Friday, July 31, 2009

The Most Important Problem on Earth

The Palestinian Problem appears to be the most important issue on Earth to Arab Muslems, Wahhabists and Salafists everywhere, Jews everywhere, and partisan zealots--left and right--in Europe and America.

But in the hierarchy of the world's problems it's a blip, folks.

Even if all the claims of Jewish mistreatment of Palestinians were true, those crimes are dwarfed by what people in power are doing in the eastern Congo, Darfur, Burma, Uganda and many other places. They're also dwarfed by how Muslim parents sexually mutilate their daughters in the millions--literally--across Africa.

Or if you consider sheer suffering, we'd alleviate more by supplying mosquito nets to the regions suffering from malaria and dengue fever than by any sort of settlement in Palestine/Israel.

And if you consider long-term, large-scale dangers to civilization, we should focus on the carbonation of the world's oceans (caused by CO2 dissolving into the water, altering its acidity), which will almost certainly kill off all the world's coral reefs and shellfish within a few decades, an ecocidal catastrophe that will cause immense suffering to vast portions of humanity that depend on those ecosystems for most of their protein.

Throughout the blogosphere partisans fulminate about those wicked Zionists. Those barbaric Palestinians. When the one billion humans who go to sleep every night desperately hungry would think they'd died and gone to heaven if they could live like Palestinians or Israelis.

Above all else, the world contains roughly FIVE BILLION more people than it can actually sustain, and because of this and the unspeakably selfish and shortisighted practices of powerful individuals around the world, Earth is experiencing the largest mass extinction of species since the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs. And if you think that isn't coming back to bite us--even if you only care about humans--you're as shortsighted as the Indonesian and Brazilian agribosses burning down their countries' forests on a vast scale.

So yes, everyone in Israel/Palestine--about the size and population of the San Francisco Bay Area--should learn to get along with each other. But it should be around #100 on everyone's list of 100 Big Problems.

But since so many Arabs believe this is the biggest world problem ever, here's a solution: have the Jews they drove from all the Arab countries with just the clothes on their backs give up their Right of Return to those countries--along with their descendants--in exchange for the Palestinians who were driven from Palestine/Israel giving up their Right of Return. A few more Israelis were dispossessed, but it was roughly 800,000 each way. Then let the Palestinians emigrate en masse to those countries (along with their descendants).

Sure, it isn't fair. They want their ancestral homes. And I don't deny their claim. I just deny the realistic possibility of the Israelis packing up and moving to...where? At least the Palestinians would be moving to countries whose militias wouldn't murder them on sight, as would happen if the Israelis tried to return to their homes in Morocco/Libya/Tunisia/Egypt/Lebanon/Syria/Jordan/Iraq/Yemen etc.

And it's not as if lobbing tin cans full of nails and gunpowder at the Israelis is going to make them leave. Get real. Palestine is jam-packed and the average huge family size of Palestinians is making Palestine packed-er and packed-er. But there's plenty of room elsewhere in the Arab world. We just need to overlook the civil wars instigated by Palestinian migrants in Jordan and Lebanon.

Bottom line: the quest for justice and the nursing of historical wrongs is a luxury this suffering planet just can't afford. While we're squabbling the Earth is about to rise up and smite us. Then there won't be a place for anyone to live. Get your priorities straight.

I originally wrote this entry as a comment on a NewYorkTimes column.
Someone who read that navigated to my blog and sent a comment. However, it contains an obscenity so I won't include it using Google's "publish" option, which doesn't let me edit comments. Here's what the guy said with the naughty word excised:

My tax dollars do not pay for the other stuff you mention. The other stuff you mention does not make a billion people hate my country. The other stuff you mention is all straw.

I bet you are a jew. Jews seem to love straw arguments when it comes to anything addressing their crimes. Why defend the undefendable when you can just reel off a litany of others [censored word] behavior. Do two wrongs suddenly make a right? If you are a jew the answer appers to be a resounding YES.

I could care less who kills anyone elsewhere on the planet. As long as they don't do it on my dime.

Was it an accident that you never mentioned that Israel's crimes might matter to people in the USA because we pay for them? I don't think so.

I think you left that out because you are a fraud.

BTW. Cutting and pasting your blog entry into the comments section of the NYT's is weak.

What's interesting to me about this comment is the underlying idea that individual Americans should get to tell the government how to spend their tax dollars. Well, we do. They're called elections. However, when a majority elect representatives who'd promised to spend our tax dollars in ways we don't like, we have to live with that. It's called living in a democracy, for which the key is abiding by the results of elections when the other side wins. And if our representatives spend our taxes in ways different than what they promised, we can impeach them if enough people object, or turn them out in the next election.

It seems like people should understand this, but both right wing and left wing zealots constantly harp about "their" tax dollars. But they aren't ours--not individually. The taxable part of our income belongs to the People through our representative constitutional government. We pay them in exchange for the benefits of being American citizens. I've traveled in many countries, and I'm constantly thankful that I'm an American citizen, and I'm glad to pay my fair share--even though, like every single other American, I would spend those tax dollars differently than the government does in some respects.

As for this person's interest in whether I'm a Jew or not--what bearing does that have on the validity of my arguments or the truthfulness of the facts I cite? Now if I'm parrotting the ideas of some Jewish organization, that could be relevant. But I don't know of one single Jewish organization that says what goes on in Israel is unimportant--as I say here. Nor have I ever read a letter to the editor or a forum entry by a self-identified Jew who said this. So it seems illogical for this person to claim I'm a Jew in some way that's relevant to the discussion.

It seems more logical to assume that this person doesn't like Jews for some reason. I don't get this either. Jews gave America its most patriotic music (such as Aaron Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man), and as the hero says in Spamalot, you can't put a play on Broadway without a Jew...American culture wouldn't be distinctly American were it not for the contributions of Blacks and Jews, and that's key to what distinguishes us from European culture. Have you seen Europeans try to dance to rock 'n roll? It's hard to look at without wincing.

He does allude to the fact that America supports Israel to the tune of about $3.5B a year. That's a lot of simoleans. However, we spend a comparable amount on surrounding Arab countries. Does he propose that we cut out all foreign aid everywhere, or just to Israel? The latter seems to be the implication. But if so, why single out Israel? Why not at least mention Egypt/Jordan etc.? It's not as if they aren't police states that commit crimes against humanity on their own people every day (including Egypt's current economic destabilization of its Coptic Christians).

And look what we spend on Iraq. Does he realize that one thing the Iraqis have done with their new-found freedom, courtesy of us spending a gazillion bucks to liberate them, is to kill or drive out Iraq's nearly one million Christians, most of whose families had lived there for millennia. How's that for a use of our tax dollars? That strikes me as far more significant than Israel's treatment of Palestinians, even if you agree with the Arab League's claims re: Israel.

As for "Israel's crimes"--well, as opposed to what other country? I haven't forgotten Israel attacking a U.S. Navy picket boat some decades ago, killing several American sailors. That was a crime covered over for political reasons. But I don't think this writer is referring to this incident. Treatment of Palestinians? That's Hitler's fault. He murdered all the gentle Jews of Europe. The Jews tough enough to survive his death camps emigrated to Israel, and the Arabs' War Without End against them hasn't made them softer. The Settlers include some murderous bullies, but they aren't representative of Israelis as a whole. And as my whole blog entry points out, their "crimes" are inconsequential in a world context--including a world context that's only concerned with the behavior of countries we send a lot of tax dollars to.

Lastly, I copy and paste (not cut and paste--think about it) many of my newspaper comment entries into my blog. How is that weak? I wanted a single place people (including me) could go to for my political writing. It's this. Here. There are numerous unique entries here as well, on most of the topics I write about. I think the whole thing is about the length of a novel at this point.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gatesgate--or, is it safe to be a Black Man in America if you have a bad temper and like to get in cops' faces?

True enough, the Leftosphere has gone all atwitter over Harvard Professor Louis Gates' arrest in his own house, meanwhile ignoring the $1.4M/day marketing campaign by the healthcare denial industry against any and all reform efforts.

But it's also true that the Rightosphere has gone all atwitter as well over this deeply unimportant event, with it crowding out nearly everything else, with a focus on how, implicitly, President Obama is an Angry Black Man with a chip on his shoulder who hates cops and wants to take away our pen- er, guns, prior to surrendering America to Hugo Chavez and Osama bin Ladin.

Which sounds like hyperbole unless you watch/listen to the Rightosphere's media outlets, where they've done everything just short of calling for Obama's assassination.

So yes, Gatesgate is a Rorshach test of any given media outlet; yes, it's been way overblown; yes, Gates probably asked for it by pursuing the "do you know who I am" tack, which no Black should pursue anyway, for what should be obvious reasons; yes, Obama put his foot in his mouth, especially in the context of a literal life and death struggle with the healthcare denial industry's efforts to continue parasitizing American taxpayers, but...

any discussion of leftist posturing relative to this should be accompanied by noting the equally vile exploitation of this incident by the Angry Billionaire's Club and their government/media servants.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pot won't be legalized because of my wife

Pot won't be legalized because of my wife. She has a 140 IQ and is a pragmatic business manager--and a veteran scuba diver, so it's not like she's some stick in the mud.

But she's also a devout churchgoing Republican who has never had a cigarette or an alcoholic drink in her life (nor even a cup of coffee), much less marijuana or its ilk.

She opposes legalization of all drugs including marijuana--so firmly that she won't even discuss the topic with me.

And that's why none of the arguments raised by marijuana legalization advocates matter much. The prison-law enforcement industry has succeeded in making marijuana legalization a tribal issue.

"They" want to smoke pot. "They" aren't like you and me. "They" are bums, hippies, anarchists, people with bits of metal on their faces and tattoos on their necks and elsewhere. "They" threaten to overwhelm Society in a flood of boundary-less behavior. "They" are Dionysian. "We" are Apollonian.

None of this is openly articulated, mind you. But I think multiple generations of conservatives are still recoiling in horror at the Summer of Love and all the hijinks that flowed from it.

Unlike so many Republicans who oppose pot but drink liquor, my wife is not a hypocrite. She opposes all mind-altering substances (except chocolate). So I can't even accuse her of having a double standard.

But nobody reading comment threads on marijuana legalization should underestimate the power of tribal thinking, and the efficacy of the prison-law enforcement industry at invoking it. It's not the bogus rationales they offer up that are doing the trick. It's really this less-public but more effective campaign that has worked.

And because the real campaign doesn't use PowerPoint presentations and public debates to achieve its goals, it's harder to refute it or even claim that such a campaign is going on. It's like the way things were in the South after segregation was outlawed. Redneck politicians wouldn't say "Vote for me and I'll keep
the N_____s down." They'd just say "Y'all know what ah stand for."

That's what we're up against. Any suggestions?

I do have one, though I haven't gotten much traction with it yet: decriminalize marijuana (which would still make advertising it illegal ), but treat all crimes as premeditated if they were committed under the influence of a mind-altering substance (including alcohol) that was taken voluntarily by an adult. So a drunk driver mows down someone in a crosswalk--that's Murder One.

But I still don't know how to overcome the tribalism that this debate has gotten imbued with.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

healthcare reform

There has been an enormous amount of media coverage of the Democrats' attempts at healthcare reform. Big Health is currently spending over $1,500,000 a day to try to defeat every single proposal being made by the Democrats.

So in the interest of fairness I think we should examine the Republicans' healthcare reform plan, as evinced by GOP legislation during 2000-2006, when they controlled all three branches of government, and by the proposals they're making now.

Based on all that, here's what the GOP proposes:

1. Eliminate punitive damages in malpractice suits, so when the doc saws off your leg instead of removing your appendix, your lawsuit won't cripple him.

2. Otherwide, the current healthcare system in its entirely.

This is reinforced by right wing pundits, talk show hosts and congressmen declaring many times daily that we enjoy "the finest medical care system in the world."

And so we do--if you're a congressman or a multimillionaire or a public sector employee.

If you're employed by a company with full healthcare benefits, you may feel the same way--as long as you haven't needed those benefits in a big way. Otherwise you'll get to find out how our system rations healthcare--while carefully avoiding calling it that.

But even if you love your current healthcare provision, the fact is that healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that a major chunk of our gross national product is being diverted into healthcare industry profits, and the diversion is increasing steadily (hence the $1,500,000 a day being spent by the profiteers to preserve the status quo).

The Republicans talk about the Social Security and Medicare funding heading over the cliff. Well, that's nothing compared to what's going on in healthcare overall. It is unsustainable, and it's a major contribution to making our country's products uncompetitive in the world market.

The Democratic proposals thus far are very expensive, because they don't address a simple fact: our healthcare system runs with around a 30% overhead, while other nations--such as France--run with a 3% overhead. The difference is a mix of runaway profits for self-appointed middlemen, high medical professional salaries, administrative inefficiency, and a vast bureaucracy whose sole purpose is to deny medical benefit claims wherever possible, by hook or by crook, with a concomitant vast bureacracy required by healthcare providers to try to get claims approved.

If the Democrats adopt a single payer system we'd be able to provide proper healthcare for everyone with less rationing than now takes place--but it would displace a huge number of people, from minions to Masters of the Universe--now staffing this unnecessary bureacracy.

Other countries have made such a changeover successfully. We probably can't reduce costs unless we follow suit. The half-measures proposed so far don't tackle the inherent problem of trying to apply for-profit principles to healthcare--namely that healthcare customers comprise a captive market; they aren't really free to shop for healthcare when they need it, unlike, say, choosing to buy a house or a new car or a TV. This hidden truth invariably drives prices up in a for-profit marketplace.

So the Democrats propose measures that fall short of a solution, while the Republicans propose--nothing.

Ain't democracy grand? My fear is that vast wealth and skillful, relentless propaganda may be sufficient to get people to vote against their self interest. This is exactly what happened when Hillary Clinton crafted a healthcare system back in the 1990's. And it's close to happening again.

comprehensive immigration reform

we do need comprehensive immigration reform. Here's my proposal for doing that:

1. The primary purpose of American immigration policy should be to improve America. I'm astonished that I even need to say this.

2. America is improved by bringing in individuals and families with skills and resources that America needs, and by not bringing in those with liabilities that harm America.

3. Therefore, when someone applies to immigrate, they should be required to include everyone they ever plan to bring in with them. Then their application can be considered as group to evaluate whether it will be a net benefit to America to bring in that group. There should be no limitation on the size of the group--as long as it represents a net benefit for us. This would supplant the "family reunification" policy that currently represents the majority of legal immigration. It's good to bring in families--as long as the families represent a net benefit to America.

4. Also, the person applying with a group to be brought in under his/her umbrella must assume liability for the cost of all social services for that group until they become citizens, and the likelihood of any of them going on the dole after citizenship should be an important consideration.

5. America does not need unskilled laborers. With real unemployment pushing 20%--and with lower-class unemployment much higher--and with the recession impacting social services for poor people disproportionately--immigration of unskilled laborers should be banned until unemployment of American unskilled laborers drops below 4% (to pick a number out of the air).

6. America does need topflight scientists and engineers and other kinds of highly skilled workers. Immigration for these--including grad students in desirable areas--should be fast-tracked, except for Chinese immigrants, who need extra security checks, given the success of Communist China at sending spies here.

7. America is a nation of "melting potted" immigrants--not of enclaves of hyphenated special interest groups. America has been the most successful nation on Earth in assimilating immigrants (in strong contrast with Europe), largely because immigrants have fanned out across the country instead of concentrating in monocultural ghettos, as has happened in Europe.

8. Therefore we should re-establish national quotas, not to give whites preferences, as was the case before, but to ensure maximum diversity, both as a source of multicultural vigor and to prevent the formation of Quebec-style enclaves.

9. Accordingly, all immigration from Mexico and Central America should be banned indefintely, except for individuals with critical skills or great wealth (who will invest in America). We need a Latino "breather" until immigration from Africa, Asia, Brazil and Europe catch up. Reinstatement of Latino immigration shouldn't be considered until illegal immigration from Mexico and Mesoamerica is staunched.

10. Legal immigration via being born within our borders from illgal alien parents violates the first principle on this list--especially since most children born this way are the peasant children of peasant parents--a group we don't need more of. Unless the Supreme Court reinterprets the 14th Amendment to preclude such anchor babies, the Constitution needs to be amended to make it clear that the 14th doesn't include offspring of illegals.

11. The Constitution also needs to be amended to eliminate the loophole that currently counts illegal aliens in Congressional district apportionment. It gives political parties that benefit too much incentive to encourage illegal immigration.

12. The 25 million (give or take 10 or 20 million) Illegal immigrants now residing in America must not be granted amnesty because the last two times we tried it (the latest being in 1986) the result was a tidal wave of new illegal immigration. This policy would produce many individual tragedies--especially as regards children brought here illegally and are now culturally American--but this must be weighed against the far greater tragedy of more massive waves of illegal immigration.

13. The federal government must mandate adoption of e-Verify by states as a prerequisite to any state receiving Federal financial support.

14. The federal government must adopt a universal ID for American residents, as other advanced nations are doing. This doesn't require a card any more--biometric ID stations can be used, sidestepping the fake ID industry. Fuji has a palm vein reader that woupld require rearranging the veins in your hand to fool it. This ID should be a prerequisite for all social services, with the exception of emergency medical care--which would be provided, then the recipient deported if they're here illegally. This would also be a requirement for employment.

15. Illegal entry should remain a misdemeanor. But illegal re-entr should be a felony.

What illegal immigrant advocates don't say

Here are the principles you can derive from the posts of those who plead the case of the illegal aliens:

1. America has no right to choose who gets to emigrate here, possibly due to the doctrine of Original (American) Sin.

2. Instead, America's immigration policy should be determined by the governments and citizens of other countries--primarily Mexico.

3. Mexican peasants should be given preference over anyone else, including PhDs from Germany, successful artists from Japan, Indonesian peasants and PhDs--really, anyone.

4. The plight of potential immigrants is irrelevant unless they're Mexican, since so many people from so many countries are worse off than the average Mexican peasant.

5. The needs of American employers for skilled immigrants is irrelevant. Only employers needing scab labor to bust unions and drive unskilled American workers into poverty are relevant.

6. America's own lower classes--whites, blacks, browns and yellows who have a high school diploma or less--deserve to have their wages cut by 5-25%, as has happened since the 1986 amnesty produced a tidal wave of Mexican peasants (and Salvadoreans, Guatemalans etc.) flowing over our borders.

7. Amnesty is not amnesty, since it doesn't happen immediately.

9. Granting "it's-not-amnesty" to 25 million illegal aliens today won't inspire a tidal wave of new illegal immigration, even though the last two amnesties (the latest in 1986) did.

10. e-verify must be banned, because Mexicans don't like it, and their feelings trump the feelings of America's working poor--including many millions of blacks and at least a quarter of Americans of Latino background.

11. There is no such thing as overpopulation. The fact that Mexico's population exploded from 20 million in 1940 to over 100 million in 2000 is irrelevant. The fact that America's population has doubled in the lifetime of many WaPo readers is irrelevant. The fact that the world's population has increased sixfold since 1900 is irrelvant. The fact that the world is expriencing the largest species and habitat die-off in 65 million years is irrelevant.

12. The fact that the primary beneficiaries of liberal advocacy of illegals is billionaire irrelevant.

13. The fact that the American Southwest has undergone a radical demographic and cultural transformation in the last 30 years is a good thing, because Mexican culture is good and American culture is bad and deserves to die.

14. Letting 25 million Mexican citizens living here illegally jump the queue won't demoralize the millions of potential immigrants all over the world who patiently went through the immigration process. And even if it does, it doesn't matter, because most of them aren't Mexican, and only Mexicans' feelings matter.

15. Anyone who disagrees with all this is a racist, so anything they say--facts or logic--is irrelvant. You don't need to refute someone if you can attack their character. And if they do appear to be making sense, just howl racistracistracistracist until you drown them out.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Heart vs. Mind

Some say the Democrats are mindless, while the Republicans are heartless.

Nonsense. Both parties overflow with empathy.

They just differ in the targets of that empathy.

The Republican Party weeps for the oppression suffered by helpless billionaires, CEOs, officials in positions of great power; of oppression of the religion that over 2/3 of the nation belongs to; of the threat to institutions like Christmas that are only celebrated today by over 80% of Americans.

The Democratic Party weeps for the oppression suffered by public employee union members who make more than comparable private sectors employees and also enjoy lifetime security via lavish pension benefits; for the oppression of poor people (unless they're White); for the voting rights of American citizens who neglected to learn the language spoken by this country; for the rights of citizens of other countries who moved here illegally, even though their presence has resulted in wages for unskilled labor dropping 5-25%, thus pushing American lower-class workers into poverty--and the fact that they're here mainly because Mexico's population has exploded from 20 million in 1940 to over 100 million in 2000, and now it's exporting its overpopulation to America. Lastly, the Democratic Party weeps for everyone who's a citizen of this country who regards themselves as something else above being American--African, Latin, -of color-ed, or any other hyphenation that can be sliced off the body politic and granted special ethnic or racial favors for their group in exchange for their vote.

I'm so pleased to live in a country so overflowing with empathy on the part of both major parties. Just because a majority of Americans are left out of both parties' span of empathy shouldn't bother us. It's our job to give, just as it is theirs to take. Or so both parties' seem to think.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why should my taxes go to things I consider immoral?

Conservatives object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund abortion.
Liberals object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund the Iraq war.

Conservatives object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund central payer-administered healthcare.
Liberals object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund the "war on drugs."

Conservatives object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund public school sex education.
Liberals object vehemently to their tax dollars going to fund abstinence-only "sexless education."

I heard a conservative caller on a talk show state flatly "I don't want my tax dollars to go to someone with a pre-existing medical condition."

Both liberals and conservatives talk endlessly about their rights--and the rights of those they favor--but they only talk about the obligations of the other side, and of those they don't favor.


But beyond our rights and obligations, all these demands about how tax money is to be spent/not spent raise deeper issues that I think matter even more than the hot button topics you see on placards and bumper stickers.

Which is--every time someone makes demands linked to taxation, they're saying:

"I have the right to specify what my tax dollars will and won't be spent on."

How would a democratic country apply that principle? These zealots are proposing that every taxpayer has the right to submit a list with his/her tax return, ordering the government to allocate that person's tax dollars exactly as that taxpayer demands.

Think about the bureaucratic nightmare. It would have to be tallied by hand, which would lead to errors, which would lead to demands for recounts.

And even if we could adminster such a system, it cuts the legs out from under the essence of democracy: the losing side takes its lumps.

When Bush won in 2000 by--as roughly half of Americans believe--Supreme Court fiat--you didn't see militias going to war with government troops. The losing side griped loudly but ultimately they accepted the results. Conversely, when the Antichrist won in 2008--according to a substantial minority of Ameircans--again you didn't see warfare on the streets.

Yet we keep getting these bogus tax dollar allocation demands.

I say to both sides: There has never been a single instant in American history when everyone agreed on everything government did with everyone's tax dollars. We all agree, as adults, to sacrifice some of our individual freedom in exchange for the benefits of being citizens of the most powerful and prosperous nation in history.

So grow up.

If you want to change law, campaign lawfully to change it. But stop talking about "your" tax dollars. Those tax dollars aren't yours. They're everyone's, just as you own a share of everyone else's tax dollars, as mediated by our elected government, operating under our Constitution.

And if you find another country is run more to your liking, feel free to move there (if they'll take you). Go. We have plenty of residents. We can spare you.