Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sixties

It is said that if you remember the Sixties you weren't there. Too late we realize they weren't talking about the Nineteen Sixties.....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yet Another Amazing Coincidence

[Delta flight 253 - Amsterdam ==> Detroit]
We all know that it is Islamophobic racism to imagine a connection between Islam and terrorism. So it came as a great surprise to all that the man who attempted to kill himself and 283 other people aboard an Airbus-300 jetliner, just happened to be a Muslim.

A 23 year old Nigerian, Abdul Mudallad set off an incendiary device strapped to his leg. during the flight. Apparently a devout practicing idiot, Mudallad succeeded only in setting fire to his trousers and leg before flight attendants put him out by throwing water on him.

Is there something odd about Muslims getting upset about Islamophobia and demanding full and generous tolerance of themselves and their religion, yet themselves tolerating no one? Until Jews and Christians have equal rights and status with Muslims in Muslim countries, I see no reason why Muslims are entitled to ask for equal rights and status in western countries.

We may want to extend equal rights to all for reasons of our constitution and our own notions of equal treatment. It does not follow that Muslims have any right or moral standing to ask for equal treatment, let alone demand it. The correct answer to charges of Islamophobia is to laugh in the hypocrites' faces.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Click on the cartoon to enlarge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Consumer Product Information

Water stains on plaster are a common annoyance of old houses. They have to be primered before they can be painted over.

I bought the most widely used primer paint, which is also the cheapest, Kilz II. I tried it and it didn't work. The stain went through it like prunes through a baby. So I went back and got the Glidden primer. It is a few dollars more but one can see right away that it is much better paint.

It doesn't work either but you feel much better about yourself after you use it. The stain went through it like the government through money. When it is dry I will go back and get oil-based primer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wafa Sultan

Can a religious culture with 1.3 billion adherents be defeated? Can it be radically transformed? Perhaps, if it has 650 million internal opponents. Doctor Sultan shows how.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sad News

[Oral Roberts]

Long-time evangelist Oral Roberts has died at 91. He is survived by his brother Anal and his sister Vaginal.

In Yet Another Amazing Coincidence....

[a short bald squat bespectacled man in a sweater-vest]

I was as astonished as anyone that, amazingly, the man who murdered a woman and shot five others at a Jewish Federation office in Seattle just happened to be a Muslim. Just as Major Hasan just happened to be a Muslim. And AbdulSalam Zahiri who murdered his professor at Binghampton who just happened to be a Muslim. And John Muhammad, the Viriginia overpass sniper, just happened to be a Muslim. And the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 massacres in New York and Washington just happened to be Muslims.

From today's Seattle Times-

Haq convicted on all counts in Jewish Federation shootings

A King County jury this morning found Naveed Haq guilty of eight counts, including aggravated first-degree murder, in the 2006 shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. The murder verdict carries an automatic life sentence for Haq.

The jury also found Haq, 34, guilty of five counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of unlawful imprisonment and one count of malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime law.

Haq showed no reaction as the verdicts were read, but several people in the courtroom tearfully hugged.

Several of the victims were seated in the courtroom this morning as the verdicts were read. They testified during both trials, reliving what happened when Haq walked into the federation offices on July 28, 2006, and started shooting indiscriminately at employees. Killed was Pamela Waechter, 58, and wounded were Cheryl Stumbo, Carol Goldman, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad and Layla Bush.

Prosecutors said he was driven by a hatred for Israel.

Prosecutors also introduced as evidence audio recordings from 10 phone calls Haq placed to his family after his arrest. In the calls, recorded by the King County Jail, Haq told his mother he was "a soldier of Islam."

Witnesses testified that Haq, who is of Pakistani heritage, railed against Jews and U.S.-Israeli policies as he opened fire in the Jewish Federation, an umbrella organization for the local Jewish community that raises money for social-welfare organizations, runs youth and adult educational programs, and engages in efforts in support of Israel.

On the 911 tape, which the prosecution played for jurors on Oct. 21, the opening day of the trial, Haq said he was tired of the world ignoring the Muslim point of view.

"I don't care if I die," Haq said to the dispatcher. "This is just to make a point."
Haq made a point, just not the one he intended. How many murders will it take before we take Naveed Haq's point to heart? His unwitting point is that no matter how seemingly harmless an individual Muslim might seem, murder is never far away.

It would be politically incorrect to say Haq's motive for murder and attempted murder was Islam. It would however be correct in every other way.

At what point do we drop the fig leaf of pretending away the obvious? This just has to stop. Immigration from Muslim countries to the US must be restricted.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting Naked

[In the beginning....]
Today I was in the shower thinking about the meaning of it all. I used to think about stuff like that more when I was younger but I gave it up because it always led to the same set of conclusions - that underneath appearances, things are really patterns and processes. But now I am starting to think about those kinds of things again.

It occurred to me once that the Big Bang means that everything has a common origin, that everything that happens is a common process. That the universe is all one big thing, not a bunch of smaller things. It means that only one big thing is happening, not a bunch of smaller things. Or at least that that is one legitimate way to look at it. In our tiny part of it, all life has common ancestors. All living things are cousins.

And our individual lives are not just patterns and processes, in modern parlance they are programs running on the matter of our bodies. Death is when the matter reboots and the program and data ones and zeroes are simultaneously set to all zeroes. Where we go after death is where that email message you worked on writing for an hour goes when your pc crashes. We don't go anywhere. Like your email message, we just aren't there any more.

And at last, in the shower I understood a passage in Spinoza that had gone over my head when I read it. I had thought that Hashem is the universe, the entirety of everything that is, and everything that has ever happened, and the entirely of everything that ever will happen. The short expression for that is the whole space-time continuum from the Big Bang until the end of time. In scientific terms, it is the synclastic infidibulum, or SI.

But I never much liked that formulation because it is both materialist and pantheist. Those are both deadend philosophies and unsatisfying because they don't help one understand things any better than one already does. They don't lead anywhere.

Spinoza described that Everything that ever was, is, or ever will be, as the face of G_d. But that face he said, was only a part of the whole, the way a surface is only an aspect of a solid object.

So what the hell is the rest? What is Hashem? In the shower it occurred to me that the entirety of all that ever was, is, or will be - the SI - is what is or can be known by human beings. And the rest, presumably vastly more, is the unknowable. The sum of the knowable and unknowable is Hashem.

What is peculiar about this definition is that it depends in part on human beings. The boundary between the two realms within Hashem is set by human intelligence and by human history. We can only know what we can understand with our intelligence. And we can only know what we have found out so far in our history.

The common scientific (a pretentious word for materialist) atheist explainer says that nothing is unknowable. In the end everything will yield to human intelligence and inquiry. This is a grand statement, coming from a ground ape. And flatly contradicted by quantum mechanics.

But Hashem in a sense is no different than people. At first all one knows of them is their surface, their face. As one gets to know them better one learns more about them, begins to see beneath the surface. When one develops an intimate relationship, comes to love them, one sees deeper still. One accepts them, and feels their nature more even than one understands it.

I remember one time actually listening to the Jewish liturgy rather than just stumbling through its seemingly endless pieties. And what struck me how emphatically and persistently it expresses the love of life and of the world. Much of our liturgy is ancient, written in times when brutal persecutions and the worst imaginable miseries were not history nor somewhere else but here and now and every day. And it was those very people who wrote that liturgy. How was that possible? Was it just fantasy and escapism? Were they crazy and in denial? No, they were the most reality-oriented people of their time - merchants, doctors, lawyers, scholars, advisers to princes.

I think they must have regarded the pogroms, inquisitions, expropriations, expulsions, plagues, and famines that befell them as we regard the tantrums of a beloved child. Their love of the world ran deeper than the current woe.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Time in Life

Click on cartoon to enlarge it.
Once, after my father died, I had a powerfully disturbing dream about him. He was in some semi-other world and was becoming more remote because he was losing interest in this world, and in me. He was becoming detached. He was drifting away and would never return.

Lou Grant wearing a tuxedo, drinking heavily in a bar, to Mary Richards: "First came the separation. then the divorce. Now she's remarried. Mary, don't you see what it all means?"
Mary: "No. What?"
Lou: "It means Edie and I are drifting apart."

Only later did I realize that I felt that he left me because he didn't love me enough to stay. And that it was my fault for not having been a good enough son nor a success for him to want to stay. I woke up devastated.

That day Harvey and I were playing tennis and I told him about my dream.  Harvey said that learning how to die was our task in life as we got into (and now beyond) middle age.

The death of my friend Jay Trachman two weeks ago has brought mortality sharply to the front of my concerns. And I know what to do about it too. Harvey more than once has told me what to do about life, and thus how to get ready for death - "Get on with it"

Saturday, December 05, 2009

from today's New York Times:
A 46-year-old Binghamton University graduate student from Saudi Arabia was charged on Saturday with killing a retired anthropology professor, a specialist in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, with whom he had worked, the authorities said. The student, Abdulsalam S. al-Zahrani, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of the professor, Richard T. Antoun, who was stabbed in his office in the university’s Science I building on Friday afternoon
Since we know from frequent reassurance that there is no connection between Islam and violence, this was yet another in a seemingly endless string of amazing coincidences reaching back to the time of Muhammad.

Here is a quote from SUNY-Binghamton's website:
Shaping Your Future

Binghamton University offers over 55 graduate programs within an exciting, culturally diverse community. The University’s suburban and urban campuses foster world-renowned research, scholarship and creative exploration, augmenting the already distinguished legacy and international reputation of the Graduate School and its world-class scholar-teachers.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider this conventional fantasy about multiculturalism and diversity in light of persistent Muslim violence. Diversity is good if it produces benefits to the community. Muslims are demonstrating that diversity is not a good in itself.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Further Thoughts on Major Hasan

[Flag of Saudi Arabia with national motto, "I got mine".]
Actually that argument, that Muslim terrorist mass murderers like Major Nidal Hasan are an unrepresentative few, was used up a long time ago, and proven false. Most of the mosques in the US are led by jihadis. They speak in one voice to the non-Muslims, in another to the faithful.

The proof is in the politics. American mosques are all infiltrated by the FBI. If they rarely found anything the political pressure on them to stop spying on the houses of worship of innocent people would soon become intolerable. Just as it would if they were spying on synagogues or Mormon tabernacles, not least because it would soon prove a ridiculous waste of time and money. But FBI spying on mosques generally finds plenty and there have been several prosecutions and far more sudden leavings of the country to avoid prosecution.

It is actually the reverse of what Christy supposes. Christianity teaches that people should be loving and unselfish. The vast majority, even in a religious society, let alone in a secular one, can't be bothered with any more than ritual observance. A few, a very few, take that literally and not just as a Sunday school piety. I have met such people. Most of them were Mennonites, a small obscure sect.

Similarly, while Islam teaches murder and aggression against non-Muslims, most Muslims, like most Christians, are too busy looking out for number one or trying to find a parking place, to act on their religion. I agree with Christy there.

One could reduce the question to sophomore logic and say that while not all Muslims are terrorists, almost all terrorists are Muslims. But what matters almost as much is the penumbra between being a practicing Mennonite or Muslim terrorist and doing nothing at all. Which is where almost everybody lives.

Most Christians, when they can spare a moment or a buck, will give a dollar to a beggar or write a check to a charity. They will also be sympathetic and supportive to those who act more fully on their much-ignored moral obligations. Mother Teresa was a folk hero to billions of people.

While Western countries give far too little in foreign aid, ask yourself why do they give anything? Politicians and voters have mixed motives, but some of those motives are sincerely eleemosynary. Western aid is all that stands between a substantial fraction of Africa's population and starvation. Nobody is forcing any Western country to do that. Christian charity is far smaller than it should be, but it is a significant factor in the world. Even among thoroughly secular people, Christianity does condition what they do both individually and collectively. It is also why Christian countries have instituted social welfare, and criminalized the most egregious forms of cruelty. They do it because their religion tells them to.

Other examples are the Geneva Conventions. Prisoners of war of secular Christian nations are supposed to be treated with a certain minimum of decent treatment. Which is why Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were scandals. Prisoners of war of Muslim nations are routinely beheaded, often with a saw. We have saws too, but we don’t do that. Yet Muslims have the temerity to complain of OUR treatment of THEM. Tell it to Daniel Pearl you vile bastards.

America is considered to have besmirched itself with rendition, delivering Muslim prisoners to Egyptian jailers who tortured them,. Yet no one thought of the Egyptians as besmirched. It is not Egyptian students who are excluded from Spanish solar car competitions but Israelis. No British university association proposes to boycott Egyptian academics, only Israeli academics. The world in general and the UN and the Norwegians and Irish in particular are outraged by the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Not a word from anyone about the Egyptian blockade without which the Israeli blockade would be meaningless. And that is without Gaza having bombarded Egypt with thousands of rockets.

But I digress.

Just as the great mass of the people of nominally Christian countries do not do much that is Christian, what they do do, and what they sympathize with, pay for, and abet does matter. Exactly the same thing can be said of Muslims. As Christy correctly implies, most of them are busy making a living, comparison shopping, and bickering over the television remote, nevertheless the teachings of their religion does matter.

Unlike the author of the Sermon on the Mount, the author of the Koran was a desert warrior chieftain who taught violence, trickery, and lying as both permissible and obligatory in spreading Islam to the infidels. He made it obligatory in the Koran. And it shows in the conduct of Muslims.

American Muslims do not routinely take up arms against the US and Israel. But, until the FBI busted them, they do contribute copiously to the Holy Land Foundation, a Hamas front group which used the money to buy munitions.

Just as only a few in Christian countries hear the calling to become priests, monks, ministers, or doers of pious works, so too only a few Muslims hear a religious calling and act on it. But religious Christians generally express their religion in good works. Religious Muslims, true to the teachings of Muhammad, express theirs in murdering as many infidels as they can.

So far from an isolated event, our history has been turned from its course more than once by Muslim violence. Robert F. Kennedy would likely have been elected president in 1968 and again in 1972 instead of Richard Nixon had he not been assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.

Our press deliberately conspired to mislead the American people by claiming Sirhan was a Jordanian. It was never mentioned anywhere I saw that he was actually a Palestinian. I think neither the Arabs nor the Jews wanted that put about, so the press told not a half-truth but an outright lie. Sirhan was born and spent his childhood in Jerusalem, which is not in Jordan. From the age of 12 on he lived in.... Southern California. Which is also not in Jordan. I suppose the fig leaf used to justify the lie may have been that until sometime in the 1980's many Palestinians had Jordanian passports.

Sirhan said at trial that he had grievances with the United States and with Kennedy. Consider who else had grievances with the United States and the Kennedys - the entire African American population of the United States. All of whom had and have far too much access to firearms. And not one of whom has assassinated a white politician in spite of vast incentive and provocation.

Notably the only prominent American assassinated by African Americans was Malcolm X, assassinated by his fellow Black MUSLIMS. If grievance produced violence, the most violent people in the world would be India's 200 million harijans, the untouchables. It isn't grievance that produces violence. It is Islam.

It is easy to claim that Muslim violence has increased in modern times because of the encounter with the West and that that has led to the rise of what is preposterously called "militant Islam" which is supposedly a reaction against Western influence. This is a purely Eurocentric notion which starts from the premise that Muslim countries have no history until Europeans arrive. They do.

"Militant Islam' is Wahhabism, a Muslim sect founded in Iraq and Arabia by Mohammad Ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab in the the 1740's. Al-Wahhab could not have found America on a map and could have cared even less. An early convert to Wahhabism was ibn Saud, ancestor the current Saudi royal family. The expansion of the domain of ibn Saud was also the conquest of the Arabian peninsula by Wahhabbism. (Because their opponents called them Wahhabis, they object to being called that and call themselves Salafists. Like Mormons calling themselves LDS.) The modern kingdom of Saudi Arabia is defined by Wahhabism.

Wahhabism is ultra-conservative, puritanical, authoritarian, rigid, woman-phobic, and xenophobic. It is the basis of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Saudi religious police.

Which brings us to why Wahhabis like Osama bin Laden are so devoted to destroying the Saudi kingdom. Imagine the most Calvinist anti-Catholic time and place possible, say Scotland in the time of John Knox. Now imagine that John Knox was on the payroll of His Most Catholic Majesty, Philip II of Spain, and had agreed to the stationing of Spanish troops and Spanish oil company employees throughout Scotland. And that the Knox family was waxing filthy rich on the arrangement while most of Scotland remained dirt poor. How popular would the Knoxes be?

Most imams in the US are graduates of Wahhabi/Saudi madrassas. Which is also why we cannot too explicitly suppress Wahhabism - it is the sect of our Saudi ally-clients.

Unfortunately most proselytizing is done by Wahhabis, and most madrassas, in which Muslim clergy are trained, are controlled by them because funded by Saudi Arabia. Our allies.

Ironically, we have it in common with al-Qaeda and the Taliban that, like them, we have good reason to despise the Saudi royal family.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Love Among the Scots

Grossly overweight Buckie turf-cutter, 42 years old and 23 stone, Gemini, seeks nimble sexpot, preferably South American, for tango sessions, candlelit dinners and humid nights of screaming passion. Must have own car and be willing to travel. Box 11/19

Aberdeen man, 50, in desperate need of a ride. Anything considered. Box 06/03

Heavy drinker, 35, Glasgow area, seeks gorgeous sex addict interested in pints, fags, Celtic football club and starting scraps on Sauchiehall Street at three in the morning. Box 73/82.

Bitter, disillusioned Dundonian lately rejected by longtime fiancée seeks decent, honest, reliable woman, if such a thing still exists in this cruel world of hatchet-faced bitches. Box 53/41

Ginger-haired Partick troublemaker, gets slit-eyed and shirty after a few scoops, seeks attractive, wealthy lady for bail purposes, maybe more. Box 84/42

Artistic Edinburgh woman, 53, petite, loves rainy walks on the beach, writing poetry, unusual sea-shells and interesting brown rice dishes, seeks mystic dreamer for companionship, back rubs and more as we bounce along like little tumbling clouds on life's beautiful crazy journey. Strong stomach essential. Box 12/32

Chartered accountant, 42, seeks female for marriage. Duties will include cooking, light cleaning and accompanying me to office social functions. References required. No timewasters. Box 23/45

Bad-tempered, foul-mouthed old bastard living in a damp cottage in the arse end of Orkney seeks attractive 21-year old blonde lady with big chest. Box 40/27

Devil-worshiper, Stirling area, seeks like-minded lady for wining and dining, good conversation, dancing, romantic walks and slaughtering dogs in cemeteries at midnight under the flinty light of a pale moon. Box 52/07

Attractive brunette, Maryhill area, winner of Miss Wrangler competition at Framptons Nightclub, Maryhill, in September 1978, seeks nostalgic man who's not afraid to cry, for long nights spent comfort-drinking and listening to old Abba records. Please, Please! Box 30/41

Govan man, 27, medium build, brown hair, blue eyes, seeks alibi for the night of February 27 between 8pm and 11.30pm. Box 98/12

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Golden State Hotties

I watched part of the Miss California pageant. I don't think of myself as a prude but I was embarrassed by it. Let's not kid ourselves - a woman in a really small bikini is naked. Which is great. Unless she is on a runway in front of hundreds of people who are all staring at her.

I sometimes have dreams about suddenly realizing I am naked in public. They are not my favorite dreams.

Maybe it's a matter of age. Instead of thinking of them as hot babes, I was sorry for the humiliation of their parents. Sigh.


Victory! Victory!

The Senate Democrats have mustered the votes to break the threatened filibuster of the health insurance reform bill by the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. Since it takes 60 votes to break a flibuster but only 50 to pass a bill, the bill is sure to pass. There will be endless Republican attempts to add frivolous amendments but they will be just gestures. The bill will pass. The bill has already passed the House.

BUT the House bill and the Senate bill are not the same. The two bills will soon go to a reconciliation committee. Expect last ditch attempts to sabotage it there. Expect to hear even less about what is actually going on in that committee than we have heard of actual news about the struggle to pass it in the two houses.

In thirty years it will be unimaginable that the United States could see its legislative process so nearly hijacked by a single industry and that they could do it so publicly and brazenly.

But that will be after the press has stopped covering the question and left it to historians. Historians are only on the payrolls of universities and merely tell the truth as best they can. Sadly the same cannot be said of journalists and the media corporations they deny control them.

It is a great victory for the people of the United States. The Republican claims of impending catastrophe are belied by the fact that every developed country in the world except ours has some form of national health insurance. Much as one may dislike the Democrats, it is hard not to despise the Republicans far more.

I remember a friend who described people, typically conservatives, as subscribing to Evilism. Sadly even that would be more principled than the Republicans' actual calling - mere corporate venality.

But this is not a time for even justified recrimination, but for rejoicing. Hooray for the health insurance reform bill! Hooray for the United States of America! Hooray for the people!

Assuming we don't get screwed in the reconciliation committee.....

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Wealth of Nations

Below is the CIA's tabulation of gross domestic product per capita by country, ranked from highest to lowest.

There are some interesting conclusions and lessons to be drawn from it. First note that the very richest countries are tax dodges or oil sheikdoms. Leichtenstein produces nothing except for a false teeth factory as Harvey has noted. Luxembourg, Bermuda, Jersey, Luxembourg, Guernsey, the Cayman Islands, and Andorra are likewise tax dodges, not national economies. Their wealth is that of other countries concealed there.

Ireland and Switzerland are a middle case - small countries which flourish in part because they are tax dodges. The Swiss benefit from their honesty and orderliness, their good character. The Irish get along in spite of their lack of it.

Qatar, Norway, Kuwait, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain all derive their wealth exclusively or primarily from oil and all are small.

All the tax dodge countries and the oil kingdoms are even smaller. The first country on the list that has more people than a large American city, the wealthiest large country, is.... the United States.

Next come the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Japan, France, and Italy.

So for all the economic doom and gloom in our press, it is well to remember that the United States is still the wealthiest large country in the world. And compared to the others of the ten biggest countries in the world - China, India, Indonesia, Brasil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Russia, and Japan - we are wealthy indeed.

Of course these are all 2008 figures. American spending last year was all put on a First Bank of China credit card which we are not in a position to pay. So last year's wealth may not mean much in 2009.

Anent which, how crazy is it that we are deeply and dangerously in debt to China? Our per capita GDP last year was $47,500 and theirs was $6,000. Yet we are in debt to them? Their per capita GDP is one-eighth of ours, and less than 2/3 of the world average of $10,500 (if the world were a country it would rank 101st). How could this happen? Who was in charge? Oh. Him.

We manage our money as well as the Iraqis manage their oil fields.

Here are some lessons to draw from the ranking below:

1. Stay the hell out of Africa.
2. Avoid socialist dictatorships - North Korea versus South, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Anything
3. Avoid former socialist dictatorships too - Moldova, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Serbia
4. Be Chinese, but not in China - Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan
5. Live near oil if possible - Kuwait, Brunei, UAE, Alberta, Norway - unless it conflicts with rule #1 - Nigeria
6. In general it is a poor idea to be brown, but a terrible idea to be black - Africa, Brasil, Haiti.
7. It is good to be Scandinavian - Sweden, Denmark, Iceland
8. If you live in a country with a high birth rate, leave - Gaza, West Bank, Afghanistan.
9. Move to the US if you can, to the EU if you can't. Canada is also good if you are able to persuade yourself that winter will never come.
10. If your country was rich last year, expect to be screwed this year - United States, Ireland, Iceland.

Tragically the poorest country on the list, Zimbabwe, was not long ago the richest, best run, safest country in Africa. The collapse of their economy and of the Zimbabwean shilling since the farm expropriations at the beginning of the century have made them the poorest people in the world. Unlike the people of Gaza who have largely brought their misfortunes on themselves and deserve them, the Shona have fallen into a crevasse in their history. The Palestinians are nasty , aggressive, and violent. The Shona are kind, polite, and pleasant and in no way deserve what has befallen them. It is hard to see how it could have been avoided and harder to see how it can be escaped.

1 Liechtenstein
2 Qatar
3 Luxembourg
4 Bermuda
5 Norway
6 Kuwait
7 Jersey
8 Singapore
9 Brunei
10 United States
11 Ireland
12 United Arab Emirates
13 Guernsey
14 Cayman Islands
15 Hong Kong
16 Andorra
17 Iceland
18 Switzerland
19 San Marino
20 Netherlands
21 Austria
22 Canada
23 British Virgin Islands
24 Australia
25 Sweden
26 Gibraltar
27 Belgium
28 Bahrain
29 Equatorial Guinea
30 Denmark
31 Finland
32 United Kingdom
33 Germany
34 Falkland Islands
35 Isle of Man
36 Spain
37 Japan
38 European Union
39 France
40 Greece
41 Italy
42 Taiwan
43 Faroe Islands
44 Bahamas,
45 Macau
46 Monaco
47 Slovenia
48 Israel
49 New Zealand
50 Korea, South
51 Czech Republic
52 Malta
53 Trinidad and Tobago
54 Portugal
55 Slovakia
56 Aruba
57 Estonia
58 Cyprus
59 Seychelles
60 Saudi Arabia
61 Oman
62 Greenland
63 Hungary
64 Antigua and Barbuda
65 Saint Kitts and Nevis
66 Barbados
67 Croatia
68 French Polynesia
69 Lithuania
70 Puerto Rico
71 Poland
72 Latvia
73 Russia
74 Netherlands Antilles
75 Malaysia
76 New Caledonia
77 Chile
78 Virgin Islands
79 Mexico
80 Argentina
81 Gabon
82 Libya
83 Botswana
84 Venezuela
85 Grenada
86 Bulgaria
87 Iran
88 Northern Mariana Islands $12,500
89 Uruguay
90 Romania
91 Mauritius
92 Turkey
93 Belarus
94 Panama
95 Costa Rica
96 Kazakhstan
97 Turks and Caicos Islands $11,500
98 Lebanon
99 Saint Lucia
100 Serbia
101 World
102 Brazil
103 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines $10,200
104 Montenegro
105 South Africa
106 Dominica
107 Azerbaijan
108 Cuba
109 Colombia
110 Cook Islands
111 Macedonia
112 Angola
113 Suriname
114 Anguilla
115 Jamaica
116 Peru
117 Belize
118 Thailand
119 Dominican Republic
120 Palau
121 American Samoa
122 Tunisia
123 Ecuador
124 Ukraine
125 Saint Pierre and Miquelon $7,000
126 Algeria
127 Bosnia-Herzegovina
128 Turkmenistan
129 Namibia
130 Armenia
131 El Salvador
132 Albania
133 China
134 Egypt
135 Niue
136 Guatemala
137 Kiribati
138 Bhutan
139 Jordan
140 Nauru
141 Mayotte
142 Georgia
143 Samoa
144 Vanuatu
145 Tonga
146 Syria
147 Bolivia
148 Morocco
149 Maldives
150 Sri Lanka
151 Swaziland
152 Honduras
153 Paraguay
154 Congo, Republic of the $3,900
155 Indonesia
156 Guyana
157 Cape Verde
158 Wallis and Futuna
159 Fiji
160 Montserrat
161 Philippines
162 Iraq
163 Mongolia
164 Gaza Strip
165 Nicaragua
166 West Bank
167 India
168 Vietnam
169 Solomon Islands
170 Djibouti
171 Uzbekistan
172 Moldova
173 Pakistan
174 Western Sahara
175 Yemen
176 Saint Helena
177 Marshall Islands
178 Cameroon
179 Kosovo
180 Timor-Leste
181 Papua-New Guinea
182 Nigeria
183 Micronesia, Federated States $2,200
184 Kyrgyzstan
185 Sudan
186 Laos
187 Mauritania
188 Cambodia
189 Korea, North
190 Tajikistan
191 Cote d'Ivoire
192 Chad
193 Kenya
194 Lesotho
195 Tuvalu
196 Senegal
197 Bangladesh
198 Ghana
199 Benin
200 Zambia
201 Tanzania
202 Gambia, The
203 Haiti
204 Uganda
205 Sao Tome and Principe $1,300
206 Burma
207 Burkina Faso
208 Guinea
209 Mali
210 Nepal
211 Comoros
212 Madagascar
213 Tokelau
214 Ethiopia
215 Mozambique
216 Togo
217 Sierra Leone
218 Rwanda
219 Afghanistan
220 Malawi
221 Central African Republic $700
222 Niger
223 Eritrea
224 Guinea-Bissau
225 Somalia
226 Liberia
227 Burundi
228 Congo, Democratic Republic of the $300
229 Zimbabwe

Laugh for Today

[Saddam Hussein gets The Hook. The Glorious Baathi future? It's up there in the sky. No wait, it's over there in Kuwait. Or maybe it's the oil down in the ground? Or it's hiding down there in a spider hole?]

Headline in today's New York Times (I am not making this up, I swear) -

U.S. Fears Iraq Development Projects May Go to Waste

"In its largest reconstruction effort since the Marshall Plan, the United States government has spent $53 billion for relief and reconstruction in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, building tens of thousands of hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges.

But there are growing concerns among American officials that Iraq will not be able to adequately maintain the facilities once the Americans have left, potentially wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and jeopardizing Iraq’s ability to provide basic services to its people."

First, some numbers. The United States has 305 million people. Which makes $53 billion come out to $174 for each American, $696 for a family of four. That is not the cost of the war, just of the aid. Iraq has 29 million people so the $53 billion comes to $1,827 per person, $10,965 per family of six. (Iraqis have on average four children, apparently on the theory that there aren't enough Iraqis already. A theory shared by no one else.)

This eleven grand contribution really isn't that astonishing an amount considering it has been spread out over the six years since the invasion in 2003. What is astonishing is that there should have been any contribution at all. Iraq has the fourth largest proven reserves of petroleum in the world, after Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Iran.

Even the notoriously clueless Saudis are able to translate vast amounts of oil selling at high prices into cash in their pockets. Canada, particularly Alberta where most of the oil is, is not a poor country.

The reason for the difference is not hard to see. Saudi oilfields are developed by Aramco, the Arab-American Oil Company. Or as it is known when no Arabs are listening, Chevron, formerly known as Standard Oil of California.

It has been an article of faith since the end of the Second World War that when foreigners do for you what you are unable to do for yourself, that you are a victim of imperialism. It is precisely their willing cooperation with imperialist oil companies and their imperialist geologists and imperialist drilling rigs, and imperialist pipelines and imperialist pipeline construction companies, and imperialist tanker ports and the imperialist technology of building them, and the imperialist tankers, and the imperialist marketing system to turn oil into money to pay to the Saudis, that is at the heart of bin Laden's and al-Qaeda's hatred of the Saudi regime.

Iraq was spared this imperialist lackey-hood victimization by the Baathist nationalist regime of Saddam Hussein.

Now note how we, and they, got into this mess in the first place. Iraq had the fourth largest proven reserve of oil in the world 115 billion barrels. Kuwait had the fifth largest proven reserve, 104 billion barrels. Yet Iraq was (and is) dirt poor and Kuwait was tastelessly rich with ice skating rinks in the desert, all work done by Korean men and Pilipina women. And like the Saudis, victims of imperialist oil companies which showered them with wealth by paying the market rate for oil. The oil companies may be without conscience but they are not without the ability to extract, refine, and market oil profitably.

Iraq's Baathi nationalist regime had by contrast through its ineptitude, mismanagement, and corruption, reduced Iraq to militarized poverty in spite of its oil wealth. Unable to distinguish Kuwaiti wealth from its sources, in 1991 the Iraqi Baath regime invaded Kuwait in what was as much a looting as a conquest.

One can assume that had the invasion and annexation of Kuwait been allowed to stand, that it would not have taken many years of Iraqi managment of the Kuwait oil fields to reduce them to the same condition as the Iraqi oil fields.

Now that Iraq is moving toward autonomy and having it oil resources run under Iraqi management again, what are the prospects that those resources will be competently and honestly managed? What are the prospects that they will not soon wind up in the producing-almost-nothing conditions they were under the Baath regime?

And if that is how they manage resources which visibly pump money out of the ground, how competently and honestly will they manage the "hospitals, water treatment plants, electricity substations, schools and bridges" that American families have bought for them at the cost of $700 each?

Norway has oil and is wealthy on account of it. Alberta has oil and is wealthy on account of it. Russia has oil and is able to maintain a strong ruble and keep its economy afloat on account of it. Alaska has oil and is wealthy on account of it.

BUT Switzerland has no natural resources and is wealthier still. Ditto Japan, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Denmark. Israel also has no natural resources yet is the wealthiest non-oil-sheikdom in the Middle East. Israel has a significantly higher gross domestic product per capita than Saudi Arabia.

So going back to official fears that Iraqi aid project money may have gone to waste, one can only respond, which part of "Iraqi" did you not understand when you spent the money?