Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recession of the State: Renaissance of the Libertarian Right

As long as there was plenty of money, nobody really cared how Government spent it.

If city managers were paying themselves exorbitant six-figure salaries, if part-time councilmembers took CEO pay, no one cared, as long as everyone got paid, as long as the trash was picked up every week and the bad guys got locked up.

If the head of charities and state relief agencies received huge paychecks with benefits, no one cared, because there was enough of whatever to hand out to everybody.

If school personnel were compensated far out of proportion to the work they did, it didn't matter, as long as there were enough teachers for the right number of students.

If public workers strong-armed state legislators for a generous pensions and benefits, it made little difference, for the taxpayers themselves else was so busy throwing around their own easy money.

Then struck the Great Recession. The Day of Reckoning has Come. For the nation to survive, it will require the transition to the Recession of the State.

The secret is out: State Governments never had to begin with the kind of money that they were throwing around. All the wealth has gone *POOF!* in a haze of hazardous borrowing, unmerited credit, and short-term long-term loans come due.

Now cash-strapped states and municipalities do not have the resources to fund basic services.
From municipalities to the Federal Governments, the people demand to know: "Where's the money? Show us the money!"

Now the people care about six-figure salaries for do-nothing jobs. We care about $400hammers, rampant medicare fraud, bridges to nowhere, unsustainable pension and health benefits obligations. We ask why the money that was meant for right and reasonable purposes was never spent in the right way. The people are challenging the frivolous, arbitrary, and undocumented expenditures of their state and local institutions. The Great Recession has impelled us to the Recession of the State.

The Recession of the State has lead to local recovery. City dwellers are getting active when before they had never bothered to vote in local elections. TEA Party rallies across the country have thrown out tax-and-spend legislators for prudent politicians who will heed the demand for economical government that leaves the tax-payer alone.

The Recession of the State has also induced educational reform. With school districts bankrupt from doling out undeserved benefits, they must make fiscally prudent policy decisions. Parents will no longer stand for subsidizing a system which on the surface had fooled them for so long, deceived their children into an empty education.

Fiscal responsibility, lesser government, individual accountability, and an end to the ubiquitous nanny state . .

The Recession of the State is the Renaissance of the Libertarian Right!

From Great Recession to Great Revolution

The Great Recession of 2008 that has shaken world financial markets is shattering the sclerotic grip of Middle Eastern dictators.

From the Economic Winter of real estate bubbles, massive unemployment, and entitlement extension, the Arab Spring has emerged, rising up from the economic devastation wrought by overzealous and unaware speculators.

The falling Housing Markets in the West have toppled the long-standing Houses of evil leaders in the East.

Dwindling assets in European and American markets have lead to the freezing of stolen assets secretly deposited in the Swiss bank accounts of unaccountable dictators.

The hyperextensive oversight and subsidy of democratic governments has exposed the sheer folly of command-control economies in authoritarian governments. Oppressed peoples across the Middle East, further constrained in their ability to make a living, are rising up against regimes which have for too long deprived them of life, liberty, and property.

Just as wealthier economies tolerated rampant graft, corruption, and fiscal irresponsibility, weaker and more burdensome states were permitted to steal from their citizens without fear of recrimination. When impoverished try to take from those who have nothing left, the poor will strike back.

The Great Recession has ushered in the Great Revolution across the Middle East.

Boehner's Bum Rap (?)

"Boehner signals possible deal on budget talks.

The House speaker says Republicans 'can't impose our will' on the White House and Senate Democrats to cut tens of billions of dollars. Plus: Where's the squabble heading?"

(From 3/31/2011)

What gives, Speaker Boehner? If I had tears, I would shed them for all the promise, the hope, the expectations which had built up from September 2010 and beyond. You have cried enough to fill, flood, and flounder the Potomac how many times over. We need you actions, as loud as your words, and more so!

You must bring fiscal sanity back to Washington D.C. You are not imposing your will on the White House and the Democrats; you are imposing the will of the AMERICAN PEOPLE, the ones who elected you and your ilk into office to put an end to runaway spending, outrageous entitlements, and non-existent fiscal oversight.

If the Democrats refuse to face fiscal facts and impose monetary discipline on burgeoning budgets, then call their bluff and let the Government SHUT DOWN!

The world may be keenly surpised to realize that Americans can ran their lives, run their businesses, and run as they please without a rapidly wastrel government freezing, seizing and breezing through hard-wrought tax-payer capital.

The American people can do just fine without an activist domestic government. . .and that includes doing away with feckless legislators who lack the courage to "impose their will" on the unruly ruling elite.

Israel a Reliable Boogie Man No Longer

The Middle East is embroiled in Revolution. From negligible states like Tunisia to the Heart of the Middle East, Egypt, to the Pinnacle of autarchy, Syria, the crowds are descending upon their once unassailable rulers/captors.

In the past, terrorist tyrannical states could cast Israel as the once-and-for-all source of evil in the Middle East. From Assad to Hamas to Ahmadinejad, Arab strongmen have plastered the Jewish State with invidious calumny, pegging the hopes of oppressed Arabs on the imminent removal of the Jews as their only saving grace.

Yet after all these years, the Jews still prosper. Disaffected dissidents throughout the African and Middle Eastern world flee to Israel, a tiny oasis of freedom in the midst of a sea of tyranny and repression.

Now that Assad faces the fierce opposition to his reign, he has run out of foreign foes on which to excuse Syria's woes. The Alawite regime's inimical slander of the State of Israel will no longer serve as a reliable strawman to distract disaffected dissidents throughout the Middle East from their dictator's cruelty.

The Wizard of the Middle East, or There's No Place Like Home

The Arabs are recreating their homeland. The barren sands may yet become a flourishing oasis, an Emerald City in the Middle East.

They never needed to call on some faraway magician or fairy to wave a magic wand.
All they had to do (!) was band together and demand as one their rights and liberty back.

In an indirect allusion, the Scarecrow has gotten a new set of brains, Dorothy has drenched the Wicked Witch of the Middle East, the coward lion (the teeming masses) have gathered their courage, and iron wrought with heart is taking on the tyranny which has so long oppressed the Middle East.

And the whole world is watching.

Dictatorships, Dissidents, and Schizophrenia

Repressive, dictatorial regimes are inherently schizophrenic. Officially, through demonstrations and propaganda, the ruling elite coerces their suffering subjects (not citizens) to believe that an foreign influence or outside force is trying to undermine their safety and destroy them. Dictators whip up enough support for themselves by conning their people into abject fear. In reality, of course, the real danger to the people within is the leadership within, the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. Mental illness, like schizophrenia, compromises the patient in a similar fashion.

Zionist and Human Rights Activist Natan Sharansky alludes to George Orwell's masterpiece 1984 when he describes the burden of victims living with totalitarian regimes. The citizens of totalitarian regimes engage in "Doublethink" all the time. On the outside and in public, subjects praise of their beloved leaders. In secret, beleaguered people throughout the nation rejoice at the downfall of their overlords.

Like Natan Sharansky's father, parents tell their children the truth about their oppressive leaders, telling them to celebrate but at the same time to hide their relief and to bide their time until greater opportunities for freedom arrive. Let's apply this clinical observation to the situation in Syria.

Future entries on political schizophrenia will compare the clinical symptoms of the illness with President Obama's erring foreign policy.

Bashar al-Assad: A study in Political Schizophrenia

Bashar al-Assad, embattled and embittered President of Syria, has prolonged the forty-plus year dynasty of the Alawite clan dominating Syria. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, but in Assad's case, it has deranged him, just as he has driven his nation to the breaking point.

Politically speaking, Assad is a delusional paranoid schizophrenic; and under the thrall of this mad dictator, the Syrian people have struggled through a haze of political insanity. Their rebellion, their open, vocal yearning for freedom, is the treatment for normalcy.

As repressive regimes come, the Syrian tyranny is inherently schizophrenic. Drawing on President Assad's current outbursts, one can easily identify the clinical symptoms of the illness. Schizophrenics unreasonably believe that someone or some group is out to get them. In Assad's case, having deceived the people into believing that Israel and the United States are the enemy, he now certainly has every reason to be afraid. His own people have risen up against him. Yes, Mr. Assad, there is a group of people out to get you, the very people whom you and your family have persecuted these last four decades!

Schizophrenics also experience delusions and audible hallucinations. Assad is blaming the rising protests throughout Syrian on a foreign conspiracy stirring up trouble. Assad ludicrously claims that there is no need for reform in his country, which has languished beneath baseless emergency rule for 48 years. However, the audible shouts for reform rising up from the Syrian people are no deranged hallucination, but the palliative cry of liberating spirits.

In clinical settings, schizophrenia renders the patient unable to take care of himself or communicate with anyone. He eventually becomes a danger to himself and to others. Like any schizophrenic patient, Assad has isolated himself form the world, while cutting of his people from any meaningful contact with the outside world. Furthermore, Assad suffers from the laughable delusion that Syria does not need reform. His obstreperous behavior has harmed and endangered the lives of Arabs throughout the Middle East and the greater good of the world.

Fortunately, schizophrenia is treatable. For the plague that torments Syria and the Middle East at large, a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy will not suffice. The Syrian people are applying the proper prognosis: a massive dose of reality: protests, uprisings, and overt challenges to the status quo. As in medical cases, the treatment for schizophrenia can last for the rest of the patient's life. In the case of Mr. Assad and the Syrian people, his life-long hiatus from power would be an acceptable treatment for himself, his people, and the international community.

Yemen, Hot Bed of Populist Revolt, Not Terrorist Threats

Anwar al-Awlaki, U.S. born cleric now operating Yemen, has labeled the political uprisings throughout the Middle East as a boon for Al-Qaeda to strengthen and expand its network.

He should not be so sure of himself.

Al-Qaeda does not enjoy widespread support throughout the Arab World. Let us not forget the Baghdad demonstrations against the terrorist network when Al Qaeda in Iraq was ripping up sections of the city with suicide bombers.

The United States does not have to butress very nation that throws out its ruling elite. Unmanned drones in Afghanistan have already neutralized terrorist cells. The United States can take on another developments with similar operations.

The failed state of Somalia does not pose nearly the level of threat to the world as a nuclear-armed Iran. If Tunisia, Egypt, and even Yemen devolve into instability for a period of time, the resulting unrest will still be less to fear. Al-Qaeda cannot bet on exploiting any power vaccuum.

Gadhafi is Going Down

The same defector-diseases is infecting the Libyan dictator's camp.

Gadhafi's foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, has fled to the rebels' camp.

Like President Saleh in Yemen, and President Mubarak, defections by the higher brass in the military and government signal the surging power of the people to topple outdated and outlandish dictators.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired his entire cabinet before they could resign. If the Syrian army turns on their masters like the military operations in other Arab States, it could signal a complete and stable transition of power.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Revolution in Syria on the Rise

Syria is shaking. It was only a matter of time. Despite being one of the most repressive regimes in the world, despite enjoying a relatively decent standard of living (compared to the other nations), the Syrian people are rising up. They are shaking off the forty-year Assad dictatorship.

If the United States assumes any military interest in Libya, then by all means the President must bolster support and dispatch military forces to Syria. It is shameful to witness the bulk of US diplomacy wooing Syria away from Islamic fundamentalists. Assad's promises for reform will prove empty. He must be thrown out, by will or by force! The question now is whether the United States Government will properly discern friend from foe. If the United States abandoned Mubarak, a stable ally of the West, we definitely need to cast out Assad, a cold enemy and virulent opponent of the state of Israel.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: Queen of the Screen, Dreg of Humanity

Hollywood Icon and Starlet Elizabeth Taylor passed away March 23. A child star turned enchantress, both on and off-screen, Taylor dominated the headlines for her roles and many loves. Or rather, too many loves. Better yet, her many romantic entanglements. Reporters, fans, and the general media eulogize her as if she were a queen.

In reality, she was anything but. In spite of her involvement in important charities and caused, her immoral life compromised any official good works, which ultimately she did to have another turn in the public eye. The whole thing recalls the nightmare sequence from Rob Reiner's classic movie "The Princess Bride". The heroine, Buttercup, now a recently-wed princess, stands before her adoring people. Suddenly, a strident "Boo!" breaks up the quiet adoration of the people. The crowd gives way to a decrepit old woman. "She had true love! And what did she do? She treated it like garbage!" The old woman then mocks the gathering, "So, bow down to her if you want, bow down to her, the queen of slime, the queen of filth! Boo! Boo!"

Someone needs to stand up and shout the same calumny about Elizabeth Taylor. There is something profoundly troubling about a world that dotes on the illustrious career of a movie mogul, yet not only neglects to chide, but even accommodates her deplorable morality. This woman, who married the same man two times, went to the altar a staggering eight times! Even the Wife of Bath was not so frivolous! She said "I do", yet not once did she commit to those vows. In the midst of her turbulent life, her private life dominated the tabloids.

Everyone was moved by her eyes, windows to a troubled and dissolute soul that everyone seems content to ignore. Rather than celebrating Taylor's life, the world should mourn that once again fame has trumped morality and inner peace. Celebrity, for all its wealth and warm wishes, takes away far more than it can offer. If such fame makes living a moral life infamous, then we should not celebrate it all.

Yes, Taylor led charities. Yes, she was outspoken about important causes, like AIDS. But her life, and lack of moral integrity, cries out far above any official good works that she did in the public eye. And did this woman have any peace? From estranged family members to debilitating illnesses that plagued her, Taylor was not enjoying her life. About now-deceased Elizabeth Taylor, Queen of the Screen, one can only ask: "What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but lose his soul?"

Uprisings in Syria: At Last!

Protests, police clashes, burning police stations: the Jasmine Revolution that started in Tunisia is now rising over Syria, one of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Social media has brought together the disenfranchised and disaffected of the region. They want Bassar al-Assad out.

Some experts have commented that there would be minor uprisings in Syria because of the higher standard of living and the Government's effective system of censorship.

If nothing else, the recent protests in Syria indicate that the unrest throughout the Middle East is about more than having enough money to live. It's about exercising one's natural rights to speak out and speak for oneself and one's people.

Trouble in this region may assist Western and Israeli interests. Syria has been a long-standing ally of the bellicose and unstable Iranian theocracy as well as a prime support of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terrorist army threatening Israel.

Western leaders still caution about the potential fallout from a power vacuum. However, even instability in the region would be welcome compared to the chronic threat posed by Hezbollah and Iran. Removing the Assad dictatorship would severely limit the malignant operations of both entities.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Regime Change NOW!

Libyan forces are retreating at the onslaught of the allied no-fly zone. Yemen is on the brink of collapse. Egypt is holding elections to replace the Mubarak regime which fled amidst of a well-spring of protest.

In Yemen, one of the 18 military commanders who defected from President Saleh may be the next head of state. Despite the fact that Yemen has been the stage for Al-Qaeda strikes against the United States, I doubt the current yield the power vacuum needed for terrorists to thrive openly.

Reports indicate that the Syrian government has fired on protesters, as well. The world has already observed that fire-power cannot quell people-power. Dictator-"presidents" throughout the Middle East are growing uneasy, realizing that citizen-insurgents, having swayed the sympathy of Western observers, are galvanizing long-oppressed minorities and engaging the armed forces and other stable institutions to join the rank-and-file assault on the dessicated, sclerotic tyrants too long in power.

To see Syria tremble is good. To see Iran shake at the thought of another massive student uprising would be better. Yet the greater prize for freedom is yet to come. To witness China, the Middle Kingdom held hostage to hellish Communist ideology for the past sixty years, battered to its core by civil disobedience, internal Internet piracy, and massive uprisings: that would be the realization of the dream that shined briefly in 1989!

Yemeni Defectors Signal a Different Trend

High-ranking officials in the Yemeni army have defected to the opposition.

Government ministers and ambassadors have resigned in protest after the President's crackdown on protesters last week.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh no longer has any long-standing support left. Even his own tribe is calling for his immediate resignation.

Saleh's promises of Democratic reforms have not been enough for the Yemeni people. Firing his entire cabinet in the wake of mass resignations has not been enough. The tribes throughout the region have had enough of his 32-year reign.

The mass defection of army brass and diplomatic might is a welcome development in the midst of the populist revolutions sweeping the Middle East. Many feared that military force in Libya, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia would stifle the swelling revolts which have already pushed out presidents in Tunisia and Egypt.

Yet the example in Egypt has served as the more accurate model. The army, already a popular feature in Egypt, sided with the protesters, refusing to fire on their own people.

After the initial military skirmished in Yemen, the army joined with the protesters instead of crushing the rebellion. Similar events have transpired in Libya's government. Libya's UN ambassador has defected, recognizing the provisional government stationed in Benghazi.

If this trend continues, perhaps the widespread unrest will influence military leaders in Syrira, Saudi Arabia, and the biggest obstacle to freedom in the Middle East: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs in Iran.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Murderers Should Die: A Response to Mr. Prager

Columnist Dennis Prager's article "Murderers Should Die" was erudite and thought-provoking.

However, I adamantly disagree with his argument. To begin with, I resent his insinuation that opponents of the death penalty have misplaced compassion for murderers, or that death-penalty opponents have no respect for life. In fact, I oppose the death penalty because it is flawed, unjust, and unnecessary.

Flawed: The death penalty places too much power in the State, an imperfect association in the wrongly convicted are saved by resolute appeals. Prager minimizes miscarriages of justice in capital cases, yet in Illinois in 1999, thirteen of the twenty-five men on death row were wrongly convicted and later exonerated by DNA evidence. Reports crop up frequently or the wrongly convicted set free from death row. The finality of the death penalty, marred by human fallibility, creates the risk that the innocent may be wrongly executed.

Unjust: I respect the Torah, but to execute the Torah's justice to the T would be cruel and contrary to the will of God. According to the Torah, anyone who commits idolatry, adultery, theft, and other crimes must be put to death, not just murderers. Even those who worked on the Sabbath would be executed. If anyone demands the death of murderers because it is a standard in the Torah, then we must in turn execute people for violating many other commandments. That is an extreme position which I cannot support.

Unnecessary: As a Christian, I believe that Christ's death on the Cross atones for the bloodguilt of committing sin, whether idolatry, adultery, or murder. Every death that every sinner is condemned to die, Christ died in substitution. Human execution cannot complement God's ultimate sacrifice. Societies still must maintain laws and deterrents for criminals, but the death penalty as retribution is unnecessary.

The last reason is a religious belief, but a valid argument against the death penaly not steeped in misplaced compassion for the murder or devoid of respect for life.

Pension Reform across the U.S. and in the Golden State

Who came up with the ludicrous notion that people should be paid for not working?

Come to think of it, the idea seems innate in human nature. Who doesn't want to get paid to do nothing?

Hence, the pension system. Work thirty odd years, retire with a gold watch and the warm wished of friends and colleagues, and at the end of every month, collect a pension. Get paid to sit at home and watch TV.

Madness! What's worse, though, is who is footing the bill for this long-term laziness. In public employee firms, the tax-payers are on the hook for paying the vast bulk of the pension demand. Entire cities have had to lay off works, cancel services, in short, give up providing the basic services which cities are expected to give. These pension obligations are simply outrageous. It is crime, a sin for the old to cannibalize the young.

When Wisconsin Governor Walker proposed taking way the bargaining rights of public employees in order to help balance the budget and limit future obligations, he was met with a firestorm of protest from unions across the state. His actions, however, will enable to forgo issuing massive layoff notices. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie negotiated a deal where the state employees will have to contribute more toward their retirement. Christie acknowledged that the union hate the deal now, but they will be thanking him ten years later, because at least they will still have a pension to draw from upon retirement.

California faces the same crisis, an unsustainable pension system in the face of a larger number of retiring workers, with the alarming prospect of fewer new hires to fund the badly-underfunded pension system.

Three proposals listed by the LA Times ("Calif. GOP presses pension reform" 3/18/2011):
1) State employees must have accrued more years in the system before they can be eligible for pension benefits
2) cut benefits for current and future employees
3) Limit the salary to calculate pension benefits at $90,000

Public Employees in the City of Torrance have stepped up and agreed to contributed more to their pensions before they retire, lessening the fiscal impact to the city and to taxpayers. These changes will only affect new hires.

These moves by the state of California are insufficient. There will still be pension obligations. It will not put an end to this immoral system, which must be curbed and phased out entirely.

The City of Costa Mesa has developed a meaningful plan to curb the long-term burden posed by public employee pensions: lay of city workers en masse and contract out the services to private firms. Despite the LA Times reporting the suicide of one public worker in the aftermath of the layoff notices, the city must move ahead on limiting its financial obligations, not just for the sake of the city, but its future stability. Let private companies decide how to compensate workers, paying with their own funds. Tax-payer money must fund public works and public service, not private pensions.

I understand that the political machinations of solving pension problems is so protracted that a complete devolution and removal of the system is impossible. But lawmakers across the country, legislators in the Golden State, have got to make the tough decision to effect real reform. Governor Walker did it. Governor Kasich of Ohio took the same bold steps. Governor Christie has made it clear: "The day of reckoning is here." Federal and state governments have to deal with the budget-busting pension liabilities.

Ideally, the whole practice would be undone entirely. In reality, any significant steps to return the burden on individual workers and private firms is better than nothing.

Aristide Returns

Haiti has been hit by two devasting earthquakes already.

First, the January 2010 7.9 quake that wreaked nationwide desolation. Make-shift camps

Then, "Baby Doc" Duvalier returned to a nation, still reeling from natural disaster and national dissolution. The recent Presidential elections were marred by widespread suspicion, chaos, and then President Preval's direct limitation of potential contenders.

Now comes the third earthquake: Jean Aristide, the President exiled during the previous decade, is returning to Haiti from his hideaway in South Africa.

Haiti needs leaders, not dictators, not thieves, not con artists dedicated to fleecing the poor masses, lining their pockets with foreign aid while the native peoples suffer.

The Caribbean does not need one more dose of unrest. It would be a euphemism to call Haiti a failed state. A poor carcase of a nation, whose former leaders ran it into an early grave, setting it up for near-annihilation by the forces of nature, Haiti simply cannot stand one more earthquake of this political magnitude.

I Beg to Differ, Senator Begich (D-Alaska)

LA Times article "Congress again averts a federal shutdown" (March 18, 2011) shares an intriguing quote from the junior senator of Alaska.

After outlining the legal l0g-rolling of the current Congress to prevent a government shutdown while cutting wasteful spending, the writer reports that the Senate agreed to another three-week stopgap measure to finance government operations so that both chambers could hammer out a long-term compromise balancing cuts with preserving precious government largess.

Before responding to Senator Begich, a Democrat whose nonsensical criticism is understandable, I would like to challenge Senator John Kyl's (R-Arizona) justification for passing the stopgap measure. Because the measure cuts $10 billion dollars of spending (despite the Republican pledge to cut at least $100 billion), Kyl observed: "All in all, a good day's work."

Weeks of haggling produces $10 billion in cuts, and that is a "good day's work"? Either the standard of excellence is so paltry, or the integrity of fiscal conservatives is petty, but for a Republican to call such a slender cut from the budget "good work" in the face of trillion-dollar deficits: that is simply laughable.

Now, Senator Begich's comment on the continued stalling on long-term budget legislation:

"This is no way to run the country."

Chiding colleagues for not resolving the fiscal wars among themselves, Begich does not seem to realize that it was the very lack of wrangling, debate, and challenge which permitted Congressmen to slip in earmarks, avoid entitlement reform, and siphon off money from the American tax-payer, money which year after year becomes increasingly more difficult to borrow from international investors. No, Senator Begich, the financial irresponsibility of you and your colleagues in Congress is certainly no way to run the United States (unless you want this country to ride on the road to ruin). The short-term political expediencies of you and your colleagues have dumped this nation's financial future into such dire straits, that trimming the budget by a mere $10 billion dollars leads some legislators to pat themselves on the back.

Shame on the blind profligacy of the United States Congress. Kudos to those legislators rejecting these puny stopgap measures, who demand real budget reform!

Banks, Debit Card Fees, and the Law of Unintended Consequences

The United States Government needs to get out of the finance industry.

Stop regulating capital. Stop limiting investment. Stop tell people what they can and cannot do with their money. On top of all that, stop wasting the money that the tax-payers send every year, and stop asking for so much in the first place!

The Credit CARD ACT initiated last year is stalling in Congress, and for good reason. Despite the "noble" aspiration of lawmakers to protect consumers from predatory banks and lenders, it will end up doing more harm than good.

Let's consider the fallout from Congress' attempt to micromanage credit card companies. If they cannot charge consumers at the rates of their choosing, if they have to tolerate more questionable customers seeking credit, what will credit card companies do? They will hike interest rates on current credit card holders, slash credit limits for the most minuscule of excuses, and deny future applicants. If credit card companies cannot access and limit risk with higher rates and fees as needed, then they will have to gouge current holders and prevent future ones. An attempt to help the American consumer backfired because of the Law of Unintended Consequences.

The Credit CARD ACT wants to limit the fees that banks can charge on debit card users. The motivation for this invasive move into the everyday transactions of the banking industry is to protect consumers from banks gouging them for mistakes.

How will the banks respond? They have to turn a profit somehow, or close their doors, which would hurt individual account holders terribly, having fewer banks from which to seek financial services. If the banks cannot accrue revenue, they will have to cut services or raise fees elsewhere in order to balance their own books. Imagine banks which no longer provide free checking, or which automatically have to charge higher interest rates in offering car, home, or business loans to prospective clients. Or worse: consumers attempting to make purchases with their debit cards would be summarily rejected.

When Congress interlopes in the financial sector, it causes more harm than good. Some may argue that the housing crisis which led to the Great Recession was caused by wildcat banks handing out loans to undeserving clients who could not, or simply would not pay off the loan in a timely and responsible manner. The reality goes far deeper, to government agencies compelling banks to permit poor and minority applicants to receive home loans. In other cases, the government created incentives for banks to hand out frequent loans to buyers not equipped to pay back. Though such an arrangement prospered brokers, it weakened banks and set up clients across the current for the horrendous fallout of a failing housing market, which eventually took down with it other crucial sectors in the economy.

The bottom line: government intervention instigated the crisis that this country is currently fighting its way through. Government cannot do right by the individual consumer. Let banks flourish or fail on their own, outlining the rules, responsibilities, and restrictions of clients who wish to use their bank, checking, and debit card services. The free market will do a better job of managing good banks and punishing those who gouge consumers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sharron's Right Angle

Tea Party Republican Sharron Angle is both outgoing and controversial. She gained a lot of attention for herself in the 2010 U.S. Senate primaries against establishment Republicans endorsed by the party machine.

Both traits probably hurt her in the general election against incumbent Majority Leader Harry Reid in 2010. But they are just the right mix for someone contemplating a run for the U. S. House of Representatives.

House Reps need to be partisan, outspoken, and specific when they run for office in their local constituencies. Because of its apportionment based on population, the House of Representatives is a better register for the individual and parochial passions of the United States. In contrast, Senators must consider the needs of their states, not just local constituencies. They must persuade and represent a wider, more inclusive electorate.

The Framers of the Constitution designed Congress as a bicameral legislature with this dichotomy in mind. Partisan interests would percolate in the House of Representatives, then a more elite body of legislators would cool off heated populism, which would produce tempered legislation for the President to sign.

Though Mrs. Angle's heated temperament may have eventually suited itself to the more august body of the Senate, she will be a perfect fit for the House of Representatives. Her outspoken views, radical in their urgency for fundamental reform, will enjoy more currency in the House of Representatives. She may even take on a leadership role, like Tea Party Chairman Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Muhammed, Mahmoud, and Celebrity Spokesmen

Taking on another opponent, former Heavyweight champion of the world Muhammed Ali (formerly Cassius Clay) is demanding that Iranian "president" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad release American hikers who were arrested for trespassing nearly two years ago.

The world should stand by the imprisoned hikers. The President of Iran is an evil man for holding them captive. An evil man for even greater reasons, Ahmadinejad has not back-tracked from his desire to wipe the nation of Israel "off the face of the Earth," a threat which he is more likely to carry out as Iran gets closer to developing nuclear weapons.

But is Cassius Clay the right man to be denouncing the Persian head of state? Who does he think he is, anyway? And is he doing more harm than good by being made a spokesman in this conflict?

Let's recap some events in the eventful life of Muhammed Ali. An arrogant boaster, he roared on national television, "I'm the king of the world, I am the greatest, I’m Muhammad Ali. I shook up the world, I am the greatest, I'm king of the world". He then refused to enter the draft for Vietnam, flagrantly disobeying the call of his country. He was subsequently stripped of his Heavyweight Title. Nature has taken its toll on the once-proud man. Now suffering from Parkinson's Disease, he cannot even take care of himself.

Ali has not authority to speak out on on the Iranian issue or any other international questions. His character, his past actions, and his current irrelevance question any credible explanation as to why the media deigned as newsworthy his reproach of President Ahmadinejad.

Generally speaking, celebrity spokesmen are irrelevant. They deprive the subjects of their commentary of any relevance either by tarnishing the matter with their questionable reputations or distracting their public from the important issue with their celebrity.

For example, it's not enough that scores of people are dying under an oppressive regime (Sudan). George Clooney as influential humanitarian must be mentioned, preferably with him on the cover of some weekly magazine holding a starving child in his rippled arms. No matter how devastating the political oppression and violence that is terrorizing the Sudanese, the world is paying more attention to the A-list actor.

It's not enough to inform the public that young mothers are unduly pressured to end the lives of their unborn children. People care about abortion when teen-idol Justin Beiber makes an aside about it in an interview with Rolling Stone. Unfortunately, if anyone catches the remark, Beiber accidentally crowds it out with his nonchalant tolerance of premarital sex and praise for the Canadian Health Care System. After that interview, the media at large spent more time being shocked about the fact that the Beiber shared a controversial point of view. No one considered the fate of the unborn or the pregnant minors who bear them. No one in the media admonished their readers to do anything about the problem.

Because of celebrity-spokesmen, we spend more time preoccupied with the messenger, ignoring the message, and remaining oblivious to any mandate to do something.

It would have been better if Muhammed Ali kept his mouth shut about President Ahmadinejad. Even if he shared something as frivolous as "2 + 2 = 4", Ali is putting himself in a role which he does not deserve. As a result, we end up debating the merits of his opinions instead of seeking the long-term safety of the American hikers held hostage in Iran.

For this reason, the mainstream media should not lend itself to broadcasting relevant views through irrelevant, inconsequential, or incredulous spokesmen like George Clooney, Justine Beiber, or Muhammed Ali. Let the newsworthy elements in this troubled age speak for themselves.

Letting a Crisis Go to Nuclear Waste

If not for the Earthquakes wreaking havoc on the Japanese, the threat of nuclear meltdown would not be troubling the Japanese, or dissuading future investors in nuclear energy.

Nations have nothing to fear from nuclear energy, one of the safest means of providing energy for a burgeoning modern world. France supplies 70% of the nation's energy through nuclear power. They have not suffered through meltdowns, mechanical setbacks, or natural disasters like those afflicting Japan.

Rather than condemning nuclear energy in itself as a dangerous and unreliable energy source, the media must focus on the political and environmental factors surrounding potential meltdowns.

The world must factor in the precarious geology which defines this island nation. Moreover, the active faultlines in this country did not wreak as much havoc as the magnitude 7 earthquake that destroyed Haiti. Japan's infrastructure has minimized the long-term damage from widespread flooding, road damage, and loss of life.

Bumbling and Fumbling with the U.S. Congressional Budget

Enough with the stop-gap measures! Half-measures will avail nothing to the United States! Ancillary, penny-ante, billion-dollar cuts to the federal budget will not restore this country to fiscal sanity.

True, the proposed $70 billion in cuts is historic for the United States Congress. Yet in light of the 2010-2011 $1.5 trillion dollar deficit and the $14 trillion
($14,000,000,000,000 !!!) national debt looming over this country, it is a mere rounding error. To claim any real progress toward fiscal discipline with such paltry concessions is insulting, if not absurd and unserious.

Congress must attack the entitlements strangling the economy and future posterity of this country. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, these initial supports have turned into middle-class baby-boomer largesse draining the security of our nation and the opportunities of future generations.

Baby-steps toward fiscal solvency will not ensure any long-lasting success for the United States.

Kudos to the 54 Republicans who voted against a three-week extension of the Federal Budget. The Freshman and Tea Party Republicans who have taken Washington by storm are sticking to their principles.

Will they propose meaningful, budget cutting legislation of their own? Will they have the courage to do more than vote against stop-gap measures, which so far can easily pass over them with supports form Democrats?
Will the Tea Party Congressmen cave when Congress has to debate extending the current $14+ trillion debt-ceiling?

It is no longer enough to "throw the bums out"! We do not have time to recycle old Congressional hacks with neophytes who wither into the same insiders despised and besought by the popular media.

As a last stance for hope, Milton Friedman sharply pointed out that the electorate in this country does not have to occupy itself with throwing out incumbent legislators, but to make political necessary decisions viable for current Congressmen. We did so many Senators ultimately support the Civil Rights Acts of 1964? They wanted to hold on to the electorate which would without a doubt include minorities in the South!

Tea Party Advocates and Fiscal Hawks must make Economically Sound Legislation a politically expedient proposition for lawmakers. If they know that whacking away at the budget will net them more votes in the next election, then they will cut away at the financial waste ruining this country.

Gadhafi's Edge over Rebels

As the civil war drags on Libya, Gadhafi is gaining the upper hand over the rebels. He has recaptured key port cities, sites of major oil wells. His airpower dwarfs the gun power of the insurgents whom the 42-year dictator is pushing back.

While Gadhafi is holding onto power through arbitrary bloodshed, Saudi Arabia has also quelled dissent within its borders and has sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to stop ongoing protests there.

The populist revolution sweeping the Middle East has stalled among major roadblocks. Either unmatched military might or long-entrenched dynastic authority have reserved sufficient power to the House of Saud and Gadhafi to maintain their autocratic rule.

Despite these setbacks, the United States must refrain from entering the ongoing fray convulsing these countries. Even if the Royal family in Saudi Arabia and the ruthless military complex in Libya stamp out the rebellions, these uprisings have shaken the stability of these regimes, which in turn may compel these rulers to offer some reform, to cede power to a new leader of their own choosing, or at least permit the revolutionary forces to regroup and rise up again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Renaissance Reform and Modern Revolution

Before Iranian Mullahs, Arab despots, Chinese Communists, and Dictators of every stain and stripe were dominating press, print, and radio to prevent their oppressed peoples from hearing new ideas, free-thinking, and open discourse, there was the Vatican.

Paul III and Paul IV waged war on the growing Protestant heresies harassing their church, carrying away their congregants, and undermining their temporal authority.

As PBS: Secret Files of the Inquisition asserts, the Roman Catholic Church Authorities faced an insurmountable obstacle in their severe and violent attempts to prevent the spread of Lutheran heresy: the Printing Press. No matter how many books the Inquisition officials confiscated and destroyed, they could not stem the tide of new information flooding into the hands of willing readers. Because of the printing press, reading and book-dealing, long a noble and elite past-time only for those who could afforded the laboriously transcribed volumes, now fell within the reach of the common man. With printing came vernacular translations of the Bible, arguments affirming, debating, and challenging church doctrine, and pamphlets advocating different points of view.

Freedom of discussion welling up among the public could do nothing less but cause the theological autarchy of the Papacy to falter.

We are witnessing the same phenomenon, not among secular dictators and religious tyrants. Instead of the printing press providing free and easy access to previously privy and pricey information, technologies like the Internet and Iphones with applications like Facebook and Twitter are transmitting access and information long withheld from oppressed peoples intentionally kept in their dark by brutal dictators.

We have witnessed the swift uprising of populist revolt in the wake of the Electronic, Social Network Revolution, which has toppled long-entrenched leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, while threatening the bloody illegitimacy of strongmen in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

In spite of the potential controls that national leaders may exert on popular media, the ground-sell of outrage bringing down rulers long thought unassailable is remarkable and believable in light of history. If Renaissance men with the innovation of printing could shake temporal-religious authorities in Europe, one can only imagine the transformation that transmission technologies will wage in the Middle East.

Algeria: A Quiet Success Story in the Making

In the first week of March 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported on opposition movements rising in Algeria, following the protests rocking Tunisian, Egypt, and the rest of the Middle East.

Unlike the staunch opposition of President Mubarak before ultimately abdicating, and certainly in stark contrast to the violent opposition of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi against his own people, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika took the unprecedented steps of . . .meeting (some of) the demands of his frustrated people.

Bouteflika rearranged his ruling cabinet. More importanly, he has lifted the 19-year emergency laws which have long crippled the civil rights of Algerians. This crucial liberalizing move ends detention without trial for suspected terrorists, a practice notoriously abused by despotic states throughout the world.

The Algerian government has also instituted pay raises (for government workers) and reform in housing and employment.

After the Algerian president rescinded martial law, political parties have reassembled throughout the country, peacefully demonstrating against the government, despite the fact that he government will not allow citizens to lead political marches in Algiers, the capital city.

In the wake of the civil war tearing apart neighboring Libya, Algeria's political future may remain obscure, though its more peaceful development may not necessarily be in doubt. If nothing else, the Algerian people will do everything they can to avoid another fractious military conflict from dividing their country, like the civil wars of the early 1990s.

Celebrity Shame-Baiting: A King and A Commentary

Earlier, I had commented on the potentially dubious practice of "celebrity shame-baiting", how it can bring out the worst or the best in the public, depending on the motivation for practicing it.

To recap, "celebrity shame-baiting" is the process of repeatedly exposing the foibles, follies, and wrongdoings of high-profile individuals, whether actors, politicians, or world leaders. Today's media frenzy has enabled anyone with access to the Internet, by computer or cellphone, to contact, communicate, and excoriate another for any act committed.

If taken to the extreme, the viewing public becomes fixated on vapid foolishness which has little bearing on our daily lives. Rather than informing us or enlightening our conduct, incessant exposure can demean us, stealing our attention away from more important matters and cluttering our focus with things of little worth.

"Celebrity shame-baiting" can bring out the worst in us, making us invasive, vindictive, and petty. Consider the chronic blasting from Perez Hilton, whose needless shameful exposure has ruined lives and contaminated the common conversation.

In one case in history, "celebrity shame-baiting" evoked not just the depressed moral integrity of a community, but the greater instability of a society. Beyond deforming us, constant calumny against public officials of any rank can enslave us to a foreboding outcome.

During the 1640's, England practiced celebrity shame-baiting against the highest ranking official, King Charles the First. He was in a public trial for high treason against the English people.

The shameless pillorying of the Stuart monarch twisted a legitimate desire for broader freedoms into a slanted court destined to put him to death.

The only true dignitary throughout the disgraceful mob-mass trial, Charles the First declared succinctly, if not persuasively, that the tribunal which judged him had no right or reason to be assembled against him. He was their legitimate monarch by divine right. Despite every inquisition posed by the tribunal, King Charles pressed for his inquisitors to explain by what right, by what authority they empowered themselves to question him, to condemn him, to execute him.

His judges, stymied, shamed into confusion before the massive jury assigned to hear the case, pushed ahead with the charges against him, stating that his at-will dissolution of Parliament, his rampant raiding of the public treasure, and his insurrections against the English people during the Civil War all underscored his guilt. Yet the judging authorities never adequately reconciled how they could authoritatively terminate one "divine-right" authority without providing sufficient legal authority of their own. It is critical to establish the basis for attacking a position or a person in order to replace what is being removed with something more stable and substantial.

The trial of King Charles the First, from beginning to end, was celebrity shame-baiting at its height: a captive king in court before disgruntled citizens who used every tirade, evidence, and onslaught to bring him down. Yet at the end of the trial, the jury of English citizens entered a decidedly predictable verdict of guilty upon sentence of death by decapitation.

Notwithstanding the summary judgement against him, King Charles managed, despite his feeble mien and certain doom, to denounce the tribunal and the jury as more despotic, tyrannical, and arbitrary than he.

Even before his execution, King Charles' subtle, passive indictment against the masses exposed the darker despotism which would later oppress the English landscape. Under the Protectorate rule of Puritan Oliver Cromwell, the English would endure moralist martial law, which suspended freedom of speech and the press, and even closed down the theaters and gambling houses. Free speech, which had helped bring down a king, now muzzled the people seeking that freedom. Cromwell even considered exterminating the Irish -- in order to provide the Jews a new homeland. Not once did Charles the First ever consider such massive violence.

In the public zeal to bring down a wicked leader, the English gave birth to a greater, more terrifying evil. Small wonder that the English welcomed Charles the First exiled son Charles the Second to resume his place as chief of state in 1660.

When entertainment journalists hound hapless stars behaving badly, the whole thing just reeks of immorality. But irresponsible exposure which attacks the rightful need for authority, weakening our character and cheapening our sensibilities, may give rise not just to chaos, but an order far more oppressive, cruel, and base, one which undermines the very right which we had initially abused.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jews in China: Who Knew?

Jews have traveled all over the world, settled in lands as far-reaching as Afghanistan (though currently only one Jew still lives there), India, and now. . .China.

Jews have a wide and varied existence throughout the Earth.

Following their first Diaspora at the sword of the invading Assyrians, the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel (Minus Judah and Benjamin, who had formed the rump state "Judah") were flung throughout the world.

The remaining tribes of Judah and Benjamin held on to their independence for a few more centuries, only to be conquered and captured by the Babylonians. That captivity of Jews, after seventy years in Babylon, returned to the land of Israel, rebuilt the Temple, and endured domination or repulsed foreign invasion until the Romans came, saw, and conquered


AD 70, the Jews rebelled against the Roman occupiers one last time, crushed to the last. In a consummate act of desecration, a Roman general sacrificed loathsome swine on the altar of the Holy of Holies, the City of Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews were expelled or enslaved throughout the known Roman world.

It is a testimony to God's grace the his people live on throughout the world, including China.

In the city of Kaifeng, a contingency of 500 people, 100 families, composes the Jewish community in China. Despite frequent intermarriage, slow erosion of rabbinical and Judaic practice, the residents of this community have maintained reminders of their Jewish Heritage.

On a side not, let us not forget that non-ethnic Chinese Jews also inhabited the Middle Kingdom. During World War II, Jews fleeing the war-ravaged continent found refuge in China.

Get U.S. Out of Afghanistan!

For nearly ten years, the United States Armed Forces have waged a protracted, demanding, sporadic war in Afghanistan, a nation which has witnessed (overseen?) the demise of great empires in the past: Alexander the Great, the British, the Soviets. . .

The United States had a welcome reason for invading: bring down the Taliban and bring out Osama bin Laden, 9-11 mastermind, dead or alive.

We may have succeeded in bringing down the Taliban . . .at least as the main governing force in that country. In its stead, Afghanistan now has "elected president" Hamid Karzai, a crooked gangster siphoning off millions in foreign aid to line his own pockets, while corrupt police and a terrified citizenry still go without adequate sustenance, security, and sanctity. He even openly solicits the support of previous leaders under the Taliban regime!

Women are still forced into arranged marriages. Some reports from the country indicate they still suffer under the heavy burkha--er, burden of sharia law. Any effort to preserve the rights of women has met with overwhelming opposition.

What reason do we have to believe that the United States can have any long-term success in that region? What would define such success? After ten years, that question has not been answered.

It could not, never could be, nation-building. The country is riddled with fraction factions divided into blood-feuding tribes pursuing their own interests at all costs. The requisite bases of courts, markets, contracts, enforcement, do not exist in that country, as they did in Iraq. Those fundamental aspects of civilizations cannot be created out of whole cloth by an invading presence with no viable knowledge of the indigenous languages, customs, and culture. Afghans are demanding that Marines help them with irrigation, farming, the basic elements of civilized life. None of these demands should be shouldered on the brave men and women stationed in that country. They were not trained to offer such services.

Let's not overlook the number once source of revenue for impoverished farmers in that region: opium, the illegal and illicit substance traded through black markets around the world. How else can Afghan farmers support themselves? They are continuing to grow that crop in open defiance of the occupying forces who had liberated them in the first place.

Policy analysts assert that the United States must remain in Afghanistan to protect this country from future attacks. Unmanned drones scouring the many unmarked caves of Afghanistan would safeguard this nation from future attack just as well, without imperilling out troops on the ground. The Taliban has already reintroduced itself into Kabul's political circus. Our only meaningful purpose for maintaining any presence there would be to deter future terrorist networks.

The United States does not have the power or authority to change the shape of that nation. Let's not continue to pretend that we can now. We must leave the fate of Afghanistan to its people, whether they rise up and take more active control of their government, or devolve into warring factions along tribal prejudices.

No "No-Fly Zone" Over Libya

The United States must resist the call to impose a "no-fly zone" over Libya in the midst of that nation's escalating civil war .

Washington Post Columnist George F. Will offered a list of compelling questions which must influence the United State's decision to engage our military forces in Libya:

-- The world would be better without Gadhafi. But is that a vital U.S. national interest? If it is, when did it become so?
--Some will submit that protecting oil reserves in Libya is crucial to sustaining a weak recovery in this country. But the cost in time, treasure, and blood would far outweigh any economic benefit.

-- What lesson should be learned from the fact that Europe's worst atrocity since the Second World War -- the massacre by Serbs of Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica -- occurred beneath a no-fly zone?
--The scenario Will referred to begs the larger question: What would the United States be attempting to accomplish with a no-fly zone? Are we trying to protect civilians? There is no guarantee that it would prove successful. Would we be actively trying to bring down Gadhafi's government? The United States would then have to commit far more than air strikes to the region.

-- U.S. forces might ground Gaddafi's fixed-wing aircraft by destroying runways at his 13 air bases, but to keep helicopter gunships grounded would require continuing air patrols, which would require the destruction of Libya's radar and anti-aircraft installations.
--A "no-fly zone" will demand more machine power and man-power than the strategists can for see.

-- If we decide to give war supplies to the anti-Gadhafi fighters, how do we get them there?
-- A: We would have to go from air offensives to land offensives.
There is, of course the thornier question of what would happen to the weapons we give the rebels. Would they start using them on each other? On defenseless civilians? Against American forces?

-- Presumably we would coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gadhafi forces. Who are they?
-- Who knows? And can we trust them to have the best interest of their nation, liberal republicanism, and international law, in mind?

-- Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?
--None! U. S. foreign policy has tried too often to conjure democratic change in nations still stuck in the swamp of tribalism. Investing human lives over an interminable period of time, whether with aircraft or ground troops, will not coerce tribal entities from surrendering their shrouded sovereignty. Throughout his untimely forty year reign, Moammar Gadhafi had to placate this petty political groups to coalesce his power. The United States, as sudden interloper into Libyan politics, would have no legitimacy to enforce lasting change.

-- Secretary of State Hilary Clinton fears Libya becoming a failed state -- "a giant Somalia." Have we not seen [in past conflicts, like Somalia] how humanitarian military interventions can take nasty turns?
--Failed states cannot be a result of this nation's insistent, unwanted intervention. Some reports have released increased demand on the part of rebels fighting desperately in the East. If we heed their cries, the long-term implications for us will be problematic.

-- The Egyptian crowds watched and learned from the Tunisian crowds. But the Libyan government watched and learned from the fate of the Tunisian and Egyptian governments. It has decided to fight. Would not U.S. intervention in Libya encourage other restive peoples to expect U.S. military assistance?
--Yes, and that's a domino effect the United States must avoid at all costs. We must safeguard our own freedoms, first and foremost.

-- Would it be wise for U.S. military force to be engaged simultaneously in three Muslim nations?
--Absolutely NOT! We cannot, should not, must not attempt to police the world. The United States can make the way safe for our own borders and our own interests, but we simply do not have the reach, the reason, or the resources to make the world as a whole safe for liberal polity.

Pope Benedict XVI, the Jews, and the Final Account

In his work Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI officially absolves of the Jews of any complicity in the execution of Jesus Christ.

He supports his denunciation of the Jews' supposed deicide through enlightened analysis of previously controversial passages from the Gospels of John and Matthew.

In the Gospel of John, the religious leader Nicodemus visits Jesus secretly at night (John 3). Later on, John exposes the religious community's cowardice in hiding their enthusiasm for the new Messiah (John 7). The parents of the healed beggar blind from birth refuse to acknowledge their son(John 9) . The apostles hide trembling in the upper room following Christ's crucifixion (John 20). These different parties represented in John's Gospel exhibit extreme reticence because of their "Fear of the Jews."

These passages suggest that "the Jews" tormented Christ's disciples, frustrated his witness, and even engineered his untimely and unjust death.

Pope Benedict succinctly refutes these misconceptions. Jesus was a Jew, as were his disciples and those who sought him, whether in the dead of night or within themselves. Which Jews posed the greatest threat to Christ and his ministers? The religious authorities!

Consider John's record of Caiaphas the High Priest :

"Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them [the religious authorities], Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. (John 11:50-53, KJV)

John's text indicts those immediately responsible for Jesus' death: the religious leaders of the day, not the entire Jewish nation then, or now.

In passing, this refutation of Gospel-induced anti-semitism is not new. Moreover, Pope Benedict XVI restates a position which the Catholic Church had articulated over forty years ago. One thousand years before, when persecuted Jews were fleeing Spain and Portugal, Pope Alexander VI welcomed them to resettle in Italy. Whether for political or partisan reasons, Benedict's insistence on refuting medieval justification for acts of anti-semitism is appropriate, and timely.

However, it may prove fundamentally fruitless.

Through simple yet rigorous hermeneutics, the Pope absolves the Jews of deicide, yet anti-Semites will still cling to their bitter hatred of God's initial chosen people, regardless of sound scriptural interpretation. Conviction through scripture must hold every one of us accountable to God for we are apart from him.

Despite the advocacy of modern-day religious authorities for respectful recognition for the Jewish people, only the full glory of the Gospel will free man from hatred of his fellow man, whether Jew or Gentile. As John the Evangelist penned: "We love, because He [God] first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

How did He love us? By His death on the Cross, taking upon himself God the Father's justified wrath against mankind, all of us sinners who have fallen short of God's glorious ideal. Yes, Christ's blood was shed to be on us and on our posterity--for repentance and remission of sin! This eternal act of grace sheds proper light on the thunderous demands of the crowd just before Christ's Crucifixion, Pontius Pilate presents Jesus to the people, who cry out "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!" According to Matthews' Gospel, they also shout: “His blood be upon us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:24–25) They were not calling for the blame to be placed on themselves, but inadvertently

In all actuality, the world should be thankful for the religious authorities' criminal scheme, for it set in motion the greatest act of love which the world --no, the universe will ever witness!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Unalienable Rights, Consent of the Governed, and Middle Eastern Revolution

Democracy, or a Republic: What is the United States? "A Republic, if you can keep it," quipped Benjamin Franklin, shortly after the 1787 Constitutional Convention.

A Republic better safeguards unalienable rights along with consent of the governed, allowing citizens to exercise their right to participate in their government. A Republic includes checks and balances and counter-majoritarian institutions to protect the rights of all, including minorities susceptible to marginalization by majority vote.

How? By elected representatives who will lobby, represent, and vote on their views while maintaining the better interests of the nation and the state.

Why does a pure democracy fail to do this? A slim majority of citizens may deprive one group, or even a majority of their rights. A 50% plus 1 majority may just as well turn power over to one group or one strongman, who will drag a nation back to tyranny.

Also, a Republic codifies the rule of law not just for its citizens, but for its leaders.

A Republic ensures that laws and policy do not simply spring from populist exuberance or
easily-swayed public opinion.

This is the danger to keep in mind in the wake of the populist uprisings unfolding across the Middle East. Though two ruthless dictators have been removed from power, and a third is staving off rebels against his authority, these nations must rebuild their state policy with guarantees of civil rights, not just a broad franchise of "one man, one vote, one time".

The oppressed peoples of the Middle East need to concentrate on defining what the government is supposed to do for them: protect their rights, nothing more. The government is not supposed to provide them bread, provide them work, provide them special protections based on their race or religion. Diverse, divergent, and differing groups within these countries will have to settle on fundamental rights which belong to all people, to ensure protection of those rights at all costs, and design a government whose primary responsibility will be to determine, define, and defend those rights.

These necessary requirements are a tall order for any nation, but certainly for countries with no history of gradual liberty. The sweeping power of public communications bringing together different nations, identities, and culture may or may not expedite the process of factions finding common ground. The revolutions began with the people in the Middle East; it is their responsibility to see them through to a meaningful end.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Celebrity Shame-Baiting: Part III

Let's consider the application and effects of Celebrity Shame-Baiting in three distinct situations, each in ascending order of local, than national, finally international importance.

Back to Charlie Sheen. The common phrase describing this guy is not "troubled", "meltdown, but "self-destructing". He self-destructs on TV, he rants about his bosses, he rambled about "winning" in a dazed haze as he rushes every phrase that he says. His own webcasts serve as useful fodder to TV news magazines and reporters. Sheen even has a fan base supporting his outrageous rage sessions on-screen and over the Internet.

Then there's Robert Rizzo, the con-man turned city manager who conned a sleepy working-class city out of millions for himself, part-time councilmembers, the mayor, the "disabled" chief of police, and even the city clerk. The more mainstream media, newspaper and news outlets on TV, have covered the demise of the civil servant who served only himself, all at the expense of the working-class community he was supposed to serve. Although parodies of his conduct, his weight, and his egregious self-justification have not taken to the air-waves, columnists like Steve Lopez have found it appropriate to expose him in daily life, ruining even his petty chances to work off community service.

Consider the world stage. The Presidents of Tunisia, Egypt, and whatever Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi calls himself, are all rich, all powerful, all gained by ill-gotten gain. And now their day of reckoning has come. People power has triumphed. Although the first two leaders have fled their respective countries, Moammar Gadhafi still holds some semblance of power in his civil-war striven nation. In the midst of this on-going revolution, an Israeli Jew took the time to spin his caustic, incomprehensible rant into a techno-mix "Zenga Zenga". Very funny, very catching, and very good at bringing together disparate peoples in the Middle East. Let us not forget the connections forged by Facebook and Twitter in uniting oppressed peoples against their oppressors, as well as exposing to the world the crime and corruption wreaked by their leaders.

Around the world, in our backyards, on TV, we witness the power of the media in bringing down the big and the great, the privileged and the powerful. Celebrity Shame-Baiting allows us to laugh at the actors, despise the politicians, and even oust plutocrats who masquerade as servants of the people.

But does Celebrity Shame-Baiting have any cost?

If the practice merely provides us an excuse to ignore our own foibles, line our pockets, or distract ourselves from more newsworthy events, then it is a sorry use of media. Such outcomes would certainly characterize the pandemic projects against Charlie Sheen.

Robert Rizzo is a point of transition. If Celebrity Shame-Baiting exposes wrong doing, enough to gain our attention, earn our sympathy, and motivate us to meaningful action, then the practice falls more in line with utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Benthams's premise: that the greatest security against misrule is publicity, viz. the media. Anything beyond exposing misrule to effect proper change is unjustified and unmerited torture, like the continued invasions into the private choices of Robert Rizzo. Excoriate his public misdeeds, certainly, but leave the human being alone.

In the final case of lampooning dictators and exposing their corruption, Celebrity Shame-Baiting is more than fitting. As a fine-tuned and expansive practice of free speech, bringing down ruthless dictators through the press and other social media will ensure the more-widespread adoption of freedom of speech, a fundamental right in any fledgling liberal state.

Yet even in the case of bringing down ruthless dictators, media must motivate the masses to build something better in its place. For if the dogs devour the bear, having nothing left to gnaw, they may very well turn on each other, or the spectators themselves.

Stripping Unions of Collective Bargaining Rights: Federal Edition?

Ohio and Wisconsin have successfully passed legislation to curb the power of state labor unions.

Iowa has contemplated the same measure, which will most likely fail, if not at least face severe opposition, since Democrats still control the legislature in that state.

I wish that the Republicans in the US Congress would wield their will against the employee unions in the Beltway and throughout the nation. Like thes states already initiating serious policy changes, the U. S. House and the Senate should press through legislation requiring federal employees to contribute more toward their pensions and benefits and strip them of collective bargaining power.

Imagine the future savings that this country would enjoy, and the greater freedom that our citizens would retain by putting an end to lobbying and collective stalling by federal employees.

A Response to the M8.9 Japanese Earthquake

Our thoughts go out to all those suffering in Japan, once again the epicenter for a major earthquake.

This one register at 8.9 on the Richter Scale, the largest magnitude in Japan's history.

For once, it was heartening and enlightening to see the news media around the world connected on documenting not only the damage and trauma, but also the heroics of soldiers and civilians taking every occasion to rescue those who are hurt, lost, or dead.

I enjoy the fact that news outlets are willing to rely on the current reports issued by the NHK, Japan's main news organ. For once, the connectedness of today's media is producing a more wholesome outcome: providing essential news to bystanders on the other side of the world who would otherwise have no clue as to the tragedy afflicting the Japanese.

It's unfortunate that it requires natural disasters of this magnitude in order to train the media's focus on more consequential events.

Let's hope that this trend will lead viewers, commentators, and analysts to ponder more weighty issues, like how better to safeguard communities from major natural disasters; how to recognize good work done by average people in difficult times; or even the more resources means which individuals can use to connect and support one another, as opposed to using media as a means of trashing and humiliating one another.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Celebrity Shame-Baiting: Part II

The ever-expanding populist media (YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Iphones, Ibooks, I everything) exacerbates twisted bestial idol-worship of celebrities.

Like the deformed genetic hybrids of Dr. Moreau, members of the public believe that we can be better, maybe reach perfection, by emulating -- or at least admiring, following, twittering, stalking, imitating -- the celebrities who dominate the airwaves. Yet like those very illusory half-breeds, we can become unrecognizably cruel, petty, and unwholesome at the devastating, yet inevitable reality, that the good Doctor whom we trusted to make us better is in fact no better than we, except in one respect: he was better at conning us into believing the big lie.

In part, I think this is why so many people tear into celebrities. Consider Charlie Sheen, who is melting down before the world. People are watching this former-TV star self-destruct in webcasts.

Today's celebrities, however, do not necessarily indoctrinate us with claims to perfection. We just coerce ourselves into the delusion, with TMZ-TNT reporting helping us along.

The world has always loved watching the mighty go down.

It compensates for the frustrated envy which plagues the man who wants what others have, but is not willing to work for it.

Whether we are willing to admit it to ourselves or not, we even envy those who have, whether they earned their position in life legitimately or through unwholesome, worrisome, weird, wild, or just plain wicked ways.

When they go down, they go down hard, like the Titanic: slow, painful, and everyone is watching.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Celebrity Shame-Baiting: Part I

"Bear-baiting", a common pastime in Elizabethan England, was akin to modern-day dog-fighting. Instead of canines torturing each other, however, dogs would be let loose on a wild bear chained to a post. The dogs would rip and bite at the chained grizzly, while cheering spectators placed bets on whether the bear would out last the canines ravaging him.

What does "bear-baiting" have to do with celebrities?

Celebrities are a fixture of fascination, be it admiration or animosity.
We look up to these high and mighty people, because they have a lot, they do a lot, or they influence a lot.

When they fall short of our glorious ideal for them, as every human being inevitably will, we become disillusioned, resentful, vengeful. When once we quaked before the products of our imagination, now we quake with fury or ridicule.

In today's media, viewers-cum-spectators viciously harass disgraced celebrities down on their luck, like the dogs mauling a restrained bear. The public attacks and gouges celebrities , or they cheer on the demise of political careers. Let's call this practice "Celebrity Shame-Baiting."

What motivates this insistent rage?

Some might call it schadenfreude, but "harm-joy" implies a dual feeling of sorrow as well as glee at the downfall of another. In the current media frenzy, saturated with YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Email, DTV, HTV . . . how can anyone escape passing judgment, and even a smidgen of pleasure at the slow, painful, and public demise of Hollywood elitist and Political pilferers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

NPR Crashed Tea Party; Tea Party Fights Back

The TEA ( Taxed Enough Already) Party wants to end the outrageous spending that is bleeding this country to death and impoverishing future generations.

Such spending includes the wasteful subsidies to National Public Radio (NPR), especially considering what one of their top executives was caught saying in a private meeting with potential donors. One spokesman for NPR divulged the following in a private meeting:

"[Tea Partiers are] xenophobic, I mean basically they are; they believe in sort of white, middle-America gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people." One can hear the lingering touches of Obama's "clutching their guns and Bibles" condescension. By the way, since when did less government and more financial accountability become an attack on minorities? Government intervention has led to the long-term dysfunction of families and friends, schools and services in the community. If there's any clutching and gun-toting that we need to fear, it's from the government. Let's give the power back to individuals, families, and local communities.

A later comment: "The current Republican Party, particularly the Tea Party, is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn't even call it Christian. It's this weird evangelical kind of movement." The Tea Party does not advertise itself as Christian, but it is certainly not an anti-Christian movement.

Near the end, another comment on bias in the media: “Jews do kind of control the media or, I mean, certainly the Zionists and the people who have the interests in swaying media coverage toward a favorable direction of Israel.” This invidious remark alone is enough to merit shutting down the entire organization, not just cutting its federal subsidies. If nothing else, it's certain that the Jews, the Zionists, and the Israeli lobby do control NPR.

Such short-sighted, bigoted comments would suggest that these executives are the ones who ought to be seeing a psychiatrist, not Juan Williams (a news analysts whom they had previously fired for trumped-up reasons).

Congress must cut NPR funding. They do not protect free speech, they do not even pretend to be open-minded when it comes to follow political matters, and it is quite apparent they hide subversive agendas. The Jew-baiting comments alone are enough to put an end to any federal funding for the left-wing news Organ.

Robert Rizzo: The Only Rat in Bell? Part II

While Rizzo and his fellow pigs were getting fat, where were the citizens of Bell? Where was the LA Times two or three years ago to expose the corruption which gave rise to the rotten fruit still festering in that community to this day? Is it really acceptable to give the people of Bell a pass for not being civic-minded enough to keep an eye on their elected officials? To call the previous voter turn-out in that city anemic would be too magnanimous.

How many of Bell's residents are legal citizens? Is it any wonder that Rizzo and his sleazy rat-pack could take advantage of an enclave of alleged undocumented immigrants? How many of them could vote? How many of them would have dared to challenge the civil authorities, to complain in council meetings, or even recall renegade councilmembers?

When inhabitants do not bear the blessing of citizenship, the yield themselves to all sorts of government abuse, which they have no standing to resist. A sleepy electorate coupled with residents legally powerless to speak up and stop the corruption, both created the necessary conditions for graft and corruption to erupt and spread throughout the working-class community of Bell, California.

Intervention: Libya?

The Jasmine Revolution from Tunisia that spread to Egypt has stalled in Libya, where the leader under siege will not leave. Moammar Gadhafi is fighting back, resisting the populist opposition swelling up in his country.

Gadhafi claims that he is still in control, despite protests against his regime breaking out around Tripoli. However, Gadhafi still commands a loyal militant contingency. They have even succeeded in repulsing rebel forces in the east half of the country, where the rebels had significant victories.Notwithstanding this stubborn resistance, his incoherent rants and two-faced interviews have confirmed his evaporated legitimacy.

Because of this delay in Gadhafi's expected departure, the United States government is mulling whether to aid the rebels by establishing a no-fly zone over the country, or to let the rebellion play out on its own. Senator John McCain has even demanded that the United States accelerate Gadhafi's ouster and assist the rebels in establishing a more democratic government. McCain justifies American intervention based on the war crimes which Gadhafi is perpetrating against his own people. One could also included the more severe charge of Gadhafi's role in the bombing of Pan-Am flight 187.

In spite of these good intentions, American aid to the Libyan people must be strategic and additional, not essential. This is not our war to fight. The civil unrest breaking out in Libya will erupt throughout the Middle East as recently-liberated peoples safeguard their new freedoms.

Not only must the United States not attempt to police the world, we must respect the sovereign right and necessity of these nations to forge for themselves a new national identity free of military trappings and foreign dependence.

Revolutions of the people must be resolved by the people. Besides, the United States Armed Forces is already spread too thin, stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and even Germany. Let the United States safeguard its own freedoms through fiscal restraint and moral focus. If Libya's civil war imperils our interests more directly, then we should take decisive action. Until then, the United States of America must leave the Libyan people to sort out their own fate. They have already visibly and violently challenged Gadhafi. There will be no going back for this long-time oppressor. Let us put more confidence in the long-term efficacy of the Libyan people.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Gay Marriage: Distraction from the Major Moral Problem

President Obama has recently directed his attorney general and adjoining legal communities to forgo defending he Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by a popular Democratic President. A sop to his frazzled and frustrated progressive base, Obama's frivolous decision could not come at a worse time.

Against the nation's uprising (including the TEA party) to tackle the fiscal woes troubling this country, House Speaker John Boehner is diverting political capital to take on this distracting challenge to sensitive social issue, which is more than anything else a sop to his social conservative base .

This tension between fiscal and social conservatives must not short-circuits the Republican Party's agenda for long-term fiscal responsibility in this country. Beyond the grave importance of stable families reared in functional homes, the economic meltdown we are facing in the United States poses the greater threat to our freedom, our moral values, and our national security.

More importantly, the American electorate must not permit President Obama to use wedge issues like gay marriage or abortion to eclipse the critical issue of nation solvency, a problem which has grown more acute because of his executive incompetence. The Democratic Party's only hope in November 2012 is to cover up their financial bunglings by plugging away at social issues. This political expedient will ruin this nation. Hopefully, following this short-lived investment into the gay marriage issue, John Boehner will force drastic cuts to the Federal budget and decentralize power to the states and local communities in the country. Only then will Boehner and his party be taking on a meaningful moral agenda for the financial well-being of this country and future generations.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Robert Rizzo: The Only Rat in the Nest?

The Los Angeles Times' voyeuristic stalking of disgraced former city manager Robert Rizzo, is just disgraceful. Recently, columnist Steve Lopez caught Rizzo fulfilling his community service at a Huntington Beach Museum for his drunk driving conviction last year, the crime which uncovered his outrageous civil servant's salary.

Rizzo did a good job, according to the museum proprietor. When Steve Lopez outed him, Rizzo had to give up the job because of the excessive publicity that resulted. What purposed did further humiliating this man serve?

I am not disputing the allegations against Robert Rizzo: raiding public coffers, colluding with city council members for stipends from non-existent meetings, doctoring civic financial recorders to cover up his fraud, extorting exorbitant fees and onerous taxes on the impoverished citizens of Bell. To this day, he audaciously defends what may could characterize as serial fraud.

But is chronic hounding by the media necessary, effective, or even justified?

True, publicity is themost necessary and effective security against misrule. Because of the Times' reporting, Rizzo will answer for his conduct in court. The citizens of Bell, mad and energized, have recaptured the political process in their hands. They can take the necessary steps to bring their city operations back in order, serving the public.

But slashing at the wrongdoer after the fact: is that justified? Large news organs like the LA Times rampantly exposing a felon's daily misdeeds--that borders on the frivolous and distracting. It would be better to focus on the city's steps to improve its broken and corrupted reputation.

Furthermore, he has been charged with 40+ counts of misappropriation and malfeasance. Yet we still live in a nation of laws, and every man is innocent until proven guilty. Let Rizzo be held to a more reputable standard: a court of law, not the court of public opinion.

Beyond that, it just borders on cruelty and unintentionally induces pity in one man, when the papers should invest their resources not just in outing perpetrators, but challenging local governments of all kinds to improve.

Narrowing the 2012 Presidential Field: Mitt Romney

Presidential Contender Mitt Romney, gearing up for the 2012 election on the Republican ticket, faces major obstacles to his candidacy:

Poseur: Romney the elite, effete businessman is shopping at Wal-mart and dispensing with business suits and ties, appealing to every man as an everyman with the same problems and hardships. But will anyone buy this contender's attempt to sell himself as one of the people?

Mormon: His religious views still bother mainstream Christians, a significant block of the Republican base. Recall Governor Mike Huckabee's snide aside: "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers?" Romney also fared poorly with the South, another critical voting block, where he failed to overcome prejudice against his distinct religious views.

Statist: As Governor of Massachusetts, Romney proudly shepherded and endorsed a health insurance mandate similar to the controversial federal mandate "Obamacare". In an election year where many Republicans and the crucial independent vote want to retire government control over people's lives, including their medical needs, his extensive endorsement of the program will be a major set-back, not just because of its fundamental dissonance with the values of his party; but the schizophrenia of a successful businessman enabling failed state control over an industry now languishing under such anti-free market regulation.

Flip-Flopper: Romney the 1994 U.S. Senatorial Candidate supported gay marriage and opted to protect women's right to terminate a pregnancy. He stumbled on these issues during the 2008 campaign, when fellow rival Senator Sam Brownback exposed his support for abortion in a recorded voice mail during a 2007 debate. Beyond that, consider Governor Romney's anemic self-defense in the 2008 New Hampshire debates. John McCain's repulsive jabs against Romney's change of heart on social issues stung everyone, but Romney barely rebuffed the slights on his integrity.

These concerns about Romney's character, policies, and perception among likely voters outline why I do not endorse Romney as a viable Republican nominee for President of the United States.