Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jews Attack Jew for Attacking Jews

The BBC reported that Sir Gerald Kaufman, a Jew, had to apologize for a "Jews" remark in Parliament. The remark came while Parliament was debating its war crimes law. A Jewish MP, Louise Ellman, was trying to water down the law so that it would be harder to accuse Israelis of war crimes, prompting Sir Gerald to say, "Here we are, the Jews again."

We should be grateful that Jews are not a unified bunch, but there is a strong contingent of Zionist Jews who are very pro-Israel, often being more concerned about Israel than their home country, whether Great Britain or the United States.

It's typical of Israel, a morally bankrupt state, that its citizens would be in jeopardy of being tried for war crimes in Great Britain. And its typical of Jews that they would attack their home country for allowing that possibility.

Joe Lieberman, are you listening?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

UN Chief Criticizes Israel

UN Chief Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel's occupation of Palestinian land as morally and politically unsustainable. For me the key word is "morally." The Israelis, as the expounders of the Ten Commandments and as the victims of the Holocaust, should be moral in their dealings with others, including the Palestinians. Instead they spit on the Bible or Torah, or whatever they call their holy scriptures, and they curse God. Many, maybe most, Jews in Israel are non-believers. They are ethnic Jews, but not religious Jews. They are like the Jews who left Egypt with Moses, and as soon as he went up into the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, the Jews returned to the pagan idols they had worshiped in Egypt, melting down their gold jewelry to make a golden calf. Today, Jews have exchanged God for the new golden idol of materialistic wealth. Perhaps Jews are cursed by being so good at making money; it makes them forget their God. They should remember their own first commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." For their sins against God, the Israelites who left Egypt were condemned to wander in the wilderness for forty years, so that those who rebelled against Moses could not enter into the promised land. Today's Jews may suffer a similar fate. They may live in a country called Israel, but it is not the promised land. They have not proved themselves worthy of the promised land.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fox News vs. Public Broadcasting

Fox News has become the dominant cable news channel. Its main rival is Public Broadcasting. The major networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- have basically given up on news. They have almost no overseas bureaus. Richard Engel seems to be covering three wars single-handedly now. Their half-hour national news program focus disproportionately on "happy" news, even when something terrible like the Japanese earthquake or the Libyan civil war takes place. The New York Times -- and to a lesser extent the Washington Post and the LA Times -- are about the only other counterpoint to Fox News. If Fox News can destroy PBS, it will rule the airwaves.

Fox News of course is not "fair and balanced." It's a propaganda mouthpiece for Republican right wing views. Stalin would be pleased that the Reagan Republicans who criticized the old Soviet Union so severely now have emulated the Soviet propaganda machine; Fox News is the American Pravda. Thus, it's not surprising that the Republicans are introducing bills to cut off funding for NPR. It would eliminate Fox's main competition. It's a two-fer. Fox makes more money because it becomes more prominent, and the Republican viewpoint has less competition.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Yogi Berra, World War II, and Unemployment

It's great that Yogi Berra interrupted his baseball career to serve in World War II, including participating in the D-Day invasion. It was pretty common then; Ted Williams, who served as a pilot in both World War II and Korea, is another example. It's unlikely to happen today. The only example that comes to mind is Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals football player who died in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan.

In World War II almost everybody served -- rich, poor, athletes, bookworms -- maybe not so much black or white, Japanese or Anglo. But most everybody served. I think that because so many served together it unified the country after World War II. The country was booming because it was almost untouched while much of Europe and Asia was decimated. Business executives had the same chance then that they have now to pay themselves huge salaries in comparison with their employees, but they didn't. Part of the reason was that unions were stronger, so that CEOs were in a relatively weaker position viz-a-viz their employees. And the top tax bracket was around 90%; so, it hardly made sense to pay yourself millions if you only got to keep ten cents on the dollar.

But I think that the universal service in World War II built a sense of national camaraderie. Many times, the workers had served under someone like their bosses in the Army. And the bosses, if they had been officers in the military, would have come to know and respect the men who served under them in much more intimate and trying conditions than they would ever confront in industry.

While there are still rags to riches stories today of CEOs who come from humble beginnings, it's the exception rather than the rule. Often those who make it to the top from the bottom do it by stepping on their poorer colleagues. The more usual route is for CEOs to come from relatively well off families, go to good schools (often Ivy League), and then parlay those connections into a good job. As a result, the CEOs have little connection with or feeling for their employees. The CEO sees himself as working for the "stockholders," which really means himself, because he pays himself richly in stock options.

Thus, it makes no difference to the CEO whether his employees are in China, India, Vietnam, or America. He just wants to put his product out for the lowest possible cost, and if his employees have no health insurance, that's tough. It was the World War II generation that made health insurance possible for average workers, maybe because executives thought it was the right thing to do. Maybe they went a little overboard because of union pressure. But I think that in general, they cared much more for their works as human beings than CEOs and other executives do today.

Today there is no more military draft. In general, children from nice families do not go into the military. And we have the growing rift in America between the rich and poor, making it extremely unlikely that the conditions of World War II will be repeated. It may be a good deal for the rich, but it is the country's loss. We read it everyday in casualty reports from Afghanistan and Iraq, in the unemployment statistics, and in the degrading quality of life in America -- politically, intellectually, culturally, and financially.

Progressive Democratic Gentleman

Listening to the political news, the use of three words bothers me: gentleman, democratic, and progressive.

My complaint about "gentleman" is not so much political, but general usage. Gentleman used to mean a man who was polite, educated, well-dressed, and generally a decent sort of chap. Today it seems to be used like the word "alleged" to give the benefit of the doubt to criminals, and to avoid libel suits against the news media. So, we hear them talk about a serial murderer, saying that the "gentleman" might be moved to a new prison. Part of the misuse is intentional because "gentleman" conjures up an image of a past time in which most people were much kinder and more thoughtful than they are today, So, they undermine that image by associating "gentleman" with the worst kind of things today.

A year or two ago the Republicans started referring to the Democratic Party as the Democrat Party, presumably because it has a coarser, more grating sound, but also perhaps because "Democratic" called up better images of democratic government in the Athenian tradition, than "Democrat" which in the US generally means a person who is Democratic politician or supporter. However, "Democrat" is a noun, while "Democratic" is an adjective. So, it's grammatically incorrect, but the main appeal for the Republicans is probably that it sounds harsher and thus it's easier to make "Democrat Party" sound insulting.

Finally, I don't like the term Progressive. To me the Progressive movement is something that happened in the first half of the twentieth century, limited to unions, social reform, etc. On the other hand, "liberal" is a term that again goes back to the ancient Greeks. It speaks of freedom; we have (or used to have) "liberal" education. Liberal speaks of freedom, of issues that are important to every civilization, while progressive is more economic and limited to certain mundale issues, times and places. I much prefer being a Liberal than a Progressive.

To the extent that the Democratic Party tries to make me a Progressive, rather than a Liberal, I feel less like a gentleman.

Government Fails in Banking Crisis

One of government's main functions is to provide security for its citizens in the form of police, courts, military defense, etc. It has failed to do this in the banking crisis. Government did ameliorate the crisis by preventing a depression era scenario where many major banks fail. The banks not only did not fail, they recovered quickly and their chieftains are making millions. On the financial side, government worked.

On the police side, government failed. Not one of the culprits responsible for bringing America to its knees has suffered any criminal prosecution. Just recently the criminal case was dropped against Angelo Mozillo, the head of Countrywide, and one of the worst offenders in the sub-prime mortgage banking meltdown. Apparently his old company, now part of bank of America, is still the object of a civil suit by some of the people who lost millions because of his actions, but the government says everything he did is okay.

This partly due to government corruption. The banks lobbied heavily for little or no regulation, and continue to do so. The main policing organization, the SEC, failed miserably under its chairman Christopher Cox, who should be criminally libel for his failure, but of course is not. The public seems more upset about his failure to catch Bernie Madoff than about his failure to prevent the worst financial crisis since the Depression. Of course, Congress got paid well by the banks' lobbyists to keep any laws from interfering with the banks evil deeds.

I like the book All the Devils Are Here because it criticizes many of the major players in the financial crisis for doing bad things. It doesn't take the position that "bad things happened," but nobody was responsible. People were responsible, and many of them continue to hold positions of power, including Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs and Jamie Dimon at J.P. Morgan Chase. The Morgans and the Rockefellers must be saddened that someone of Dimon's low moral integrity has dragged the names of their institutions through the mud.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Fiscal Policy A Shambles

American fiscal policy is in total disarray. Taxes are too low; spending is too high. Spending should be more stimulative and less for old people. Social Security and Medicare need to be reformed, in particular to be more to incomes, both on the taxing and paying ends. Rich people pay a much smaller amount of their earnings into Social Security and end up getting too much when they retire. Medicare takes care of the elderly, but until the recent health care reform, there was no general program to take care of workers. Congress is totally ignoring this problem. They pat themselves on the back if they cut a million dollars from education or the Pentagon budget.

Meanwhile, the Fed is pursuing a serious monetary policy with no help from Congress. Congress just criticizes the Fed's quantitative easing program (QE2), while doing nothing itself. If we get out of this recession it will be largely thanks to the Fed. Ironically, the Fed, which is usually seen to be the friend of the big banks, has turned out to be much more of a friend to ordinary people than Congress has.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Companies, Not Fed to Blame

On Bloomberg, David Malpass says the Fed is failing because the Fed in giving money to US business by keeping interest rates low, but US business is investing in Asia. So, the Fed is just giving American money to Asia. Although there is truth in this, I would say the problem is American business that doesn't support America. CEOs and other senior executives of “American” companies outsource American jobs to China and India. The CEOs get rich by destroying American workers.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Impolite Politicians

Political discourse has become so bitter, it's hard to see how anyone can remain civil.

Last night I was shocked at how impolite Sen. Orrin Hatch was to Judy Woodruff on PBS' Newshour. He insulted HHS Secretary Sebelius, saying, "She just doesn't know what she's talking about." He was sarcastic, responding to one of Judy Woodruff's questions with, "Oh, isn't that wonderful?" And, "That's what I call bull corn." And later, "I see a middle ground.... They ought to trash the bill and get rid of it."

Interestingly, the New York Times had a tongue-in-cheek op-ed today on a civility course on Arizona. If there were such a thing, Sen. Hatch and his colleagues should enroll in it.