Friday, February 27, 2009

Commandments Si, Aphorisms No

I've never had much patience with these controversies over "religious displays" on public property. It strikes me -- and this is, I think, basically a libertarian view of the situation -- that the elected officials of a given town, city, county, or whatever, have the right to erect, or not erect, or allow, or not allow, any sort of monument, marker, sign, display, scene, pageant, etc. that they please. If the citizens don't like it they can protest... but why is it a matter for the courts? It certainly has nothing to do with the all-hallowed "wall of separation of church and state". An "established" church is an entirely different matter from what I would call differential _recognition_ of a church or denomination; the latter, while it might annoy members of minority congregations -- or members of nothing at all -- is nothing like "establishment". It is more about reflecting the values of the community, and since this is a democracy, after all (right?), it's the majority's values that are likely to be reflected more often and in more places -- provided, of course, that the courts don't step in with their busybody totalitarian pronouncements.

That's the way things ought to be. Now, as to the way things actually are, we have to hang on every word from every courthouse in the land, and particularly to the decisions from on high -- from the holy of holies -- the Supreme Court. It has decided that, whereas a display of the Ten Commandments in a Utah city park is "a form of government speech", a similar display of what are called the Seven Aphorisms is not. Now, what constitutes "government speech" is anybody's guess, and the notion that government is a person with free speech rights is a bit bizarre. The government has those rights, but the group promoting the Seven Aphorisms does not, apparently -- at least not to the extend of their freedom of speech being expressed in the form of a monument on public land. And yet, what if the Aphorism people increased in number? What if they were voted into office and took over the government of Pleasant Grove City, the municipality in question? Would the Aphorisms then be upgraded to "government speech", and the Ten Commandments, perhaps, downgraded to "non-government speech"? Is this just thinly-disguised tyranny of the majority? It's impossible to tell from the Court's convoluted language. In any case, the decision was unanimous -- a rare event indeed, given that most Supreme Court decisions are "5-4", hinging on that one "moderate" who typically sleeps through most of the proceedings.

So while the government -- at any level -- cannot establish a church, it can, by using something called "government speech", disseminate the beliefs of a given church, as determined -- or so it seems -- by the preponderance of members of that church in the place in question. And this is, in fact, not a whole lot different from what I described above as a libertarian view of the matter -- but if I'm wrong in this, I hope someone will straighten me out. But, in any case, let's at least be honest about one thing -- a government cannot "speak". Justice Alito wrote, for the court, that permanent monuments in city parks are erected "for the purpose of presenting the image of the city that it wishes to project to all who frequent the park." But just as a government cannot speak, a city cannot "wish to project" anything. It is only actual human beings who are in charge at the time who can do this -- and that situation can change very rapidly, as we know. He added that "if government entities must maintain viewpoint neutrality in their selected of donated monuments, they must either brace themselves for an influx of clutter or face the pressure to remove longstanding and cherished monuments." The latter situation would, of course, conform perfectly to the liberal agenda. Value-free parks! That's what we need. No words anywhere -- especially ones that some wacko minority might regard as "hate speech" -- and believe me, the Ten Commandments certainly qualify as "hate speech" to all sorts of people these days. (And as to "clutter" when it comes to ideas -- just check out the nearest New Age bookstore -- or Episcopal parish library.)

So to sum up, it strikes me that the decision was correct and reasonable -- but that it goes too far in attributing personhood to non-human "entities". Let's just admit that majority rule means that the majority gets to have its "viewpoint" promulgated by the government, and that minorities have to look out for themselves. If we say that a given viewpoint is always the correct one, then we're edging a bit closer to what the anti-establishment types worry about.

And what are these Seven Aphorisms anyway? Well, they're a very important part of the belief system of an outfit called Summum, which identifies itself as a gnostic society with links to Freemasonry. If this doesn't set off alarm bells, you haven't read enough about either gnosticism or Freemasonry. But you can get their point of view on their web site; I just checked it out and it's very... "interesting". You'll see what I mean if you look at it. But this, as you might already have observed, is highly ironic given the Founding Fathers' devotion, almost to a man, to Freemasonry, and the importance of that organization to not only the American Revolution but to much of our national history and iconography right up to the present day. The United States was established, quite explicitly, as a Freemasons' New Jerusalem, and our current zeal to democratize the world -- and all of the catastrophic results of that zeal -- are directly attributed to Masonic influence. So it's funny that this small, strange, New Age-type group in Utah, of all places, has lost its bid to post their aphorisms on public land. I should add that, according to the article, the Seven Aphorisms "were originally on the stone tablets dictated from God to Moses along with the Ten Commandments... but not widely distributed and eventually destroyed." "Not widely distributed" is right -- but that's the essence of gnosticism -- find all the stuff that has been kept secret for millennia, and reveal it to a privileged few through a long and painful process of initiation. And as to "destroyed" -- anyone seen Joseph Smith's golden plates around anywhere? You'd think the state of Utah would have been a bit more sympathetic.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The United States of Fear

An article from a couple weeks back discussed what is called the annual "threat assessment", delivered by the Director of National Intelligence (and I guess that job is not as much of a sinecure as the title implies). For the first time in six years, "terrorism was not presented as the primary danger to the country". It has been replaced by, guess what, the economy. What amazes me about this is not that the economy has gone up to #1 on the threat totem pole, but that it took so long. The economy _should_ have been our #1 security threat for _years_ now -- decades, even -- ever since Social Security, for example, was exposed as a Ponzi scheme... or we started fighting wars that would take generations to pay for... or subsidizing medical care and drugs for a nation of hypochondriacs. In my estimation, "terrorism" was the #1 threat for exactly one day -- September 11, 2001 to be exact, when not only were we under attack, but we had no way of knowing how many more attacks were about to occur, or by what means. But within 24 hours the seas were calm again, Dick Cheney had emerged from his underground bunker, George Bush had been allowed to fly back to Washington, and all that remained was to shovel a few million tons of rubble off of Manhattan Island and out of Arlington, Virginia. But in those few hours, the national debt continued to climb, and unfunded obligations, AKA entitlements, continued to mount out of control. This nation has suffered a daily “9-11”, economically, day in and day out, for decades, by comparison to which the bogus “war on terror” is a will-o-the-wisp.

But really, it's all a matter of manipulating public opinion. The “threat assessment” is not about actual threats to our health, wealth, and well-being, but about the things the Regime wants everyone to _think_ are the threats -- “everyone” including our gullible and impulsive elected representatives. In this, the Regime is simply refining, on a continuing basis, its perennial policy of ruling by fear – not by the crude fear of arrest and incarceration that were the favorite tools of the communist and Nazi regimes, but by fear of the out-of-control -- of anything that disturbs our bourgeois tranquility. And please note that the level of fear that is aimed for is not total panic; that would not serve the interests of the Regime any more than complacency. Panic has a funny way of leading to revolution, as events in the 20th Century tended to demonstrate. What they are looking for is public sentiment that's not too hot, not too cold, but just right – what I call a Goldilocks Society. And you can see this, on a daily basis, by the way the media -- by which I mean the mouthpieces of the regime -- operate. What is the trajectory of the typical TV or news magazine story? "There's a crisis! Things are worse than ever, and they're going to get even worse! And everyone is worried, and feeling totally helpless to do anything about it. We are threatened by environmental catastrophe... hunger... despair... suicide... armed insurrection... rabid dogs... flesh-eating bacteria... etc. And here are (1) the “experts” (all government officials, “consultants”, or academics under government contract) to confirm it; and (2) some “regular folks” (always from the Midwest, or New Jersey) to offer their own whiny, hand-wringing perspective. But wait! Here comes government to save the day! They have a plan! And, while things may be tough for a while (insert the stock term “belt-tightening” if you like – even though Americans are the fattest people on earth, and the poorer ones are the fattest of all) we can pull through this crisis, because we've done it before with good old American know-how, grit and determination, and.... (fade to inspiring and upbeat John Williams music)."

Now, I absolutely guarantee that you can diagram nearly any evening news broadcast story, or any story out of Time or Newsweek, and that it will fit quite neatly within these parameters. The formula never varies – scare the crap out of people, then take them by the hand and reassure them that all will be well as long as they continue to vote for, and support, ever-expanding government, and never question anything the government says or does, and “support” its hard work by paying taxes without grumbling and willingly sending their sons and daughters off to war in third-world crapholes. So the result is not total panic, which would be bad, nor is it ho-hum apathy, which would be equally bad. It's fear and anxiety, and an automatic, almost tropistic turning to the government and to its anointed leaders for inspiration, hand-holding, and salvation. And this performance – this transaction – is repeated hundreds of times a day in the media and the halls of power. This has been going on for years -- but it reached a fever pitch -- a high water mark of sorts -- with the campaign, election, pre-inaugural administration, inauguration, and post-inaugural adminstration, of Barack Obama. He will save us from all our sins! -- except, of course, from the sin of questioning the size and competence of government, for which we must pay dearly.

The formula never changes – but the content does, on occasion, as in this case. The Regime sees that the “war on terror” threat has gotten a bit shopworn. It's starting to lose credibility, or “traction”. We indeed have not had a terrorist attack on U.S. soil (unless one includes Israel) since 9-11 – and rather than seeing that as evidence of government competence, the public – perverse and foolish as they are – persist in seeing it as evidence that the terroristic threat has abated. In fact, some of the more obstreperous start speculating that there never _was_ a terrorist threat – that even 9-11 was, somehow, an engineered scam, a form of provocation like the Reichstag fire, Pearl Harbor, or the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Surely this situation cannot be allowed to persist! Why, people's “faith in government” might be severely eroded! So the answer is to engineer – or at least aid and abet – a new crisis, not just the chronic, ongoing economic malaise that seldom appears on anyone's radar, but something drastic, obvious, unavoidable, and guaranteed to produce a vast storehouse of fear and dread. (Note that “global warming” as a general fear-producing myth was basically DOA. The media push it constantly, but the guys shoveling show out of their driveways just laugh.) So shazam -- as Bill Clinton would say -- we get an economic crisis greater and more gigantic than anything in living memory -- the most gigantic thing ever, in fact! Godzilla, Rodan, and King Kong rolled into one! And it's heading this way! And only government can save us -- and only if we bow down and worship not only the system itself but its current messiah, namely Obama.

Personally, I think it's time for people to start drawing their _own_ "threat assessments" rather than relying on the ones from the Regime. And #1 on the list would be, simply, "government".

Leon on Me

Remember my recent post in which I speculated that Leon Panetta, the new CIA director, would not be much more than a figurehead, like so many other political appointees who are assigned to head well-entrenched agencies? Apparently his first assignment is to... well, actually, his very first assignment was to announce that there would be no change in the war on terror, i.e. that the transition from Bush to Obama would be seamless, "war on terror"-wise. This certainly has to make the war industries happy; for a while there they were afraid they might have to cut back. And come to think of it, I don't recall any Democrat, either in or out of Congress, during the Bush administration, ever saying that the "War on Terror" was an outright hoax. I guess they figured that would be unwise, since, should they ever come back into power, they would inherit that as one of their primary missions -- and we know that no one loves war more than the Democrats, especially if it's a war against something nebulous and that can't be won.

But anyway, here's Panetta announcing that "the intelligence community is preparing a daily report on how the foreign policy of countries suffering economic instability might change." Well, yeah -- most places fighting wars in places like Iraq and Afghanistan would consider cutting back a bit if their own economies were melting down. But not us, nosiree! We'll stay over there until there's nothing left for our troops to come home to -- at which point they can settle down, like the marooned Roman soldiers of ancient times, and turn their swords into plowshares, and become good and peaceful citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Who knows, it might have a good effect on the gene pools of those places.

What he's really saying is that some countries might have a grain of sense about these things -- even some of our allies! All it takes is an economic crisis, and they start wandering off the Wilsonian reservation. What kind of "allies" are these? I also imagine that the CIA is haunted by the spectre of communism, which always seems to gain popularity during times of economic crisis. Crisis leads to communism which leads to countries falling within the Chinese sphere of influence. Oh yeah, now I get it. The bright side should be that we wouldn't have to give them foreign aid any longer -- but apparently that doesn't impress anyone over in Langley.

But here's the kicker: "He (Panetta) mentioned specifically China and Russia..." Now, who is he kidding? China and Russia are large and in charge these days, in terms of the world economy. They are fiddling while we burn. They are probably the _least_ likely places to undergo "regime change", or significant foreign policy change, as a result of the economic crisis. For that matter, _we've_ undergone regime change just recently, largely as a result of the economic situation. Maybe this "daily report" ought to include a section on the United States, with discussions of why our foreign policy _isn't_ changing. Now that would make interesting reading.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Gospel According to George

When the history of the present era is written – assuming there will be enough left of civilization to even allow for the writing of history – it will be written, as always, by the victors – not necessarily victors of the military or even political kind, but of the economic kind. In other words, it will be written by those whose economic point of view was dominant when the crisis began, and prevailed for the duration of the crisis. Which means that we can already predict, at this early date, how that history will be written, since the dominant point of view – even on the so-called conservative side – is one of statism, collectivism, and socialism. The “unknown ideal” (as Ayn Rand termed it) of capitalism, if never known in pure form since the founding of the Republic, was still within reach for the first 150-odd years. But in response to the stock market crash of 1929 and the following depression, it was dealt a stunning, if not fatal, blow by the New Deal and that which followed. But the final, fatal blow is being struck even as we speak, not only by successive administrations but by the inheritors of capitalism itself, who have opted to take the moral and philosophical low road to a squalid form of personal wealth, rather than a high, principled road to legitimate wealth (for themselves and society in general). The result is that this society is going to wind up poorer than if they had never existed – perhaps poorer than if the postwar economic boom, the Reagan administration, etc., had never happened. When the landscape is littered with so-called “capitalists” who not only prospered because the organizations they were running failed, but who prospered _because_ those organizations failed, we know that we have, for all intents and purposes, seen the last of true capitalism, or of anything bearing even a faint resemblance to it. “Free enterprise”, of course, has not been totally free since the first government monopoly was granted, and the first anti-trust act was passed (and these two are, by the way, causally related)... and that was a long time ago. But the basic notions of invention, innovation, healthy speculation, capital investment, and the like, all of which contributed to our prosperity over the last 100-plus years, have faded away almost to non-existence. What we have in their place is a well-entrenched system involving, as one commentator put it, “private gains and public losses” -- in other words a system where major investment is virtually risk-free, since if it is not explicitly insured against losses, it winds up being retroactively insured, i.e. by “bailouts”. But major investors who wind up with a profit -- well, they get to keep it, basically. Nice work if you can get it! Minor investment, on the other hand, either by ordinary people in the stock market or by individuals and partnerships in small businesses, operates at a distinct disadvantage, since it is not only subject to harassment, over-regulation, and confiscatory taxation by the government, but also serves as a cash cow for the advantages and privileges government bestows on big business. As a result, as we tend toward a two-class system for individuals (lower and upper, with a missing middle) we will also tend toward a one-class system for business (no “small”, only “big”, and economically indistinguishable from government, AKA fascism).

One mystery is what forces gave rise to this, in effect, gigantic act of treason against capitalism and free enterprise. How did the free-wheeling capitalists of, say, the pre-World War I era wind up leaving their inheritance to the self-centered, egomaniacal, corporate parasites whose antics we see played out in the news every evening? My theory is that the process began in earnest with the New Deal, which was undertaken, allegedly, in response to the “failures” of capitalism. We know, of course, that the real failure was on the part of government, in the form of ill-advised, politically-expedient, and short-sighted laws and regulations. Capitalism was, in effect, set up for a fall, and the stock market crash of 1929 was that fall – or at least the first big piece of it. Once government had nailed down the rationale for converting our system into a socialist one – i.e. once it had convinced everyone, from the leadership in Washington to the youngest school child, that this was the only way the country could be “saved”, then they went to work enacting even more laws and regulations, and multiplying the size of government many times over, in order to “remedy” the problems that had been caused by government in the first place. And who was set in judgment over the whole process, to decide if it had been a success or failure? Government agencies, of course! -- along with their enablers in the press and the other media of the time (radio, film, etc.).

Under these conditions, any businessman with principles, who was not inclined to turn into a government whore, would have gone into another line of work. Atlas would have shrugged, in Ayn Rand's words. So the entire character of not only business but of "business men" changed as a result of the New Deal; that is my theory, at any rate.

So this country moved rapidly from self-definition as a capitalist, free enterprise system to a socialist, welfare-state system (although the latter terms were seldom used in the political arena by its proponents, only by its opponents). A later term which was applied to the same system was “mixed economy” -- implying that it was the best of both capitalism and socialism... whereas we can see today how it has turned out to be the worst of both. And as a result of this new catastrophe – which, I suspect, was carefully programmed and not accidental at all – the lid is finally being nailed shut on the coffin of American capitalism. And one of the people who is driving the nails the hardest and fastest is none other than George Soros.

Now, one's immediate reaction to this suggestion might be that, hey, how can you accuse George Soros of being anti-capitalist? Hasn't he made his fortune by, basically, being a smarter, more aggressive capitalist than anyone else? Well, the “smarter, more aggressive” part is true, but the system that he excelled in and came to dominate is not real capitalism. Rather, it's the perverted, distorted version of capitalism discussed above. Has Soros ever made what is called an honest dollar? More likely, he's been a master gamer of the system who is always one step ahead of the “mixed economies” and the morally/politically corrupt people who run them. In other words, he has thrived on the distortions introduced by government regulation and interference, and continues to do so. So the last thing he would want is for the world economy to return to, or embrace, a purely capitalistic, free-enterprise model. His strategy, rather, has been to encourage the hybridization process, i.e. the unholy marriage between business and government, in pursuit of his own ends and those of whatever causes (all collectivist at heart, you may be certain) he chooses to support. And so he is ever eager to pronounce doom upon capitalism and free enterprise – to bury it and to dance on its grave.

This was demonstrated just recently when Soros spoke to economists and bankers at Columbia University. And check out these statements (quotes or summaries) from an alleged “capitalist”:

o “The economic upheaval has its roots in the financial deregulation of the 1980s (read: Reagan) and signals the end of a free-market model that has since dominated capitalism countries.” Yeah, well, to be considered “capitalist” it does help to have a “free-market model”, no doubt. How do you separate the two? Soros seems to know a way. But in any case, note how all the blame is laid at the door of government for, basically, not being big and oppressive enough.

o “Liberalization of the financial industry begun by the Reagan administration has led to a series of crises forcing government intervention.” But are any details provided as to precisely how this “liberalization” led to “crises” that “forced” government intervention? Maybe the “crisis” was just that some fat cats were losing money; that would certainly call for government intervention, as it does today.

o “The global recession, triggered by the collapse of the U.S. housing market, has 'damaged the financial system itself,' he said.” Would that be the same “financial system” that was forced, by Congress and by government regulators, to provide subprime loans to people who anybody could tell would never be able to keep up payments on them? It's not the recession that damaged the financial system – it's the government that damaged the system by aiding and abetting the housing collapse, thus leading to the recession. So his answer is that more regulation is the answer to the problems brought on by over-regulation.

o “Regulators are in part to blame because they 'abrogated' their responsibilities.” I would say, on the contrary, that they did their jobs too well. Besides, regulators only do the job they're chartered or allowed to do by Congress.

o “The philosophy of 'market fundamentalism' (by which I assume is meant the law of supply and demand, vs. a command economy) was under question as financial markets have proved to be inefficient (unlike government!) and affected by biases (ditto!) rather than driven by all available information.” Well, the last time I checked, the market _was_ information – the market generates its own information as to things like prices and the value of stocks, bonds, other securities, properties, and so on. Without an unfettered market to perform this function – and I never heard of its being all that “inefficient”, quite the opposite in fact – it will have to be done by government, on a command basis, and the chances of “biases” entering in are roughly 100%. You have to give the market credit for at least not being overly-influenced by political correctness and social utopianism... whereas for government, those considerations are the be-all and end-all. Actual value, as determined by supply and demand, is of no importance.

And Soros goes on to pronounce more gloom and doom. Clearly the only thing that will save us is a legal and regulatory structure that will make the New Deal look like anarchy. But you can be sure that Soros already knows exactly how he's going to weasel his way through it to his own advantage.

Now, one could dismiss Soros' ravings as those of a senile, demented, old-time socialist – except that he's anything but senile and demented, and he really does mean everything he says. And he is one of the people who it's important to listen to for the simple reason that he seems to be one of the few public figures who might actually be in charge. He might be the only core member of the Regime whose name and face people can recognize. Is this because he's not content to work behind the scenes, or because the Regime has to have at least one spokesman in the public square at any given time? I suspect the latter, although he certainly has the personality type for grandstanding and demagoguery. And it is his perspective – to return to my original point – that is going to dominate any future discussion of this time in our history. The picture to be painted is quite simple: The villains are the free market, deregulation, capitalism, conservatism, and the Republicans, Reagan in particular. The heroes are government, collectivism, socialism, statism, the liberals, the Democrats, and, of course, George Soros. It will be, in all major respects, a re-packaging and updating of the New Deal myth. And notice how, even today, people who question the New Deal are considered contrarian outliers and cranks. How long will it be before people are allowed to question the Obama New Deal? Many generations, I suspect. But that may not be necessary, since the only thing, arguably, that saved the first New Deal from utter failure was the advent of World War II – and what luck! (Kind of makes you wonder about Pearl Harbor, doesn't it?) Will the Obama New Deal be vindicated – or perhaps just obscured – by a major war as well? It is said that “war is the prosperity of the state”, and we already know that governments and regimes are not loathe to start wars just in order to create, or create the illusion of, prosperity. On the other hand, it's just possible that we'll be in such bad shape before long that the very notion of a major war – or any war at all – will be completely fanciful. It's all we can do now to hold on in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least in the 1930s we weren't already fighting a debilitating war overseas. But I would not put it past the government to try and squeak by this way once again – and they certainly won't have to look far for a casus belli. I mean, shucks, Sarah Palin was all ready to start a war with Russia over Georgia.

Another question is why capitalism, or free enterprise, can never seem to escape this sort of scapegoating. Is it simply too much trouble to mount an effective defense? Or is it just easier to identify with the aggressor and work out an “arrangement” -- you know, like the kind where the CEO gets tens or hundreds of millions in bonuses while being, in effect, a government employee? Are there any principled people left in the business world? Not that I've noticed. There is just a very wide variety of parasites, sociopaths, and prostitutes. Is this a natural stage in the evolution – or devolution -- of capitalism? I certainly hope not. But we don't have that many cases to go by. If the most capitalist system of all time has come to this – and in not even that much time – maybe it does reflect a fatal flaw. But then what are the alternatives? The data are already in on state socialism – Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China, etc. “Soft” socialism, e.g. the New Deal, seems to make things worse while avoiding total catastrophe – faint praise for sure. Anyone interested in going back to the Middle Ages and the guild system? At this point it might be worth a try. But first we'll have to figure out some way to deal with George Soros.

Am I a Jonah?

I don't know if I like this or not. But more and more, no sooner do I put out an edgy, somewhat speculative, ranting post, then one of the "establishment conservative" commentators comes along and says almost the exact same thing. It's enough to make me feel like I'm selling out! Surely my ideas are far too unconventional and contrarian to be considered valid by one of the anointed wise men of the press. But have a look -- I do a blog, on Friday, February 20, on the outrageous racial comments by Attorney General Eric Holder:

The very next day, Jonah Goldberg comes out with a column called "Holder: All 'talk', no sense." In it he points out, just as I did, that "America talks about race incessantly, in classrooms, lecture halls, movies, op-ed pages, books, magazines, talk shows, (and) just about every third PBS documentary." He asks how much good even more talk would do. And he describes the essence of "a national coversation on race" as follows: "People who disagree with me need to be instructed on why they are wrong." Kind of reminds me of "ecumenism" -- you know, that process of "dialogue" between Cathlolics and Protestants that is designed to make the Catholics give up all the terrority and apologize for everything that has ever happened. Goldberg also points out that "so many of us are terrified of being called racist the moment we step out of line with liberal orthodoxy". All too true. He suspects that an "honest conversation" about race is the very last thing that Holder, or the Obama administration, or anyone else (I would include the media and the academy) wants.

Well, I'm glad he agrees with me. And I'm glad my post preceded his column, because otherwise someone might accuse me of "me too-ism".

A New Way to Burn Money

Just about the time you think the Obama administration has scaled the heights of lunacy, something else comes along that makes all previous follies look like the epitome of level-headedness. The latest enormity is as follows: "The United States plans to pledge more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel's invasion." So... with our own economy turning into green slime like the monster in some "B" movie, we're going to spend nearly a billion dollars on a place smaller than most counties in the U.S., to fix the damage caused by our ally, using our money and our weapons. Did I get that right? And what's going to guarantee that the minute we "rebuild" Gaza the Israelis won't just trash it again? This sounds to me like a full-employment act for the Army Corps of Engineers, or Halliburton, or something. We rebuild, the Israelis destroy, we rebuild again, ad infinitum. I mean, what's going to stop them? And what's going to stop the Palestinians from provoking another conflict (as if the Israelis needed any provocation)? Are we going to tell Israel to stop bombing the place? Plus -- who knew that the net worth of Gaza was anywhere near a billion dollars? I demand an audit! As near as I can tell from photos, the whole place could be bought up for less than an average minor league franchise.

Plus, what is our agenda in all of this? It certainly isn't any great feeling of charity toward the Palestinians, who have been represented, by our politicians and media, as subhuman for the past 60 years. It's certainly not a favor to Israel, because they've never been the least bit concerned about the level of misery among the Palestinians. Does anyone expect it to soften our relations with the Arab world? Not as long as Israel struts around flashing our no-limit credit card. I just can't figure it out... but it's certainly a situation worth watching very closely.

As Mardi Gras Beads Turn to Ashes...

Race to Judgment

A judge is stopped for drunken driving and uses “racial slurs” while arguing with police officers. Yeah... so typical of those backward, racist, redneck judges that still contaminate courtrooms throughout the South. Only problem is, this happened in Hartford, Connecticut, and the judge is a black female. Which raises some interesting questions. One, it's apparently no longer the case that “racial slurs” are, by definition, something only white people can use against blacks. Can you imagine a black female judge getting anything but a free pass – in Connecticut in particular – on something like this a few years ago? And another thing – what precisely were the “racial slurs” in question? I offhand can't think of any slang word for “white person” that is anywhere near as insulting as the “N word”. I mean, if some black guy called me “honky” or “rabbit” or “whitey” I'd be more amused than anything else. "Sticks and stones", etc. Or maybe the cops were Hispanic, in which case are we really talking about race here, or ethnicity? The government has been equivocal on this issue for many years now, but the usual answer is to classify people as “white, Hispanic” vs. “white, non-Hispanic”, so that makes everyone happy – or miserable, as the case may be. I've also seen government forms that offer the option of identifying oneself as “black, Hispanic” or “black, non-Hispanic” -- I guess to accommodate Cubans and Brazilians and suchlike. I imagine that any day now we'll see forms with the options “black, white” and “black, non-white” -- to accommodate the new-found new category that Obama represents. In any case, this is what it's like when our society “moves beyond race”.

The Itchy and Scratchy Show

It seems that new uniforms issued to TSA officers are causing “rashes and other irritations”, including “runny or bloody noses, lightheadednes, red eyes, and swollen and cracked lips". The culprit? Formaldehyde – just like those trailers the government provided the Katrina refugees. Aside from the question of, why can't the government quit poisoning people, now we know why some of those TSA people tend to get a bit crabby at times.

Did You Ever Hear That Coffin Sound

A little-noted news item may reflect a subtle change in the government's narrative concerning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon has been ordered, by Secretary Gates, to “review its ban against news media photos of the flag-draped coffins of military dead returning from combat overseas”. This story recalled, to me, what was referred to, during the Vietnam war, as the “Dover effect” -- named after Dover Air Force Base, the place where all military dead are returned to the U.S. During that war, the media kept up a relentless drumbeat of stories and pictures of the scores of dead being processed through Dover on a daily basis – and this was considered, by some, an important motivator in the anti-war campaign. The Bush administration, apparently learning from that experience, “allowed no media photos of the flag-draped coffins”; in other words, they were in denial and expected everyone else to be in denial as well. At least Obama & Co. are more willing to accept the visible consequences of our overseas follies – perhaps also hoping to encourage a grass-roots movement against the two wars so that if we ever do leave, and those places plunge into more chaos than they're in already, it will be attributed to “popular demand” and not just a policy change.

Golf in the Hole

You know things are tough when some of the major corporate sponsors of golf tournaments start to drop out. This is significant not just because it reflects (alleged) austerity drives on the part of big business but because of golf's iconic status as the game of big business itself – of its “movers and shakers”. The well-manicured private golf course has, for many decades now, been the equivalent of the corporate boardroom and executive suite, where the titans of industry can take each other's measure and make deals with no one around to overhear (except maybe for a caddy who doesn't understand what's being discussed anyway). It's also the place where informal meetings can be arranged, let's say between government officials and business men, or between government officials and lobbyists, without attracting the wrong kind of attention – because, after all, it's only a friendly game. I would be willing to bet that a good many of the run-ups to the current economic crisis were greased, if not finalized, on golf courses. What would American business be without golf, after all? They can't all learn to play tennis, and handball is hopelessly out of style. Polo, the recreational activity of the super-rich, takes too much preparation, as does fox hunting. And you have to go way out in the sticks, unlike golf, which can be played right in the middle of most large urban areas. Yes, this is truly an ominous trend – although I suppose they'll always have skiing and yachting... or, for those who need “deep cover”, bowling.

No More Gnomes of Zurich

And speaking of iconic upper-crust accommodations, the pressure is mounting on UBS, one of the larger Swiss banks, to “out” all the rich Americans who deposited money there in order to avoid the predations of the IRS. Leona Helmsley was right when she said, “We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” But gosh, if a Swiss bank – the ultimate “tax shelter” for the elite – can be opened to the light of day, what's left? Where else are they supposed to go? I guess they could just wait until Bernie Madoff is back in business...

Idle Hands

And speaking of Big Bernie, here's a new mystery. He apparently had nearly 200 employees. And yet, according to investigators, he never bought or sold a single share of stock on behalf of his clients. So... what did all those people do all day? Play “Tetris”? I mean, really... and even if he did have some help in pursuing his Ponzi scheme, how many other people would it have taken? Surely nowhere near 200. So again I ask, what were those people doing, or what did they _think_ they were doing? Were they just paid to sit around and look busy? In which case, I see a future for them with the federal government.

Pay for Play

I love this. Objections have been raised to limiting bonuses for business executives whose firms receive bailout money because it could “hurt performance”. Um... compared to what? The “performance” they've already done, which has turned their firms into financial basket cases begging for taxpayer money?

Just Back Out the Door With Guns Blazing

The American military is “testing” possible exit routes from Iraq in the unlikely event of a significant drawdown. Has anyone thought of going out the same way we went in? Does anyone even remember how we got there... or why? It's always amazing how willfully thick-headed the military gets the minute the mission changes from something they want to do to something they don't want to do. There's also been a lot of mumbling about how long it's going to take. Well, again, how long did it take to get _into_ that shithole? A matter of weeks, as I recall. Can't we make the same time by just turning around and marching, riding, flying, sailing in the other direction? But apparently, to hear the Army tell about it, every road into Iraq was one-way.

Stan the Man

On the other hand, Kyrgyzstan has handed the U.S. military its walking papers, and expects us to be out of there within 180 days. That's the word from Bishkek, which I always thought referred to cubed beef on a skewer, but no, it's the country's capital. And by sheer coincidence, the cancellation of our accord with Kyrgyzstan happened the same day they received a $2 billion aid package from Russia. Can you say “sphere of influence”, class? Can you say “Son of the Soviet Union”? It's starting to look like the new teams will have many of the same personnel as the old Cold War teams. Will someone please notify the Army, so they can revive the Fulda Gap scenario? Oh – I forgot – they never actually gave it up.

Limited Access to Brains

You just can't win with these state officials. For years now, they've been trying to engineer people out of their cars and into public transportation, with taxes on gasoline, sales taxes on cars, ever-increasing tolls on the Turnpike, subsidies for public transportation, and all sorts of propaganda. None of these measures seemed to avail, but guess what, the economy has, and businesses aren't shipping as many goods, and people have finally cut back on their travel, including their use of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. But guess what. Now they're bellyaching because of the resulting “decline in revenue”. You might almost think that this would be an opportunity to take another look at all the idiotic items in the state budget – but no, it's a lot easier to blame Turnpike users (or ex-users).

Depends on What the Word “Rights” Means

Headline: “Human rights can wait, Clinton says.” This is re: the perennial question of pressuring China to cut back on “human rights violations” in exchange for stuff like most favored nation trading status and other goodies. Well, heaven knows, the Chinese are in the economic driver's seat these days, so there isn't much left we can “pressure” them about. They even landed the Olympics! So Hillary's statement could be taken as a case of “realpolitik”. But one has to recall the “special relationship” between the Chinese government and the Clinton administration... and how much concern the Clintons have ever had for human rights in _this_ country. I imagine she feels right at home over there, and that the chances of her ever making a serious play for human rights in China are nigh unto nil.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Killing the Golda Goose

One of the first recorded genocides in history was the one perpetrated on the Canaanites by the Israelites. This was not only commanded, but also aided, by God, according to the Old Testament. The subsequent punishments inflicted on the Israelites, and later the Jews, were not based on their actions against the Canaanites and the other tribes that got in their way, but on their many instances of idolatry, heresy, blasphemy, and rebellion against God – the ultimate (moving to the New Testament now, and subsequent history) being the crucifixion of the Messiah, which was followed in short order by the destruction of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jews to the four corners of the known world.

Now fast forward to 1948 and the establishment of the modern State of Israel. Golda Meir is alleged to have said (although I can't find the quote right now) that “now we can do anything” -- meaning that with the “Holocaust” a recent event and the powers that won World War II falling all over themselves to somehow, if at all possible, make amends to the Jews for all that they had suffered, Israel would be, and remain, immune from criticism or blame for anything that it did militarily, politically, or economically, indefinitely – presumably until the end of time. In other words, an infinite offense had to be compensated by an infinite and endless privileged status. And once that premise was firmly established, Israel began the ethnic cleansing of the portion of Palestine that had been turned over to the Jews – and this was far from a peaceful process, as it included not only harassment and forced removal, but also persecution and massacres reminiscent of the pogroms against the Jews in eastern Europe. Ironic, to say the least. But it was all considered perfectly acceptable to the European powers and the United States, because, after all, hadn't the Jews just paid a huge price for being who, and what, they were, and weren't they entitled to limitless reparations (especially as long as someone else had to bear the heaviest burden)? And besides, Palestine had been described – in one of the most brilliant propaganda coups of all time – as “a land without a people for a people without a land” -- and this was accepted as an obvious truth by the powers that be. And besides, even in the unlikely event that there were any people living there, what were a bunch of scruffy, filthy Arabs compared to the noble and long-suffering Jewish race? And I suppose there was still a bit of unfinished business for Europe left over from Ottoman Empire days... or, for those with a really long memory, the Crusades. Better to turn the holy places over to the Jews, who were are least friends with Europe and the U.S., than to leave them in infidel hands, right? So, if a little bit of rearranging of people was involved, that was a small price to pay – a trivial price, in fact, and one that could be safely ignored and not juxtaposed with any concepts of "rights". The Jews had suffered enough... and now it was someone else's turn, if it came to that. Plus, hadn't the Palestinian leadership been, by and large, sympathetic with the Axis? Hadn't the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem been a Nazi, for all intents and purposes? So clearly the Palestinians were guilty of what we now know as “hate”, which is a punishable offense.

Plus, where else were the Jews supposed to go? Many of them -- quite understandably -- felt a bit creepy just going back to the place of their recent troubles. (If I were Jewish, I sure wouldn't have been too happy getting off a train in Munich in the summer of 1945.) And despite the fact that many more politically-palatable alternatives had been proposed for a Jewish state than setting it up in Palestine, the Zionist cause had already been running full tilt for many decades, and here was a golden opportunity to bring it all to pass. So they landed in Palestine with both feet, as the saying goes, and proceeded to start pushing and shoving the Palestinians out of the way, or fencing them off in what were, in effect, concentration camps or ghettos. And no one was troubled by the eerie resemblance of all this to the recent Jewish experience! This is what I find incredible. No sooner were the Jews liberated from the European ghettos and Nazi concentration camps than they carried the blueprints with them to the Near East. But as Golda said, or implied, the offenses against the Jews had been infinite, and no finite act could ever cancel them out; the Jews had carte blanche in perpetuity. And to further reassure themselves and the rest of the world as to the rightness of their cause, and their actions, the Holocaust narrative was developed and its dissemination throughout the world begun – a process that continues to this day, with museums, books, movies, plays, TV shows, and so on, all providing a million variations on the same theme – and for what purpose? Some would say, to make as many people as possible feel guilty for something they never did to people they never knew. But one thing is certain -- it is not simply a matter of “never forgetting” -- it's also a matter of justifying anything that is ever done in the name of “never again”, even if this involves subjecting other people – other religious/ethnic groups – to some of the same treatment. How this could ever have been considered fair, or just, is beyond me, except that the Jews really do seem to have an image of themselves as special and exceptional and unique – not necessarily even because God wills it so, because many of the people who are most militant on this point are completely secular in their outlook. Well, if God didn't make the Jews unique, then who, or what, did? But they are silent on this question -- it is just supposed to be accepted as axiomatic.

Now, Jewish delusion and grandiosity are one thing. But note that the European powers, and the U.S., bought into it completely back in the late 1940s... and the U.S. has never wavered since, even though the European powers have been a bit less reliable in terms of keeping the faith. So while the preservation and support of Israel as a foreign-policy goal tends to rise and fall with various political trends in Europe, it is a hard and fast pillar of American foreign policy. In fact, some will contend that it _is_ American foreign policy – that everything else is detail (especially since the Soviet breakup).

But now let's look at the whole thing from another perspective. There is a concept, from Eastern religions, known as “karma”, and I have always found it very useful. And while it is not part of Christian doctrine per se, the general idea is actually quite familiar, to Christians and Jews alike. Whenever you read in the Bible – in the Old Testament in particular – of a given offense, by a given group, being subject to punishment by God, it almost always involves punishing more than just the direct perpetrators. Oftentimes the curse is extended to the whole group, and even beyond that, unto many succeeding generations. And yet in other cases it is specific individuals who get punished for specific acts, and the guilt does not extend to their relatives, descendants, city, tribe, or nation. What constitutes the difference? It seems that there are at least two levels of justice involved. When a group is offended, or persecuted, by another group for reasons having to do with the collective nature or identity of the respective groups, it has karmic consequences. (Think about how our politicians justify defining certain crimes as “hate crimes”.) When it's a one-on-one, individual offense against an individual, it tends not to have karmic consequences. So the “Holocaust”, because it was perpetrated by an entire nation and its collaborators upon an entire race, is a prime candidate for karmic significance. And by that criterion, the “guilt trip” that Jewish organizations continue to lay on Germany, and the Germans, could be said to have some sort of cosmic validity... as does the guilt trip the Armenians lay on the Turks, or the Indians on white Americans, or blacks on white Americans... and so on. The trick – if we believe that this notion has some merit – is to separate it from politics. My answer is that it's a lot easier to recognize than to implement – in fact, it may, in a paradoxical way, be karmically unsound to even attempt to “implement” karma. Here's what I mean. I'd be willing to argue that much of the continued burden imposed on the white race in America by the black race in America is karmic. In other words, it's not just a matter of politics, or economics, or sociology, or any of the rest of it – it really and truly is a form of punishment, retribution, or payback for slavery, on a cosmic scale. (The black leadership certainly agrees with this, as do liberal historians.) But when the government steps in and tries to exploit the process – accelerate it or distort it in some way – that doesn't accomplish anything; in fact, it tends to cancel out the karmic “credit” the victim group possesses, as well as the karmic “debt” the perpetrating group possesses. So, for example, something like forced busing or the worst abuses of “affirmative action” may appear to aid and abet the black cause, but in fact the damage they do to interracial relations more than cancels out that advantage, so you wind up with a net negative effect, i.e. things are worse after the program is implemented than they were before. So in a way karma is something that has to be allowed to run its course -- recognize it, deal with it, but don't attempt to either fight it or speed up the process. (And I know, this sounds very Eastern and mystical and detached -- but it's meant to.)

It's interesting to observe that political power and what I call “karmic power” are almost always inversely correlated. And as one rises, the other falls. So Jews in Europe during the Third Reich suffered a sudden and catastrophic drop in political power, to the point of being considered non-persons who had to be exterminated like vermin... but at the same time, I'll argue, their karmic power – the product of their suffering and martyrdom – was on the rise. This trajectory reached its zenith just before the concentration camps were liberated – and notice how soon the process started to reverse itself. I've read anecdotes of some male concentration camp inmates – clearly the healthier ones – heading for the nearest town to visit brothels the minute they were liberated. That may be seen as a small thing – but it illustrates how little some people are inclined to meditate on the significance of their situation. Who would want to take all that “moral authority” and start to (not quite literally) piss it away at the earliest possible opportunity? I suppose it's based on a common mind set in our times, the notion that because there are no moral absolutes, there are, therefore, no moral consequences of any given action or non-action. Again, the secular Jews have a problem “explaining” the Holocaust. If there was nothing morally, or philosophically, stopping the Nazis, then what grounds does anyone have for objecting to anything they did? Moral relativism is all fine and dandy until something really bad happens, then you're more or less up the creek in terms of figuring out what it all means. This is why, in my opinion, the secular Jews in particular continue, after 60 years, to obsess endlessly about the "Holocaust". They know it was wrong, but they can't figure out why – not in principle, at any rate. It must be very frustrating. And because they can't figure out why it was wrong, they also can't figure out how to make it “right”, i.e. by reviving at least Old Testament morality and, possibly, cultivating an attitude of acceptance (an attitude very familiar in stories of Christian martyrs and saints, by the way).

But to get back to Israel – a mere three years after the victory over Germany, the State of Israel is established, riding a world-wide wave of sympathy, support (economic, military, and political), and – karma. But then what happens? They start to, in a word, blow it, by pushing aside and, in many cases, outright killing the Palestinians – the modern-day inheritors of the Canaanites, if you will. Thus history repeats itself – and both sides of the conflict were acutely aware of this. After nearly 2000 years of the Diaspora, the Jews were back and ready to kick ass – which they did, with surprising zeal and aggressiveness, since the stereotype of Jews for centuries had been that they were a “non-physical” people who avoided hard labor and warfare. So the meek, humble, frail, droopy rabbi of the shtetl and the ghetto was all of a sudden replaced, in the world's eyes, by the tall, tanned, muscular, Uzi-toting IDF guy (or his female counterpart, who was just as tanned and hardly less muscular). This new Jewish image may have reached its peak with General Moshe Dayan – you know, the guy with the eye-patch -- and his daughter, but it certainly persists in the images of Israeli troops in combat.

All well and good – any group of people has a right to self-defense. But when its survival depends on its being forcibly inserted into territory already occupied by another group, and its perpetuation on having to subjugate that group, you're going to inevitably run into trouble... and that cosmic hourglass labeled “karma” is going to start running out. So what might have seemed reasonable, and just, at one time is now looked at, by more and more of the world all the time, as having being unfair and unjust, and possibly as having been a huge mistake to begin with. When Iran's Ahmadinejad says he wants Israel “wiped off the map”, is he being “anti-Semitic”? Not necessarily! Maybe all he wants is to give the land that now constitutes the State of Israel, plus Israeli-occupied territory, back to the Palestinians. I don't think he would want to pursue the Jews to the ends of the earth to kill them all off; all he wants is to get them out of Palestine. And think about it – how many other groups besides the Palestinians have been run off their native land since World War II – or if not run off, then held virtual prisoner on that land? Very few. The Palestinian/Israeli situation stands out like a sore thumb in this respect, as well as in many others. It's not only a violation of all the U.N. is supposed to stand for, but of contemporary standards of civilization and civilized behavior. And it's all because this situation was “different”, somehow. Well, it _was_ different. The Jews had been through hell and had survived in sufficient numbers to successfully bid for a homeland... and the European powers and the U.S. had granted them one, in an area that was a undefended backwater. The problem is, the entire Arab/Moslem world was driven into a blind rage, and that rage continues to this day (those people are very good at rage, you have to admit). So what seemed, at the time, to be an expedient and painless solution – _our_ “final solution to the Jewish question" -- turned out to be, arguably, one of the biggest diplomatic blunders of the 20th Century. And the price is still being paid – not only by the Israelis and Palestinians, but by the entire Arab/Moslem world, and especially by the United States, now that Europe has, basically, called in sick on the whole affair. Our involvement with Israel, in addition to costing us billions in “aid” money over the years, led directly to the 9-11 attacks, which led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had a lot to do with our current economic woes, which are now spreading world-wide (especially to the delight of Russia, which has never been much of a friend to Israel or to its own Jews since the time of Trotsky, and which sees nothing but good news in America's being on the ropes).

And what I'm saying is that all of these things have not only the obvious material consequences, but also karmic consequences. Israel is as politically powerful as it has ever been, and, by extension, the Jews are as politically powerful as they have ever been. This is, per se, not a bad thing, except for the side effects in the form of Palestinian suffering and economic exploitation of the American taxpayer – and more recently the military exploitation of the U.S. And now the disease has spread world-wide with the recession/depression. Does Israel bear sole responsibility for all this? Of course not. But is the situation in the Near East, which is, arguably, not only unsustainable but downright bizarre, one of the main contributors? Yes. But the only people who are willing to blame Zionism – at least in public – are characters like Ahmadinejad. Sober, balanced, reasonable thinkers have self-censored on the subject, with rare exceptions.

And what does it all mean in karmic terms? Has Israel used up the “karmic power” it inherited from the Holocaust? Should they now be considered just another place – just another country – with no particular privileges, and a pain in the ass to boot? To put it another way, is this all that those 6 million got for their sacrifice? One certainly hopes not. But after being dealt possibly the strongest political, and even moral, hand in history, one can argue that Israel has misplayed it, to a great extent – frittered it away with oppressive and short-sighted policies. What was supposed to be a Zionist paradise is an armed camp on life support from the U.S., and within its boundaries are hundreds of thousands of second-class, or non-, citizens living in squalid conditions. Can this possibly be what God wants, as in days of old? If you ask the Evangelicals, they will say absolutely yes. But I'd like to see more evidence than the bloodthirsty ravings of a bunch of heretical, bouffant-coiffed televangelists.

Basically, I think the situation is immoral, unjust, absurd, squalid, and shameful all around. Is this all that is left of the “moral high ground”? And if so, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the European and American diplomats after World War II, who were just looking for a way to placate the Jews and get them off their case -- and as far away from Europe as possible? Is it the delusional thinking of the Zionists – both past and present – that dictates that they must, at all costs, return to the land that was promised to Moses? Or maybe it's the exertions of the “Christian Zionists”, for whom the survival of Israel takes priority over the survival of the United States. Most likely it's all of the above, and more. In any case, it's an impossible situation, and it's a miracle of sorts that it has persisted for so long without a major cataclysm bringing an end to it – one way or the other.

Has Israel used up all its karmic power? Has the stock of privilege Golda Meir boasted of run dry? If not, how much longer can the situation go on? And if so, what will be the result – and how much more can the U.S. be expected to support, put up with, or tolerate, before it falls on the Israeli funeral pyre?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Goin' to De-troit City

I just read the latest in the long line of articles on “what's wrong with Detroit”, and the theme is always the same. How did it happen that the home of the greatest industrial combine in world history – namely the American auto industry – has turned into a social and economic basket case, not only rivaling but beating places like Newark, Oakland, East L.A., the South Bronx, and Philadelphia? Detroit is generally acknowledged to be the worst of the worst – the James Buchanan of American cities. There may be other, smaller places that are equally wretched -- places like Flint, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio -- but Detroit can claim to be the biggest and the baddest. And this process was well underway while the automakers were still at the top of their game; it has nothing to do with current economic woes. So how is it that such squalor has taken root in the belly of the industrial beast?

Here's an excerpt from the article, which might provide a clue: “The roots of Detroit's current plight go back decades. Court-ordered school busing and the 12th Street riots of 1967 accelerated an exodus of whites to the suburbs, and many middle-class blacks followed, shrinking the city's population from a peak of 1.8 million in the 1950s to half that now. About 83 percent of the current population is black. Detroit's crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates are among the worst of any major U.S. city. Car and home insurance rates are high. Chain grocery stores are absent, forcing may Detroiters to rely on high-priced corner stores.”

Sounds like the ultimate picture of apathy and neglect on the part of the “establishment”, doesn't it? Not just apathy and neglect, but discrimination! “Hate”, even! How could a society that can put a man on the Moon allow a major urban area to fall into such ruin and decay? And mainly, why isn't something being done? Well, the fact of the matter is that something _was_ done, many years ago – it was called “urban renewal”, and it was accompanied by forced desegregation, as the article mentions, including the abomination of “court-ordered” (but whose idea was it? And why did the courts order it?) school busing. In short, the city was turned into, first, a reception station, and then a ghetto, for the black underclass, and it's no surprise to anyone with a functioning brain (although it continues to astonish liberals) that the reaction of whites – especially working-class ethnics, most of whom were Catholic – was to flee. (Fortunately, that was not, at that point, considered a “hate crime” -- just as evidence of ignorance and racism.)

This process has been explained in great detail in the definitive book on the subject, namely “The Slaughter of Cities” by E. Michael Jones of “Culture Wars”. The subtitle of the book is “Urban Renewal as Ethnic Cleansing”, and his contention is that, far from an unanticipated consequence of urban renewal, what is called “white flight” was one of the main goals of the program. And why was this? In short, it's because the white ethnic Catholics constituted, for many years, a powerful – and socially conservative, despite their union and working class loyalties – voting block in many large cities, especially in the industrial Northeast, so they stood in the way of many of the liberal/socialist/utopian/"social change" programs that the Regime wanted to impose... on the country in general, but on cities first, since their populations were more “captive”, i.e. less self-sufficient and less able to push back against collectivist schemes, and more concentrated, i.e. easier to manipulate and intimidate. So it was basically a “divide and conquer” operation on the part of the Regime, with the shock troops being composed of the likes of Rev. King and the American Friends Service Committee. And think about it -- do suburban white ethnic Catholics, who have been scattered to the four winds, have any significant political clout these days? No. They are too dispersed, too co-opted, too deracinated. You can see this from voting statistics, which reflect a “Catholic vote” which is no different from the non-Catholic vote – which can be put another way: The “Catholic vote” no longer exists. Thus, one of the main reasons (albeit unstated) for “urban renewal” has been a complete success.

That's on the negative side. The positive side (for the Regime) was that, by packing the cities as full as possible with lower-class blacks (both the already-urban kind and the rural kind brought up from the South) a reliable voting bloc was created that would always be under the thumb of the liberals and would never be swayed by “conservative” or “capitalist” arguments or values. So you create a ghetto on the site of a formerly-thriving white neighborhood, teach the new residents to vote, tell them whom to vote for, chauffeur them to the polls (and add a little "walking-around money" as needed), and you have your permanent power base that is totally resistant to any other influences. And, at the same time, and in order to further perpetuate the situation, you aid and abet the spread and reinforcement of the “victimization and entitlement meme”, making certain that it metastasizes throughout the captive underclass. And you make sure that anyone who stands up and questions any of this is subject to social isolation, shunning, and censorship.

We see these processes happening every day in our inner cities; it's beyond obvious. The main question is which came first, the inner-city ghetto or the misery and exploitation that accompanies it. The political and media argument is that the misery is a product of the ghetto, and that the ghetto is, in turn, a product of white racism (as if there were any other kind). My point (and Jones', as I understand it) is that the chain of causality is more like this: The Regime saw an up-and-running political power base, i.e, the white ethnic Catholics, that would be naturally opposed (morally as well as socially) to their materialist, collectivist, utopian power schemes. Each side had taken the measure of the other, and neither liked what they saw – except the Regime was “wiser in its generation than the children of light.” So rather than engage in blatant ethnic cleansing, which might have set off a few alarm bells, they came up with a program called “urban renewal”, which destroyed the old neighborhoods with things like superhighways running right through the center of town, civic centers (now by and large fallen into disrepair and neglect), parking lots, and so on. And at the same time, they engaged in “blockbusting” as a forceful tactic to integrate those same neighborhoods, using by-and-large hapless black families as human shields. This, in turn, led to the decline in property values and an increase in crime, which, with the “race riots” that happened at about the same time (and who engineered those, I wonder?), led to “white flight”. And, the new occupants of the city were being groomed as the next political power base but kept in a state of relative helplessness and dependency because without those, the power base would not be so secure. And, as the article states, even middle-class blacks thought better of it and got out, leaving only the lowest of the low inhabiting our inner cities – a situation which persists to this day.

So the bottom line on places like Detroit is that the Regime, and particularly the wing of it known as the liberal establishment, should erect a huge banner across all major roadways leading into the blighted, crime-ridden areas: Mission Accomplished! These places have turned out exactly as intended. It was no accident. And all the attempts to “change” things are bound to fail, for the simple reason that no one really wants change; they're happy with things just the way they are. All of the ills of our cities are part of the program; nothing is random. So to bring real change – to really “do something” about the crime, squalor, substance abuse, broken families, unemployment, physical deterioration, filth, schools (especially the schools!) -- this just isn't on the agenda. Talking about it – endlessly and in politically and racially loaded terms – is very much on the agenda, but actually taking action is not. How do we know this? Because whenever anyone tries -- or even suggests something -- they get firmly slapped down by the "black leadership" and the political powers that be, reinforced by the media.

And it's astonishing, really, to think that all of this was done in plain sight; everyone could see that it wasn't working (i.e. the way it was supposed to) but the programs kept right on humming along, and still do. Forced busing is no longer part of the program for the simple reason that all the white families who were the targets of busing are gone. Riots aren't the problem they used to be because there is very little left to riot against – what are you going to do, burn down a vacant building or an empty lot? Militancy has been replaced by despair and resignation. Plus, the terms of engagement have morphed somewhat over the years. Black militancy reached a high water mark of sorts with the Black Panthers and their takeover of Oakland. But that was a bit too much for the Regime, which gradually reduced their ranks by means of police shootings, drug busts, "accidents", and so on. True black militancy has no place in this New Order – but simmering black resentment, anger, and hypersensitivity are just fine, so they're what get reinforced (as witness the current crop of demagogues who rode into power on Obama's coattails). Intact black families, which might be a source of a genuine increase in self-respect and prosperity, also have no place – so they are discouraged and punished by laws and regulations having to do with entitlements... not to mention the “War on Drugs”, which has a large number of black men who might otherwise be at home with wives and children in jail instead. And of course genuine physical health and safety have no place, which explains the poor medical care, the fast food joints, and the snail-like pace of law enforcement. On the other hand, drugs and alcohol, which are to inner-city blacks what games and circuses were to the Roman mob, are kept in plentiful supply. And black fertility? One word – abortion. Problem solved! (And as to chain grocery stores -- Pittsburgh has an answer to that one. They bribe the grocery firms to come back to the city and set up shop in the "ghetto", with profits guaranteed by the taxpayers!)

So yeah – it's not easy being black, when the Regime is bent on exploiting you for political gain, and where that exploitation involves your being kept in a permanent state of social, economic, and physical ill health. It's especially not easy when your own “leaders” are hard-core collaborators in this process, having been bought off by the white establishment years ago... and when they relentlessly persecute anyone – black or white – who sees through the scam and attempts to “tell it like it is”. And it's not easy when so many of your fellows are hooked on the sleazy entitlement culture, that saps away all pride, self-respect, and ambition... and when guns and drugs are easier to find than fresh lettuce. Who has the fortitude to stand alone against all of this? Who is going to walk into Detroit, the way Jonah walked into Nineveh, and expose the machinations of the Regime? But until someone does, “Motor City”, like so many others, is going to be set on permanent stall.

And I always think about how astonishing this must all be to foreigners. How did the great cities of America, of all places, get this way? It simply makes no sense that cities, which represent the highest material aspirations and achievements of mankind, have become its worst artifacts – things to be shunned and avoided, and finally pitied. But they don't understand the real agendas – the original one and the current one. Plus, their own cities are starting to melt down in some respects as well, due to things like uncontrolled immigration, pollution, crime, political corruption, religious/ethnic/racial strife, and their own versions of political correctness. So all the woes of cities don't have to be based on some evil plot – there are sufficient other reasons, based on perennial human failings, why cities go bad. But the history of cities in America, mainly since World War II, cannot be separated from the utopian impulse and the power madness of the establishment. They took what was working quite well, and had been for many generations, and made it a disaster area. And it happened, as I said, in plain sight, and with the full consent, and willing participation, of the courts, government at all levels, politicians, and the media. And the victims – both black and white – didn't know what was happening to them until it was too late... and in many cases, they don't know yet.

So yeah – the next time you read an article, or hear a broadcast, about the “deplorable conditions in our inner cities”, rest assured that if the powers that be had wanted to do anything about them, they would have – decades ago. As it is, they stand in defiance of not only the American narrative but of what we like to think are our core values. They are the cancerous lump on what is supposedly an otherwise healthy body, and that won't go away. And when you see such a blatant mismatch between our supposed goals and values, and the results – especially when it's so consistent and predictable from one place to the next – and especially when it involves the same “victim group” doing the same things, over and over again, the notion that it all “just happened” starts to look like a delusion. That's the point at which we need to ask – as very few do -- “who benefits?” And I think I've just provided at least part of the answer.

Who You Calling a Homo (Evolvutis) ?

It's a funny thing about scientists and scholars these days -- especially those in fields like biology, anthopology, philosophy, sociology, and the like -- the ones concerned with the human condition and the nature of man. On the one hand, they will tell you that the human race is the worst thing that ever happened to planet Earth -- that before we came along, all was well. Dinosaurs were peacefully grazing in primordial swamps, like in Disney's "Fantasia"... the air was clean... the water was clear... there were no landfills, strip mines, nuclear waste dumps, subway restrooms, etc. But then "homo sapiens" evolved from some relatively benign primate -- think: Australian Aborigines before the convict ships arrived -- and things went downhill fast.

They will also tell you that mankind -- the human race -- is "no different" from any other animal species, with which we share an overwhelming proportion of our DNA... and that man's alleged "spiritual side" is nothing more than an epiphenomenon -- i.e., it's nothing more than a product of our hypertrophied cerebral cortex -- i.e., it's just in our imagination, and is nothing real.

The latter allegation is extremely comforting to liberals, since it lets them off the moral hook. But the former allegation is a source of much consternation, worry, and hand-wringing. Whatever shall we do about this horrible thing called "humanity" that we're all a part of? It's ruining the environment! It's causing "global warming"! It's going to destroy the Earth! The proposed solutions run the gamut from the relatively-benign "green" movement to radical environmentalism, zero population growth, negative population growth, and "let's just all drink some cyanide-laced Kool-Aid and end the suspense". And in fact, the population issue is a very interesting one, which I intend to deal with at some point. But for now, let's stick to the topic at hand, which is that we're on the verge of evolving -- totally through our own efforts -- into a new species, namely "Homo Evolvutis" (or "Evolutis", depending on whether you take the headline or the text as authoritative), which is intended to mean "self-evolving man". Yeah, I know, it's kind of redundant since aren't we evolving anyway? But here's the difference. Now that we can penetrate the innermost fastnesses of cells with tiny tweezers and slice and dice our own DNA, we can accomplish in just a few generations what natural selection has to have eons to accomplish. At least that is the contention in a recent news item which described a presentation at a conference in California (surprise!). Now, this next stage in the human saga will not be accomplished only with DNA manipulation. It will also involve tissue regeneration (which will easily morph into tissue improvement -- you know, turning Woody Allen into Arnold Schwartzenegger through surgery) and robotics (like, turning everyone into Robocop or the Six Million Dollar Man -- with adjustments for inflation, of course). But on the DNA side, we can expect to "take some of the best aspects of the animal kingdom and make them our own" -- which calls up images of the Island of Dr. Moreau, except with splicing DNA rather than body parts.

So OK -- we can be made faster, stronger, healthier... maybe even smarter! Now that would be a bonus! Not only that, but the old Lamarckian dilemma might be solved. You may recall from biology class that he's the guy who advocated a model whereby acquired characteristics could be passed on to the next generation. This idea was especially attractive to the Bolsheviks, who funded an enormous program in this area with the hopes that the "New Soviet Man" could actually be developed as a permanent, stable type. (They were at least half right, if you take American liberals into account.) But gosh, think -- if you really could get into the DNA and change it, it would indeed be the basis for future generations in that line. Do it enough times the same way (easy, right?) and you really could develop a new species, in a way, I guess. Or would it be more like a new "breed", like with dogs or sheep or something? Hard to tell.

Well... all alleged good intentions notwithstanding, this looks to me like just another one of those utopian attempts to remake mankind in the image of -- certainly not God, but of materialistic science. And as such, it has about as much chance of success as attempts to remake mankind in the psychological, social, or economic area. The funny thing about attempts like this is they tend to backfire. Even with dogs, the farther you get from the wild type the more problems tend to crop up. You might even wind up with a sterile specimen -- and how you gonna start a new species if the Adam and Eve are sterile? We know, or suspect, that sterility is nature's way of saying, "unh-unh". Which is why the current fertility mania is highly suspect -- not to mention very non-Darwinian.

And that's a good point. Here we have the human species, which has evolved, through thick and thin, over millions of years. It is, from the strictly Darwinian point of view, "all it can be", as the Army recruiters say... or I would say "all it _needs_ to be", at least for now. So why this great rush to hurry up the process? Isn't regular old evolution good enough? I suppose someone's going to say, well, it might have been up until a hundred years ago or so, but now we have all this pollution, and the negative side effects of technology, and "the ability to destroy the planet", yadda yadda. All true, but who knows? Maybe this too is part of the evolutionary process. Maybe this is the chance mankind -- with its current allotment of DNA -- gets to sink or swim. Would a sincere Darwinian want to interfere? Or maybe they've been inspired by the research into Intelligent Design and want to try it for themselves. All I can say is the record of utopian exertions on behalf of the human race has been pretty dismal so far. What makes us think this will turn out any better?

Friday, February 20, 2009

When Pit Bulls Collide

And speaking of Hillary -- no sooner does she arrive in Japan than the North Koreans start rattling their swords again. Could this be the "test" that Joe Biden was promising would follow soon upon the inauguration of Obama? But hang on a minute -- North Korea is, or was, under the very close "protection" of China. China had a very special friend in Washington for many years -- two, in fact. Their names were Bill and Hillary. So now China is allowing North Korea to bust Hillary's chops by making threats while she's well within range of their Nodong, or Twodong, or Somedong, missiles? How very tacky. But hey -- it might give her a chance to vindicate her story, many times told during the primaries, of how she arrived in Bosnia under heavy fire, dodging bullets like Bruce Willis all the way from her plane to the Tuzla Motel Six. Has anyone yet asked the obvious question, if North Korea already has a missile that could reach Los Angeles, and Iran's can barely get over the Strait of Hormuz, why are we threatening to attack Iran and not North Korea? Hmmm? The answer is: North Korean missiles can't reach Tel Aviv. Next question.

BTW, a photo for Hillary's Tokyo stop shows her meeting with "athletes of the Special Olympics World Winter Games" -- and whaddaya know, the kids in the picture really look like Special Olympics types, unlike the "children's hospital patients" she posed with a few years back who were actually perfectly-healthy children of Hillary's staffers. You don't suppose she's starting to appreciate the value of honesty, given her new role in the world, do you? But as someone said, if you have to make an effort to be honest, you're still not honest.

Church of Hillary, Psychologist

Here's Hillary! And this time she's talking about foreign policy, and how she and Obama are going to breathe new life into what was a darkly oppressive foreign relations era under Bush: "We are committed to a foreign policy that is neither compulsive nor ideological." Well, all I can say is, what a relief! No more stuffy old, obstructive "ideas" or "ideals". But "compulsive"? What was so "compulsive" about the Bush foreign policy? Maybe she means "obsessive", which would be much more accurate. Bush & Co. were certainly obsessed -- or talked like they were -- with "terrorism" as well as with things like "spreading democracy". And Bush was arguably compulsive about "staying the course" -- whatever the hell that meant -- even though, strictly speaking, that is not a classic example of compulsiveness. It's really another variety of obsession -- like Ahab and Moby Dick, or Javert and Jean Valjean.

I guess what Hillary really means is that everything is negotiable, and there are no absolutes -- well, except that nutty outfits like the Branch Davidians have to be exterminated. But otherwise, no absolutes. And actually, that is a fair, and realistic, point of view if one is saddled with America's "diplomatic mission", which has been dedicated, for lo these many decades, to keeping the wretched of the earth in check while we pursued our commercial and empire-building goals. What we call "speading democracy" is just our way of saying that we like to pave the way for our own expansion of power, and imposing our particular brand of democracy on other countries has proven to be the most reliable means of doing this. Well again, fair enough. Who sits at the judgment seat and pronounces yea or nay on the ethical behavior of entire nations? Maybe a few gnomes in The Hague try to, but they can be safely ignored, as Bush, Cheney, and Co. proved. And as to "terrorism" -- that is simply the preferred mode of making war for people who don't have millions of taxpayers available to fund their operations. The only real difference between an "army" and a "band of terrorists" is the army has a flag. So yeah, maybe a little bit of relativism -- a bit of creative destruction of American absolutism and dogmatism -- would be a good thing. Let's just hope she doesn't get too... "compulsive" about it.


It was inevitable. I predicted it. (And it's also inevitable that I point that out.) The Obama administration is, so far, proving to be a major disappointment to, basically, one group – not the conservatives, who knew just what to expect, but the liberals, i.e. the left wing of the Democratic Party and/or its facilitators. And it's because very little of what they expected he meant when he talked about “change” has happened – and they're starting to get the really bad feeling that none of it will. They're starting to get that “meet the new boss” feeling. Well, I don't feel the least bit sorry for them, because they have been duped so many times before and they never learn. (The best example remains the 1964 election, where they came out overwhelmingly for LBJ because he was the total opposite of Goldwater, who supposedly wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam. Ha ha.) But what's their gripe this time? The ACLU, and others, have already been repeatedly rebuffed by Justice Department lawyers (Eric Holder again!) when they were trying to get “the goods” on the Bush administration. You know, bring 'em up on charges -- war crimes, treason, conspiracy, the usual stuff. The message is – sorry guys, you can forget all about “payback” -- the books are sealed, case closed. Even the Freedom of Information Act – a finely-wrought weapon in the hands of the left for decades now – has proven impotent against the stonewalling of Obama's DOJ types. The executive director of the ACLU says, “This is not change.” Well, boo hoo! What did you expect? You put “your guys” in power, expecting them to open the files and scatter all the Bushevik secrets to the four winds -- you know, stuff like those sleepovers Dick Cheney hosted for the Christian Zionists -- and what do you find? That – and I'll say it again – there is only one regime, and its top priority is to defend itself, and it does that, in part, by keeping secrets and protecting its own. Who really believes that all the mechanisms for eroding individual rights set up by the Bush gang in the name of “anti-terrorism” are going to be dismantled by Obama's gang? Were Clinton's totalitarian tidbits snuffed out by Bush? Were Carter's by Reagan? Were Nixon's by Carter? Et cetera. Each new administration finds, upon taking office, and to its great delight, that the police state has developed much more than any of them had imagined... and guess what, they like it! "Here's our chance to do things (i.e., oppress people and gain power) our way, instead of someone else's way. And we're sure not going to tip our hand to all these ignoramuses that just voted us into office, are we?" So the ratcheting effect does another “click”, and we all wake up with a few less freedoms than we had the day before, but hey, at least the “right” people are in charge – until the next election, that is.

Plus, if you believe – as I do – that there is, in fact, only one Regime, and that all of these elected officials are really only its servants, then there is even less reason why any of them would want to reveal things – facts, data, processes, procedures, plans, etc. -- which thrive on secrecy and which, in some cases, can only successfully be implemented under conditions of secrecy. The readiness with which all elected officials fall into line once taking office is striking – and yet no one ever comments on it. It's like in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” where they look the same but are, somehow, different – more cautious, more paranoid, more robotic, more... "conservative", in the literal sense. Somehow the humanity has been drained out of them and they have become political zombies – oh sure, maybe with a few colorful quirks still in place (think: Bill Clinton) but zombies nonetheless – not their own man (or woman). This process is, in fact, becoming more efficient with each succeeding election – it started with Obama while he was still campaigning in the primaries, and Hillary has been one of the “undead” for years. (Biden may take a bit longer to brainwash... but I'm sure the process is well underway. Some people are just loose cannons, and every administration has its share. Think: James Watt, Joycelyn Elders, "Rummy", etc.)

So anyway, in the face of all of this, it's a bit pathetic to see the top guy in the ACLU – a powerful outfit still – whimpering that “this is not change”. Right you are, bunky – but hey, keep up the good work, we need the laughs now more than ever.

The Five Hoarse Men of the Apocalypse

And speaking of self-styled "Christians", here's Hillary Clinton, our new SOS, apologizing -- in Tokyo -- for Christianity, not in response to Shinto activism, but apropos the issue of "anti-Muslim prejudice" in the U.S. "I am a Christian... Through the centuries we have had many people who have done terrible things in the name of Christianity. They have perverted the religion."

Well... it seems to me that anyone who is married to Bill Clinton ought to watch how they use the term "perverted". But in any case, I'll bet that if you asked her, she'd rattle off the standard list of the Five Great Offenses of Christianity that are talking points for everyone who is against the Church. They are -- in case you've forgotten -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Borgia popes, the Holocaust, and Pedophile Priests. The Crusades, of course, were a "hate crime" against Islam... which was apparently OK up until just recently. I mean, when only a few rag-heads get hurt, who cares? But suddenly there is a strange new respect for a faith that has over 1 billion adherents and counting (very fast, in fact). The Inquisition? Well, it was clearly another "hate crime" against Islam, as well as the Jews. The fact that it was initiated in order to deal with heresy -- that's something that happens _within_ Christianity, not outside of it, for those of you in Rio Linda -- still has not sunk in to these people's thick skulls. And no, it wasn't "the Inquisition" that threw the Moslems and Jews out of Spain; that was Ferdinand and Isabella, on their own initiative... and when you combine that with their hate crime against Native Americans by sending Columbus over here... well! You can forget all about sainthood for those clowns.

But what about the Borgia popes? Yeah... that was when the Church had political clout, and the papacy was one of the top prizes. And yet, even the most dicey popes never made any pronouncements in violation of faith and morals. There was apparently a sobering effect of being put in charge of the world's largest spiritual entity that tended to subdue the more carnal and materialistic facets of even the most jaded personality. (Does this mean we could cure Bill Clinton by making him pope? Let's not go there.)

Well then, we at least have the Holocaust to apologize and do eternal penance and reparation for -- after all, Hitler was a "good Catholic", right? And Pope Pius XII was his right-hand man. Well, we've been over this territory before, and I'm not going to belabor it. Suffice it to say that everything American politicians and media types say is, or was, "wrong" with the Church isn't, and wasn't.

Except! What about "pedophile priests"? That's still current events (boy, is it ever -- thanks again to the MSM). OK -- number one, it's not "pedophilia", clinically speaking, if nearly all the victims were adolescent males. Basically, the vast majority of these predators were garden-variety homosexuals who let their impulses get out of control. Should they ever have been ordained? Good question. Should their superiors in the Church hierarchy have "hanged them high" on the first offense? Maybe not, but admittedly they could have done a much better job at dealing with the issue. Should the Church be made to pay millions -- billions -- in reparations or compensation to the victims? Surely some compensation is appropriate, but much of it is clearly on the punitive level, and I don't mean for the crimes committed, but simply for being the Church.

But mainly, did these predators in priests' clothing represent the Church, the Creed of the faithful, the Vatican, the Magisterium, the Bible, the Church Fathers, the Saints, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or God? The answer is a resounding NO -- none of the above. But that is what the critics of the Church are trying to "package deal" out of existence. Not only that, but most of those predators were "Sixties types" -- "Vatican II priests" -- and liberals all love "Vatican II" because it was the biggest self-inflicted wound of the Church to date. In other words, they were those "groovy" priests who got down and funky, and jammed and rapped with the young folks back in the day. (Now we can see why.) Some traditionalists were caught up as well, I admit -- Father Maciel, the founder of the Legion of Christ, being perhaps the most prominent example. There is no doubt that vigilance is called for, and that no subgroup within the Church is immune from these problems. But as to the "piling on" by the MSM, that is less a quest for justice than it is an attempt to do the Church in, once and for all. But they needn't bother, because, as I've said, the political influence of the Church is at an all-time low. Perhaps what they're afraid of is that it might still have some moral influence -- well good, let them be afraid.

And as for Hillary -- well gosh, I guess she's just hooked on apology. Wonder if she'll ever apologize for all of her misdeeds in Arkansas, or during her husband's administration? But that may be too much to ask.

Standing Alone

There's talk, and then there's talk. Every time Nancy Pelosi goes into a closed-door huddle with AIPAC, she comes out with a glassy stare, zombie-like, mumbling “must support Israel at all costs... must support Israel at all costs...” But a closed-door huddle with the pope? Well, that's just, you know, politics -- “diplomacy”, in fact, where no one ever says, or admits, what they are really thinking or intending to do about anything. Back when the Vatican had real political power, Pelosi might have walked out with a Writ of Excommunication in her trembling hand... but as it is, I'm sure she's feeling totally unscathed – triumphant, in fact, since she fancies she has “spoken truth to power”, which is that the American people believe in abortion... they _need_ abortion... they _want_ abortion... she can't get re-elected without abortion... and what business is it of the Church anyway? The fact that said Church doesn't sue her for false advertising for continuing to call herself Catholic is a reflection of something – the long-suffering of the Church and the pope for certain, but also its helplessness in the face of rampant secularism and materialism world-wide. It's ironic that one of the current strongholds of Christianity in the world is Africa, which is a basket case in every other respect, and who knows, maybe that's the reason they've continued to embrace spiritual values – because they see that materialism is, ultimately, an empty promise. But one has to hand it to Pope Benedict. He continues to speak the _real_ truth to the real, if ephemeral, power – as in this case. All the Church has left on its side is moral authority, and it has no way of enforcing it. No one is forced to submit, which means that the true moral test is here at last. There are no political advantages to be had by confessing the Christian faith, particularly the Catholic faith; in fact, there are plenty of disadvantages. So the mere act of doing so, in a non-hypocritical, i.e. non-Pelosi-esque, manner is a sign of moral strength and a willingness to be counter-cultural. There is only a handful of our politicians on the national level who do not fail miserably at this. The question of whether they should be excommunicated comes up from time to time – mostly during election campaigns – but nothing is ever done. In the case of the American church, this may have to do with patience and long-suffering, but more likely it's due to plain cowardice. A few bishops have put our pro-abort politicians on notice that they are not to expect to receive Communion in their diocese, or from their hand. Fair enough, but those bishops are in a small minority, and are easy for the media to characterize as “extremists”. The vast majority go along to get along – the way so many Catholic authorities did in places like Slovakia during World War II. But by doing so they trade their birthright for a mess of pottage.

But the pope and the Magisterium are not infected by this disease of political correctness and materialism. May they never be!