Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hamas is so much fun....

[click on video for fullscreen]

Oops, got the video and the commentary switched.  This one is just as much fun as the previous one.  I am starting to really like this guy....

Here he explains what we have tried to explain for years, that the Palestinians are children and grandchildren of Egyptians, Syrians, and Saudis who came to Palestine for jobs created by the nascent Zionist settlements in the 1920's, 30's and 40's.

So far from having been in Palestine from time immemorial and having been "invaded" by the Zionist settlers, they came after the Jews did, drawn by the economic opportunities created by the new Jewish settlements.  And here is their foreign minister admitting it on television.

After a lifetime of demanding that Israel give them land that is not theirs, here he is demanding that Egypt, a poor country, give them oil without the inconvenience of paying for it.



Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Dictator

[Charlie Chaplin as 'The Great Dictator']

[Sasha Baron Cohen great as 'The Dictator']

The Dictator is tasteless, crass, politically incorrect up the wazoo, and funny.  I feared that, as with so many movies, the trailers would be the best scenes and the rest of the movie would be a let down.  

In this movie, none of the trailers are even in the movie.  Which makes the trailers not excerpts but their own genre.  As so often with new genres, the foundation document is a masterpiece.  

Homer invents the epic with 'Iliad' which has never been surpassed among epics.  Chaucer invents English rhyming poetry with 'Canterbury Tales', which are still worth reading today.  The best bible, as something to read and enjoy, is still the Hebrew bible. 

Anyway, Cohen is clever in placing his fictional Wadiya on the map of north Africa, not in a made-up location but where Somalia is.  Which is itself witty.  The Somali government cannot complain of being made fun of because Somalia is the most failed of all failed states and has no government.  Indeed he is clever in a dozen ways and makes fun of lots of stuff, including the United States of course.

I recommend.  Which raises an interesting question.  There is the royal 'we' and the editorial 'we'.  Is a blog writer entitled to the latter?  Do I recommend or do we recommend?  Either way, it is an enjoyable hour and a half or whatever.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Hewlett-Packard Laptop Disaster Unwound

[Einstein and Fermi figuring out how to delete HPtonecontrol from Windows - actually it's Leo Szilard]

I have been tearing my hair out over a persistent problem with the big Hewlett-Packard Pavilion DV8t Entertainment PC laptop I got for doing Photoshop and watching Netflix, and all the usual email, Facebook, word processing, spreadsheets, and so on that one does.  I paid what seemed to me a lot at Costco for H-P's biggest and best screen - 18 inches, high resolution, good color, good sound.

What I got was a chronic pain in the butt that evolved into complete unusability.  The tone adjustment bars would not stay off the screen no matter what I did.  Since they immediately became the current program and pushed the others into the background nothing else could be run.  Since they could not be gotten rid of for more than a second, the pc was effectively unusable.  

Even before that became intolerable, the wi-fi antenna became equivalently unstable.  It constantly went from blue (on) to red (off) and knocked me off the router connection.  By the time the router connection was restored, the antenna went off again and blew off the connection yet again.

H-P Help wanted substantial money for services that every user forum universally described as "useless", "incompetent", "worthless", "didn't help", or worse.  With a machine that didn't work and that I couldn't fix nor have fixed, I had an expensive piece of junk on my hands.  I had a machine that sometimes almost worked and was too expensive to replace out of hand.  So it constantly made my life miserable and there seemed to be nothing I could do about it, except bite the bullet and buy another machine or suffer along with the ever-worsening piece of crap I already had.

BUT several entries down on a secondary user forum, a user suggested a fix.  Start --> Control Panel --> Uninstall a Program --> HPtonecontrol.     DELETE that evil piece of squat.  And it worked.

Now the wi-fi antenna stays on.  Now there are no tone control bars constantly popping up.

I can no longer adjust bass/treble balance. As they say in New Jersey, "Ask me if I care.  Go ahead, ask me."  And just in case you did ask me, the answer is, "No, I don't care."

It is yet another example of how some tiny thing can stop everything and wreck everything.  Once it is removed, the sun comes out.  

If anyone reading this has, or knows anyone who has, one of these H-P dogs, send them a link to this.  Or just copy the instructions.  Or just the words, 'delete HPtonecontrol'.

I call such things 'boron'.  There was a time when the Manhattan Project, which would dramatically shorten World War II, was stymied by few milligrams of boron impurities.  The trace amount of boron in the tons of graphite bricks Fermi was using to build a primitive nuclear reactor absorbed the neutrons and ruined the reaction.  The vast endeavor of mankind was held up for months while graphite purification processes were improved to get rid of it.  

If you look around you, you will find examples of boron in your own life and in the world generally.  Another phrase for it would be 'active entropy'.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Marriage Rights for All!

[Brigham Young and his wife and his wife and his wife and his wife and his wife and his wife and....]

Doesn't the legalization of same-sex marriage mean that bisexuals will continue to be discriminated against so long as a marriage is only between two people?  Shouldn't a man be able to marry the  man and woman whom he loves?  The woman he loves should have the same right, which would require a second woman, making a minimum of four spouses.

Would President Romney be more sensitive to this issue than President Obama?


Monday, May 07, 2012

Blurting Out the Truth - Oops!

Palestinians Don't Come From Palestine: Quote from Hamas Minister of Interior and National Security, Fathi Muhammad
by Aryeh Savir 
Tazpit News Agency, May 7th, 2012

Hamas Minister of Interior and National Security Fathi Hammad recently said that the Palestinians actually came from Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. In an interview he gave to Al-Hekma TV, an Egyptian network, he discussed the necessity of Arab-Muslim solidarity and the support the Gazans need from the Egyptians to continue with their Jihad efforts. 

Hamas Minister of Interior and National Security Fathi Hammad recently said that the Palestinians actually came from Egypt, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia. In an interview he gave to Al-Hekma TV, an Egyptian network, he discussed the necessity of Arab-Muslim solidarity and the support the Gazans need from the Egyptians to continue with their Jihad efforts. He declared that: “Al-Aqsa and the land of Palestine represent the spearhead for Islam and for the Muslims. Therefore, when we seek the help of our Arab brothers, we are not seeking their help in order to eat, to live, to drink, to dress, or to live a life of luxury. No. When we seek their help, it is in order to continue to wage Jihad”.

In an attempt to gain Egyptian sympathy, he said that all Palestinians have Arab roots, blood ties in various countries on the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt. Hammad said that half of his family was Egyptian and over thirty large families are named Al-Matzri, from Egypt. Half of all Gazans came from Egypt; the other half came from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He repeated and clarified: “Who are the Palestinians? We have many families named Al-Matzri, whose roots are Egyptian. Egyptians! They came from Alexandria, Cairo, Dumietta, the North, from Aswan and Upper Egypt. We are Egyptians. We are Arabs. We are Muslims. We are a part of you”.

These statements stand in stark contrast to the common conception that the Palestinian Arabs have lived within the borders of the State of Israel from “time immemorial”.

Click on the link below to view Hammad’s comments on MEMRI TV:

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Ten Things You Didn't Know About Orgasm


Kiss a Methodist Today

[sailor kissing Methodist]

Methodist Church Rejects BDS Resolution - Anti-Defamation League 

ADL Welcomes Methodist Church's Rejection Of Anti-Israel Divestment Resolution, But Calls Boycott Resolution 'Disturbing' 
May 3, 2012

New York, NY, May 3, 2012 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the United Methodist Church (UMC) rejection of an unfair anti-Israel resolution that called for divestment from three companies doing business with the Jewish State.  At the same time the League expressed concern over the adoption of a measure recommending the boycott of products manufactured in Israeli settlements.
The vote took place on May 2 during the UMC's quadrennial general conference, which is being held this year in Tampa, Florida.  In 2008, the UMC also rejected an Israel divestment resolution.

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement: 
Despite an intense campaign by a small group of anti-Israel activists, the United Methodist Church acted responsibly by once again rejecting a resolution to divest Church holdings in companies doing business in Israel.  We trust this second failure by divestment activists makes clear that the UMC rejects the divisive anti-Israel approach of divestment, while seeking constructive ways to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace and to promote Palestinian quality of life.

It is sad that some in the Methodist Church are preoccupied with demonizing Israel at a time when we need real religious and moral leadership to deal with pressing issues around the globe.  In an imperfect world surely there are many, many other humanitarian concerns and crises that demand more immediate attention.

It is disturbing that the Church approved a measure to boycott products from settlements, an essentially anti-Israel approach which promotes the punishment of only one side in this complicated conflict.  Positive economic investment in peace is the fruitful way toward reconciliation and to bolster the confidence of both parties in the conflict.

A United Methodist Church committee had originally considered a proposal calling for all United Methodist general boards and agencies to divest promptly from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard until they end their involvement in the Israeli occupation.  However, by a committee vote of 50-24, with three abstentions, that motion was amended to exclude divestment, and replace it with positive economic investment before being presented to the conference delegation.    The amended version read:  "The 2012 General Conference calls on the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to explore serious peacemaking strategies in Israel and Palestine including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine."


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Why the Election(s) Don't Matter

[Hollande on the left, Sarkozy on the right]

Last night the candidates for the presidency of the French Republic debated the issues.  I was impressed by how they exemplified the choices facing all the Western countries.   For all the noise and chatter in the press about how to deal with government deficits and government debt, there are really only two ways to do it.  One is to spend less.  The other is to tax more.

A reasonable person would say there is a third way - to spend somewhat less and also to tax somewhat more. The problem with that approach is that it has no constituency.  The other two have.

According to M. Hollande, the candidate of the Socialist Party, solving the debt problem by cutting government  services and expenditures won't work because cutting government spending will cut consumer spending even more.  Reduced consumer spending will not only lower everybody's standard of living, it will also shrink the economy.  A shrinking economy will generate less tax revenue for the government.  Reduced government revenues will diminish the amount of the deficit reduction, or even exceed it.  Cutting expenditures results in impoverishing those who benefit from government expenditure but does not accomplish the desired goal of reducing deficits and debt.  M. Sarkozy, a conservative, claims that reduced taxing and spending will support investment and market confidence and lead ultimately to a growing prosperous economy.

M. Hollande's policy is the opposite.  He claims that increased government expenditures will lead to a growing economy.  It will  increase everyone's standard of living, and generate growing government tax revenue, thus reducing the deficit.  To which M. Sarkozy replies, that solving a debt problem by spending more and borrowing more doesn't solve the problem, it makes it worse.

One can summarize the two positions as spend less and spend more.  Neither will work.  

As  Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Krugman recently pointed out in a stinging column in the NY Times, spending less has been proven repeatedly not to lead to economic growth.  Ronald Reagan claimed it would.  It didn't.  Margaret Thatcher claimed it would.  It didn't. There are dozens of similar examples. The fallback argument, when the first is exposed as a lie, is  that cutting taxes and expenditure will give investors and markets "confidence" and that "confidence" to invest will lead to growth and prosperity. Krugman explains clearly that investor "confidence" is a tooth fairy that only Republicans believe in.  In each case when austerity budgets have been introduced, the crucial bond market responded with a studied and quantifiable indifference.  In short the Sarkozy-and-conservatives-generally argument is garbage and that the people pressing it are either ignorant or dishonest.

Spending more won't work either.  For almost 15 years now, Japan, until recently the second largest economy in the world, has been moiled in a deflationary spiral.  The government and the Bank of Japan have both run enormous deficits in an attempt to reflate the moribund economy.  On the one hand it hasn't worked.  On the other, the Japanese government is now saddled with a huge debt burden and the interest on it.  Think too of the Labour governments of the 1970's, with their free-spending budgets which produced not growth but only inflation - the so-called stagflation.  Something similar happened in the United States in the 1970's under Jimmy Carter. Again, many more examples can be added.   According to Keynesian economics, stagflation, inflation without growth, is impossible..  Yet it was quite real.

My guess is that we are seeing a demonstration that governments, even with all the economic levers at their disposal, really haven't all that much control over national economies.  If they did, we would already long since have achieved permanently stable, prosperous economies with equitable income distributions.  

My Sw- example from the last century illustrates what really makes economies work.  Consider the three Sw- countries, Sweden, Switzerland, and Swaziland.  Sweden (at the time I constructed the image) was the richest country in Europe.  It had a socialist economy which controlled more than half of the gross domestic product.  There was full employment and no poverty.  Switzerland was right behind, the second richest country in Europe.  Compared to Sweden it had almost no government at all.  The Swiss Federal Government is a wisp.  Its seven-member rotating presidency is generally understood to be a joke.  What little government there is is largely conducted by the cantons, not the federal government.  But even the cantons do very little.  Like Sweden, Switzerland had full employment and no poverty.  Swaziland then (before the discovery of diamonds) was one of the poorest countries in the world.  The titular president of the country was merely the king of one of the tribes.  Swaziland had basically no government, neither  employment nor unemployment, and only poverty.

If the issues are what the politicians keep saying it is, picking the best ideology and implementing it, then either socialist Sweden or laissez-faire capitalist Switzerland should have been screwed up and miserable.  But neither were.  Both were terrific places to live and to raise kids.  

Swaziland had neither socialism nor laissez-faire capitalism.  It had a subsistence economy.  It was a terrible place to live and an even worse one to raise kids, not least because life expectancy was low and infant mortality was high.

Both Sweden and Switzerland had accumulated lots of infrastructure - good roads, good medical care systems, safe water supplies, good schools, colleges teaching technical skills, and lots of accumulated capital in factories, businesses, banks, and so on.  Most of all, both countries had lots of highly qualified, highly skilled, well-educated workers capable of adapting to and adopting new technologies as they were being introduced.  Both were able to compete successfully in world markets and to export enough to pay for the imports implicit in a small country with a high standard of living.  

Swaziland had little infrastructure - no roads, no schools, no hospitals, no safe water system, no colleges, no factories, no businesses.  Absent schools, workers had few technical or commercial skills, and little ability to adopt new technologies.  They had nothing to sell on the world market (this was before the diamonds) and therefore could buy little.  Swaziland remained grindingly poor.

Which suggests that the path to prosperity is in spending money on schools and on infrastructure.  Whether this is done by the government or by private enterprise doesn't matter in the least.  What matters is that it be done.  Spending on schools and infrastructure, no matter whether the money is raised by confiscatory taxes on the rich or by grinding the faces of the poor, also doesn't matter.  The fairness of the system doesn't matter either.   Income distribution was more egalitarian in Sweden than in Switzerland, but neither was as egalitarian as Swaziland where poverty was almost universal.  So even social justice doesn't matter.  

Life expectancies in poor countries are low in large part because of high infant mortality.  Imagine arguing to a Swazi mother with a dying child in her arms about the virtues of socialism or capitalism or even social justice - imagine the stare she would give you.  What the woman wants, in economic terms, is infrastructure - a clinic, a doctor, medicine, a road to the clinic - and access to them - national health insurance, no-fee socialized medicine, or a fee she can actually pay.

The Sw- comparisons suggest to me that the endless bickering over socialism versus capitalism, soak the rich versus fostering investment climate, and all the rest of it, are just pointless noise and distraction.  The basis of prosperity is educated productive workers and adequate-unto-excellent infrastructure.

BUT (there is always a 'but') several things are wrong with a program of spending on schools at all levels.  One is that the return on investment is years away, while the election is months away.  The other is that schools are a miserably difficult political subject.  There is no credible way to increase spending on schools without addressing the issue of education reform.  There are intractable racial issues, local control issues, class issues, immigration issues, and on and on.  It is a tar-baby that once engaged with, cannot be withdrawn from and which sullies everyone caught up in it.  Education reform is unavoidably divisive and of no use whatever to any ambitious politician.   

Infrastructure is easier to spend money on.  Everyone likes highways, hospitals, bridges, mass transit, water projects, and so on.  The problem is deciding who will pay for it.

Schools and infrastructure are not sexy subjects, but they are the real issues on which the economic and even cultural future of our country depend.  And, depend on it, neither will get any more than pro forma reference during the coming struggle for power between two factions of the ruling class both here and in France.  

In both countries the candidates will debate the issues that don't matter and ignore the ones that do.  That will be because the national interest has no lobby and it doesn't make huge cash contributions to campaigns.