Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Service Mark of the Beast

According to Bloomberg News, the Kusher Cos. are over a billion dollars in the hole and, having sold most of their income-producing assets, have no way to pay their debts, specially at 666 5th Ave..

So the China scam earlier this year looks more and more like what it always looked like: grifters grifting on the public dime.

This is what an administration of businessmen looks lik -- at least, one ofbusinessmen of smallish accomplishments.

Except that the amounts are comparatively trifling, the Kushner miscalculation reminds me of Olympia & York's bust over simultaneous real estate declines at Canary Wharf and in Manhattan. And if Bloomberg is correct, Charlie Kushner brought it down by forgetting that figures don't lie.

 Query: although Jared Kushner is supposed to be separated from the family business, his eassets are closely tied up with them nevertheless.  Is worry over going bust distracting him from saving the Middle East?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Laws or men?

When Barack Obama was in office, Jennifer Rubin was an insensate opponent. Therefore I quit reading her.

She was an early and consistent opponent of WBD, just about the only Republican pundit who has been. I still don't read her much.

Today, however, she has a column that bears thinking about:

 In other words, if the president can pardon anyone who defies court orders to enforce constitutional protections, then those constitutional protections are rendered meaningless. It is a creative argument, but then, this president has created new and disturbing challenges to democratic norms.
In 1953-4, Eisenhower was too afraid to criticize Joe McCarthy in public but (we  now know) did engineer a secret cabal to control him. It wasn't effective but it was an attempt.

Unless some such secret maneuvers are being undertaken against Trump, nothing whatever WBD can do will disturb the Republican Party sufficiently to resist. We now know that. The enbrace of the racist, court-defying Arpaio makes it clear to even the blindest that Trump has no intention of complying with the laws or of respecting constitutional boundaries.

The nice thing about taking the obvious for one's field is that it's hard to go wrong.

Who are they trying to fool?

I expect Christians to lie. I have never known them to not lie to non-Christians. But even I was startled by the reaction of evangelicals to the anti-evangelical article in La Civiltà Cattolica last month.

I hardly expected the evangelicals to lie to other evangelicals about what evangelicals preach to each other every day.

Yet it happened.

 It began with a Jesuit magazine article, approved by the Vatican, "Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism: A Surprising Ecumenism," that faulted rightwing American Catholics for their political alliance with rightwing fundies to push the Trump agenda. It did not hold back. Christianity Today summarized its tenor:

It comes after a prominent Jesuit journal published a criticism of US Catholics for forming an alliance with Trump-supporting conservative evangelicals to promote a 'nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state' and a 'xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls'.
Evangelicals, and especially rightwing pols who need evangelical votes to keep racist, fascist Trump in office, were wounded.  The Christianity Today article quotes Trump fundie nuncio Johnnie Moore:

"It's in this moment of ongoing persecution, political division and global conflict that we have also witnessed efforts to divide Catholics and Evangelicals.

"We think it would be of great benefit to sit together and to discuss these things. Then, when we disagree we can do it within the context of friendship. Though, I'm sure we will find once again that we agree far more than we disagree, and we can work together with diligence on those areas of agreement."
Well, I know who Moore was trying to fool directly: Pope Francis, as he was requesting a meeting with him. But clearly, the statement (and many others like it) was primarily directed at rightwing evangelicals.

Americans who are not evangelicals probably are unaware of it, but evangelicals hate Catholicism.  In this, the 500th year since the Reformation, the Whore of Babylon trope is strong.

I listen to evangelical radio nearly every day (about one quarter of U.S. radio stations broadcast the hateful message of the evangelicals).  You cannot listen to it for more than 20 minutes or so without hearing an attack on other cults.

The Mormons are probably attacked the most -- evangelicals fear their formidable recruitment apparatus -- but Seventh-day Adventists, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, are attacked incessantly.

As a test, I switched on the radio in my truck and hit the Christian hate radio preset to see how long I would have to wait for an attack on Catholics. Not 20 minutes. I tuned in in the middle of a diatribe about Catholics and intercession.

Now, not all American evangelicals hate Catholicism, but the noisiest, most politicized ones all do; and it is scarcely possible that more moderate evangelicals don't know this.

So, who is this mendacity aimed at? Beats me.

I noted, while scouting for the agitation on the issue, other examples of bonkers religious nuttery.

Moore, for example: "Moore says he is writing "at a time of historic Christian persecution in more places than perhaps at any time in Christian history."

It is always hilarious and disgusting to listen to Christians complain abut religious persecution. Christians have been the greatest persecuters of all. Persecution of Christians in the U.S. is non-existent, though rightwingers are assiduous in promoting that myth.

Jesus had something to say about that. See Matthew 7:3.

There was also some Catholic mendacity concerning the Vatican article. As with evangelicals, not all Catholics are rightwingers, although virtually all the American bishops are and always have been.

Archbishop Charles Chaput said "believers are attacked by their co-religionists merely for fighting for what their Churches have always held to be true.”

This is typical Catholic lying, or perhaps plain ignorance. Chaput was talking about abortion, and while his cult has always been against it, evangelicals have not.

 Chaput went on to say that rightwing Catholic-rightwing evangelical ecumenism “is a function of shared concerns and principles, not ambition for political power.”

In fact, evangelicals welcomed Roe v. Wade and only turned against it when they decided they could use it to advance their political and financial interests.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Realpolitik in Kurdistan

I seldom read editorials in The New York Times, but I made an exception for one about Kurdistan. RtO has always advocated a free and independent Great Kurdistan. There are 30,000,000 Kurds, the largest easily defined ethnic/cultural/historical/linguistic society in the world without a national base.

RtO would also advocate for a free and independent nation for the Tibetans, if there were the slightest possibility of moving toward that. There isn't, and maybe -- if United States policy were more controlled -- there wouldn't be in Kurdistan. But, wisely or not, the United States has assigned itself the role of agitator in the parts of the world where Kurds live. We can influence the drive toward a Great Kurdistan and so we should.

That is not the view of the Times.  Taking a break from its usual sappy idealism, the Editorial Board worries that independence "would heighten tensions, make it harder to stabilize Iraq and divert attention as the United States, Iraq and their partners work to defeat ISIS and rebuild Iraqi communities."

Oh, is that what the United States, Iraq and their partners are doing? Well, they are doing a lousy job of it. And I am pretty sure that continued American meddling in the area has already heightened tensions.

It might be that our lack of success is not due only to incompetent military leadership and shortsighted policies. It might be that the people who live in the area have noticed the complete lack of principle behind our blundering activity. It might be that taking a principled stand for once would enhance our credibility.

And even if it didn't, well, we'd have taken a principled stand. That's not nothing.

Believe it or not, the Times is worried that "a Kurdish breakaway is risky; without sufficient preparation, it would further marginalize Iraq’s Sunni minority, already disenfranchised by the Shiite majority and prey to Sunni extremists like ISIS." Perhaps the United States should have factored that in before destroying the Sunni government there.

That government did not deserve our support, but now that it's gone it is beyond absurd to wish it back.

The Times also frets that a premature free Kurdistan without "democratic institutions [that are] are functioning, [and an] economy [that] is strong" will not function well. Just so, but that has not stopped out supporting, eg, the governments of Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The real point is, though, that the Kurds qualify for independence and we should support that. I doubt the Times editorial Board would support delaying votes for disfranchised minorities in the United States on the grounds that they are not yet ready for self-government.

And, if you want to take a global view of things, it's hard to imagine the Kurds doing a worse job than the electorate that chose a President Trump, a Congress full of rightwing economic kooks and three dozen state legislatures full of racists, gun nuts and zealots against civil rights.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sick children, corrupt party

CNN doesn't get a lot of credit from other news organizations, who often are quick to report on others' exposes, or even to follow with their own versions. I cannot say why that is.

But CNN's lengthy story about how Florida Republicans schemed to cut medical care for the sickest children in the state, so that big donor insurance companies could take in tens of millions in taxpayer dollars, deserves attention.

CNN does not mention that Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, is an insurance crook. So this vile trick cannot be said to be entirely unexpected.

Nut graf:

"This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it's the children who suffered," said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Remember this story the next time Mitch McConnell says Americans are suffering under Obamacare. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

21st century iconoclasm

As we contemplate storing Confederate statues (in New Orleans) or pulling them down (in Durham), it is worth asking, how did we react when Poles, Germans, Czechs etc. pulled down statues of Lenin and Marx, or when Iraqis pulled down (with some help from the US Army) statues of Saddam?

With approval, generally, I think. Few Americans worried about losing the heritage of those places.

Still popular in Tajikistan

And how did Americans react when they learned that statues to Stalin are still up in, eg, Tajikistan?

For that matter, how did they react when a bust of Stalin was put up in a congressionally-mandated park in Bedford, Virginia, one that was inaugurated without protest by President G.W. Bush?

That one took a while, but the bust was eventually put in storage. Along with one of Chiang Kai-shek.

Were rightwing admirers of Chiang miffed? Not as far as I can tell. And it seems nobody gives a damn about busts to Attlee, who was more of a socialist than Stalin ever was.

Evidently, bronze images evoke complicated reactions.

The Confederate memorials that stand, usually, at county courthouses were not wholly a result of Jim Crow or even of nostalgia for the Lost Cause.  They were peddled -- not too successfully -- by Northern foundrymasters around 1900. It's a capitalist country on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line and feelings are not expected to prevail when bucks are to be made.

My preference would be to put the statues in museums, with new statues in their place of people like, say, Elijah Lovejoy. Or if new statues are too costly, how about a text, in line with th Southern mania for erecting texts of the Decalogue? I suggest the words of the Mississippi  Convention that ratified secession:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.

UPDATE Wednesday

Lee and Jackson were ridden out of town in Baltimore. Although the vote to do so was public, the removal was done without notice in the middle of the night. As we used to say, ironically, the terrorists have won. We cannot say that ironically now. The armed rightwing terrorists control the public space.

Fans of the Second Amendment, whose principal claim is that it protects the citizenry from its government,  now have to explain how that works.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Racists and cars

The news from Charlottesville that a racist had plowed his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters reminded me of how far we have not come.

Witnesses said a crowd of counterdemonstrators, jubilant because the white nationalists had left, was moving up Fourth Street, near the mall, when a gray sports car came down the road and accelerated, mowing down several people and hurling at least two in the air.
Not quite 50 years ago, Tricia and I drove out to the hospital in Raleigh, N.C., to get syphilis tests in order to get a marriage license. We were to be married in10 days.

It was the day after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Tennessee. Driving back through downtown, in a light rain, we encountered a march coming up the 4-lane road the other way, preceded by a couple of motorcycle cops and trailed by a squad car. The silent crowd, maybe a thousand or so, was, as far as I could see, all black, probably students from St. Augustine and Shaw universities, the two black colleges in town. On the front rank, the marchers carried a banner on a horizontal pole. I do not recall what it said.

 I had marched with Shaw and St. Aug students, for integration, before, but I was not aware of a march that day. I wouldn't have joined anyway since I was preoccupied with marriage.

The cars and trucks going my way came to a halt, probably at police direction, though I couldn't see that far ahead. We'd been halted for five minutes or so, and the head of the march had just passed my Saab 96 when a lifted Chevelle with big rear tires came roaring up from behind the marchers, pulled over in front of the crowd, then reversed with tires screeching into the crowd.

The marchers scattered. Unlike in Charlottesville, no one was hit (as far as I could tell) and I did not see how the police reacted. I was distracted.

As the marchers ran in all directions, many came past the line of stopped cars. One, who had a furled umbrella, smashed the windshield of the pickup truck stopped just in front of me. Another leaned in my open window and spat in my face.

As I was wiping my face I saw the two men in the pickup get out of the cab and pull a shotgun from behind the seat. They got back in the truck and the stopped cars began moving away from the commotion.

As soon as I reached a cross street, I pulled over and found a pay phone. I called the police to report two angry men with a shotgun and gave the plate number.

And then we drove home.

The Charlottesville driver wouldn't know that story, but I don't think he was imitating the Muslim assailants who have driven cars and trucks into crowds in France, England and elsewhere. I'd guess he was letting his redneck juices flow naturally.

Today would have been a good day for Whiny Baby Donald to have put some distance between himself and nazis. He didn't. His kind of people.


Saturday I heard part of an interview  with the deputy mayor of Charlottsville in which he noted that despite the presence of Mr. Jefferson's university, the city has had a long history of aniblack racism and violence. It took part in Massive Resistance to the Supreme Court's order to desegregate public  schools, for example.

He did not go back further than that. His remarks reminded me of an incident related to me by the professor in my college senior seminar, who was a graduate student at UVA when its grad school was integrated in, as I recall, 1951. (The first cracks in southern antiblack hatred came in the grad schools of public universities in several states.)

The grandfathers of the same nazis who came to Charlottesville this week came then, too, and tried to burn down the school.

The state police were called out in force and stayed on the campus for quite a while, though I don't believe they were able to identify the arsonists.

Today the New York Times has a story alleging, with entire credibility, that Trump was urged to condemn nazism and refused. The reason, clearly, is that he doesn't see anything wrong with antiblack racism (or antisemitism, either, for that matter). The proof, like the dog that did not bark in the night, is not what WBD said or failed to say but in what he failed to do.

Recall how many times he has offered/threatened to send federal help to Chicago to help deal wth its violence.

No such offer was made to Charlottesville.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Funniest story this month (so far)

So Kellyanne Conway says the White House is considering introducing lie detectors into the West Wing.

I predict some liars would be discovered.

Christians I knew

I grew up among Southern Baptists. I didn't like them. Still don't. But I was interested to see recently that the church's national conference voted to condemn the "alt-right." (A name I deplore; we already have a name for them: neoNazis.)

It was not unanimous.

Southern Baptists have always been fractious, and they're hell on liberals.

So I was interested, but unsurprised, to see what happened when a pastor called for witness statements from people who quit the church.

Next time you see a report about the National Prayer Breakfast,  think about this.

So far as I know, no other cult has voted on whether to condemn neoNazis. So there's that.