Thursday, April 30, 2015

More on Art about Gay Love

Frank Bruni in the NYT and I in my blog both addressed the role of art in dealing with love: why there is not more art celebrating gay love, and why there is virtually no great art celebrating it.  I guess there is some that I’m not aware of, perhaps in India or ancient Greece, but if there were great art that celebrated homosexual love, I think we would be hearing about it constantly these days; therefore, I think it does not exist.  The Wikipedia article of homosexuality in ancient Greece stresses that the relationships were usually between adult men and young boys, a pederast relationship that would be frowned on today, but an enduring aspect of gay activity that is downplayed by the press in deference to the gay community. In any case, it’s hard to promote Greek art celebrating pederasty. 

Bruni felt deprived because when he was growing up, there were no songs on the radio glorifying gay love.  He raises the question, why hasn’t Elton John written some moving songs celebrating gay love?  Songs, paintings and novels about homosexual love may be on their way, but it’s indicative that thousands of years of great art have so far produced virtually nothing of interest in that department.  Even if new gay art becomes popular, will it stand the test of time and be appreciated by people a hundred or a thousand years from now?  In short, Bruni may get the music he wants, but it’s unlikely to be worth much in the long run.   

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Will the Supreme Court Define Love?

The NYT reports that during the arguments about gay marriage in the Supreme Court, Justice Roberts asked, “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t.  The difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?” 

I think that this is a misleading question because of the word “love.”  Is the love between a man and a woman the same as the love between a man and a man?  At least that is a question that should not be dismissed as obvious.  Almost everyone loves their mother, but should they be allowed to marry their mother?  You can say, no, because their children would be the products of incest, and there is a public interest in preventing incest.  But what if it’s a daughter who wants to marry her mother, or what if the mother and son promise never to have sex.  Is there still a public interest in preventing this union?  There is, because the love between a mother and her children is different from the love between two unrelated people

People also talk about the fact that they”love” ice cream, they love sunny days, they love beautiful music.  People also talk about making love, when they mean that they are having sex.  These “loves” are obviously not the same.  Can the Supreme Court definitively rule that the love between two men is the same as the love between a man and a women?  Can they definitively say that this is love and not lust?  If it is all about finances and hospital visitation, aren’t there other ways to correct those problems without defining “love”? 

Poets, novelists and songwriters have been expounding on love for thousands of years.  Can the Supreme Court do a better job than they did.  Is it irrelevant that there is a lot less poetry about the love between a man and woman than there is about the love between two men?  Does the Supreme Court really know more about love than Shakespeare, John Donne, Jane Austin, the Bronte sisters, Tolstoy or Danielle Steele.  Roberts should think hard before calling Shakespeare and Tolstoy fools.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Clintons and the Rothschilds

It’s interesting that this NYT article about the Clinton’s son-in-law, Mark Mezvinsky, discloses the role among the Clintons of the prominent European Jewish family, the Rothschilds, reputed to have been kingmakers and to have the power of inciting war or maintaining peace in Europe for centuries.  Mezvinsky is a partner in the hedge fund Eaglevale Partners.  The article says that many of the investors in the fund are longtime supporters of the Clintons, including a firm connected to the Rothschilds.  Another investor is the Rock Creek Group, chaired by Afsaneh Beschloss, the wife of historian Michael Beschloss.  Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs was also an early investor.  The article says that Bill Clinton spoke at a conference in Oxford sponsored by the Rothschilds, but that there was no connection to the investment.   

The Clintons are trying to form an alliance with rich Jews who support them, the Rothschilds, to offset the rich Jews like Sheldon Adelson who support the Republicans.  

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

More Welfare for the Rich

Working on income tax reminds one of all the welfare that the US government gives to the rich.  The biggest is probably the home mortgage deduction.  It's nice for average people, but the average person probably gets only a few thousand dollars.  On a mortgage in the $300,000 to $350,000 range, not too cheap, interest will be about $1,000 per month, or about $12,000 per year.  On a $1 million mortgage, monthly interest is about $3,300 per month or about $40,000 per year.  In addition the smaller homeowner will probably be paying taxes in something like the 20% range, which means that his deduction will be about $2,600.  The richer homeowner will probably be paying taxes at a higher rate, say 35%, so that his deduction will be around $13,800.  So, the government gives the richer person $11,000 more for living in his house than it gives the poorer person.  And of course, renters, who tend to be poorer than homeowners get no help from the government to keep a roof over their heads.

Another less obvious giveaway to rich people is the lower tax rate for capital gains and qualified dividends.  In this case the government basically rewards people for playing the stock market.  Arguably, the provisions discourage just playing the stock market like gambling in Las Vegas, because they make you hold stock for at least a year.  But if you do hold the stock for a year, the savings are enormous, cutting your taxes in half on stock market income, whether for trading stock or just collecting dividends.  The richer you are, the more the government gives you.  The government gives people like Mitt Romney millions and millions of dollars just because they are rich.  No wonder Mitt Romney despises poor people who get hundreds of dollars a month from the government, when he gets millions.  If poor people had any ambition, they would soak the government for millions, like he does.  Like most rich people, Mitt hates paying soldiers in Afghanistan or widows on Social Security.

Gifts to the Rich

Abolishing traditional defined benefit retirement plans has been a huge gift to wealthy investors.  In the old days, retirement funds invested in bonds, which returned something ike 4% annually, and which over a working life would provide the bulk of the funds needed for retiring employees.  Now most companies offer 401(k) plans, in which the employee has to invest part of his salary, and the company may or may not match his contributions.

Companies could hire experts to decide how much they needed to invest and how to invest it.  They weren't always right, but they had a better chance of being right than the average worker.  Investment companies can help with 401(k) plans, but often their fees are so high that they eat up a significant part of the earnings.

But the huge benefit for big investors is the influx of new money into the stock market.  This is partly due to low interest rates, which make it impossible to invest in bonds, but it is also due to the fact that small investors need rapid, big returns to cover their retirement.  This is often possible in the stock market, but it is the exception, not the rule.  In the meantime, the small investors create a huge pool of money for the rich to play in.  It's somewhat like bringing thousands of players into a poker game and creating a gigantic pot.  One of the small investors might theoretically win, but more likely one of the rich players who can keep anteing up will take the big pot.  The 401(k)s mean that there is more and more money flowing into the market, funding IPOs and bidding up stock prices.

Low interest rates mean that the wealthy can borrow for almost nothing to bet on the market, and with all the help of quants, hedge funds, etc., are more likely to win big.  The 401(k)s and IRAs will work out well mainly for the wealthy, like Mitt Romney, who had $102 million in an IRA.  Romney hates the low income takers from the Federal Government, but because of the tax breaks he gets, the government is shoveling money to Romney with both hands.  If he had to pay 40% tax on $100 million, that would be $40 million; so that is more or less what the government has given him, a lot more than if he collected food stamps.  Meanwhile the average investor in an IRA will save a few thousand in taxes.

Christians in Muslim Lands

The massacre of 147 Christian students in Kenya is only the latest attack on Christians in the Muslim world.  Christians are under attack almost everywhere there, including in some places where the US has intervened, particularly Iraq.  Christians had a better life under Saddam Hussein than they have under the government imposed by the United States.  America has abandoned them at least party under the influence of Christ-hating gays and Jews in the US.  We have seen the hatred directed at Christians by gays in Indiana, and we have seen the strong attacks on Obama by Jews in Congress for not prostrating himself before Netanyahu and Israeli/Jewish hatred of Iran.

Gays hate the Bible because it says they are immoral.  Jews only support Christians if it does not adversely affect Jews.  Jews largely see the Middle East as a zero-sum game in which if you help Christians, you hurt Israel and the Jews.  Fundamentalist Christians love Israel, but that love is not reciprocated except to the extent that it strengthens Jewish power in the US.

In Syria, Assad has generally been tolerant of Christians, who had a much better life under him than they have under ISIL or any of the other Muslim factions fighting against Assad.  Sen. John McCain and many other Republicans want to get rid of Assad by military force if necessary, thus condemning Syrian Christians to a horrible fate under his successor.  McCain doesn't care; he now worships money and power, and has abandoned the faith of his fathers, Christians be damned.

In Libya, as a result of Gaddafi's overthrow by a coalition of American, European, and Jewish leaders, 21 Christians were beheaded in February.  Christians did not have a great life under Gaddafi, but it was probably better than under the chaos of Muslim rule that exists in Libya today.  They have taken control in the power vacuum left by the US and its allies in removing Gaddafi.  Poor Christians!

An op-ed in the Washington Post summed up the situation of Christians in Iraq: "Christianity in Iraq Is Finished."  Speaking about the ISIL takeover of part of Iraq, the article says:

... for Christians in Iraq, the past three months have been the climax of 11 years of hell. We Americans have short memories (that goes for you, too, in the “Bush Was Right” crowd), but it’s worth noting that Christians began having serious problems within a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Sometimes it was the work of al-Qaeda, sometimes Sunni insurgents pining for the return of Sunni control of Iraq. Sometimes it was Shiite militias fighting the Sunnis but finding time to persecute Christians....
So when I ask refugees their plans, it is unanimously to leave Iraq altogether. Enough is enough. This runs counter to the desire, expressed mostly outside Iraq, that a Christian presence be preserved in a land that has known Christianity for 2,000 years. It’s sad but true: Christianity in Iraq is finished. As one refugee told me, “We wanted Iraq. Iraq doesn’t want us.”  
 America has essentially abandoned Christains in Muslim lands.  Apparently Christianity doesn't matter.  The worst is that we are largely responsible.  We have destroyed the leaders and governments that allowed Christianity to exist.  I wish fundamentalist Christians would quit worrying about Israel so much and worry about their Christian brothers and sisters.

Uncertainty about Taxes

Republicans and businessmen complain about uncertainty for planning, but a lot of that is due to the fact that businessmen are lobbying for change, and Republicans want to give them lower taxes.  Meanwhile they block major changes to the tax code that might increase some sort of taxes.  The Republicans have problems because they have so many special interests to take care of, from defense contractors to oil companies, to neighborhood businesses.  Something that helps one, might harm another.  So, they are responsible for much of the uncertainty that they complain about.  

Kissinger and Shultz Op-Ed on Iran

Kissinger and Shultz have a thoughtful op-ed in the WSJ on the Iran nuclear deal.  However, they criticize it without offering an alternative.  Could the deal be better?  Of course, Iran could have renounced all nuclear ambitions and completely shut down its nuclear activities.  But I doubt that even Kissinger and Shultz could have negotiated an agreement on those terms.  So what is the alternative?  Implicit in their op-ed is the conclusion that only a military attack taking out all of Iran's nuclear facilities would prevent the proliferation of nuclear technology throughout the Middle East.  But would "shock and awe" work better in Tehran than it did in Baghdad?  It would probably bring on a wider war that would make the Iraq war look like a small skirmish.

Furthermore, they do not mention Pakistan (or India), the elephants in the room when it comes to the proliferation of nuclear technology in the region.  India does not appear to be a problem under its present government and the present international situation, but Pakistan is a big problem.  Pakistan has many nuclear weapons, most aimed at India, but available for other purposes, if the government so decides, or if terrorists get their hands on them, and Pakistan's Waziristan region is full of Taliban terrorists.  Even if Pakistan does not sell a nuclear weapon and if the terrorists don't get their hands on one, it is a source of nuclear technology.  It has probably already provided some assistance to Iran and North Korea.

Pakistan is a more clear and present danger to the world than Iran is, mainly because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and Iran does not.  In theory Pakistan is a friend of the US, but in fact it is a fickle friend, often providing sanctuary for Taliban terrorists from Afghanistan who have been fighting American troops.  In addition, it is probably a closer friend of China than it is of the US, with whatever geopolitical consequences that may produce.  China is much less concerned about world peace than it is about the welfare of the Chinese state.

So, Secretaries Kissinger and Shultz, why should we be more worried about Iran than Pakistan?  Shouldn't we be happy to turn down the heat with Iran, even a little bit, while new fires seem to be springing up daily in the rest of the Middle East?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Jews Bought Sen. Cotton's Letter to Iran

I was distressed by this article in the NYT, “GOP’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift.”  It says that Republican support for Israel in partly ideological, but also “a product of a surge in donations and campaign spending on their behalf by a small group of wealthy donors.”  One of the main beneficiaries of this Jewish largess was Senator Tom Cotton, the author of the Senate letter to Iran, advising it not to negotiate with Obama and Kerry.  It sounds like Sen. Cotton got well over $1 million from these Jewish contributors.  The article quotes a source downplaying speculation that the draft letter and plans for its circulation were developed by Sen. Tom Cotton, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson in a room of Mr. Adelson’s Venetian Hotel.

The growing Jewish support for Republicans is odd because Jews have traditionally supported the Democratic Party, and tend to support more liberal causes.  According to J Street, a majority of Jews still support liberal Democrats, but the fewer extremely wealthy Jews supporting the Republicans throw the money balance in favor of the GOP.  For this group, the main issue is support for Israel.  This one reason Republican House Speak Boehner invited Israeli PM Netanyahu to make a speech to Congress attacking President Obama. 

I don’t believe that American and Israeli interests always converge.  Thus I question Sen. Cotton’s patriotism in supporting Israel over the United States.  Clearly the choice of Netanyahu and his Republican supports was (and is) to have the United States carry out a bombing attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.  There is certainly a significant risk that American planes could be shot down, or that Iran would respond to the attack.  Among other potential targets, there are thousands of American service men and women next door to Iran in Afghanistan, and a few still left in Iraq.  Sen. Cotton apparently is happy to have them die for Israel.  

Revisionist Holocaust History

For Jews, World War II was all about the Holocaust.  How many people died in the Soviet Union or Western Europe, or certainly in the Pacific doesn’t matter.  All that matters in how many Jews died in the Holocaust.  Even there, what’s important is only the Jews who died.  They don’t care about the Poles, the Gypsies, the blacks, the gays, or any other groups who died in the German prison camps.  Jews are attempting to rewrite history to support their view, and because of the single-mindedness of their effort, they are succeeding. 

The latest shot in this Jewish war against honoring the Allies’ victory in World War II is Nicholas Berg’s “The Holocaust and the West German Historians.”  According to the review in the Wall Street Journal, this book is something of an academic attack on West German historians for playing down the role of the Holocaust in their histories of World War II.  Appropriately the reviewer, Brendan Simms, is somewhat critical of the book.  He says:

Mr. Berg presents his case in a tone of polemical outrage, which occasionally jars in an academic narrative but seems excusable in light of the story he is telling.

Mr. Berg fails to acknowledge that German historians were engaged in not only a personal but also a national survival strategy. They were desperately seeking an intellectual and ethical basis upon which the German people could start again amid the wreckage of 1945.

My main complaint is that Jewish historians do not give enough credit to the Allies, Soviet, British and American, for their victory.  As bad as the Holocaust was, life for Jews would have been worse if the Germans had won.  I believe that the reason we have a World War II memorial on the Washington Mall is that history, led by Jewish historians, has been rewritten to downplay the Allied victory.  WW II vets thought that their victory would be memorial enough, but as their victory became less praiseworthy, they eventually needed something concrete to memorialized their deeds.