Archive for January, 2013

American Human Rights Violations

January 31, 2013

Last may, The People’s Republic of China released its report on the human rights violations committed by the US government. I suppose that this was some sort of response to the US State Department‘s annual report on the human rights violations committed by the Chinese government. The Chinese report makes for interesting reading. According to them, America is a country that routinely suppresses the rights and aspirations of its citizen, practices institutionalised discrimination against minorities, and locks up thousands of people for no reason. The press and Internet are subject to censorship and the police routinely abuse suspects in custody. Millions of Americans are desperately poor and the gap between rich and poor is widening. In other words, America is the sort of country China is.

I don’t know whether the authors of this report really believe what is written in it or if they are skilled propagandists. I suppose it really doesn’t matter much. This reminds me of the old argument the Soviets used during the Cold War. Sure, they would say, the Soviet Union doesn’t allow it’s people freedom of speech or religion, but we guarantee rights, such as the right to housing, education, medical care, that the Americans don’t, so each country is free, but in different ways.

I notice that the writers do not seem to be native English speakers. They write, and presumably speak, English fluently, and there are few obvious grammatical errors, but there seems to be odd word choices here and there, subtile hints that English is not their first language. I shouldn’t say anything though. Their English is much better than my Chinese which is nil.

But to get to my point, what would you think might be on the top of the list of American civil rights abuses? I would never have guessed the right to bear arms, but according to the Chinese, the fact that the US government allows private citizens to possess firearms is an example of how little the government cares for the lives of its citizens.

The United States prioritizes the right to keep and bear arms over the protection of citizens’ lives and personal security and exercises lax firearm possession control, causing rampant gun ownership. The U.S. people hold between 35 percent and 50 percent of the world’ s civilian-owned guns, with every 100 people having 90 guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to a Gallup poll in October 2011, 47 percent of American adults reported that they had a gun. That was an increase of six percentage points from a year ago and the highest Gallup had recorded since 1993. Fifty-two percent of middle-aged adults, aged between 35 and 54, reported to own guns, and the adults’ gun ownership in the south region was 54 percent (The China Press, October 28, 2011). The New York Times reported on November 14, 2011, that since 1995, more than 3,300 felons and people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors had regained their gun rights in the state of Washington and of that number, more than 400 had subsequently committed new crimes, including shooting and other felonies (The New York Times, November 14, 2011).

The United States is the leader among the world’s developed countries in gun violence and gun deaths. According to a report of the Foreign Policy on January 9, 2011, over 30,000 Americans die every year from gun violence and another 200,000 Americans are estimated to be injured each year due to guns (Online edition of the Foreign Policy, January 9, 2011). According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Justice, among the 480,760 robbery cases and 188,380 rape and sexual assault cases in 2010, the rates of victimization involving firearms were 29 percent and 7 percent, respectively (www.bjs.gov). On June 2, 2011, a shooting rampage in Arizona left six people dead and one injured (The China Press, June 3, 2011). In Chicago, more than 10 overnight shooting incidents took place just between the evening of June 3 and the morning of June 4 (Chicago Tribune, June 4, 2011). Another five overnight shootings occurred between August 12 evening and August 13 morning in Chicago. These incidents have caused a number of deaths and injuries (Chicago Tribune, August 13, 2011). Shooting spree cases involving one gunman shooting dead over five people also happened in the states of Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Nevada and Southern California (The New York Times, October 13, 2011; CNN, July 8, 2011; CBS, July 23, 2011;USA Today, August 9, 2011). High incidence of gun-related crimes has long ignited complaints of the U.S. people and they stage multiple protests every year, demanding the government strictly control the private possession of arms. The U.S. government, however, fails to pay due attention to this issue.

I would say that right now the government is paying too much attention to this issue. Notice how they have nothing to say about the fact that large numbers of Americans support the right to bear arms and much of the reason that the US government is unable to enact significant gun control is precisely because it is so unpopular. I don’t imagine that public opinion means very much to the people running China.

I wonder what the crime rate in China is and how it compares to America’s. I am not at all sure they keep accurate statistics. I also wonder if certain events in China’s recent history might have turned out differently if the Chinese had the right to bear arms.

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Book Burning in Timbucktu

January 30, 2013
English: Image of Timbuktu manuscripts.

English: Image of Timbuktu manuscripts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a child, Timbuktu generally seemed to mean the farthest possible place it was possible to travel to while still remaining on the planet, an almost mystical city, not one you who expect to travel to. It actually came a something of a shock to me when I saw Timbuktu on a map. I didn’t really think it was a real city.

Well, Timbuktu is real enough and not nearly far from the troubles of the world as the inhabitants might wish. Timbuktu has been in the news quite a lot recently as a battleground in Mali‘s civil war. Recently, Malian and French soldiers captured the city from the Islamic militants who had seized the city ten months ago. The terrorists did not show much respect for the historical or cultural legacy of Timbuktu, and even less respect for the rights and well being of the people there. I read this report from the Associated Press.

Timbuktu, a city of mud-walled buildings and 50,000 people, was for centuries a seat of Islamic learning and a major trading center along the North African caravan routes that carried slaves, gold and salt. In Europe, legend had it that it was a city of gold. Today, its name is synonymous to many with the ends of the earth.

It has been home to some 20,000 irreplaceable manuscripts, some dating to the 12th century. It was not immediately known how many were destroyed in the blaze that was set in recent days in an act of vengeance by the Islamists before they withdrew.

Michael Covitt, chairman of the Malian Manuscript Foundation, called the arson a “desecration to humanity.”

“These manuscripts are irreplaceable. They have the wisdom of the ages and it’s the most important find since the Dead Sea Scrolls,” he said.

The militants seized Timbuktu last April and began imposing a strict Islamic version of Shariah, or religious law, across northern Mali, carrying out amputations and public executions. Women could be whipped for going out in public without wearing veils, while men could be lashed for having cigarettes.

During their rule in Timbuktu, the militants systematically destroyed cultural sites, including the ancient tombs of Sufi saints, which they denounced as contrary to Islam because they encouraged Muslims to venerate saints instead of God.

The mayor said the Islamists burned his office as well as the Ahmed Baba institute, a library rich in historical documents.

“It’s truly alarming that this has happened,” Mayor Ousmane Halle told The Associated Press by telephone from Bamako. “They torched all the important ancient manuscripts. The ancient books of geography and science. It is the history of Timbuktu, of its people.”

This is unfortunate, but not unexpected. There is something of a tradition of iconoclasm among the more fanatic Muslim sects. Muslims generally regard the pre-Muslim past as the time of Jahiliyyah or ignorance. This often leads Muslims to denigrate the pre-Islamic history and culture of a nation and more devout or fanatic Muslims can even systematically destroy artifacts from the past, especially art that is considered pagan or idolatrous. The worst offenders in this regard are probably the members of the Wahhabi sect, prominent in Saudi Arabia. In their zeal to purify the Islamic faith and to ensure that Allah alone is worshiped, the Wahhabi have often attacked long standing customs and traditions of less strict Muslim sects, such as the veneration of saints, Sufi mysticism, and the Shi’ites whom they regard as heretics. The Wahhabi dominated government of Saudi Arabia has been destroying historical sites in Mecca and Medina that are associated with the beginnings and early history of Islam.

I am not certain to what extent the militants in Mali have been influenced by Wahhabism. The story said that they were linked to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Ladin was, of course, from Saudi Arabia. It seems likely that their ignorant destruction of historical manuscripts is derived from the same sort of fanaticism that drives the Saudis to destroy houses and mosques associated with Mohammed and other figures from early Islam.

 

Jews in Europe

January 30, 2013

In his article in The Daily Beast, British writer Jonathan Freedland presents a more optimistic appraisal of the state of the Jews in Europe than is usually the case with America writers. He argues that anti-Semitism is not nearly as pervasive in Europe as Americans choose to believe.

My inbox is giving me a queasy sensation of déjà vu. It’s filling up with anguished claims that British schools are banning the teaching of Hebrew. As it happens, no such thing has occurred. The government has simply proposed that elementary schools be required to teach one of a list of seven officially recommended languages: French, Spanish, German, Italian, Mandarin, ancient Latin, or Greek. Hebrew is no more about to be banned than is Arabic or Russian. Jewish schools will still be able to teach Hebrew. It’s just that, if the move goes ahead, they’ll also have to teach French, Spanish, or one of the other approved seven languages.

The feeling of déjà vu arises because six years ago I received an email titled “In Memoriam.” It announced that British schools had banned the teaching of the Holocaust, lest Muslim pupils be offended. The email declared this to be “a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.” Spurred into action, the New York Post published a lament by Barry Rubin, denouncing “UK Schools’ Sickening Silence.”

Sickening it would indeed have been. Except not a word of the accusation was true. The teaching of the Holocaust was and remains compulsory in English schools. (Indeed, a long-running scheme in operation then and now ensures two seniors from every high school in the country visit Auschwitz on trips subsidized by the U.K. government.) The story was a fabrication, arising from a research study that had found—and criticized—a single teacher in a single English school who had avoided selecting the Shoah for specialist coursework because she suspected a resistance to the topic among some Muslim pupils. Government ministers condemned the action of that single teacher and reiterated that the subject was a mandatory part of the curriculum.

Forgive all the detail, but this is becoming a regular task for a British Jew: reassuring our American friends that, no, we are not living in a new dark age and, no, the lights are not going out all over Europe. We are getting used to the fact that U.S. Jews seem ready to believe the worst of this part of the world. In the two cases I’ve mentioned, many Americans were all too willing to accept that British Jews were about to become latter-day Marranos, driven underground by an anti-Semitic government and its jihadist allies, huddling together to teach their children about the Holocaust in Hebrew whispers.

He has a point. It is possible that the Muslim population of Europe does not have quite the numbers or power that we in America believe them to have, at least not yet. Still, it is hard to imagine that all of the reports of “Londonistan” or “Eurabia” are exaggerations. Freedland does allow that there is often harsh criticism of Israel throughout Europe, but that has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.

Which brings us to another crucial distinction. Episodes that Americans see as evidence of growing European hostility to Jews are often understood by European Jews to be criticism of Israel—in fact, not even criticism of Israel itself, but rather of a specific strain of Israeli policy: what we might call the Greater Israel project of continuing and expanding settlement of the West Bank. When European governments either abstained or voted for the Palestinian upgrade to semi-statehood at the U.N. in November, plenty in Israel and the U.S. saw that as yet another example of age-old European hostility to the Jews. But very few Jews here saw it the same way. We understood it for what it was, an attempt by governments avowedly sympathetic to Israel’s right to security to revive the two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their calculation might have been wrong, but it was not anti-Semitic. Yet one regular on the academic anti-Semitism studies circuit tells me that U.S. speakers repeatedly cite examples of anti-Israel discourse as if they were synonymous with instances of anti-Jewish racism. A scholar in his own right, he is infuriated that

his colleagues fail to make this critical distinction.

We can be certain anti-Semitism is not a factor since they hold Israel’s enemies to the same high standard as they do Israel. Oh wait…

More importantly, they fail to notice the intriguing paradox of European Jews’ current position—that there are dangers, but also great triumphs. Take Britain. Jews here can feel unease at the tenor of the national conversation on Israel—a newspaper cartoon here, a politician’s turn of phrase there—but they also enjoy a Jewish life that is in many ways richer than ever before. Limmud, the annual festival of Jewish learning that has gone global, began here, while Jewish Book Week has become London’s biggest literary festival. The Booker Prize for 2011 was won by a novel about Jews, The Finkler Question, written by a man who has chronicled the British-Jewish sensibility better than anyone, Howard Jacobson. British TV currently airs not one but two highly rated sitcoms depicting Jewish family life. Meanwhile, if the current polls hold till 2015, Britain’s next prime minister is set to be the first Jewish leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband—who repeatedly stresses the pride he takes in his Jewish roots. Not bad for a Jewish community that, according to the latest census, numbers just over 260,000, less than 0.5 percent of the British population.

 

This is why the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Jewish racism, opens its report with an insistence that “British Jewry should be defined by its success and vibrancy rather than by anti-Semitism.” That is true of Britain but also beyond. Mark Gardner, director of communications for the CST, used to compare the European-Jewish situation to a glass that some will see as half full, others as half empty. Now he says, “There are two glasses, one half full, one half empty, and they stand side by side.” That sounds sufficiently nuanced to be correct. But don’t expect anyone to be putting that message in an email.

I am neither Jewish nor European, so I don’t really know whether Freedland, or those spreading scare stories tells a more accurate account. I do, however, have a strange feeling that an article like this could have been written in Weimar Germany.

Auschwitz concentration camp, arrival of Hunga...

It couldn’t happen again, could it? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Was King James Gay?

January 28, 2013

Was he gay? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently a new edition of the Bible has been published, The Queen James Bible. This is a special version for homosexuals in which all of the uncomplimentary references to homosexuality have been edited or removed. There is an explanation for what the editors are trying to do on their website.

Homosexuality in The Bible

Homosexuality was first mentioned in the Bible in 1946 in the Revised Standard Version. There is no mention of or reference to homosexuality in any Bible prior to this – only interpretations have been made. Anti-LGBT Bible interpretations commonly cite only eight verses in the Bible that they interpret to mean homosexuality is a sin; Eight verses in a book of thousands!

The Queen James Bible seeks to resolve interpretive ambiguity in the Bible as it pertains to homosexuality: We edited those eight verses in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.

Who is Queen James?

The King James Bible is the most popular Bible of all time, and arguably the most important English language document of all time. The brainchild and namesake of King James I, who wanted an English language Bible that all could own and read, it has been in print for over 400 years and has brought more people to Christ than any other Bible translation. Commonly known to biographers but often surprising to most Christians, King James I was a well-known bisexual. Though he did marry a woman, his many gay relationships were so well-known that amongst some of his friends and court, he was known as “Queen James.” It is in his great debt and honor that we name The Queen James Bible so.

A Fabulous Bible

The QJB is a big, fabulous Bible. It is printed and bound in the United States on thick, high-quality paper in a beautiful, readable typeface. It is the perfect Bible for ceremony, study, sermon, gift-giving, or simply to put on display in the home or Church.

You can’t choose your sexuality, but you can choose Jesus. Now you can choose a Bible, too.

I approve of their wanting to bring the Gospel to the homosexuals but I am not sure if I agree with their method. But, that is a matter for another post. Right now I want to attempt to answer the question of whether what they said about James I is true. Was he gay or bisexual?

In 1603 James VI and I became the first monarc...

Was he gay?

There are two things to consider before trying to discover the truth about King James. First, it would probably be a good idea to be more than a little skeptical of accounts of the sexual behavior of historic figures. This is not a matter that there is likely to be solid documentary evidence and any historical accounts are likely to be based on gossip. We wouldn’t necessarily take at face value a tabloid magazine’s accounts of the antics of movie stars. The same sort of incredulity would probably be advisable with kings and emperors. Then too, hostile biographers are likely to exaggerate or fabricate stories of their subject’s sexual perversions in order to blacken their reputation. You might think, from the historical accounts, that the earliest Roman Emperors must have been the most depraved men in history, until you consider that most of the surviving accounts were written by men of the Senatorial class who resented their loss of power under the Emperors.

Second, our modern concepts of homosexuality or bisexuality are, well, modern. The words homosexual and heterosexual were coined by German scientists towards the end of the nineteenth century. For most of history, homosexual behavior was regarded as a vice some people indulged in. A clear distinction between homosexuals and heterosexuals as different sorts of people is very much a modern idea. If James had had a male lover, it is not clear that he would be what we might consider “gay”. If his contemporaries were aware of his male lover, they would have regarded what he did as acts of sodomy, and he as a sodomite, but would not necessarily consider him “gay” as either a supporter of gay rights or a homophobe might today.

So, was King James gay? It is actually hard to tell. James Stuart was born on June, 19 1566. His father was Henry Stuart, a descendant of the Scottish king James II. His mother was Mary, Queen of Scots, the only child of James V, and the granddaughter of Margaret Tudor, Henry VIII’s sister, which made her the cousin of Elizabeth I.   He did not have a happy childhood. Mary and Henry Stuart did not get along with each other, in part because Henry was not content to be king consort, but wanted to be co-sovereign. He also turned out to be arrogant and unpopular with the Scottish nobility. He was murdered in a very strange manner in February 1567. Mary was suspected of being complicit in the murder, a suspicion which seemed more reasonable after she married James Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell who was also suspected of being involved in the murder. Mary was imprisoned and forced to abdicate and she fled to England where Queen Elizabeth had her executed in 1587 after she learned that Mary had been involved in plots to assassinate or supplant her. So, James grew up never knowing either his mother or his father.

Since James was a minor when he became King James VI in 1567, Scotland by ruled by regents. As is often the case when the monarch is a minor, Scotland was politically unstable and there were struggles for power among his regents. One of James’s favorites was Esme Stewart, Earl and later Duke of Lennox. He was from France and was originally Catholic but he converted to Calvinism. Despite this, many of the Scottish nobles distrusted him. There were rumors that the affection he showed the young king extended as far as a physical relationship. This may be the source of the idea of James’s homosexuality. Lennox was forced to leave Scotland in 1582. James came of age the following year and asserted his control over the turbulent kingdom.

As king, James VI strengthened the power and authority of the central government of Scotland. He believed in the divine right of kings and asserted the rights of the monarchy. James became known as a patron of learning and literature and was a scholar himself, writing several books. He seems also to have been something of a misogynist and preferred the company of men over women. In fact, James had no known liaisons before his marriage and was praised for his chastity. He was also obsessed with hunting witches and literally wrote the book on the subject.He also personally supervised the interrogation of suspected witches.

In spite of his reticence among women, in 1589, James arranged a marriage to Princess Anne of Denmark. Her ship encountered stormy weather on the way to Scotland and they were forced to make landfall in Norway. James was unwilling to wait for her so he sailed to Norway himself and they were married in Oslo in November and the newlyweds traveled to Scotland. James seems to have genuinely loved Anne and by all accounts their marriage was a happy one.

James VI became King James I of England in 1603, when the dying and childless Queen Elizabeth named him as her successor. The popular Elizabeth was a hard act to follow and in general James was a respected but not particularly well-liked king. James’s ideas about the divine rights of kings was not well accepted by the English. Although James was not really any more autocratic than Elizabeth had been, he lacked her tact and her knack for for getting along with all classes of English society. He quarreled with Parliament and ruled without it for much of his reign. Still, he was an effective king. For most of his reign, England was prosperous and at peace. He patronised Shakespeare and commissioned the King James Bible. He also began England’s colonisation of North America.

James was also suspected of having sexual relationships with various male favorites. His more passive and reserved demeanor was contrasted unfavorably with Elizabeth’s more aggressive and seemingly masculine style, particularly in her foreign policy. James was indeed referred to as “Queen James” but it was not an affectionate nickname and I doubt it was said to his face. On the other hand, James referred to sodomy as an unforgivable crime. King James died in 1625 and was widely mourned.

So, was King James gay? The truth is that unless someone unearths a love letter by James to a male lover, or some eyewitness observations in a forgotten diary, we may never know. I think that it is likely that he had one or more male lovers, but the evidence is by no means conclusive. I doubt that he would have considered himself “gay” in the modern understanding of the term and if he did have a homosexual relationship, he would have regarded it as a terrible sin he had committed. I doubt very much that James would have approved of the Queen James Bible.

Waiting Period for Laws

January 28, 2013

In his New York Post column, Glenn Harlan Reynolds suggests a waiting period for laws.

After every tragedy, legislation gets rushed through that’s typically just a bunch of stuff that various folks had long wanted all along, but couldn’t pass before. Then it’s hustled through as a “solution” to the tragedy, even though close inspection usually reveals that the changes wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy, and don’t even have much to do with it.

The goal, thus, is to prevent close inspection through a combination of heavy-handed legislative techniques and bullying rhetoric: If you don’t want to pass our bill without reading it, you must hate the children.

Over the years, we’ve gotten a lot of lousy legislation this way — the Patriot Act, for example, about which I wrote a column something like this one back in 2001. We’ve gotten it because politicians like to manipulate voters and avoid scrutiny.

But why let them?

I’d like to propose a “waiting period” for legislation. No bill should be voted on without hearings, debate and a final text that’s available online for at least a week. (A month would be better. How many bills really couldn’t wait a month?)

And if the bill is advertised as addressing a “tragedy” or named after a dead child, this period should double.

After all, people want waiting periods for guns. Yet, statistically, the percentage of guns involved in crimes is much lower than the percentage of politicians involved in crimes.

Seriously, legislation is supposed to be a deliberative process. When they don’t want to deliberate, it’s because they’re hiding something. And they’re hiding it because they don’t want you to know about it.

The founding fathers did not intend for laws to be passed easily or quickly, for them gridlock was a good thing. There are a couple of other reforms I would suggest. One might be that if the Supreme Court rules that a law is unconstitutional, than every legislator who voted for it be subject to a heavy fine. Repeat offenders would be forced to resign and barred from public office for life. No bill named after a dead child should be permitted and all such laws currently on the books should be automatically repealed. I would also suggest that no bill under consideration be permitted to have irrelevant riders attached to it. A rider is an additional provision attached to a bill that it has no obvious or relevant connection to the main subject of the bill. A rider is often used to enact policies that could never pass on their own. Other democratic countries manage to limit or prohibit the practice of adding riders to bills, as did the Confederate constitution. I don’t see why we should not do likewise. Maybe there should also be a mandatory sunset provision for all laws passed. Term limits for everyone in office couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

Terrorist to Speak to Teachers

January 26, 2013

This story should make you wonder just what your children are learning in school. It would seem that the Association of Teacher Educators believes that unrepentant former terrorist William Ayers is an appropriate choice to give the keynote address at their next meeting. I read about this at the Washington Examiner

The Association of Teacher Educators has recruited Chicago professor – and former domestic terrorist – William Ayers to speak at their the 2013 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia which will be held next month.

William Ayers, a co-founder of the radical Weather Underground domestic terror group, was a key figure during the 2008 presidential campaign due to his Chicago ties to then-Senator Obama.

The organization’s executive director, David Ritchey, confirmed that Ayers would be a keynote speaker at the conference although he admitted that he wasn’t involved in the selection process.

Ritchey added that although Ayers was a controversial figure he had been invited due to his “work in the education field, apart from all the other stuff.”

At some point, Ayers realized that it was not possible to overthrow the government by bombing buildings. Instead, he decided to brainwash young people, hence his work in education. The fact that he has had some influence of primary school education in the United States is frightening. The fact that he and his wife Bernardine Dohrn are not serving life sentence in prison is infuriating. I feel like I am in Bizarro world.

What is the Association of Teacher Educators anyway? Their website gives an explanation.

The Association of Teacher Educators was founded in 1920 and is the only national, individual membership organization devoted solely to the improvement of teacher education for both school and campus-based teacher educators. ATE members represent over 650 colleges and universities, 500 major school systems, and the majority of the state departments of education. The ATE office is located in the Washington, DC area where it represents its members’ interests before governmental agencies and educational organizations. In addition, ATE has two voting seats on the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and has representation on the ERIC Clearinghouse on Teacher Education. ATE’s representational form of governance offers ATE members an unusually high level of opportunity for national leadership.

I could be wrong, but something tells me that William Ayers and his radical views are not that controversial with these people.

 

Attacking the Messenger

January 26, 2013
English: Gaius Aurelius Valerius Diocletianus ...

At least he tried to solve his country’s problems. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That may be what the government is doing with the credit rating agencies if Tyler Durden  is right in this post he wrote at Zero Hedge.

Early in the 4th century, Emperor Diocletian issued an infamous decree to control spiraling wages and prices in the rapidly deteriorating Roman Empire.

As part of his edict, Diocletian commanded that any merchant or customer caught violating the new price structures would be put to death.

This is an important lesson from history, and a trend that has been repeated numerous times. When nations are in terminal economic decline, governments will stop at nothing to keep the party going just a little bit longer.

I thought of Diocletian’s desperation a few days ago when I read about the recent sanctions imposed on US rating agency Egan-Jones. It’s a similar story–

For years, major rating agencies (S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch) have championed the outright fraud of our financial system by pinning pristine credit ratings on insolvent governments and their heavily inflated currencies.

In doing so, the rating agencies are effectively claiming that the greatest debtor that has ever existed in the history of the world is nearly ‘risk-free’.

Clearly this is a ridiculous assertion. With a debt level over 100% of GDP, the US is so broke that the government must borrow money just to pay interest on the money it’s already borrowed. They’ve lost over a trillion dollars a year since 2008, yet they still spend money on things like drones and body scanners. It’s crazy.

As with any good scam, the government must maintain public confidence.  The moment someone says ‘the Emperor has no clothes,’ that shallow, fragile confidence will come crashing down and expose the scam. Dissent must be vigorously and swiftly pursued.

So when S&P finally downgraded the US one notch in August 2011, the SEC and Justice Department announced that S&P was under investigation, just two weeks later.

Egan-Jones, a smaller rating agency, has been even more aggressive, downgrading the US credit rating three times in 18 months. And while the federal government may not have imposed Diocletian’s death penalty, they are just as willing to squash dissent.

In a country that churns out thousands of pages of new regulations each week, it’s easy to find a reason to go after someone. As you read this letter, in fact, you are probably in violation of at least a dozen regulatory offenses.

In the case of Egan-Jones, the SEC brought administrative action against the agency within two weeks of their second downgrade. And a few days ago, the case was settled.

I’m sure you have already guessed the ending: Egan-Jones is banned from for the next 18 months from rating US government debt. They’ve effectively been silenced from telling the truth.

The lesson here is obvious. Just as in Roman times, bankrupt nations today will stop at nothing to keep up the scam just a little bit longer.

Given that all this is happening at a time when Congress is voting to suspend the debt ceiling entirely, these actions are the clearest sign yet of just how desperate the government has become.

Could the warning signs be any more obvious?

His knowledge of ancient history is a little off. The Roman Empire lasted another one hundred seventy years in the west and more than a thousand years in the east, so Diocletian’s reign hardly marked a terminal decline of the Empire. It is easy for us to consider Diocletian as a sort of villain or tyrant because of the harshness of some of his actions and the fact that he enlarged the Roman government and made it more autocratic. In fact, Diocletian ended the crisis of the third century with its continuing civil wars between short-lived emperors and the near total collapse of the Roman economy. Diocletian saw that the old system of pretending that Rome was still a republic and the Emperor just another citizen made it too easy for emperors to be overthrown. Although some of his reforms, like the Edict of Maximum Prices, were ill-advised, Diocletian did manage to stabilize the economy, in part by reverting to barter. He defeated Rome’s enemies and secured the borders. He also devised a system of regular succession for Emperors in order to prevent future civil wars. The plan was ignored by his successors, but he can hardly be blamed for that.

Tyler Durden is absolutely correct about our financial situation, though. We are in a lot of trouble, and no one seems to be willing to acknowledge the problem, much less try to solve it. We simply cannot continue to spend a trillion dollars more than we take in every single year. Contrary to what President Obama may think, we do have a spending problem, and a lot of it is his fault.

Which is more that you can say about him

Which is more that you can say about him

We are heading off the cliff very fast and it won’t be pleasant when we crash.

 

My Top Priorities

January 24, 2013

President Obama would like to know what issues I think he should work on for his State of the Union address.

friend — President Obama’s incredible inaugural address laid out several bold goals for the next four years.

Now, he needs to know what issues are most important to us—so he can tackle those first.

So before the State of the Union next month, tell President Obama your number one priority! Make your voice heard right away:

  1. Growing the economy and jobs
  2. Reducing gun violence
  3. Defending equal rights
  4. Protecting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security
  5. Solving the climate change crisis

President Obama needs to know what issues are most important to you. Take a second to vote right here—before the State of the Union!

Thanks,
Guy Cecil

There seem to be a few things missing from the list. How about working to balance the budget. Stop spending a trillion more dollars than the federal government takes in, every year. Entitlement reform to keep Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security from bankrupting the country. Reining in the EPA and allowing us to fully exploit our fossil fuel resources. Shrinking the size and intrusiveness of the federal government. Protecting the rights of the citizens, all the rights including our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion AND our second amendment right to bear arms. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I think that President Obama’s priorities are very different from mine.

 

The Collectivist Mind Game

January 24, 2013

Oleg Atbashian has written a great series of articles titled The Collectivist Mind Game at American Thinker. He analyses the ways in authoritarian governments systematically manipulate public opinion and brainwash the people. Since Atbashian was a propaganda artist in the former Soviet Union before immigrating to the United States, he probably knows what he is talking about.  There are three parts; Demonizing the Non-Compliant, Demonizing the Opposition, and Demonizing Human Nature. They are all worth reading and I think that the reader will find certain similarities between the strategies that Atbashian discusses and actions by the Obama administration to demonize and marginalize its opponents.

If the tyrants on Earth were worth their salt, all the freedom-loving colonists would be subjected to an intense, manipulative indoctrination, which would shape their self-image as small and sinful “little guys” vis-à-vis  the powerful, virtuous government that serves the powerless and protects them against all enemies, including themselves.

Thus, the government’s propagandistic narrative would establish the illusion of a society divided into three major classes: the ruling government class, endowed with benevolent powers to guide or punish; the majority class of hapless losers, whose survival depended on the government’s largesse and protection; and an unquantifiable class of demonized mysterious enemies of the government and, by extension, of the people, who would be the perceived culprits of all failures, hardships, and misery of the little guys’ everyday existence.

The majority class would itself be divided into an assortment of narrow-interest groups, held together only by the glue of government’s redistributive, pacifying and equalizing powers, as well as by their shared hostility towards the designated “enemies.”

The prevailing feelings in such a society would be the collectivist fervor, envy of individual achievers, fear of chaos in the absence of the government’s protection, hatred of anti-government elements, and hope for a better future once all the hidden enemies are unveiled and eliminated.

He is referring to Robert Heinlein‘s classic novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, in which Lunar colonists rebel against an oppressive Earth government.

Here is more.

Maintain the perception of being constantly under attack.  Don’t examine the opponents’ beliefs, nor answer their arguments.  Discredit any media channels that offer them a platform.  Enforce the following media template: the opposition is evil, treasonous, unfathomable, and psychotic.  They can’t be reasoned with.  They are inspired by fascism and financed by a conspiracy of shady oligarchs.  Defame their donors.  Whatever the mischief you’re planning to pull off, accuse them of doing it first; then proceed as planned, describing your actions as a necessary intervention.  And ridicule, ridicule, ridicule!

This is what made it easy for Stalin to purge his opponents: by the time he charged them with treason, the orchestrated media coverage had already made them universally hated.  Having purged all of his enemies, Stalin continued to manufacture the evidence of their presence.  There came a time when even the true believers were being rounded up and forced to confess publicly about one or another fabricated “crime” against the people and the Party.  Some did it to avoid torture, some to save their families, and some even cooperated out of the altruistic desire to support the illusion and keep everyone else’s beautiful dream alive.  Unfortunately for them, that beautiful dream required human sacrifice.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Their young audiences, deprived of adequate education and learning about history and current events from Hollywood movies and TV shows, will not recognize the symptoms of an encroaching totalitarianism either.  Upon hearing a dissenter who disparages the benevolent guidance of the state, they will immediately recognize a stereotype that is being relentlessly demonized and dehumanized on their screens: the ignorant, close-minded, right-wing nut job.  Chances are they will smugly ridicule him with the jokes they heard from their favorite media personalities.  In another generation, they may as well feel morally obligated to report the dissenter to the authorities — and be thrilled at the chance to partake in the historic mission of crushing the remnants of the evil reactionaries, even if they happen to be their parents.

I have noticed that Leftists can rarely give logical reasons for the opinions they hold. When challenged they invariably turn to name calling, profanity, and all too often threats of violence. I wouldn’t doubt for a minute that the people who want to shut down Fox News, or believe that Obama should act like a third world dictator and jail his opponents, or destroy the Republicans would hesitate to report dissidents to the secret police. There is a lot more to the articles and you should read all of them.

 

 

David Attenborough is an Idiot

January 22, 2013

Or at least a misanthrope. He has recently said that humans are a plague on the Earth and we need to limit our numbers. Here is the article I read in the Telegraph.

The television presenter said that humans are threatening their own existence and that of other species by using up the world’s resources.

He said the only way to save the planet from famine and species extinction is to limit human population growth.

“We are a plague on the Earth. It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now,” he told the Radio Times.

Sir David, who is a patron of the Optimum Population Trust, has spoken out before about the “frightening explosion in human numbers” and the need for investment in sex education and other voluntary means of limiting population in developing countries.

“We keep putting on programmes about famine in Ethiopia; that’s what’s happening. Too many people there. They can’t support themselves — and it’s not an inhuman thing to say. It’s the case. Until humanity manages to sort itself out and get a coordinated view about the planet it’s going to get worse and worse.”

Is this fool not aware of the plummeting birthrates throughout the developed world. In many parts of Europe and in Japan the birth rates are below replacement level. Even in almost every poorer country birthrates are rapidly declining. We in the US may not have to worry about immigration from Mexico in a few decades, as their population will stop growing. In the Muslim world birthrates are crashing at a faster rate than Europe’s. If current trends continue, it is likely that the world population will peak at around 8-10.5 billion by 2050 and then begin to decline.

A declining birth rate for most of the world may be good for the environment but it will not be good at all for the economies of places like Europe and Japan. They will  have a growing number of elderly people depending on a  declining number of younger people for their pensions and health care. This does not bode well for the future of Europe and Japan. The situation in the Muslim world may become even worse. At least Europe and Japan are wealthy, technologically developed nations and could perhaps devise a solution to their demographic problems. The Muslim countries are neither wealthy, except for the oil producers and the wells will eventually run dry, nor technologically advanced. By the end of the twenty-first century, much of the world could have a real problem because there will not be enough people to sustain economic growth.

In fact, Malthus and Paul Ehrlich were simply wrong about overpopulation. We really don’t need for national or international governments to tell people to control the number of children they have. The truth is that most people do not want to have six or seven children and when they don’t need to have that many children to work the family farm or to make sure at least one or two survive to adulthood, they generally decide, on their own, to have only one or two children.


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