Archive for the ‘Fundamentalism’ Category

International headlines…

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

[When I can’t wait to comment…]

Empty threats from the Saudis. Obama and the Saudis aren’t happy with the congressional override of the President’s veto.  The U.S. Congress did their job for once; Obama put another nail in the coffin of his legacy.  And, of course, the duplicitous Saudis are making threats.  Let’s do a search-and-destroy mission of two major ones:

(1) The Saudis threaten to sell off all their U.S. holdings.  Ho-hum.  It doesn’t take a Nobel Prize winner in economics to understand that such an action would hurt them more than us.  First, in the short term, let’s be generous and say they get 70 cents on the dollar.  That’s still a huge loss!  Second, in the long term, why do they have these assets?  They’re hedging a downturn in the oil market!  That’s already occurring.  The U.S. doesn’t need Saudi oil.  We’re even exporting to Venezuela!  The Saudis’s U.S. investments and elsewhere represent a life insurance policy for their 6th century kingdom.

(2) The Saudis threaten to taper off on their counterterrorism efforts.  Huh?  That’s laughable.  The duplicitous Saudis foment terrorism and spawn terrorists.  Their religious schools, where they teach the murderous form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, are the prime tool for their pro-terrorism efforts.  15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists, and my interpretation of Saudi royals fleeing the U.S. after 9/11, and the many hints in those infamous 28 pages Obama tried to keep out of the news, are enough to tell me the kingdom is guilty of aiding and abetting the murder of almost 3000 people.  The Saudis could contribute to the world’s counterterrorism efforts by getting rid of these schools, for a start.  And we have no business beefing up their military so they can kill Yemenis and whoever else they consider threats to Wahhabism.  We’d be more effective beefing up Jordan because King Abdullah actually is carrying the fight to ISIS while the Saudi royals sit on their fat you-know-whats.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saudis were supporting them.  But maybe not—they already have their 6th century caliphate!

And what about Obama’s claim that Americans will suffer around the world. (1) Maybe they should, if they create mischief, mayhem, and murder. (Read Stephen Kinzer’s 2007 book Overthrow for background.) (2) The 9/11 is very specific.  No reasonable person can deny that.  The unreasonable ones, here or around the world, can go to hell!  Will they sue us when a Predator does the job the Saudis should be doing and takes out a known tourist.  Let them try!

Putin the Terrible. Tsar Ivan’s going to lose his nickname before long.  Tsar Putin is far more terrible, because he has a mighty police state and military machine behind him.  The SVR kills his regime’s enemies with impunity (watch for those umbrellas, folks!), the FSB makes the KGB and Stasi look like amateurs, and the Russia’s military-industrial complex feeds off unrest narcissist Voldya creates in the rest of the world.  Were you surprised when the Danes announced on Wednesday that Putin was responsible for the murder of 298 innocent souls on that Malaysian plane that dared to fly over Ukraine?  The case is iron-clad: the Russian-sponsored separatists asked for and got the deadly SA-11 antiaircraft system.  It was ferried in overnight and left the next day, and ever since Putin and Russia Inc. have been denying their complicity.  This, folks, is Putin the Terrible’s Lockerbie, and we can only hope that his fate will be the same as Qaddafi’s.

And so it goes…

Obama has a few days left to pass test #1…

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Obama will add a new nail in the coffin of his legacy if he fails the following test: He only has to wait until September 23 to pass up vetoing the bill that would allow 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia. For once, Congress threw partisan bickering aside and passed this bill in the Senate and the House by a margin wide enough to override his veto…if they stick by their guns. Of course, it might just be a ploy by GOP members to make Obama look bad, so Congress will have their own test to pass if Obama keeps his promise to veto the bill—Congress should override in that case.

Obama’s legacy isn’t something candidate Clinton wants to hitch her wagon to by any means. His efforts to give affordable healthcare to more Americans were doomed from day one due to his Faustian bargain with the insurance companies and Big Pharma. Obamacare’s woes continues as a consequence (hence the Bernie Sanders quote in yesterday’s “Words of Wisdom”). I’d always argued for a single-payer system (not even Medicare is single-payer, by the way, despite Sanders’s pushing it for everyone), so all I can say is, “I told you so!” On the international front, his push for TPP is a slap in the face at all American workers. And he was in charge of cleaning up Bush’s mess in Iraq and blew it, not Clinton, because he left a vacuum there for ISIS to fill.  So, maybe his legacy is intact after all, one similar to Pete Rose’s—no Hall of Fame for Obama either: Lâche, infame, je te blame!

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Deserving damnation…

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

The use of children as suicide bombers is on the rise. Children are sold by human traffickers, or even their parents, to satisfy the appetites of sexual predators and porn movie makers. Girls are blown to kingdom come because they dare to go to school. They are also murdered because their parents want only sons. The persons who perform these and other atrocities against children deserve to be damned by society and every religion on the planet worth its salt. Most of all, governments should not condone these practices; they should lock away such people for a long, long time. Or, practice some good Old Testament-style revenge!

Many prehistoric tribes and cultures sacrificed children to their gods. We tend to excuse that hideous practice as ignorance, but today the atrocities enumerated aren’t ignorance—they’re unconscionable and monstrous perversions. Is an ISIS father who sends his two sons off to be suicide bombers simply ignorant? This happened recently. No, that father is evil incarnate. Whether you’re religious or not, that’s what it is, and that father deserves to be damned for eternity. There should be some street justice applied too.

Human trafficking for the exploitation of innocent children is a theme in The Collector. The reality, of course, is much worse than what’s depicted in my novel. Again, the traffickers, their clients, and their buyers in turn who sexually abuse these kids deserve damnation, no question about it. Greed has many ugly faces, but this is one of the ugliest.

For some strange reason, even conservative Muslims who aren’t terrorists think girls should not be in school. I say strange because cultures who practice this discrimination are doomed—they can never compete with the West if their women aren’t allowed to contribute. These same cultures treat women as property, of course, so they have no rights. The ones that kill female children because they only want male offspring are even more stupid—the limiting case of that suicidal nonsense is a culture without children, a dying culture.

The exploitation, torturing, maiming, and murder of children must stop. Those who practice it must pay, the ultimate price if necessary, because it is a disease that must be eradicated. Such people don’t deserve to be called human, and they deserve eternal damnation if we can believe that Satan even wants them. They are really lower than pond scum, so the world should have no regrets about sending them across Styx.

We cannot know whether an afterlife exists or not, of course, no matter what our religions say. We only have evidence for manmade heavens and hells here on Earth, not in the afterlife. All we can do in  this mortal existence is prosecute these people. And, by prosecute, I mean by any means possible, without remorse or compassion. Innocent children cannot protect themselves from these monsters, only we can.

But I’m frustrated. I don’t know what to do. I see this going on and curse the people who do it. I can rant about these practices here, but that doesn’t bring them to justice. That latter is an indictment of how ineffective and uncaring our institutions have become. I’m pointing the finger. The cries of suffering and dying children are their judges and juries. Maybe the people in those same institutions deserve damnation too. ‘Nough said.

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And so it goes…

 

Reasonable people thinking unreasonably…

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

If you think the world is going mad, it is. That’s another way of saying people are crazy. The recent Pokemon Go craze is just the tip of the iceberg. Like that minions game on the iPhone, I thought Pokemon Go was harmless until people started walking in front of trucks, getting robbed by thieves or molested by perverts, and in general looking like actors auditioning for The Walking Dead. Not so harmless are some of the other things occurring as reasonable people think unreasonably or believe things not based on fact.

Nancy Reagan believed in astrology; many people do. They believe the zodiac signs determine their personal fates; Nancy Reagan used them to advise Ronnie about global affairs! People hold similar beliefs about Tarot cards, séances, and palm readings. Some people would never own a black cat or walk under a ladder. All these superstitious beliefs have zero science behind them. It is amazing that our science and technology have come this far with all these nuts around. Even so-called scientists can believe really stupid things. It’s embarrassing. Despite the pics from ISS and imaging satellites, there are still people who think that the Earth is flat and the center of the Universe. And I’m talking about otherwise sensible people, not primitive tribe members in Africa, Australia, or South America.

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Irish Stew #55…

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

International

Saudi duplicity. The Kingdom has an agenda. They try to pretend they’re friends, but they push a 6th century version of Islam just as much as ISIS. Most of the al Qaeda murderers who plotted 9/11 were Saudi, and the Saudi government helped them, not to mention the training in the Saudi’s religious schools that teaches young men to hate the West. They are also trying to radicalize Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo and those in the old Islamic USSR countries. Their agenda is clear: time travel back to that 6th century caliphate. And you thought ISIS was the problem?

This last weekend, the government finally released the full 28 pages of the 9/11 report originally deemed TOP SECRET because they embarrassed our “Saudi friends” (with friends like that, who needs enemies?). I downloaded a copy and will peruse it in detail. At first glance, it seems nebulous and full of doublespeak, par for the course when it comes to national security. Here’s a quote from the Times article describing it: “Subsequent investigations…pursued the leads described…and found that many had no basis in fact.” Pox on the Times for bad reporting. What investigations? Do we have access? Many, but some did. Which ones? Really bad reporting. And people wonder why we have conspiracy theories! It’s only paranoia if it’s…you finish the phrase.

BREXIT and the new PM. Looks like the Brits have to live with their choices. I found it amusing the story about a town that had voted Labour for many decades voting to leave the EU in spite of that party’s pleas. Both Sanders and Trump here in the U.S. tapped into similar sentiments, but Hillary is still supporting TPP because Wall Street does.

I don’t expect the new PM to last long, although both Labour and Conservative parties should be walking the halls of Parliament like Lady Macbeth—they have blood on their hands, but Macbeth has already died. “Double, double, toil and trouble, pot boil and cauldron bubble….” British politics is more like a pressure cooker now.

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When will the world become colorblind?

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

I’m a child of the sixties, and I shared MLK’s dream. I believe he saw racism and tribalism as a more generic and endemic problem in human society, though. At least I interpreted him that way, and I still worry about America and the world not being colorblind. That concept is more generic too. Race and ethnicity go far beyond the color of our skins. Differences in religious beliefs and sexual orientation creep in too. After all, colorblindness is seeing the world in a neutral, non-judgmental fashion, considering every human being as a unique person who we judge on their merits, not by their race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, and sexual orientation. If this were ever to happen, hatred and bigotry would be thing of the past.

Sometimes discrimination and prejudice are hidden. When I was in Colombia, I saw them hiding among white members of the political, powerful elites in the center of the country; darker skinned “immigrants” from the poor, coastal regions (both Atalantic and Pacific), called by the neutral term Costeños but rarely treated in a neutral fashion, were often victims. I’m sure Colombians thought they were a colorblind society, but, as a child of the sixties observing their country, I recognized their problem if only because America’s is so much worse. Even before the sixties, my father often spoke about the lack of a more generic form of colorblindness I speak of—Armenians talking about their holocaust during World War One; Japanese grocers referring to their internment during World War Two; Jewish deli owners talking about friends and relatives murdered in the Nazi’s death camps, the worst holocaust in world history.

The huge waves of immigration in the 19th century created a ghetto mentality in America that can be seen as an extension of Reconstruction after the Civil War leading to bigotry and hatred unleashed against blacks that still remains. Tribalism is part of our evolutionary heritage—in pre-history tribes protected their members from other tribes. In modern history, they still do. A ghetto foments racial identity through tribalism. Blacks might say that they’re beyond that. I’m not sure. Everything from TV sitcoms like Blackish (why is tribalism funny?) to Kwanza (do we need an all-black religious observance?) to all-black frat and sorority houses to all-black churches—all this screams tribalism to me, a scientific observation with nothing pejorative intended. The same phenomenon occurs for Hispanic and Asian culture. If there’s a Puerto Rican Day parade in NYC, why not a Black History parade or Southeast Asian parade? If Univision and black TV channels exist, why not Jewish channels? If a campus has a Black Culture Center, why not an Irish Culture Center? These manifestations of ghetto mentality show the absurdity of tribalism in America. Pride in and celebrating one’s cultural heritage, or lamenting it, should never stand in the way of constructing a colorblind America and world.

I have no problem celebrating America’s diversity. I certainly do so in my books; they represent my public face to the world now. But I’m serious about my belief that we will not solve the problems of this nation and the world until they are colorblind in the more general sense. Progress has to be made from the top down as well as from the bottom up. Discrimination and bigotry of any kind cannot and should not be institutionalized by governments or corporations. And persons in their individual family and work lives should eschew any ghetto attitudes that can lead to discrimination and bigotry. We’ve all seen photos from the International Space Station. It’s one world, folks, we’re all in this together, and we’re all human beings desiring the same thing—food, fresh water, good-paying jobs, decent housing, education for our kids, and other basic human rights.

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BREXIT, isolationism, and tribalism…

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

BREXIT passed and Trump extolled it; SCOTUS’s 4-4 decision (i.e. no decision) left a lower court’s rollback of Obama’s exec orders about immigration in place; radical Islam’s homophobia in Orlando is echoed by America’s religious leaders; and Islamophobia and xenophobia are part of America’s 2016 electoral debate—all this is evidence of old bigotry and new isolationism in America and the world. BREXIT supporters, who maybe had a dream of being the next Switzerland (not going to happen!), or were yearning for Trump’s wall, or wanted to return to the days of the mighty British Empire (many of the world’s modern problems stem from policies of that Empire)—one woman said that Churchill must be smiling in heaven—are swept up by these riptides of right-wing bigotry and isolationism, a tide so powerful that a member of Parliament was gunned down in London. Trump supporters are going down that same yellow brick road, lemmings heading toward the cliffs of political insanity.

The economy is global, stupid people! Globalization is here to stay. Either you get on board that express train, or you’ll be left behind. Others, including the multinational corporations, will wave the finger at you as they that train continue into the future. You can’t really isolate yourselves. Corporations know this, so isolationists are just playing into their hands. Where political unions and governments fail, corporations will step in. The Swiss success story is only about their government in the sense that Switzerland has always catered to corporate interests, including the banking industry. Britain and the U.S. can only duplicate that success story by giving their corporate interests, including the banking industry, more power and the same privileged treatment. Voters should think more than twice about what they wish for. Those maws of industrial greed and Chinese-style capitalism don’t care where the next meal comes from. And those same frustrated voters, mostly poor and middle class, will continue to suffer, the middle class will continue to disappear, and the human condition will continue to deteriorate.

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Modern carneys…

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Back in the 19th century, bewhiskered and nomadic men sold all kinds of elixirs and magical potions, cure-alls for many perceived maladies. Carneys still peddle their wares, but now they can stay in one spot by working the cable channels and the internet. Some things sold are designed for particular demographics—anti-aging creams and vitamin supplements to counteract any symptoms associated with old age, or love potions for acne-faced tweenies looking for a date to the prom. All are designed for anyone who is gullible, and most products are of dubious and/or unproven value.

Celebrities are often willing participants in these get-rich schemes—so-and-so’s perfume, Mr. X’s magic supplements to counteract arthritis, Dr. Y’s vitamins for sexual bliss. Vary rarely are these products tested, and very rarely is their distribution controlled by the government. TV and the internet have made selling these products a huge business—you see it on TV (that’s often a lead-in: “You saw it on TV!”—as if that’s some kind of guarantee); you order on the internet. Many infomercials about these products state that if you’re not completely satisfied, you’ll get a full refund. I bet people are so embarrassed about being gullible they don’t ask for refunds, and the carneys probably count on that.

I don’t deny that sometimes TV-sold products are good. Joy, that terrible movie about the Miracle Mop (reviewed in Movie Reviews #23), is the story about an all-around American girl, Joy Mangano, turning into a legitimate carney. It’s the elixirs and magical potions that make me cringe—not only for their dubious value but because people put their faith in these products. P. T. Barnum said there’s a sucker born every minute, and I’m afraid the potions and elixirs are creating a lot of suckers who lose money purchasing these products.

Here’s a particular example I caught in a doctor’s waiting room (consider the irony!): a recognized beauty’s two pics are flashed up and the announcer says something like, “See—she still looks the same even though she’s thirty years older because she puts brand X gook on her face.” You can’t buy the gook at CVS because supplies are limited. Besides, CVS doesn’t stock $400 creams like X, but these nice TV hawkers will send it to you for only $150! They sweeten the deal for women in the TV audience (maybe even men?) by offeriing a free gizmo that defoliates the face (I was thinking it’s actually to remove the gook which probably hardens into a mask).

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Seeing things in black and white…

Thursday, May 5th, 2016

[Mary Jo Melendez wishes all her Mexican friends–and anyone into the south-of-the-border spirit(s) (love them margaritas)–a MUY FELIZ CINCO DE MAYO!]

Many people complain about the political polarization in America.  I think the polarization goes far beyond politics.  People now see things in black and white.  “Either you’re for A or you’re against it,” or “Either you’re for A or B,” have become the SOP of U.S. societal discourse.  No one wants to bother with nuances.  A is either all good or bad.  A and B are exclusive choices, and you can’t consider parts of A and B as positive.  That’s a bit abstract, so let’s consider examples.

All corporations are bad (or good).  This often takes the form of “socialism is good; capitalism is bad,” or vice versa.  I find it amusing that simpletons on both sides of this issue chant these slogans at rallies and political conventions.  Communism is a debunked ideology that never worked, of course, as years of five-year plans and state control in the Soviet Union showed.  The Iron Curtain didn’t fall because of Reagan or the goodness of capitalism either—it fell because the government systems were gray and theirs was black.  Good capitalism drives creative innovation and produces products that can improve people’s lives.  It needs regulation and control, though, because it can easily turn fascist, as in Nazi Germany and Communist China.

And yes, the abuses should be punished.  The idea that a bank is too big to fail and that people responsible for our financial collapse in the first decade of this century shouldn’t be prosecuted is unconscionable.  That applies to the Clintons as well, who helped the GOP dismantle all the controls put in place after the Depression, including Glass-Steagall, which kept those banks from becoming too big to fail!  I add Apple, Facebook, Google, and other tech companies to this list of miscreants who put profits over citizens’ safety, of course.

Government control is bad (or good).  Government working in partnership and regulating corporations can act in favor of common people.  Through taxation, it can level the playing field—diminish the income gap and provide benefits for everyone.  Germany has even shown that it can regulate and control healthcare without even providing it—a healthy partnership between government and health insurance corporations that works for the German people.  Neither socialist nor capitalist, it’s a gray choice, not a black and white one.  Obamacare could have worked that way, but too much was given away to insurance and drug companies that continue to scam the American public—that control thing again.  A single payer system is required, but that doesn’t mean that the healthcare providers have to work for the government.

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Irish Stew #53…

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

[Regular readers of this blog know the stew is a collection of mini-op-eds expressing my opinions about current news items.  Don’t like the opinions?  Say so in a comment…or write your own blog!  The more the merrier.]

International.  So Barack Obama’s all sentimental about his relationship with Angela Merkel?  You’d think she’d have enough of sentimental U.S. presidents.  Germany, the juggernaut of the E.U., is having problems.  Merkel’s good intentions in receiving refugees from the Middle East has generated a lot of blowback and encouraged the fascist right-wingers (why do Germans have this tendency?).  She just fired her head security man.  So, maybe Obama is just doing a gentleman’s good deed by helping the old lady safely get across the protest parades on Ku’Damm.

I’ve always had a problem with Germany in particular and Europe in general.  Whatever economic success they’ve enjoyed, it got a head start with the Marshall Plan (lose a war to the U.S. to build an economic powerhouse is the plot of The Mouse That Roared, and it’s so a propos—both Germany and Japan benefitted greatly by losing World War Two).  That’s fine—we all feel good performing charitable acts, especially if they help friends get on their feet.

But much of Europe’s economic growth was also helped along by not having to pay much for its own defense during the Soviet years.  The U.S. provide that defense for the most part.  It’s time they started carrying more of the load.  That’s what Obama should have been saying to Merkel.  Of course, that would just add to her problems, poor thing.  And why aren’t these issues in the U.S. presidential election campaigns?

National

Apple losses.  After 13 years of reporting gains, Apple is finally reporting some losses.  I have no problem with that, except that the stock market reacts to Apple whatever like they do with oil whatever.  The fruity company deserves to go under—it’s arrogant, its products never play well with other products, and its support of worldwide terrorism is unconscionable.  Supposedly the losses are due to consumers’ reactions to the “new” iPhone that should have been called deja vu, not new.  They just did a tweak and called it new because Samsung was coming out with a truly new smart phone.  I’m hoping that at least part of the losses are due to the three points I mentioned.

Apple suffered another loss of a different sort.  Remember their refusal to break into the San Bernardino terrorist’s cell phone?  The FBI found hackers who did just that.  Apple wanted to know how.  The FBI opted not to tell the company.  Payback is sweet sometimes—call it the wave of the middle finger at a company that puts profits above keeping innocents safe from terrorist attacks.  Apple execs should all be in jail—I’m sure Gitmo has some room now.

Uber is stupid.  Yeah, there was a niche to fill, and present taxi service, at least in NYC, is a scam controlled by politicos and the buyers of the medallions who turn around and exploit the drivers.  But is Uber any better?  Not the way things are going.  Free pizzas aside, they’ve decided to charge more for passengers who make their drivers wait.  Before there was a five-minute grace period; they cut it to two, and will start charging about $10 if the passenger goes beyond that.

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