Thursday, August 26, 2010

Philadelphia Story

[Trinity Presbyterians shaking fists at Methodist opponents]

From the newspaper the Daily Star -
A senior Presbyyterian official and another member of the organization have been killed in clashes between supporters of the movement and supporters of a conservative Methodist faction in Philadelphia last night. The clashes took place in the mixed neighborhood of West Bentham in the city.

According to reports, the clashes began with a fight between a supporter of the Presbyterians and a member of the Methodist Revival faction. The fighting escalated, and at one point, machine guns and rocket propelled grenade launchers were used.

The Pennsylvania National Guard intervened and remains deployed in the area, which has been cordoned off. The clashes are said to be continuing.

The dead Presbyterian official has been named as Andrew MacIntosh, who was in charge of the movement in the West Bentham sector.

The incident in West Bentham was not mentioned by Presbyterian leader Jonathan Tavish in a speech he gave last night. However, Pennsylvania sources say that the fighting is the worst outbreak of violence since the clashes in May 2008 brought Pennsylvania to the brink of civil war.

At that time, an attempt by the Pennsylvania government to move against the Presbyterians' independent communications infrastructure and control of security at Philadelphia airport led to the movement taking control of west Philadelphia. It is worth noting that the May 2008 events were preceded by a series of smaller scale clashes on a sectarian basis between Calvinists and Methodists, and this is likely to increase concerns regarding the latest events.

Pennsylvania has been in a state of high tension in recent weeks, because of reports that the UN tribunal investigating the murder of former Pennsylvania governor Randall Thompson was set to issue indictments against Presbyterian members suspected of involvement in the murder.


Okay I admit I may have accidentally made a few misspellings in copying the article. For instance "Hezbollah" accidentally came out as "Presbyterian", and "Sunni" accidentally came out as "Methodist". Similar accidents resulted in "Beirut" and "Lebanon" coming out as "Philadelphia" and "Pennsylvania". Similar clumsinesses changed the "Lebanese Army" to "Pennsylvania National Guard" and the Beirut district of Burj Abi Haidar became the non-existent suburb West Bentham. The various Arab names mistakenly came out as British-sounding ones.

The article with the accidental misspellings changing the factions involved to Protestants in Philadelpia, is highly improbable, even absurd. With the place names changed back to the original Beirut, Hezbollah, Sunni, and Arabic spellings, it is not the least surprising.

We have come to believe and accept the notion that there is no clash of civilizations.We accept that it is wrong and unacceptable to even speak of such a thing.

Yet what distinguishes the improbability of machine gun fire between Protestants in Philadelphia and the routine-ness of it between Hezbollah and Sunnis in Beirut, if not a difference of cultures - of civilizations?

The Main Stream Media (MSM) Accepted View is that Muslims are just another religious group and that Islam is just another religion. Recent events in Beirut and non-events in Philadelphia suggest otherwise.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

I have good news. And bad news.

[Effect of don't-ask-don't-tell policy on military uniforms]

I saw Vice-President Joe Biden on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno a few weeks ago. Biden had just returned from Iraq. He said the troops are fine people, excellent soldiers, that they are doing a good job, are being successful, and that morale is high. So that was good news.

Of a sort. It is hard to imagine him having said otherwise on national television, no matter what the actual situation is. So his remarks were not exactly chock full of new and valuable information.

Until he got to the patriotic moment. The Vice-President described attending a ceremony in Baghdad in which an auditorium full of soldiers were sworn in as citizens. Our soldiers. The Vice-President was very proud of these new Americans whom he claimed had enlisted out of patriotic feelings for a country not theirs. Nobody even laughed when he said it, which was very polite.

Which means that they had joined the army, gone through basic training and certainly other trainings as well, and been shipped to Iraq to engage in combat operations on behalf of the United States. Which, until after the ceremony, was not their country.

Why would someone fight for a country not his own? We have the answer in our history. The Hessians were German mercenaries who fought in the British army during the American Revolutionary War. Nothing about them suggests they fought for any reason but pay. Even the possibility that they fought out of obedience to their sovereign, the Prince of Hesse, who had sold them is belied by the end of the war. Many Hessians stayed on in the "enemy" country when they saw how good life was in the new United States and how easy it was to get good land on the frontier. Many had fought to get money for a small farm in Hesse and found that for the same money they could get an enormous farm in Pennsylvania.

We have an even better example in the later history of Rome. The empire gave land and Roman citizenship to non-Romans, often to the very barbarians they were fighting, to get them to defend the shrinking imperial frontiers against the next wave of barbarians coming behind them. Citizenship was part of the pay packet.

Joining the American army has several benefits to immigrants. It provides a job and a salary to send as immigrant remittances to one's family back home. It prevents immediate deportation if one is already in the country. And once a citizen it prevent eventual deportation. If one has dependents, a spouse and minor children, it gets them into the US if they want to come. And there are veterans' benefits when one's hitch is over - college tuition, medical care, veterans' preferences in government hiring.

There are benefits to the army as well. There is a larger, much larger, pool of young people to put in the field. Though Mexico and its burgeoning population comes first to mind, there is no reason for immigrant soldiers to come only from there. So long as America remains among the wealthiest countries in the world its citizenship will be a prized commodity in poor countries, one worth taking even serious risks to get.

The nifty thing about non-citizen soldiers is that neither they nor their parents vote for, and certainly not against, the government that sends them to war. They are politically expendable. If a general could achieve a military objective only at cost of horrendous casualties, if the kids she sends to their deaths have no congresswoman to write to, then why shouldn't she do it? So the military command finds greater freedom and flexibility in its operations.

And for sure, the folks on the home front who can vote and yell at their congresswomen, will feel the same. If our mercenaries are killed, our reaction will be sympathy, but not horror. "Well, they knew the risks." we will say, shaking our heads but not the least moved to do anything about it. Or even to want to.

The problem is the inevitable reciprocity. If we feel no loyalty to them, what loyalty will they feel to us? Not having grown up immersed in our culture and symbols, why would they be loyal to a President and Congress whom they did not elect and who does not represent even their actual country. Why wouldn't they be loyal instead to their own officers? How long would it be before some charismatic general led his immigrant troops not to Baghdad but to Washington?

One thinks not only of the Praetorian Guards but also, of Napoleon, of Cromwell, of Franco, of Mussolini, the Greek junta, Pinochet, Nasser. Military coups are caused by civilian political weakness. Popular governments are not overthrown, unpopular ones are. But if the government means nothing to the foreign mercenaries, any government is unpopular with them by the very fact of the relationship.

The necessary flip side of them not being our soldiers, is that Washington is not their government and we are not their countrymen.

But even with that warning, it is not entirely a bad thing. The United States, like most rich countries, has an aging population. The cause of it is falling birthrates. The American solution is to permit extensive immigration of generally younger people both for absolute numbers and to bolster birth rate. We need young immigrants to keep our economy producing goods and services for old native-borns to consume, and to pay taxes for our pensions. Now it seems we need them also to defend our borders at home and our interests abroad (as one euphemizes neo-imperialist power).

Moreover immigrants for whom military service is part of their assimilation into American society are well served by it and so are we. They learn English and American mores. They learn to feel part of something American.

So the question is finally, where are non-citizen soldiers recruited and where do they wind up after they serve? If they are recruited here and end up here then we benefit and they benefit. They enter the forces intending to become Americans. They have the same interests in prospect that we have. One does not f**k up a house one intends to live in.

But if they are recruited in Hesse and expect to go back to Hesse then they are not part of our body politic. They would then be people we exploit at will and who would be equally indifferent to us.

Given that, paying with citizenship is not such a bad idea at all. It makes for loyal troops who look forward to being Americans. It still gives commanding officers the opportunity to throw away their lives with impunity because their parents still aren't citizens. And it gives illegals the fabled but seldom seen "alternate path" to citizenship.

What a mess.

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Social Decay in America

video

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Admittedly this is Republican Propaganda but....

[click on four outward-pointing arrows at bottom right for full-screen. Press esc key to exit full-screen]

This video degenerates into partisan propaganda at the end. But the discussion of the dynamic connections between World War I, the Battle of the Somme, and the appeasement and miscalculations that led to World War II is very good.

The analogy between the policies of the interwar Axis powers and Iran and Saudi Arabia is not instantly persuasive but neither is it to be lightly dismissed.

The "vote for the Republicans" moral might be of greater interest had the Senate Republicans not spent the past year acting en bloc as essentially enemies of the American people. Their uncompromising opposition to, and trimming down of, both health insurance reform and Wall Street reform, make them utter slime - people without conscience or principle. Their sponsorhip of Tea Party jingoism entirely to protect their financial interests is despicable.

On the other side of the coin, and I do mean coin, Whittle is exactly right that the Democratic and liberal policy of conciliation is suicidal. To compromise, one needs a sincere partner. The West in general, and the United States in particular, does not have one.

One hopes the American policy elite finds out sooner rather than later what the equivalent class in Israel found out during the past twenty years. The basic premise of the Israeli left and center was that territorial and economic concessions to the Palestinians would mollify their hostility.

The offer of substantially everything the Palestinians claimed they wanted first by Ehud Barak of Labor, and then by Ehud Olmert of Likud, brought about not peace but year-long waves of terrorism and violence - the First Intifada and the even worse Second Intifada.

Ariel Sharon, when he was Prime Minister decided that the problem was dealing with the PA. He went around them, directly to the Palestinian people by giving them Gaza without the thicket of negotiation. The Israeli government forcibly removed 7,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza and just left. There could be no more explicit territorial concession than just walking away.

Did the Palestinians in Gaza respond with peaceful coexistence to Israel giving them exactly what they claimed they wanted? No. They responded with thousands of rockets launched from the very territory Israel had given up.

The result was the collapse of the whole collection of Israeli parties based on the premise that concessions to the Palestinians would bring peace. That argument was proven false by the Palestinians themselves. That is why American liberal newspapers describe Netanyahu as "right-wing". His policy argument, which won him what was a landslide for Israel, was really just, "See, I told you so." And that is not what America liberals want to hear, facts on the ground in Gaza or not.

And every single rocket launched from Gaza, every Hamas flotilla that attempts to sail there, proves again that Netanyahu was right. Concessions for peace to people who do not want peace are both pointless and self-destructive.

It took the fruitless concession of all of Gaza to convince the Israeli public that the appeasement position was wrong. But at least they know it now.

The American liberal elites seem unable to draw that same conclusion. That is essentially what the diplomatic dialogue between Washington and Jerusalem consists of. The Obama administration demands that Israel make concessions for peace. The Israeli response is, "Like in Gaza?" whereupon the Americans diplomats return home "for further instructions'. It is the confrontation of American liberal ideology with Israeli facts.

Thus Israel and the PA have been forced by the Obama Administration into negotiations that both sides recognize as pointless. The sole real Palestinian demand, that the Israelis turn all of Israel over to them, the Israelis have already turned down.

The Palestinians' cover story is that all they want is certain territorial concessions before they demand others. After Gaza that fools no one at all. So they have nothing to negotiate about either.

Which is why everyone in Israel is far more interested in the Eurovision Song Contest, soccer, the weather, the economy, and a Hebrew University professor winning the equivalent of a Nobel Prize for mathematics, than in the peace negotiations - which are neither about peace nor are they actual negotiations.

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Still Here

[Yet another problem with Windows]

None of the handymen I called have returned my calls so my departure is delayed until I replace the upper frame on a double-hung window upstairs myself.

The window frame is badly deteriorated and there is a gap of half an inch between the glass and the wood. Following Harvey's example at Joaquin Miller Court I had put a pane of soundproof glass in the upper sash. Over the course of a decade its weight had slowly moved ever downward through the softened and deteriorated wood of the frame. It is just dumb luck that it hasn't collapsed entirely yet. There is now a gap of almost an inch between the wood and the glass.

The rainy season will be here soon so I cannot leave until the window is fixed. I am intimidated by the prospect of taking apart a double-hung window because it looks complicated. To make it less intimidating, I have analyzed what needs to be done into 13 steps and written them on a whiteboard. I am going to simplify it by not even attempting to make the upper sash openable. So I won't have to worry about counterweights and ropes and pulleys. Upper sashes are rarely opened even when they work.

But once that is done I will be untethered and free to fly away.

While I was writing this, the family that will be here all Fall have arrived. They are now bustling around in the house and their little one is experimenting with banging on the electric spinet.

I don't think of myself as lonely in any way but it is nice to hear the sounds of a family on the other side of the pocket doors and comforter sound curtains I put up.


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Almost Out of Here

[Mount Whitney, seen from highway 395]

I will be leaving later this week initially for northeastern California. I love loafing around on the lightly traveled parts of highway 395 on the east side of the Sierra. Good scenery, few tourists, few people generally.

But I will have to come back for a few days to set up the house for a wedding party, and then for the return of the longer term tenants. Then I will finally be free to leave for the rest of the Fall.

I finally got the bus back from the Camping World. Those guys are expensive and a little too eager to run up the bill.

But I have the steps installed and working at long last. The damaged one was a three step model that went down so far it pressed the curb whenever the bus was parked on a street. That was what bent the actuator arm in the first place. One has to step up pretty high to get onto the bottom step now but that is better than it not retracting properly.

Also, though the mechanics were unable to find the persistent electrical problem that has dogged me and the bus since I got it, I figured it out on the way home from there.

I had not understood how the battery isolator switch on the dashboard works. When both the chassis battery and the house batteries were good it didn't seem to do anything. But now with a good chassis battery and completely dead house batteries, the effect of the isolator switch was apparent. Nothing electrical inside the bus works with the connection broken by the switch.

That had been the problem all along. The switch had been ON so the two batteries were connected even after the engine was off. The chassis battery drained into the deep cycle house batteries and was dead in the morning. Every morning. The problem went away with the flick of a switch. Sigh.

The heater-doesn't-work problem turned out to be a similar idiocy. The bus has an air conditioner, the control of which has a HEAT setting which never did anything. For good reason. There is a separate control which, being next to the sink, I thought was for the water. It too has a HEAT setting. The air conditioner does not include a heater because there is a propane furnace. So the air conditioner HEAT control doesn't work because it doesn't connect to anything. The switch by the sink does. It connects to the furnace.

The furnace control has a tiny on-off lever on the bottom that one can easily see if one happens to be lying on the floor directly under it. The inscription on it showing which direction is ON can be read without difficulty with an ordinary hand magnifying glass. Yet I somehow missed it.

So many serious problems are just problems of not understanding.

It occurs to me to wonder whether wandering US395 makes me a later incarnation of Duncan Steele. Maybe I'll meet him.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

South Pacific


I saw the Lincoln Center production of "South Pacific" by Rodgers and Hammerstein on PBS tonight. Or rather this morning. In a triumph of inconvenience, it aired between 1:30 and 5 o'clock this morning. It hasn't been staged on Broadway since it first ran there sixty years ago.

I was surprised by how strange it was to hear somebody other than the cast who sang the original soundtrack even though I had not heard the album since the 1950's. The performances did not seem particularly good, neither the acting nor the singing. But that may be just that the casting suffered by comparison with Mary Martin and Ezio Pinza.

I had forgotten most of the story except that it was about the American forces in the South Pacific during World War II. Even the expression "World War II" and South Pacific seem quaint and historical. I was born a year after Nagasaki, so most of my life the war loomed just over the horizon of memory. But as I have gotten older and the decades passed, that horizon has become further and further away. The events of the war once gave context to every understanding of the world.

That hasn't gone away. Not exactly. But what gives context to the world is no longer the war itself but the situations that arose in the Postwar world as it was called. The creation of Israel, the formation of India and Pakistan and their permanent hostility, the Chinese Revolution, the reconstruction of Japan and Germany, the Cold War, the Civil Rights movement, the European Common Market, the UN, the end of the colonial empires, and on and on, are all the context in which the postwar world evolved into the modern world of the Third Millenium.

It may be that I am tired from being up so late, (it is almost six as I write) but I was surprised that I started to choke up and finally even to cry during "South Pacific". It may also be that it is not only the world that has gotten old. Perhaps these are the beginnings of the unstable emotions of old age.

The musical really does contain a play and the play, though good, is unquestionably a tear-jerker. Which it is my wont to sneer at. At yet I was upset and even cried. Which I would be and am the first to call ridiculous.

I am dozing off even as I write so I will go to bed now.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kurt Vonnegut, f***k off!


[Click on four outward-pointing arrows for full-screen. Esc to exit full-screen]

Literature is not dead, but lives.

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Is there any credit limit on that card?

[The Taj Mahal in India. Notice that all the great mosques, Hagia Sophia, Dome of the Rock, Cordoba, and so on, are all in what was previously someone else's country. How did that happen?]

From Agence France Press of August 9 -

German Authorities Shut '9/11 Mosque'

German police shut down a mosque in the northern city of Hamburg on Monday that was frequented by suicide hijackers from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and suspected of recruiting jihadists, authorities said.

An affiliated cultural center called Taiba was also closed.

"Hamburg must not become a cradle of violent Islamists," the city-state's chief interior affairs official Christoph Ahlhaus said. "We closed the Taiba mosque today because young men were converted to religious fanatics there. A purported cultural association shamelessly exploited the freedoms of our democratic state under the rule of law to recruit for holy war behind the scenes."

Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers -- including their ringleader Mohammed Atta, who piloted the first plane into New York's World Trade Center -- met regularly at the mosque before moving to the U.S.

Authorities said it served for several years as a recruitment center for fellow jihadists, including accomplices of the hijackers, and offered logistical and financial assistance to Islamic militants. Twenty police officers searched the mosque and homes of the association's leaders in the early morning raid Monday and confiscated funds from the group.

A group of 10 men from the mosque traveled to Pakistan or Afghanistan in March last year, probably to attend militant training camps, security officials said. At least one of the men joined the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Pakistan and later appeared in a German-language propaganda video for the group, in which he called for Muslims to take part in holy war.

"The association continuously promoted jihadist, aggressive and anti-democratic ideology and religious views in recent years," Ahlhaus said. "We do not tolerate organizations that are leveled against the constitutional order and the idea of understanding between cultures in an aggressive, militant way. But I underline that these measures are not targeted against the majority of the peace-loving, law-abiding Muslims in Hamburg."

Ahlhaus said the association had a sophisticated program of courses, sermons, seminars and online publications to whip up hatred of "non-believers."


One assumes that when the Hamburg mosque and cultural center were being established there were the usual assurances that the people establishing the mosque and cultural center were "peaceful law-abiding moderates". And the usual chant of the local social-democrats that it is important to encourage the moderates. And the familiar song that anything and everything is OK once Muslims have played the religion card.

In all likelihood the chain of events at the Hamburg mosque are the same ones that will also take place at the Ground Zero mosque, just a few years earlier. Probably the liberal New York authorities will fool themselves more insistently and for longer than the Germans did.

The difference is that the Germans have some experience with what happens when fanatic anti-semitic, anti-Western groups are allowed to flourish.

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Friday, August 13, 2010



[This goes pretty fast. You have to pay attention. "Mazen" is Abu Mazen, the nom de guerre of Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. Click on four outward-pointing arrows button for full-screen, Esc to exit full-screen.]


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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Jack, You Assholes! It's Jack, not Jeff!

[They weren't exactly crazy about me either.]



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Friday, August 06, 2010

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Self-Deceit


After the vote to approve the 9-11 Ground Zero mosque, Mayor Bloomberg was quoted in the New York Times -
“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists,” he said, standing with religious leaders in front of the Statue of Liberty."
Other times doing what the people want is called "democracy", isn't it?.

There is a saying, "Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad." That would seem to be the case of the New York liberal establishment.

What is especially ironic about the photo opp setting is that the next target of the folks behind the Ground Zero mosque will almost certainly be that very statue.


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Monday, August 02, 2010

Abbas Speaks

[Mahmoud Abbas]
Abbas: Palestinian State Must Be Jew-Free

On July 28, as reported by the Palestinian WAFA news service, [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas] told journalists in Cairo:

"I'm willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as NATO forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the NATO forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land."

Original Arabic Text (Palestine Media Center)

Isn't that called 'apartheid'?


Sunday, August 01, 2010

Non-Surprise of the Year

[Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen in a scene from "Dinner with Schmucks"]


P.A. offers Irish activists honorary citizenship

The Palestinian Authority has granted travel documents and honorary citizenship to Irish anti-Israel activists who participated in a Gaza aid flotilla.

A spokesman for the General Delegation of Palestine in Ireland confirmed the offer and said passports and honorary citizenship had been offered to all activists who were on the May 31 flotilla, according to a report in the Irish Times.

Eight Irish citizens and one Irish-registered vessel, the MV Rachel Corrie, were part of the six-ship convoy that tried to reach Gaza from Turkey two months ago. Some of the Irish citizens were held after Israeli forces detained the ships. --jta

Gazans who launch rockets against Israeli civilians are "activists" too. The Irish went there to help them kill Jewish civilians. But somehow that doesn't make them anti-semites. I don't quite see it, but then the Irish can talk themselves into any sort of thing, even when they're sober.

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Demonstration in London