Jun 20 2015

Just a walk in the park

Well, not really. Rather, it is an early morning ride to the S-Bahn station, and then a hike up the non-running escalator to await the arrival of my ride to the main train station. Its traveling time again, and even though I had very little sleep last night, the thought of travel makes my senses tingle and excitement courses through my veins.

Boarding the S-Bahn early on a Saturday morning is always something of an interesting sight. There among the silent or sleeping passengers-heading to work or home from a long night-lays the remains from the carnage of a Friday night. In the trash bins along the side of the car are empty beer bottles, a lone empty bottle of vermouth, and just forward of my seat, a Stolichnaya bottle that evidently had given its contents to the service of someone’s heavy intoxication.

Arriving at the Hauptbanhof only adds to the assault on the senses. Rising from the deep tracks where the S-Bahn arrives, one is immediately able to see, hear and smell the variety of the station’s underground. Passengers and tourists, some with suitcases, some without, scurry in all directions. From the bakeries the smell of fresh bread and pastry, mixed with smell of brewing coffee wafts in and around my nose. The noise of both trains and people is every present, but because it is still early in the morning, its still rather subdued. Come the late afternoon it will rise to a louder crescendo-but for now, it’s a rather peaceful and contemplative sight.

 

Having traversed the length of the underground concourse, a turn left is needed and onto yet another escalator, this one heading up to the heart of the main station with the high stone ceiling so common among European train stations. A quick stop at Starbucks halfway up and then it’s on the main lobby area. As I ride the second and last escalator up, behind me, a man is wailing, possibly drunk, definitely having had better days, holding plastic garbage bag full of bottles and cans. A homeless man perhaps? Hoping to score enough in recyclables to buy a meal or more drinks I think. Departing the escalator, he is quickly accosted by the Polezei, who I assume put an end to his scavenging ways.

The Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof currently has a lot of construction going on. The beginning of the platforms is moved almost half a kilometer down from the station lobby area. I’ve got just 15 minutes to traverse to my platform and board a high speed train that will whisk me up to Frankfurt airport and flying.

These sights and sounds are one of the things I really love about being in Europe and being lucky enough to have a job that allows me to travel the way I do. Had I been still in Shopping Mall, the morning would have been a slower start, but with none of this excitement. For all the things that I have to complain about, they all tend to recede into the background on a morning like this. I’m a lucky man indeed. Right now, for a bunch of reasons, the future here is uncertain-but those worries are for another day and time. For today, I can relax and enjoy the movement of the traveling man. And that’s enough for me today.

 

Skippy-san

 

 

3 responses so far

Jun 19 2015

With clockwork precision

A mass shooting happens in America every three to four months or so. Charleston, home of my beloved alma-mater, took its turn in the barrel yesterday.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in downtown Charleston, S.C., killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.

At a news conference with Charleston’s mayor early Thursday, the police chief, Greg Mullen, called the shooting a hate crime.

“It is unfathomable that somebody in today’s society would walk into a church while they are having a prayer meeting and take their lives,” he said.

The police said the gunman walked into the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church around 9 p.m. and began shooting.

Eight people died at the scene, Chief Mullen said. Two people were taken to the Medical University of South Carolina, and one of them died on the way.

“Obviously, this is the worst night of my career,” Chief Mullen said. “This is clearly a tragedy in the city of Charleston.”

And with equal predictability will be the cycle of excuses, recriminations and most disturbingly the Fox News deflection of the real blame for these events. Tired old shibboleths about the intent of the Founding Fathers in writing the 2nd Amendment will be trotted out out for the 989th time. Real change however? Just     NOT    GOING   TO   HAPPEN. This is the mediocrity America accepts as the cost of "freedom".

Freedom? Really?  How about the freedom for the rest of us to be able to conduct the daily transactions of society without fear of being shot by some lunatic?

The ammosexual defense of their kink is predictable and almost certainly incorrigible. Driven (and heavily armed) that’s a view that’s managed to hold political sway over the mushy majority for whom the notion the the liberty of the gun-sniffing few outweighs the freedom of the rest of us to assemble, travel, speak without fear of suppressing fire. What drives that is, at least in part, the normalization of gun fetishization. Which is what you see above. And is what must be shamed out of the public square.

Nope, No, No sirree Bob. Because, "Murica!". Second Amendment. Protect against tyranny in government. Pick you own sick and twisted metaphor.

Nothing ever changes.

The truth is made worse by the reality that no one–really no one–anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life….

The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country–Canada, Norway, Britain–has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do–as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue.

 

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Jun 09 2015

USS Liberty

Published by under History

As I have mentioned I travel to the land of milk and honey quite a bit. One of the messages I continually hear is about how Israel is surrounded and always under attack. And I don't really dispute it-having been on the road twice when the sirens went off and rockets were inbound. ( True Story).

But there was also the time that Israel was the attacker. Yesterday being June 8th, it is probably worth remembering:

In 1967, at the height of the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force launched an unprovoked attack on the USS Liberty, a US Navy spy ship that was monitoring the conflict from the safety of international waters in the Mediterranean.

Israeli jet fighters hit the vessel with rockets, cannon fire and napalm, before three Israeli torpedo boats moved in to launch a second more devastating attack. Though she did not sink, the Liberty was badly damaged. Thirty-four US servicemen and civilian analysts were killed, another 171 were wounded.

Later Israel apologized for what it claimed to be a tragic case of mistaken identity. It said that it had believed the ship to be hostile Egyptian naval vessel. US President Lyndon Johnson was privately furious but publicly the White House chose not to challenge the word of its closest Middle East ally and accepted that the attack had been a catastrophic accident.

 

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In the years since then, there has been a lot of talk of conspiracies and cover-ups. I don't know who is right, but I know Israelis don't like to talk about it.

As for the truth about a cover-up, I don't know and will not speculate. But it is worth remembering that 34 men died that day. God grant them rest and peace.

 

2 responses so far

Jun 05 2015

The pre-determined script

About a week ago, I had the chance to read an article in the New York Times about Fleet Week in New York. Fleet Week, for those who don't know, is supposed to be a week where the Navy sends ships into town and they host tours and the city hosts special events. Done properly a good time is had by all and I have fond memories of a couple of fleet weeks where the libations and the scenery ( if you get my drift) were just fine.

Well, good old mother Navy wants you to know that is all changed:

The High Line.

Shake Shack.

The ballet.

Fleet Week is not what it used to be. Once upon a time, sailors on leave on New York’s streets after months at sea went a little wild — liquor and female companionship were the priorities, with barstool-tossing brawls often the unintended result. Now, not so much. “I spent way too much money at the American Girl store,” said Chief Petty Officer Justin Brown, a member of the Navy for 17 years who said he came to the city with a detailed shopping list from his daughters, ages 4 and 7, in Virginia. “I got a bunch of clothes for the dolls, and accessories.” The turn from those drunken sailors of shore leaves past to the American Girl doll-toting sailors of today has been long in coming, with cultural tourism slowly edging out more earthy pursuits.

To see this week’s white-clad visitors exploring New York is to understand not just how sailors have changed, but how significantly the city that welcomes them has changed. Shopping bags, iced coffee, restaurant recommendations, a photo beneath a selfie stick. The writers of “On the Town” would surely have scratched their heads in wonderment.

Complete and utter rubbish.

If judging by any numbers of recent covers of Navy times as a benchmark, there is still plenty of lechery going on in today's Navy. This article, however,  represents the Navy's PAO machine at work trying to convince us all that the great experiment was a complete success and that there were absolutely no costs involved to either the service or American society as a whole in the unleashing the great diversity monster.

I as I pointed out clearly , three years ago, the Navy PAO machine is always on the march trying to peddle this message. It would not surprise me one bit if the Navy paid the NYT to print that article.

Of course there were a few parts they conveniently left out.  Such as: Getting breathalyzed crossing the quarterdeck returning. Being forced to go ashore with a buddy and making sure you actually named that buddy before you left the ship. or the curfews and liberty limits, expressly illegal in the US I might add.

They also neglected to point out the significant percentage of that 1800 Sailors who at some point in the evening probably ended up in a hotel or bathroom stall f*cking their fellow Sailors.

A deeper and more insightful article would have pointed out the higher adminstrative burden the Navy bears for this "kindler and gentler" Naval Service. But that's not the objective here.

Look, I understand the way the tide of history has turned. I get it. But what still makes me angry is the utter dishonesty that the diversity mafia wants to foist on us in "proving" how essential women are to the service.

Try getting them to release overall pregnancy statistics sometime. Or how many dual service couples there are-and the difficulties in colocation detailing. ( We'll not even point out that the fraternization barriers were inevitably crossed somewhere on the way to the altar.) I won't even try to get into the utter hypocrisy of the whole TIP nonsense.

There is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost.

They should at least be honest about it.

Are the processes welcome? That depends on your point of view. If the reason for having armed forces is to guarantee national security, then the answer is clearly no. …………

One may also look at the problem in a different way. Over the last few decades people have become accustomed to think of the feminization of the military as if it were some great and mighty step towards women’s liberation. In fact, it is nothing of the kind. For thousands, probably tens of thousands of years, we men have laid down our lives so that the women we love might live. To quote the Trojan hero Hector on this, he preferred going to hell a thousand times to seeing his wife, Andromache, weeping as she was led into captivity by one of the “copper-wearing Greeks.”-Martin Van Creveld.

 

4 responses so far

May 26 2015

Published by under Beer and Babes

This is my first post in the month of May. Not for  lack of desire-but for lack of time. I have spent most of this month on the road, first spending several weeks in the land of Eretz Yisrael and then a long promised trip to take the S.O. to see Slovenia. Slovenia, by the way is wonderful and worth the time to go. Lake Bled is simply charming and Ljubljana really surprised  me. In the next couple of days I will post some pictures of that little jaunt as well as some shots from an afternoon spent roaming around Jerusalem. Suffice it to say it will be good to get back to the old homestead and working at my desk again. My business trips are always busy and something has to fall away.

Hope every one had a nice Memorial Day or Pentecost holiday. The summer has officially started. That means its time for lots of this:

beer

And some of this:

1288

More to follow.cheeky

 

One response so far

Apr 29 2015

Never placing the blame where it belongs……..

Published by under Bush Buffoonery,Iraq

Over at another blog, there is yet another tired old rendition of the refrain, "The surge worked-and Obama pissed it all away."  Its a tiresome song that gets played over and over again, and the usual suspects will shout, "hear, hear". Now I do understand it, I do recognize that a lot of people believe it. There is just one big problem-they are completely wrong:

We fought in a war with no discernible outcome. If one were forced to label what we see, it would have to be called a failure because the job was half done. We won in Iraq before we lost. We fought to win, but the gains we made were abandoned for one man's vision of a superpower-less world. All gave some, sure, but some gave a hell of a lot more. Yet, after the blood has dried and the wounds are scarred-over, what was earned? What was saved? What was gained or lost? We are right to ask, "Why?" 

I don't know about the rest of you, but I wonder. Perhaps some can see it merely as a temporary job in a longer career, but I can't. People died because of what I did. Real human beings who no longer live and breathe. This wasn't some drunk driving accident; it was for a purpose … and now, it wasn't. 

"I support the troops, but not the war," is an equivocation that led to the asinine withdrawal and squandering of the gains … and therefore the lives and health of those who were hit.

This supposed ambivalence wasn't support at all. It was a socially correct door, left ajar so that those sacrifices could be made to mean nothing in the end… for convenience sake.

This country can retroactively reduce the value of your effort, your pain and even your life to zero without batting an eye. Our own countrymen do it, and they do it selfishly. They want safety, security, but they are unwilling to pay for it. Certainly not with their blood, sweat and tears; not even with their wallets.

Three points:

1) It is perfectly possible to support the troops and not the war-especially when you recognize that from day 1, as I did, the war was a huge mistake. The fact that one is powerless to stop the madness, does not prevent one from wanting it to be all over-and voting for someone who promises to do that. We didn't "squander" success in Iraq-we allowed the real enemies many years to advance past us. Which BTW, is not the same as wanting a "superpowerless world". It is, however recognizing, that a stupid decision made in 2002 had disastrous consequences. The multi-polar world was willed into existence on March 19, 2003 and all the post hoc whining about what you think Obama gave away is not going to change that. George Bush wasted 4,439 American lives for nothing. Stating it any other way is avoiding the truth.  And here is another news flash- the United States is powerless to stop the rise of the multi-polar world. Need to know why? Go ask George Bush.

2) Not once, not once,(and this is a big point)  does the author EVER put the blame for failure where it belongs-on the worthless Arabs of Iraq themselves, who have had 12 years to make something of their worthless country and have failed miserably at every turn. They were worthless Arab scum in 2003 and they remain so now. Certainly they were never worth the sacrifices made on their behalf. We tried, that is to be sure, but the "seed corn" we were working with was never up to the task of making a democracy.  We got empire with all of the burdens and none of the perks. The surge did not succeed-it failed miserably, at great cost, because it never achieved the political breathing room and conciliation that was envisioned. A whole lot of people told Bush at the time it would fail-and thus he deserves all of the blame.  Invading Iraq was the fundamental mistake-the rest were just attempts to put a bandage on a bad idea.

3) By wasting a trillion dollars on Iraq, the US set it self up for failure on a whole bunch of other fronts-including its own economy. If you supported the war, but did not support raising the revenue to pay for it, then you have NO RIGHT to complain about deficits, ever.  Its a hypocritical position and its truly maddening to hear this logic over and over again, even when the facts tell us otherwise.

The simple truth is that the folks who want to place the failure in Iraq solely on Obama, are not really concerned about stating the facts. The American people acted correctly in 2006 and 2008 by showing their disgust with the stupidity of a worthless war for worthless people. Leaving a residual force behind might have delayed by the current crisis by temporarily restraining Iraqis’ sectarian impulses. However, given political realities in Iraq and the U.S.., Americans couldn’t have stayed there indefinitely.

4,439 Americans dying for nothing bothers me too. But at least have the decency to place blame for that waste of life where it belongs. On the Iraqi people themselves. 

 

And because of those realities, the surge ultimately failed because the goal of true political reconciliation was unrealistic. In most of the world, sectarian, ethnic, linguistic and/or tribal allegiances run deep, which is why most of the world’s most stable democracies are found in relatively homogeneous societies. That being said, sectarian identities become pathological when a brutal dictator from the minority faction spends decades ruling over and terrorizing the majority population. No foreign power invaded Syria, and it is in worse shape than Iraq.

No residual force could rewire the Iraqis, and thus leaving one behind would just have delayed the inevitable.

2 responses so far

Apr 21 2015

Israel’s memorial day

Today is Yom Hazikaron (Yom Hazikaron l'Chalalei Ma'arachot Yisrael ul'Nifgaei Peulot Ha'eivah-  literally, "Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism"). This is Israel's Memorial Day.

Yom Hazikaron is the national remembrance day observed in Israel for those who fell since 1860, when Jews were first allowed to live in Palestine outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls. National memorial services are held in the presence of Israel's top leadership and military personnel. The day opens with a siren the preceding evening at 20:00 (8:00 pm), given that in the Hebrew calendar system, a day begins at sunset. The siren is heard all over the country and lasts for one minute, during which Israelis stop everything (including driving, which stops highways) and stand in silence, commemorating the fallen and showing respect.  Many religious Jews say prayers for the souls of the fallen soldiers at this time. The official ceremony to mark the opening of the day takes place at the Western Wall,  and the flag of Israel is lowered to half staff.

A two-minute siren is sounded at 11:00 the following morning, which marks the opening of the official memorial ceremonies and private remembrance gatherings at each cemetery where soldiers are buried. Many Israelis visit the resting places of loved ones throughout the day. The day officially draws to a close between 19:00 and 20:00 (7–8 p.m.) with the official ceremony of Israel's Independence Day at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl when the flag of Israel is returned to full staff.

One of the government-owned television stations screens the names of all the fallen in chronological order (rank, name, Hebrew date deceased and secular date) over the course of the day. Names appear for about three seconds each. 

It is that last bit I would like you to think about. As of April 14 2015, Israel had lost some 23,320 of its servicemen and women, 116 of them in the last year alone – 67 of those soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge. Some 35 wounded veterans passed away this year as a result of their injuries, and were thus also recognized as fallen soldiers. To put that number in perspective, it is the equivalent of almost 1 million lost Americans.

I just point it out because I will be traveling to Israel in a few weeks-and I always try to keep that in the back of my mind when I am working there. It is all tragic. It is all the backdrop with which they live, every day. It helps me understand their perspective a lot better.

 

One response so far

Apr 14 2015

Stateside things.

Well its day 2 on the other side of the Atlantic. Waking up in a hotel upper floor and having to make myself ready to go work and not having the usual things around. In an acknowledgement to advancing years, I went to bed last night at 10:40pm. My younger self would have me beaten with an empty Yingling bottle.

But then again, I am waking up at about 6 each morning-which means its about 8 hours sleep for the night. Which hopefully will keep me from falling asleep in boring meetings.

I am enjoying getting to listen to NPR at its "real" time. Instead of having to down load Podcasts and replay the following day.

Marco Rubio joined the growing crowd on the clown car that is the ranks of GOP hopefuls who want to become President. I found his rationale for running interesting-and it was appalling to see the softball questions he was thrown this morning on the morning shows. For example when asked why he was running he went into his usual spiel about how he was running to restore the American dream. He was asked a question, about his reasons for running and his response went along the lines of, "blah blah blah, American Dream, and American has rich people and anyone can achieve what these people have done. 'America is great because non rich people can own houses and build a life her'".   

Which was fine, except as with all the GOP nominees the details are in the fine print of what they say they believe. Take Mr. Rubio. He wants Americans to be able have a home, a car, and life. But what the interviewer failed to ask him was the important follow up question: " How do you propose to help Americans to do this when, for example, you say you want to strip millions of those Americans of health insurance, by repealing the ACA and allowing insurance companies to go back to screwing them."  They did not ask him the all important question of what was his alternative? Then in a segue, they should have asked this follow up: Senator, "how would address the fact that increasing numbers of them are not allowed to enter the housing market because their wages are stagnant and their buying power is less than it was last year?"

This is what galls me about most of the media, they don't sake hard nosed questions-primarily because they are slaves to their corporate masters. And corporate masters don't like their ability to screw average Americans out of millions of dollars to be effectively challenged.

And then there is the weird history Rubio would prefer you ignore:

In 2012, The New York Times Magazine asked Rubio about this; here was the exchange:

After you became the first Cuban-American speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, in 2006, your mentor, Jeb Bush, presented you with a sword. What was that about?
Chang is a mythical conservative warrior. From time to time, if there’s a big issue going on, you’d see Jeb say, “I’m going to unleash Chang.” He gave me the sword of Chang.

From which mythology does this conservative warrior hail?
I think it’s a Jeb Bush creation.

But it's not a Jeb Bush creation. It's a Poppy Bush creation — it's a preppy in-joke of his. As Timothy Noah explained in 2012, Bush the Elder used to say "unleash Chiang" while playing tennis, as "partly an expression of sincere competitive spirit and partly a self-mocking acknowledgment that he had what his daughter Doro Bush Koch, in a memoir, lovingly describes as 'a bit of a weak serve.'"



And note that the proper spelling of the name isn't Chang — it's Chiang,as in Chiang Kai-shek, who was the exiled leader of the anti communist Chinese in the Mao era. Poppy was mocking anti-communists in America who wanted to "unleash Chiang" in order to topple the mainland Chinese government. As Noah wrote:

 

Unleashing Chiang would not have been a good idea because Chiang could not win (he'd already been whupped once by Mao's army) without the U.S. dropping a few atom bombs on mainland China, and perhaps not even then. (You'll recall we had a hard enough time with the Chinese in Korea.)

When Rubio discussed "Chang" with the Times interviewer, Noah chided him for not understanding the history behind the reference:

This blog gives Rubio an F in post-World War II history….

Since Doro knows its real provenance, I assume Jeb must, too. Rubio clearly does not.

But I'm with Brad DeLong, who thinks Jeb didn't get it:

… George H. W. Bush’s sons — even the smart one, Jeb — never got the joke. They, you see, didn’t know enough about world history or even the history of the Republican Party to know who Chiang Kaishek was, or what “Unleash Chiang!” meant. Hence Jeb Bush’s explanation that twentieth-century Chinese nationalist, socialist, general, and dictator Chiang Kaishek was a “mystical warrior… who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.”

Precisely — Jeb took a joke about conservative zealotry and turned into a celebration of conservative zealotry.

It is going to be a long 18 months.

 

 

One response so far

Apr 12 2015

Traveling man.

Published by under Beer and Babes,Travel

On the road again-and today I hit the jackpot airline wise. Lufthansa took pity on me and gave me an upgrade. Upper Deck Business class. WHOO-HOO!

Now I just hope my next door seat companion looks like this:

123

 

And they serve plenty of this!Champagne-Glass1

One response so far

Apr 03 2015

Coming full circle

Back in 2008, I wrote two posts about the subject of gay marriage, coming down rather firmly against the idea. The recent events in Indiana, coupled with the rather disturbing efforts of people like David Green to enforce their screwed up views of right and wrong have now convinced me that I was wrong and need to change my mind. Now mind you, I am really not a fan of any marriage, gay or straight-so completely useless is the institution in my humble opinion-but if we do have this screwed institution than who am I to care about sleeps with who and who marries who.  Watching the actions of that bag of hammers,  Mike Pence, made me a believer that I was on the wrong path.

Its especially a sweet revelation because it places me in firm opposition to others who should know better.

(By the way, prior to putting up that post-there was a Diversity Thursday post up taking the Secretary of the Air Force to task for something she should be taken to task for. But interestingly, in the comments, the supposedly egalitarian and oh so welcoming (sic) "front porch" got well and truly trolled by a commenter who brought up more than a few unpleasant truths, that caused them to have a collective fit. Kind of makes me wonder what the real reason for taking the post down was. A change of heart or not liking someone not backing down to the collective bullying that can go on in the comments section? Alas the post is down so we will never know).

But back to Indiana. 

I question the need to pass a law entitled "Religious Freedom Restoration". What, exactly, are they trying to restore? Is there something preventing the citizens of Indiana from going to church where they want? Are people not being allowed to voice their opinions? The answer to both questions is no-especially if one reads the garbage that passes for commentary over at say: The Federalist, Red State, or the Town Hall Harlot. Regrettably free speech, such as it were, is alive and well in those cesspools of humanity. "What problem are they really trying to resolve here?". Certainly its not about fixing gay marriage-its already legal in the state. 

As we saw in the Hobby Lobby case this is about one particular area, the outrage that a certain percentage of America feels when they can't dictate to others what they can and cannot do in life, by using the leverage of economics to hit them over the head. Hobby Lobby was trying to avoid his lawful responsibility as an employer. Indiana was trying to pass a feel good piece of legislation in order to allow discrimination, legal discrimination,  by zealots who were not content to leave a firewall in place between one's personal beliefs and one's public obligations.

The Indiana law was and is particularly egregious because as originally written it was designed to empower that type of discrimination. While not a license to discriminate-it does set the boundaries of the legal recourse against it:

These laws are instructions to courts on how to assess claims for religious exemptions to a wide variety of law. In general terms, they lay out (1) who can use the law; (2) what kinds of cases it will apply to; and (3) what standard the court will use to decide whether the claimant has a right to an exemption.

In two of these areas, the Indiana law as enacted and signed is broader than the federal RFRA or most other state laws. It provides religious protection to more businesses than the federal statute does, even after the Hobby Lobby case; and it explicitly provides a defense in actions between private parties, such as, let’s say, discrimination suits (the federal statute is silent on this issue, and federal courts are split). Beyond that, it allows businesses or individuals to challenge legal actions even before they happen—if they are “likely” to happen.

So when the “fix” is finally unveiled, read it carefully. And for a crash course in what shouldn't be there, look at the Arkansas religious-freedom bill that Gov. Hutchinson refused to sign on Wednesday. This bill makes the Indiana law look like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It begins with this reassuring finding: “It is a compelling governmental interest to comply with federal civil-rights law." But consider that federal civil-rights laws currently do not protect against discrimination by sexual orientation; the “finding” is not part of the actual statute; and, most importantly, the Arkansas legislature does not have and never has had the slightest power to set aside or reduce the scope of any federal law. It’s as generous as a “finding” that “in Arkansas, light is given permission to travel at 186,000 miles per second.”

I've seen a lot of writers argue that by requiring people to deal evenly with all people in the market place it somehow makes them "accomplices" in sin they disapprove of. That's complete and utter crap. When you enter the commercial arena you enter a legal world where you must live by your corporate responsibilities. Unlike what Mitt Romney said- corporations are not "people too my friend"-and thus don't have "free exercise" rights.  As Charles Blow wrote in the NYT, "I would argue that when you enter the sphere of commerce in America — regardless of your “deeply held religious beliefs” — you have entered a nondiscriminatory zone in which your personal beliefs are checked at the register, and each customer is treated equally."

I mean really, if you as a hotel clerk rent a room to a couple wanting to revel in some adulterous sexual delights, does that make you a participant in the act? Certainly not. All you care about is whether their credit card transaction was approved and that they don't damage anything in the room. What they do inside that room is their business-not yours. 

It is refreshing to me to see certain corporations recognize that they cannot sit idly by on the sidelines while this type of things goes on. When Tim Cook, CEO of arguably the most powerful corporation on the planet speaks out publicly, may be it is time for the worthless idiots like Allahpundit and Erik Erikson to stop and listen. (By the way,  just being on the same side as these guys should make you examine your own positions carefully. ).

This is where we are coming to what really offends the conservative side. They hate seeing their own tactics being effectively used  against them. Indiana is being justifiably made to suffer consequences for its own stupidity-and people like Tim Cook are hitting these people in the one area that really matters to them and their beliefs-their money. I hope it continues and I hope it really comes to hurt Indiana. When you find yourself to the right of NASCAR, maybe, just maybe, you have gone a bit too far.

 

And, for those of you keeping score at home, the following is a partial list of the institutions that are more progressive and that make more sense on this issue than Mike Pence does.

The NCAA.

Dan Quayle's Old Family Newspaper

NASCAR

Walmart

The state of Arkansas

Which gets to the point I wrote 7 years ago, "-marriage, like it or not, s evolving. And it should evolve because its current construct, as well as the demographics of those who practice it,  are changing dramatically. And if there are people who “want to be childless and partner less”- well they have their place too……..But in the end, short of a radical return to the 50′s, its coming. How we really live with it will be another story. If it makes marriage and divorce laws evolve to ones based on fairness and not entitlement-well then I guess I’ll have to welcome that change."

And so I have. Keep up the pressure, you Godless heathens! You are always winning if Mike Pence is losing.

One response so far

Mar 25 2015

The benign dictator

Lee Kuan Yew passed away on 23 March. He was 91. For those who don't know ( and you really should know this) he was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and was the founder of much of what we consider modern Singapore. As he himself said, Singapore is his legacy. That applies for both good and not so good.

Now truth in advertising, I love to be in Singapore. Its where I want to live, (as well as Japan) and I have been there 18 times. I love the place. When Lee Kuan Yew became the prime minister of Singapore in 1959, he assumed control of an ethnically divided, impoverished territory lacking in natural resources. In his 31 years in office—followed by another 21 in advisory roles—Lee transformed his country into one of the world’s most prosperous societies, a major business and transportation hub boasting a per capita GDP of $55,000.  I was often grateful for the quality of life he masterminded there.

But that quality of life came with a price and a dark side-and any eulogy of the man has to take that into account:

He will be remembered as the father of his country, a political street fighter who cut his teeth in the struggle against colonialism. Some will recall an unapologetic taskmaster — a leader more respected than loved — whose pragmatism lifted a Southeast Asian backwater into a sleek metropolis and global business hub. Others will recall the politically incorrect pundit who became an outspoken champion of “Asian values” and a sharp critic of American-style democracy. Each is correct, and captures part of the man. But to these remembrances one more should be added: Lee was the most successful dictator of the 20th century. (emphasis added-SS)

It’s a verdict that will please almost no one. For his admirers, he is a singular historic figure, not an autocratic strongman like those who eventually lorded over other former colonial outposts. He may not have been a Jeffersonian democrat, they say, but he was no dictator. On the other end of the spectrum, dissidents and democrats will take umbrage at the notion of an illiberal, authoritarian leader being remembered fondly at all. Still, Lee was one of the most universally celebrated statesmen of the last 50 years. American presidents, British prime ministers, apparatchiks from the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and European officials all lined up to heap praise on the leader of this authoritarian duchy…………..

…..When Lee retired from office in 1990, Singapore had some of the world’s busiest shipyards, cleanest streets, top schools, lowest taxes, best healthcare, and most efficient public services. The so-called “little red dot” had become one of the world’s most livable cities, a magnet for skilled foreign workers and the multinational corporations who hire them.

But the miracle wasn’t without its price. Lee kept his political project on a tight leash, dampening free speech, muzzling his critics, and squashing political opposition before it could take root. The ruling People’s Action Party is rightly considered synonymous with the government because it has won every election since 1959. Singapore didn’t have a single opposition leader in office until 1981, and until 2011 there have never been more than four opposition members serving in the parliament at one time. On one hand, Lee’s political machine was unquestionably effective at delivering results for Singapore. In most years, it’d be hard for any political party anywhere to compete against PAP’s record of accomplishment. That said, when it came to ensuring their political future, Lee and his cohort were incredibly gifted at putting their finger on the scale.

 

As I said, I really do like the place, even with all its faults, and people who are less enlightened then I am, tend to think I overlook them. Its not true and never has been. If you go back through my posts since 2005 you will see I have been pretty even handed in my reporting. I admit, I do like a place where I can go out for a piece of pizza or a piece of ass with the same general ease, and in my mind that was always one of Singapore's pluses.  But there was much, much more to the city than just my hunger. And Singapore is a great place to eat. ( as well as do other things….   cheeky ). Its services and general atmosphere are unmatched anywhere, especially the United States. Singaporeans solved problems efficiently and in ways the world could and did learn from -specifically with respect to health care and housing. The United States, being exceptional and all, did not seem to take the lesson on board. I still bridle angrily at people who say that Singapore's solutions cannot be applied to the United States. Its completely wrong , they could be, and would work.

That said, there were troubling aspects to the place too and still are. Just ask this guy.

My driver, a middle-aged Chinese guy, recognizes me. For most of my working life I was forced into exile overseas. Despite graduating from Cambridge in 1983 with a first-class honors degree in economics, no one in my home country would employ me. But in 2008 I decided to return home anyway and last year I stood as candidate for the Opposition in the general elections. My driver is sneaking surreptitious glances at me in the mirror. Finally he says:“JBJ. Very good man!”

I tell him he’s right and he goes on:

“But in the end very poor. Selling his book on the street corner. I buy a copy. Very sad, lah!” Then after some thought, “That’s what happens when you go against the gahmen (government).”

He is referring to my father, Joshua Benjamin Jeyaretnam. When I was a boy growing up in Singapore my father had been one of the highest-earning lawyers. He was also the first Opposition politician to get a seat in parliament, breaking a 16-year monopoly by the PAP. He was subjected to multiple defamation suits and perverse judgments which forced him out of parliament and out of his law practice and eventually bankrupted him.

Kenneth Jeyaretnam then goes on to ask the question of Mr. Lee that we all should ask, could not the government have found a way to have prosperity, progress and innovation without sacrificing central control and whilst not repressing freedom?  I personally think the answer is yes, especially because there are examples that prove me right, but Mr. Lee would not have agreed with that answer at all. Perhaps at the start he needed a tight grip-for the Communists where a real and persistent threat. But later-not so much:

During his last decades in public life, the Singaporean regime became increasingly critical of the American-led notion that human rights—including democracy—had worldwide applicability. In an interview published in the Atlantic in 2013, Lee argued that “Americans believe their ideas are universal—the supremacy of the individual and free, unfettered expression. But they’re not—and never were.”?

There is one other aspect of the society he crafted that I, for one, find particularly troubling and its not unique to Singapore, the Middle East and other parts of Asia have it too-namely the fact that a part of Singapore's success rests on the backs of an underclass of foreign workers, that will never enjoy the benefits of the prosperity that has been brought there."Singapore cannot compete with cheap labor overseas so it brings the cheap labor to Singapore, with no minimum wage there is no bottom to how cheap this labor can be. Not surprisingly this exploitation has fueled an explosion in GDP but not in real wages, which have stagnated or fallen." Specifically for me, and since this is women's history month, the exploitation of so many people troubles folks a good deal.  The fact that American feminists pay ZERO attention to the plight of these women, is just grounds to shout at them repeatedly.

Singapore is a mixed bag to be sure-but its a better bag than most places, ( light years ahead of Shopping Mall USA) and a lot of that was do to the vision of Lee Kuan Yew. “People want economic development first and foremost,” he said in an interview printed in his 1998 book, The Man and His Ideas. “The leaders may talk something else. You take a poll of any people. What is it they want? The right to write an editorial as you like? They want homes, medicine, jobs, schools."

That they got. At what price they paid-that is what will be the discussion in the years to come.

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Mar 22 2015

The Israeli election

I wanted to provide some commentary on the Israeli election. I think it's needed-especially when you read the trash that passes for informed commentary in American outlets. Right wing outlets are crowing about the election as a "rebuke" for President Obama and they are calling it a "landslide" election for Likud. None of these things are true.

It does prove yet again one of my key beliefs, however-when it comes to Israel, most Americans are completely clueless as to what the country is really like.

Let's dispel a few things right now, shall we?

First, it was not a "landslide"-the term has no meaning in Israeli politics. No party ever wins an out right majority of 61 seats, ever. Their system is not set up that way. It is designed to ensure proportional representation and to that extent, it succeeds, albeit at a tremendous cost.

To really understand the facts of the election, one needs to look very closely at three things: the distribution of seats in the Knesset, the make up of the smaller parties, and the demographics of each of the major Israeli cities.

With all the votes tallied here are the final results of the election (click to see correctly):

last

(Picture courtesy of Haaretz).

Definitely a definitive victory-but hardly a "landslide". Americans can be such idiots sometimes.

How did Netanyahu win and were the pre-election polls wrong?

The answer to the first question is that he won stealing votes from the other right wing parties and by indulging in what can only be described as crass race baiting.

Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed everyone’s worst fears about him when he launched a last-minute fear campaign on Tuesday, warning that “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” — and proving that he is perfectly happy to win an election using racism. Depressingly, predictably, Bibi’s “the-Arabs-are-coming” bugaboo worked like a dream on the Israeli public, shoring up his base by swinging the right-wing vote toward him.


The answer to the second question is, no the polls were not wrong. ( despite what the commentary may believe-they weren't).

Go back and look at the graphic again. Bibi was very successful in convincing people that a vote for any other right wing party was a vote for the Left. And it worked. The Zionist Union, which is really just the Labor party by a new name, was not able to do the same thing on its side of the aisle, in part because of the back story of many of the smaller center left parties, but also in part because the Zionist Union misplayed that strategy-they assumed that the voters on the right would do the same. They didn't.

And that is where the race baiting comes in at the last minute. Its important to remember that Netanyahu veered sharply to the right in the last week, renouncing a stated Israeli position on peace and catering to the worst fears of many Israelis.

 

This reminds me of a chilling comparison to the United States during World War II. At the end of its prolonged fighting with Japan, the United States saw no way of ending the war other than by using its doomsday weapon, and proceeded to drop atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, which decided the outcome of the war. Can such a comparison be made? Then it was a weapon of mass destruction and here it was a surprising electoral victory by the incumbent prime minister. Though Netanyahu did not threaten Israelis with a bomb, he did not hesitate to use his own “doomsday weapon.”

First Netanyahu removed the safety pin from the doomsday weapon by disturbing the fragile equilibrium of Israeli society while inciting against half the population. In Netanyahu’s eyes, Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni belong to the extreme left, working with Arabs to topple the Likud government. Voters for Zionist Union, Yesh Atid and especially Meretz were painted as potential conspirators with Arabs, the enemies of the state’s existence. We were supposed to believe that anyone voting for them would strengthen the link between the terrible left and the Arabs seeking Israel’s destruction.

On Election Day the weapon itself was trotted out. It wasn’t politicians to the right of Likud, like Lieberman or Baruch Marzel, but Netanyahu himself who began warning voters of massive Arab participation. His assistants talked of a three-fold increase in the number of Arab voters in comparison to previous elections. Twenty percent of Israel’s citizens were depicted by the prime minister as illegitimate, as a force from whom the right needs to be saved. Herzog, a Zionist with moderate positions, was portrayed as an extreme leftist who is collaborating with the Arabs to disrupt the Jewish-Zionist character of this country.

This weapon vanquished the enemy, but left the country bleeding and riven.

 

You have to remember that 4 smaller Arab parties banded together to form The Joint List. This was in direct response to an initiative of Avigdor Lieberman's, which raised the threshold for getting into the Knesset from 2 to 3.25% of the vote. It backfired on Lieberman-but it forced the Arab parties to make a choice: unite or be crushed individually. It worked for them-they are now the third largest party in the Knesset, but it also allowed Likud to target them as a group.

By taking to Facebook and the airwaves and stating that "the Arabs are coming out in droves-driven by NGO's", it swayed about 200,000 undecided voters. ( left unsaid was the implication that those NGO's were filthy leftists or worse).

It worked spectacularly.

Not everything is about you Americans.

American commentators, especially our buffoons on the conservative side of the aisle, are jumping up and down about how it "shows up Obama". It really does not. The opinion of the United States had nothing; let me repeat that,  NOTHING to do with the results of the election. Conservative buffoons tend to overestimate their influence anyway, but more importantly, the results of the election are not related to an invitation the Speaker of the House had no right to issue.

Americans would do well to remember, that when it comes to Israel-it is all about Israel. When you have been shot at, it tends to shape your perspective:

Despite the extensive media attention to Israel’s economic woes and social gaps, the security situation — mainly its implications for Israelis’ personal safety — remains the major consideration on Election Day.

It has been this way since the first intifada and the Oslo Accords. Here Netanyahu leads by a wide margin — the same Netanyahu responsible for the housing crisis and whose problematic personal conduct became a media mainstay in recent months.

It seems that the occupation’s moral and political implications, despite the myriad of articles published in Haaretz, aren’t the Israeli voter’s main concern. Security risks concern him much more, and this angst is well founded.

The cumulative impression is that most voters adopt the right’s conclusions on the security front — the responsibility for the negotiations freeze lies with the Palestinians too, not just with Israel — and the chances of resolving the conflict are slim at the moment. Plus the Palestinians are no longer the most burning issue in the Middle East. Even if a divine miracle quickly resolved the conflict, it wouldn’t erase the other threats.

After four years of turmoil in the Arab world, with collapsing states and deranged terror groups spitting distance of Israel’s borders, voters are concerned. Most of them, despite Netanyahu’s drawbacks, think he knows better how to deal with those threats.

"Twas always thus, and Twas always ever shall be"  . Which leads into the second major point of the election: The Zionist Union may have had a good and logical message, it can't sell it outside of Tel Aviv and Haifa:

Zionist Union got the highest number of votes in 28 of the country's 33 wealthiest towns, while Likud enjoyed a decisive majority among Jewish local authorities in the middle- to lower-middle-class range; in 64 of these 77 towns, Likud came in first.

The Central Bureau of Statistics divides Israeli communities into 10 deciles based on variables like per capita income, the number of new cars, the percentage of students, the ratio of residents to unemployment, and more.

Segmenting the voting by socioeconomic levels reveals a major and probably decisive difference between Likud and Zionist Union; the former got lots of votes in wealthier communities, but the latter did very well almost solely in those richer areas.

There is probably some truth that secular center-left oriented Israelis are deluding themselves that their message is getting equal time when you have a country that is split into progressive Zionists and the living, ruling heirs of Meir Kahane. For the long term that is probably the most disturbing thing about the election, is the implications of what it means for the democratic Zionist vision of Israel's founders.

The threats to Israeli democracy are not crude or obvious: the media is free, voting is clean, there is vibrant debate. But there are more subtle issues that should cause real concern. Four problems, in particular, need watching. First, the continued settlement of occupied Palestinian land. Second, proposed laws to enshrine Israel as a Jewish state. Third, Israel’s increasing estrangement from western democracies. Finally, the intolerance and intimidation of those who question the national consensus on security and terrorism.

 

One of the main arguments for embracing a two-state solution to the Palestinian question has always been that formal annexation of Palestinian lands on the West Bank, as well as being illegal, would threaten Israel’s Jewish identity. The demographics of a “one-state solution” would mean Jews would make up only a narrow majority in such an expanded “Greater Israel”.

 

Despite this, an increasing number of voices on the Israeli right are open about their desire formally to annex parts of the West Bank. Faced with a choice between land and democracy, they seem inclined to choose land.

You can see this in the rhetoric that is present in some Israeli news outlets. Sheldon Adelson's abomination of a news paper, Israel Hayom ( Israel today) is pretty blatant about its right wing sympathies and support for people like Nafatali Bennett who combine expansionist aspirations with religious rhetoric ("There is no room in our small but wonderful God-given tract for another state,” Bennett said in a speech that stressed Israel’s Jewish religious heritage as a cornerstone of its society. “It won’t happen. Friends, before every discussion on the territories, we need to declare: ‘The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.’ Only then can we start the debate.”)

Israelis hate comparisons to apartheid South Africa, but more and more the similarities are hard to ignore-at least with respect to the rights of Arabs inside the occupied territories.  The rhetoric of Israelis and Afrikaners is starting to be a mirror image of each other. That in the long term threatens the egalitarian ideal envisioned by Ben Gurion and others.

So very well then, what should the US do about the results of the election?

First of all, it has to accept it. And then make an honest assessment of what fights are really worth picking. This is where I have to sadly conclude that the President is being sorely led astray by whoever is advising him to "pressure" Israel at this particular juncture. Its a mistake and will blow up in his face.

I am an Obama supporter, but this is really stupid. The President is being poorly advised here. When the results were announced he should have sucked it up, called Netanyahu and congratulated him, then made a public statement that whatever our private disagreements,  support for Israel is going to continue. It would help with politics at home-and recognize that like it or not,  this is the government of Israel. Obama is blowing it.

No one has to tell me what a pain in the ass the Israelis are to deal with-I live that dream every month. And truth be told-a big part of that comes from the fact that we have enablers, like the misguided freaks of the evangelical community who give the Israelis a free pass on activities they shouldn't. And we have enablers in Congress who can't tell any Israeli "no"-even when that is the correct answer. 

But that's exactly the problem Obama faces. To openly pick a fight with Netanyahu now, is to poison his efforts at winning what ever domestic victories he can with this current Congress full of nut cases. And in the end-it won't accomplish anything for the Palestinians , for not the least of reasons their problems are actually back burner now compared to those of Syria and Iraq and the mess our foolish invasion of Iraq created.

A lower public profile and more subtle methods would do both sides a big favor. Not to mention that picking a fight on behalf of the Palestinians simply puts rhetoric in the minds of the mouth breathers who still think Obama is a secret Muslim. The last thing the US needs is more teabaggers on the front page in the election year next year.

Not to mention that the Palestinians themselves have made some really boneheaded mistakes. Especially the radicalized loons living in Gaza with their rockets. This is not time to be climbing up on the moral high ground now.

In summary I will remind you what I think most Americans, and conservative Americans in particular forget-Israel is not like the United States.  It is a land of an eastern tradition, more similar to its Arab neighbors than it realizes-and in the aggregate, is not really as nice a place as they would have you believe it is. Imagine a United States where Mennonites actually constituted a powerful political block. They use language differently than we Americans do-and they don't view the world in a rational sense at all. And that is what got Bibi re-elected.

"The biggest losers in all of this, besides all the Israelis who did not vote for Netanyahu, are American Jews and non-Jews who support Israel. What Bibi did to win this election was move the Likud Party from a center-right party to a far-right one. The additional votes he got were all grabbed from the other far-right parties — not from the center. When the official government of Israel is a far-right party that rejects a two-state solution and employs anti-Arab dog whistles to get elected, it will split the basic unity of the American Jewish community on Israel. How many American Jews want to defend a one-state solution in Washington or on their college campuses? Is Aipac, the Israel lobby, now going to push for a one-state solution on Capitol Hill? How many Democrats and Republicans would endorse that?

 

 

 

 

 

One response so far

Mar 20 2015

In yet another sign of an impending apocalypse………

And here you were thinking I had forgotten Women's History Month. Yes, that oh so special time of the year when we get to celebrate the history that women want us to know about, while white washing the details they would rather just not see printed in the paper.

And its a cold day in hell when I find myself in agreement with certain papers- by and large not known for their standards-but since this is women's history month, I find myself falling back on the time tested rules of the hunt:

Go Ugly Early

And if they don't meet your standards, lower your standards.

 

So yes, while it is the Washington Times, they nonetheless had this little tidbit that caught my attention. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, after all:

Integrating women into combat reduces effectiveness, harms unit cohesion

As the American military prepares to open all combat positions to women by 2016, a British report found that integrating women into combat would reduce effectiveness in battle and could harm unit cohesion.

The British report, released in December, found that physiological differences put women at a disadvantage in both strength-based and aerobic fitness tests. Even women who are able to overcome the physiological disadvantage will likely get injured more easily or get tired quicker, making them easier targets and poorer marksmen in combat.

“These are about biology rather than character,” the report states.


My hero and idol, Elaine Donnelly, pointed out why this is-despite what our feminist friends would have you believe-a big deal.

The Center for Military Readiness said Thursday, however, that even the report’s solutions to problems of women serving in combat were just attempts to “soft-peddle inconvenient facts.”

“Every use of the word ‘mitigate’ in the [Ministry of Defence] report pinpoints a problem, not an advantage,” said Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “There are no benefits balancing the weight of costs and risks that detract from combat readiness and effectiveness.”

Besides, since the world is ending ( after all, its a cold day in hell when I like the Washington Times), who needs an army anyway? The world is ending-everything else is moot………              cool

Not to worry though, the report and its conclusions will get fairly well buried and quickly. After all, when it comes to DOD, rule number 1 always applies.

After all:

 040713

 

19 responses so far

Mar 19 2015

The madness is spreading…….

I was a Republican for  a very long time. Over 26 years to be exact. But the party I supported was the party that tried to actually improve the lot of average Americans in many ways. The Republican Party used to be a center-right party, conservative but mainstream. Now it's the home of extreme views. The Republican party used to care about the environment, it favored universal healthcare. A mandate to buy insurance was a Republican idea. Even Richard Nixon-no galloping liberal he, understood the need to fix the American system, and he certainly would never have dared gutting Medicare the way that the Zombie Eyed Granny Starver wants to. And even on taxes-the party was not insane. Under the old Republican philosophy, the purpose of taxation is to raise the revenues needed by the government. They believed, in theory, that the government shouldn’t spend money it didn’t have, so sufficient revenues were needed.

But now? All the men of stature and maturity have been driven out of the party or have died,  and what is left, is a group of spoiled children egged on by an increasingly overweight, selfish, and ignorant electorate, kept ignorant by a self serving bubble of its own truths and making up its own versions of the universe.

If you don't think so-you might want to check this out before speaking.  The party I knew is dead-killed by deranged crazy people.


We marvel today at the utter blind stupidity with which the European powers stumbled into a cataclysm. Centuries from now, historians, probably working on houseboats floating above what used to be Delaware, are going to look back at this period in our history and wonder how we tolerated a political party gone so completely mad, much less how we continued to empower it, election after election. They are going to marvel at how all the institutions designed to check the spread of the madness refused to look at it and call it what it is. These people are going to think American democracy was some sort of weird contagion that overcame the country, like ergot infecting the nation's wheatfields. They're going to believe we all just went crazy and ate ourselves.

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Mar 17 2015

Happy St. Patricks Day!

May the luck of the Irish be with you.

And me these women rise up to meet you:

holiday-costumes-men-vs-women

Toast you friends with a pint of Guinness;

guinness

 

And remember, its just a Tuesday-you will still have the weekend to do it all over again.

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