustice by confusing it with "nature's way" just as genocide has been justified by confusing it with natural process. In neither case would nature need to have our help and of course even if nature prompts us to seek leadership from males, that's not a justification for excluding women. Nature of course doesn't demand that we wash our hands or cook our food or most of the things that have served our survival.

Dogs are going to seek a pack leader and although there is a chain of command between the females, that leader is going to be male and amongst prospective leaders there will be constant rivalry because male dogs are wired to think they can lead. Is there something similar at work in human societies? Do we see that thing working in the very movements attempting to combat it?

Domesticated dogs look to humans for their leaders, or are easily persuaded to do so in most cases, while wolves generally do not. Canids with human leaders seem to be doing better in the world than those who follow other dogs. Can we learn from this? Are we going to the dogs because of the leaders we choose and ideas we protect?

I know I'm rambling here, but I do have a point in mind. It seems that there are contrary schools, both identifying as 'Feminist' that tell us that our roles in our society are not predetermined but also that our natures are all but scripted by our genes. Males are born bad, to take one school to the extreme -- and all gender identification is entirely learned says the other extreme, so culture is the culprit. Culture, some would say is male dominated and so culture teaches male domination in a vicious circle. As with all such disputes, science is the guardian of honesty and that's why it's been so difficult to pursue or even to discuss the science of gender. Better to protect doctrine because the doctrine protects our feelings.

Of course good and bad are things we make up, or that people who would be pack leaders make up. There is no good and bad in nature, there is only that which is advantageous to the gene pool, or disadvantageous. Primate societies, suggests the study, are the result of what has worked over millions of years and in the social nature of our closest relatives. Change the circumstances and conditions, but the pattern persists.

War and violence seem to be there -- the major difference is that humans recognize wider group identifications than do the chimps. We are better able to feel compassion, allegiance and common cause with others outside our immediate tribes and nations and even species while other primates have smaller range. I think that's where our salvation resides, but more on that later.

I think humans have got by so far by being just barely smart enough to put nature in its place. We haven't all arrived at the point where we will recognize our genetic orientation for what it is and use it to the advantage of all of us -- of life in general. We tend to use it as monkeys do, for the advantage our the tribe, the family group and that's quite true of monkeys like the Vervets who seem to be quite viciously matriarchal. We haven't arrived at all although there are religions that teach universal compassion, they're too often -- most often used to form tribes and gender subgroups within tribes, allowing us to lapse into our primitive tribalist behavior. Looking for and finding enemies: it's a primate thing. Hell no, they're not us and we're not them. They're males, they're females, they're crackers, liberals, yankees, blacks, Mexicans, yuppies and the Bible tells me so and so do my genes.

So the evidence for nature playing a role in our social organization can be used to divide us into gender and lead into gender wars, race wars and nationalism or we can choose to notice that we are genetically capable of being above such things. We can recognize that being above it is in our nature which puts us far, far above the apes in our ability to recognize what's good for all. But of course, religion - the thing we look to for guidance and moral leadership often teaches that this ability was taken from God or the gods illegally and is sinful. Obedience to our pack leader is good, but not to those other heathens and satanists. Which part of our nature do we choose? Look at history, listen to the people who would lead.

Sure it's more emotionally satisfying to band together as victims and claim that since a majority of violent crime is perpetrated by young men, all men are suspect by nature, but it's not only bad logic, since most men are not violent criminals, it's a step back into our animal nature of equal size. It's an admission that we are not capable of knowing right from wrong and acting accordingly - or at least that the other group isn't.

So yes, Chimps are kinder to their own families than to their tribes, and their tribes more compassionate with each other than to others, even though those others contain their own daughters and grandchildren. We're better than that, as some religions have taught. We're better because our compassion is infinitely broad - at least it can be. Can it be that ability to be the other, feel with the other, identify with the other has been part of the obvious survival advantage our species has over other primates - almost as much as our technological prowess has been?

That's what I'm suggesting and that suggestion suggests that many of the political and social movements claiming to be a solution are part of the problem. Religion has largely failed us here as have so many social doctrines. Compassion alone of the virtues will not sponsor the burning of others, crusades, Jihads, stonings, slavery and the subjugation of women even when compassion appears on the letterhead of Allah the merciful or Jesus the God of Love. Religions become tribes and we no longer see ourselves in the members of other religions and we follow the pack leaders with their books and costumes as wolves follow wolves with good hunting instincts and big teeth. Religions become tribes and will attack other tribes whether secular or religious and the doctrines or other tribes become satanic even when they advocate compassion and mercy above all things.

I've seen it happen and so have you whether you've noticed or not. I've seen people bridle at the criticism of religion, taking generalities as a personal insult. I've seen people dismiss an entire gender, race without seeing it as a personal insult to a member of those groups. It's our animal nature to separate ourselves from identification with the other, whether we recognize it or not. Compassion, love, altruism are also in our animal nature, our genetic gift from our ancestors. So is the ability to choose what works rather than what what our inner ape likes -- for are we not human?


"He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,"— in those who harbour such thoughts hatred will never cease. "He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me," — in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.
-Dhammapada Verses 3-5 -

Monday, December 19, 2011

Let it be Paul

Ron Paul seems at the moment to be the front runner in Iowa, which to me offers some hope that American Conservative dementia might not progress to the point where that miscreant Gingrich might be selected to run against Barack Obama.

And no, I haven't become a Republican, but I'd far rather see Dr. Paul, whose ideas I sometimes agree with and sometimes don't in a debate than be forced to listen to Newt advocate a nation of "believers" where no one can be trusted who doesn't follow a Gingrich approved God, or God forbid, live in a nation with a president who insists he would arrest a judge whose decisions don't fit the doctrines of Newtonian Theocracy and plutocracy. For someone who makes such a fuss about the constitution's limitations on government power, you'd think he could show us the part advocating for a priest-king or a definition of a separation of powers that is subject to suspension at the whim of the President.

Of course one has to wonder whether the inner Gingrich is connected in any way to the outer, all too visible Gingrich, with strings attached to all sorts of crepuscular but malignant entities. Perhaps his outrageous anti-Americanism is simply bait to attract the creepy-crawly political vermin squirming in the anti-American mud and perhaps he's not really an enemy of democracy, Liberty and the rule of law and the other things most of us wish were core values in civilized countries.

So I have to think that at best, he's a fraud who fully intends to betray anyone foolish enough to think he means what he says, but I have to fear, at worst, that he means it. So yes, I'll take the candidate who I think goes a bit overboard with limiting the power of the Government to the man who would be king.

Friday, December 09, 2011

The world is the Battlefield

I find it remarkable that the proposed provision of the Defense Authorization act enabling a President to detain anyone suspected of belonging to a terrorist organization indefinitely and without trial, can be presented as one of those bits of "evidence" that Barack Obama is trashing the constitution. Obama's Indefinite Detention Powers is the title of more than one article. Remarkable indeed since he's threatening to veto the abomination if it passes.

I do recognize that since the Authorization for Use of Military forces (AUMF) that Congress approved after the September 11 terrorist attacks was used to bolster somewhat unfair arguments that Bush was trashing the revered document, an equal and more ridiculous counter charge has to be leveled against his Democratic successor. That is a principle we had beat into our consciousness when Bill Clinton had to face charges, some contrived and some with marginal merit that were so like unto those Nixon was glaringly guilty of.

But I digress. I'm not surprised to hear such things slithering in the murky Senatorial cistern, but I'm surprised at the bipartisan support of Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) bill and the astonishing lack of debate over this shocking redaction of the Bill of Rights. I was however surprised and pleased to hear Rand Paul declare opposition is heatedly as I would do, given the chance.

I was nauseated and enraged to hear our former Presidential contender, John McCain rail about how dangerous "these people" were without regard to how we determine fairly whether or not the accusations are true. I have been raised to think that justice demanded a fair trial and no decent civilization has failed to provide a process to determine the truth of an
accusation, sometimes made under duress or torture or out of jealousy or greed or worse. A less stuffy writer might simply ask: how the hell do we know the charges are true without a trial?

Senator McCain doesn't seem to care, although with his history, he might just give the opposite position tomorrow and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seems proud of his shiny new black boots, claiming that now we can jail any American citizen because "it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland." Did he mean to say Vaterland?
"The FBI publishes characteristics of people you should report as possible terrorists. The list includes the possession of “Meals Ready to Eat,” weatherproofed ammunition, and high-capacity magazines; missing fingers; brightly colored stains on clothing; paying for products in cash; and changes in hair color. I fear that such suspicions might one day be used to imprison a U.S. citizen indefinitely without trial. Just this year, the vice president referred to the Tea Party as a bunch of terrorists. So, I think we should be cautious in granting the power to detain without trial."
writes Senator Paul in the National Review.

Yes, I think our legislators have earned their 8% approval rating and can only wonder why it isn't lower. John McCain, you're a goddamn terrorist yourself, attempting to make Americans afraid for political purposes. Rand Paul: you may be far right, but you're right none the less.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Save the Fed

Doomed to repeat history? Of course we are, but the fate I fear isn't the sort of doom that descends upon us from above unless you consider the cesspit of "Conservative" rhetoric to be a higher plane of thought. No, I'm not talking about the market bubble of the late 1920's that was brought about by slashing the top marginal tax rate or the deregulation of the markets that gave us the 1929 crash; I'm talking about where we were fourscore years ago in 1931 when the European banks began to fail and nobody was able or willing to do anything about it. Then as now, we had "Conservative" rhetoric attempting to blame the mess on the usual suspects, like lazy American workers and in Europe: the Jews. We had calls around the world for even more austerity, as if the world could save itself by saving money.

" Instead of easing monetary policy by cutting interest rates and buying bonds, the Fed tightened. The result was a catastrophic chain reaction of bank failures, which caused the money supply to contract by approximately a third, and economic output with it"

writes Niall Ferguson at the Daily Beast, lamenting the gross lack of knowledge of bankers, investors, fund managers, regulators, policymakers, and economists. Ferguson cites Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s Monetary History of the United States, which argues that

"the stock-market panic of 1929 turned into a depression because of avoidable errors by the Fed. Instead of easing monetary policy by cutting interest rates and buying bonds, the Fed tightened. The result was a catastrophic chain reaction of bank failures, which caused the money supply to contract by approximately a third, and economic output with it."

The Gold Standard, the massive debt from The Great War, the partisan inability to compromise brought on the disaster we know as the Great Depression and only those countries that dropped that standard and began hiring while gearing up for war, began to recover. Germany led the way and the US followed.

With some Republican spokesmen demanding the return of the gold standard, demanding an end to the Fed, demanding more austerity, demanding that more capital be tied up in the hands of a tiny minority, the money supply diminished and the demand for goods and services curtailed, the few who understand what needs to be done are being shouted down by politicians who insist that the only solution is a bigger cut in the marginal rate, and the angry mob they feed.
"We are indeed fortunate that at least the world’s leading central bankers have studied this history: not only Ben Bernanke but also the heads of the Bank of England, the Bank of Canada, and the European Central Bank. The bad news is that so few politicians and voters understand what they are trying to do, or why. The even worse news is that central bankers by themselves may not be able to stop our depression from turning great."

Worse news even than that, is the fact that people like Dr. Ferguson, a professor of history at Harvard University, a senior research fellow at Oxford University, and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University do not inform the Cains, Bachmanns, Palins or Gingrichs or the rabble who support them, nor would the public trust any "elitist" "Libtard" "pinhead" over the kind of small minded moral abomination now stumbling toward Washington.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Show me your papers!

" People are trying to use this to make the law look bad"
said the mayor of Leeds, Alabama, responding to the arrests of a Mercedes Benz director and a Honda manager for having only international drivers licenses rather than their German or Japanese cards in their pockets.

Well people won't have to try very hard, because Alabama looks bad enough without any help. The demand that anyone looking or sounding 'foreign' carry proof of citizenship at all times looks to me too much like those "racial origin" cards the Third Reich made people carry, but even if you disagree or think I'm being hyperbolic, it still looks paranoid, it looks stupid, it stinks of a very ugly past and it surely isn't going to help the state of Alabama attract the kind of foreign investment and employment opportunities it needs.

"We are the Show Me State, not the Show Me Your Papers State," writes the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
"You've got two choices. Either ask your executives to carry their immigration papers at all times, or move to a state that understands gemütlichkeit."

" We’re going to enforce the laws of state of Alabama”
says the mayor of Leeds, like a character from a Victor Hugo novel. Well you go ahead Javert. Crops are already rotting in the fields of Alabama because if you're of a racial or ethnic minority, it just ain't worth it and the construction industry is falling apart too. Other states would be happy to have those billions of dollars and thousands of jobs pack up and move elsewhere in Free America.