culture economics

Ads on Google and Facebook

I keep seeing ads online about how I can get my part of the bailout money that is coming. I’ve also heard some tongue in cheek ads on local radio alluding to the upcoming “stimulus” and how those companies wishe that their bailout money would come. It all reminds me of a certain economist from the 1800’s.

‘Men naturally rebel against the injustice of which they are victims. Thus, when plunder is organized by law for the profit of those who make the law, all the plundered classes try somehow to enter — by peaceful or revolutionary means — into the making of laws. According to their degree of enlightenment, these plundered classes may propose one of two entirely different purposes when they attempt to attain political power: Either they may wish to stop lawful plunder, or they may wish to share in it.”

It saddens me to think that the US is devolving into a place where the government is where money comes from. It is the predominant view in Yemen and other places like it, is the US like that?

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culture politics

People hear what they want to hear (Obama is a Muslim, etc.)

I had dinner with a friend of mine last night and she recounted a conversation she had with someone that was working on her car. He wasn’t real happy about Obama being elected and she asked him why. He told her of some of his fears like, “He is going to release all the people in Gitmo and let them out on the street, he’s going to give away all of our money and raise taxes, etc.” But the kicker was that Obama is a muslim! Now, my friend is an ordained Episcopal priest and lived, for a while, very close to where Obama went to church in Chicago. She asked the car guy to take her word for it when she said that Obama was a Christian. He just looked at her like she was nuts and said, “But he said he was during the inauguration!”

As you all know, I have some problems with Obama, but I like to think that any criticisms I level against him are based on his actions and agenda. I don’t make things up out of thin air… It was pretty obvious that this guy had heard rumors of Obama being muslim (his middle name is Husain, hello, how much more obvious can you get?) and then listened for something to confirm it for him. I have no idea what to do about people like that… All you can do is keep telling him no

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culture freedom

My top ten historical events in my lifetime

I’ve heard some people talking about history today, and I was wondering where today fits into my idea of historical events. Obama makes my top ten, but there are some other things that take precedence. I’m limiting myself to things that happened in my lifetime but not to things that I recognized their importance at the time.

10) The take over and taking of hostages in the American embassy in Tehran 1979
9) W’s unjustified and illegal invasion of Iraq
8) Obama is elected president
7) The Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty 1979
6) 9/11/2001
5) China adopts market reforms under Deng Xiaoping starting in 1978
4) Pol Pot giving up power and fleeing into the jungle during the Cambodian-Vietnamese war 1979
3) The end of Apartheid in South Africa 1n 1990
2) The fall of the Berlin Wall 1989
1) The collapse of the Soviet Union 1991

That was tougher than I thought it would be. I had the top three pretty well nailed down, but I thought that the end of the Vietnam war and the assassination of Sadat would make the list. My top 5 had immediate and important effects to millions and millions of people. Number 6 is probably ranked too high on an absolute scale, but it did have quite an impact on me. Hmm, the more I think about it, the less I think Obama’s place on my list will last. Right now we are all a flutter with the departing of Bush and the inauguration of the first black president, but if we take a step back, it really doesn’t compare with the things that come after it on my list…

Well, he’s made history, now let’s see what he can do. For all our sakes, I hope he does a good job.


More on Israel and Palastine

Israel bombed a UN school in Gaza killing 40 something people. I wish I could say I was surprised, but I’m not. We’ve all known the capacity that Israel has for overreaction for quite a while. So has Hamas. And yet they, or at least people under their control in Gaza, continued to provoke Israel. I’ve been told that those rockets really aren’t much of a threat, certainly as compared to the Israeli air force. So I see a couple of possible scenarios.

1) The missiles being launched from Gaza do not really pose a real danger to Israel. This means that their launch is completely symbolic.

2) Hamas is actually trying to kill Israelis with those rockets. Of course since they can’t aim them very well, the potential targets are more or less at random.

I’m guessing that #2 is more likely. If #1 was the case, the best reaction Israel could have made was to sneer at the attempt. If people are in danger, the political pressure to retaliate would be unbearable. Everyone knows this.

The actual damage those rockets cause is up for debate, but their potential for damage isn’t really. As I wrote to a friend of mine, if you are constantly being threatened by an armed lunatic, is it wise to spit on him? What, exactly, will be accomplished by antagonizing him? What will be accomplished when he then uses those weapons to kill bunches of your people?

But they’re not idiots, there is a political upside to drawing Israel into a more active war and I’m pretty sure that’s why it keeps happening. People tend to paint this as an Israel/Palastine issue when it looks much more like an Israel/Hamas issue. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is happening in Gaza and not in the West Bank. Hamas needs conflict to remain politically viable. Part of me wonders if Hamas needs Palestinian casualties to remain popular… Cynical? Oh yeah, but Fatah doesn’t seem to have any of these characteristics and they don’t seem to be in the middle of death either. The same goes for the Israelis. There is a lot of popular support for killing Palestinians, so launching the occasional attack pays political dividends. It’s a true prisoners dilemma. Breaking the political benefits will end the hostilities…


Oh please…

A friend’s facebook status says, “How can a country kill 500 people and get away with it? With other countries backing them? What kind of world do we live in?”

Huh, how bout I ask a few questions myself? “How can a group of people launch missiles at random (not caring who they kill) from a heavily populated area? How can a group of people do that and then be outraged at the civilian deaths that happen when the retaliatory strikes come? How can people launch attacks from populated areas with the understanding that the civilians are a shield? Do they expect to be able to launch attacks with impunity? No, they don’t, and no, they aren’t surprised with the casualties. They expect them, that is what is so repugnant to me. If you want to die for a cause, well then fine, but do not put other people in the firing line!

This is a war, people are going to die. I’m not trying to make light of the problems over there, people dying is never good. I do object to the one sided approach that a lot of people have when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians. We also need to keep things in perspective. If there was a clash in Africa with this many people killed, it might make the news, but there would not be any outrage to speak of. Why is that?

For the record, I think both sides perpetuate this, but that’s what the politics dictates. Neither side can be seen as being weak, so violence begets violence. Neither side has the right to be outraged, both sides knew exactly what was going to happen.

culture politics

The mess in Gaza

Wow, the Israel/Palistine conflict never ceases to amaze me. I like to think that most Americans think the say way I do about this, namely that both sides are a bit crazy. The Palestinian authority, Hamas, Arabs, and Muslims in general seem to react with shock and dismay when Israel attacks Gaza after rockets launched from Gaza had been raining down on Israel. Israelis and their supporters don’t understand what all of the anger is about after they kill far more civilians than combatants… The cycle never seems to end, part of me wonders if they want it to end…

I was reading through some of the reactions from official spokesperson types and feeling even more angst about the situation. Predictably, there was a lot of empty talk about how Hamas needs to stop attacking Israel and how Israel needs to stop being so heavy handed. Of course, there was also the blanket condemnation of Israel (without acknowledging any of the mitigating circumstances) from the usual suspects.

The best reaction, IMO, was from the Vatican. “Hamas is a prisoner to a logic of hate, Israel to a logic of faith in force as the best response to hate.
“One must continue to search for a different way out, even if that may seem impossible.”

It does indeed seem impossible…

culture sports

Hockey and values

In case you missed it, a hockey player in the NHL (Sean Avery) said a rather crude thing about his ex on TV and now has been suspended for 6 games because of it. Keep in mind that this sort of thing wouldn’t have made people bat an eyelash in any of the other sports. Sure, it would have gotten some press and people would have been pissed, but nothing would really happen to them. To me, this shows what a difference there is between hockey players and all of the other players of sports in the US. A football player is in big legal trouble over an illegal gun, basketball players are constantly getting in trouble, baseball had its drug issues, etc. In the NHL, if you say something nasty on TV, you’re in trouble.

“Yeah, but c’mon, those guys beat each other up all the time! The NHL thinks it’s Ok for a guy to give a beat down to someone, something that would be considered assault anywhere else, but you nail him for saying something about his ex? That’s insane!” Well, yeah, it is a little odd, but there is an explanation. You see, when guys fight in the NHL, it is almost always about a character issue. If you go after a smaller, talented player, the big boys will come back and beat the crap out of you. If you hit the goalie, whoever is closest to you from the other team is honor bound to start pounding on you. Occasionally, the bruiser from one team will start a fight with the thug on the other side just to get people fired up, but usually, there is a sense of justice involved in the fights. You are expected to be a stand up guy and play clean. If you’re not, you’re going to lose teeth…

And really, if you are going to do things like hit a goalie, make cheap shots, spear someone, or even crosscheck someone, maybe you need some sense beaten into you. The violence is almost (almost) always in response to other violence. I don’t know if it is a result of the justice system in hockey or not, but hockey players are angels off the ice as compared to other sports. They are held to a very high standard by the league. So when someone does something really objectionable on the ice, the “correction” is usually pretty swift in coming. But what to do about a guy that does something nasty off the ice? You can’t go jump the guy, so you suspend him and fine him to within an inch of his life.

Say what you want about the sport, but the NHL has its act together. I just wish the other leagues would learn something from them…

culture politics religion

Funny, but not 100% correct… (Daily Show)

Here’s the Daily show’s take on the Mumbai mess (at the end, don’t know why there’s so much space…)I think that’s hilarious, I really do. John basically summed up my feelings when I was watching that on the news, I was yelling along too. There’s only one little problem, this violence was not about establishing a world wide caliphate. This was about Kashmir.

Usually, when something big like this happens, there are political motives rather than religious ones at play. The Kashmir issue is a political one although the parties involved are split along religious lines. The same could be true of the day to day demands and goals of Al-Queda. They want foreigners to leave the Saudi peninsula, they want the US to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Those are all political issues. They use religion to attract and recruit people for political ends. We shouldn’t fall into the same trap.

There is indeed religious violence in the world. Men killing woman because they aren’t wearing hijab, wackos blowing up abortion clinics, etc. are all examples. Perhaps the attackers in Mumbai were indeed personally motivated by religious extremism, but the aim of the operation was to try to cause a conflict in Kashmir.

Here’s my bet. I bet that if these people were referred to as Kashmiri separatists instead of Islamic extremists, we in the US would not have heard nearly as much about it. We’re more willing to stomach political violence than religious violence. That’s why Hitler is so universally reviled while Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-il and Mao are not thought about in the slightest.

Whenever we hear the media trumpet religious violence, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if the aim of that violence is actually political in nature. Violence should always be decried of course, but let’s blame the right problems, shall we?

culture politics

Prop 8, Detroit Bailout, and other things…

Sorry I haven’t been posting for a while, just haven’t been up to it. I have been systematically worn down with all of the crazy economic talk, I just can’t deal with it anymore… Imagine my surprise when senators and congressmen didn’t rush through bailout legislation for Detroit. I am pleasantly surprised that there is some scrutiny. I’m also amazed that people are now finally realizing that the status quo up there is not sustainable. We don’t have to worry about what will happen if they fail, they have already failed. I recently saw a report that essentially said that the amount of money that has been thrown away up there in capital expenditures over the past 15 years could have bought all of the shares of Honda, Hyndai, and several other big automakers. Unbelievable… Anyway, they will have to go through bankruptcy and with any luck they will be able to reorganize enough to make those businesses viable again.

I see that the supreme court of California is going to weigh in on prop 8. I have already written about what I think of that law, that’s not what this is about. There are plenty of people that are getting indignant over the court even looking at this. After all, “the people” have spoken, this is a democracy, right? We will hear more about “activist judges” and how they can usurp the will of the people…

It’s important to remember that the courts are at their best when they overturn popular laws. One of the basic functions of the court is to avoid the tyranny of the majority. Just because people like a law does not mean that it should be in effect. This is, IMO, one of the basic functions of a government, protecting individual rights.

The classic examples of this in American history were slavery and then later the Jim Crow laws. Slavery was popular across the south, and I’m sure there were fans of it in the north as well. The Jim Crow laws had wide support through the south. In the courts, Brown vs. Board of Education is a prime example of “activist judges.” They usurped the law that had been voted into effect by the population. Who’s complaining about that now?

I think the prop 8 issue is more complicated from a legal perspective, and I know nothing about the California constitution so I’m not going to guess on the outcome. I do know this; if the courts say that the law is constitutional, it will be on technical legalities buried in the constitution. If they overturn it, it will because they felt that rights that are defined in the constitution are being withheld. If that happens, it will be an example of the courts doing what they are supposed to do, no matter what people think of them…

culture sports

Professional wrestling

I watched a pair of documentaries the other day. One was on the history of professional wrestling and the other was on heavy metal music. I think I’ll post something about what I saw as the link between them on my music blog… I’ve been thinking about what I saw with the wrestling one, and I think it may be a bit deeper than you may think.

Well, let me rephrase that, there is nothing about wrestling that is deep. I mean c’mon, what a bunch of tawdry, tacky, rowdy yahoos… No, there is nothing deep about wrestling, but maybe the link between it and what is considered “serious” TV might be.

When I was growing up, the big rap against professional wrestling (at least to a kid) was that it was “fake.” It had the veneer of a sports competition, but it was ridiculous. The punches, throws, locks, etc. were obviously fake, even for an 8 year old. The current organizers (the WWF and WCW) make no pretense of the event being a sporting competition. In their minds, it is pure entertainment, a show. The excitement is all in the struggle of good versus evil, or at least of favorites going up against hated opponents. In the eyes of fans and of promoters, it is nothing short of high drama.

Of course that drama takes the form of an incredibly violent struggle. They punch, throw, elbow, crush, and land on each other. Then there are the props. They hit each other with folding chairs, they throw each other out of the ring (often times crashing through a table for good effect), they throw each other into, onto, and out of chain link cages. Blood is not uncommon.

“Yeah, but what they do is difficult! Those moves are incredible!” It’s true, those guys are BIG. Hulk Hogan was something like 6’6″ and built. All those guys are enormous, but they fly through the air and execute complex choreography. They really are a combination of stuntman and acrobat. But they’re still using all of that physical prowess to make it look like two guys smacking each other around. It’s all about violence.

Don’t look down on pro wrestling just yet. After all, how different is that “fake” display of violence any different than any of the run of the mill “dramas” based around law enforcement/hit men/drug culture/terrorist fighting FBI agent? Seriously, why do the programs that blow stuff up, shoot people, find corpses, etc. get a free pass, hell, be acclaimed, while the guys pretending to punch each other get sneered at? “But the acting is more subtle, the characters are more developed, the plot is more realistic!” Please see my critique of wrestling above… All of that is done just to lead up to the shoot out or yelling/screaming bit. In other words, violence is usually the the prime reason for all of that acting and dialogue. Everything leads up to violence, everything is solved by violence, everything is caused by violence, it’s all the same to me.

When I was living with Rick, I would often come home and find him watching TV. It was usually “Law and Order” or some other crime drama. Seems like 3/4 of all of the dramas revolve around crime… I would take a look and then exclaim, “Oh, you’re watching ‘Good Guys/Bad Guys’ again…” No matter which show he was watching, it was just “Good Guys/Bad Guys” to me. The more I think about it, the more I see most dramas as just glorified wrestling matches. No wonder I dislike watching TV so much… Can you imagine everything reminding you of professional wrestling?:-)