Monday, July 30, 2012

Mitt Romney, Mormon, and Islam

Last night I was at a dinner party where three of the five attendees were former Latter Day Saints, better known as the Mormons. I am a former Catholic. I am not sure about the fifth person's childhood faith. In any case we had a good time talking about the Mormon faith and Mitt Romney.

Two of the Mormons had been mainstream, Utah Mormons. One had been in the much smaller Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS). That is the one that did not follow Brigham Young to Utah, and instead stayed loyal to the family of the founder, Joseph Smith. And I just leaned something new (from Wikipedia) that the ex-member did not know: this sect changed their name in 2001 to the Community of Christ, and now allows women to be priests.

We had a discussion of where Mitt Romney and the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints fits into the theological spectrum. The Mormons, according to their former members, do not believe Jesus is God in the sense that most believing Christians do. They believe Jesus is a sort of planetary god. They believe that if they (the men, anyway) have enough wives and children and are holy enough they will reincarnate on planets of their own, which they will rule over as (small g) gods.

This strange combination of science fiction and primitive Christianity makes a lot of sense if you understand the culture of the United States of America in the 1820s, when Joseph Smith pieced his cult together. Science had discovered that planets were not just mobile stars, but bodies like earth, big enough to live on, perhaps. The large number of stars indicated that there might be large numbers of planets beyond the solar system. The Bible did not mention this (or foresee steamboats and railroads and other development), so either the Bible was not written by a omniscient God or it was only a partial revelation. Times were changing, and religion clearly needed a major update. Joseph Smith was the most successful of the updaters of that era.

Which brings us round to Islam. There can be no doubt that Mohammed, the Prophet, was the Joseph Smith of his day (570 - 632 A.D.). He too was born a nobody. He became a trader and capitalist (just like Mitt) and in the course of business visited much of the Middle East. He came in contact with people of many different religions. Most importantly, in addition to meeting orthodox Christians, he met both gnostic Christians and the original Christians. The original Christians were still Jews and thought Jesus was a prophet, not a god. Their historical records told them that Jesus had died on the Cross, but had not been resurrected.

Eventually Mohammed founded a new religion. He did not pretend to be a god, and his followers have been very strict about that issue. His religion must have met a lot of people's needs because it became wildly popular far faster than any prior religion. It is still popular today.

Just like the Latter Day Saints, early on Islam split into two sects. One, the main Sunni branch, was started by the powerful elders, mostly military leaders, who had known Mohammed. The other, Shia, was formed by the direct bloodline descendants of Mohammed. They have been fighting ever since.

Mitt Romney does not want potential voters to know what Mormons really believe. He does not want them to know that despite its name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints could be categorized as Islamic. Joseph Smith certainly knew some of what was then modern science. He also clearly was influenced by ancient Egyptian precepts and Islam. Many passages of Smith's writtings are paraphrased from the Koran. The polygamy thing is obvious: Mohammed practiced polygamy. The concept of Heaven in the Mormon Church is right out of the Koran, with some 19th century science updates.

Of course Joseph Smith gave no credit to the Koran, which would have been impolitic. He was a new Prophet and according to his theology, was headed to being a god on his own planet when he died on this earth.

Like most small starter religions, Smith's new Church advocated religious tolerance. "We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience, and allow all men the same privilege." [Pearl of Great Price] Thus they advocated for a non-Christian America where their version of Islam could be part of the cultural mix.

Why then, since he belongs to a branch of Islam, is Mitt Romney currently siding with Israel so strongly?
Mitt Romney has always been skilled at the art of deception and willing to do whatever lying it takes to get what he wants. He went to Harvard Law School to brush up on that skill. What else would you expect from a man who grew up in France, who speaks French better than English, and yet want to be the first Latter Day Saint President of the United States of America?

Romney needs to win in Florida to be President and establish Joseph Smith's vision of a Mormon Kingdom on the American continent. "We believe in being subject to kings," [Pearl of Great Price].

Mitt Romney needs a few hundred thousand Jewish votes in Florida to become President. Those of you who support the human rights of Palestinians don't need to worry about Romney's pro-Israel, zionist rhetoric. Mormons know the True Zion is on the American continent. Their leadership is very pro-Islam, and has already made deals with the Saudis to gain total economic control of the globe and its women. The Jews and Christians just need to be fooled for a few more months.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tax the American Empire

[Note: much of this article first appeared as Post-Imperial Mendocino County at]

The American economy, the economic crisis of 2008, and ongoing sluggish growth, cannot be understood without first admitting that we are in a post-imperialist era.

We cannot move the economy forward again without getting out of the double-bind we are in: paying for the trappings of imperialism, without its economic benefits.

The federal government's budget is still deeply in deficit mode, yet has not provided enough stimulus to get us up to even moderate growth. So we are not really out of the crisis that swept over us starting in 2008. Food stamps and long-term unemployment benefits have staved off starvation for most citizens, but hardly amount to a long-term solution.

The idea that the United States of America ever went through an imperialist period will surprise many of its citizens. Imperialism often implies an emperor, but in our case it mainly means being able to extract wealth from foreign nations through the exercise of military and economic power.

There was no clear beginning to U.S. imperialism. Grabbing native American Indian lands was a major way of extracting wealth from outsiders even before 1776. Most historians would say modern U.S. imperialism started with the Spanish-American War in which the U.S. grabbed Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Cuba (we later sort of gave Cuba to its local elite, although the process was not really completed until Fidel Castro came to power). Or you could go back to the Mexican-American War, in which we grabbed the northern half of Mexico.

To understand how we might revive the economy and government, we should focus on U.S. imperialism after World War II. How did we get to that happy situation? From 1929 until just before World War II the United States economy was pretty sleepy . By the late 1940s and into the 1950s the U.S. economy was bustling. Why did World War II make such a difference?

The United States has had some pretty clever leaders. Even in the 1700's many of them wished for our nation to be a Great Power like the British Empire or France. Presidents like James Polk (who grabbed California), William McKinley (Spanish-American War) and Theodore Roosevelt came to symbolize U.S. global ambitions.

It was World War I, by accident or strategy, that became the template for future U.S. success. Under President Woodrow Wilson the U.S. stayed out of the war, selling all the goods our farms and factories could produce to both sides. Then, when Russia had collapsed and Italy, Germany, France and England were exhausted, the President, under pressure from U.S. bankers, found a pretext to declare war.

It was great, World War I. Not that many American soldiers died (just 117,000), but we tipped the balance for Great Britain and France. Germany was defeated. We did not grab any territory to speak of, but we became the world's bankers while leading the world in industry.

The rematch known as World War II went even better. President Franklin Roosevelt rearmed the United States while putting the British Empire even more heavily in our debt. We let the Communists defeat the Nazis and, again, came in towards the end to claim victory and its spoils. English, French, Italian, German, Japanese and Russian factories had been largely destroyed by aerial bombardment. In contrast the U.S. had built many more factories.

As the French and British empires collapsed after the war it was U.S. factories that supplied the goods for most of the world. In the U.S., in the 1950's, most Americans who wanted one could get a job that paid well. An interstate highway system was built, suburbs were built, colleges expanded and filled. The whole imperialist deal was so profitable that even though the U.S. maintained what was by far the world's most expensive military establishment, paying for it detracted little from the economy.

The Sixties were even better, with John F. Kennedy (a Democrat) engineering the biggest tax cuts for the rich in American history. Even those Americans whose race, geographical location, or just plain laziness and incompetence had prevented them from sharing in The American Dream were soon helped by President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society social programs.

The prosperity might have gone on for centuries, but America's capitalists betrayed it. Rival gangs of capitalists pursued opportunities that turned imperialism on its head. It was profitable to keep costs for consumers high in the U.S. It became more profitable to produce the goods sold in the U.S. in other sectors of the world, certain of the "third world" nations like Mexico and Korea, then later China and Brazil. Meanwhile another gang clung to the profits of the military-industrial complex, and even added profits by whipping up a Homeland Security spending bonanza.

As a result American military, homeland security, and domestic budgets had to be skimmed from a thinning layer of middle-class taxpayers. The capitalists received tax cuts, notably special treatment for dividends and capital gains, as well as no taxes on financial transactions. Factory workers, most of them, dropped back into the proletariat, losing their middle-class incomes. Low-paid service work came to make up most of the American economy.

In classic imperialism, as say run by the British Empire from about 1700 to about 1950, the economic idea is to extract wealth from the enslaved nations. The extracted wealth is brought home, and while the rich get most of it, enough is trickled down to the middle class and proletariat to keep them happy and patriotic, or at least not rebellious. It is important to keep the cost of the military used to dominate other nations low enough so there is a net, major profit for the homeland. The Brits were very good at that. They even drafted soldiers from their subject nations and used them quite effectively. The British Empire fell because England exhausted itself fighting Germany, not because the empire itself was not profitable. At the end of World War II, for practical purposes, the Brits had mortgaged their empire to American bankers. We foreclosed.

Starting in the 1990's, and accelerating this last decade, the U.S.A. has done the opposite. You can see from our Trade Deficits that wealth has been draining from the nation for two decades. At the same time we are being bled internally by the military and homeland security industries.

Look at Afghanistan. Where's the loot? We give money to the corrupt government of Afghanistan. We give them weapons. They sell the weapons to the Taliban, who then use them to shoot at U.S. troops. We get nothing out of it. Not oil, not a market for U.S. goods, not slaves or concubines or the usual imperialist loot.

There are only two solutions. One is to tax every nation in the world that we can. That is the classic imperialist solution: give unto Obama the things that are Obama's. The plan probably would not go down very well in most countries. But they would have no choice. Look what we did to Iraq, and most nations don't have the defenses Iraq did.

Taxes should be modest and imposed gradually, so as not to shock the world economy. A 1% sales or income tax on developed allies and a 0.25% to 0.5% tax on less-developed dependents would probably work for a starter. While the rate is low, by taxing some 6 billion people, quite a bit of money would flow into the United States. It would pay for our work as the world's police, and also pay for our education, welfare, bread, and circuses.

The only other solution is to Cut the Military and Homeland Securities budget. Cut it to the size needed to defend us from Mexico and Canada. Something along the size of the New York Police Force budget.
Unfortunately we are maneuvering in is a sea of continued massive stupidity by American capitalists and both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Don't expect those bozos to start taxing England, Korea and Pakistan, or to reduce the military budget in a meaningful way, in your lifetimes.

Expect America to continue to decline. As the empire unravels, our homeland will unravel. To keep military muscle, we will loose economic muscle. If we keep on this course, at some point, our colossus will fall.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Give Me

My poem "Give Me" has now been published in print by the Redwood Coast Review. Also available online at on page 10. I was inspired to write this poem while reading  Sparrows Point by Mike Reutter, which described how easy it was for a steel mill worker to be incorporated into the steel itself.

I have met quite a few people in my life who suffered from work-related injuries, including an uncle who lost an arm. The worst that ever happened to me was a bruised finger from a moment's carelessness while positioning railroad ties back around 1977. But a guy working with me on that crew had had his jaw broken before I arrived when a jack failed. He was working with his jaw not yet healed, I guess he needed the pay as desperately as the rest of us did.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Long, Hot Summer Apps

Right now, some of the smartest people on the planet are hunkered down in Silicon Valley and a dozen other entrepreneurial hotspots trying to figure out how to improve smartphone hardware and software. "Improve" here means getting it, The Cloud, and its swarm of Devices, to become more efficient at parting everyone else from their e-money. They have been inspired by the new Robber Barons, sometimes called by name but more often simply associated with corporations: Zynga and Facebook and Square and LinkedIn and a hundreds of others, whose fans all act surprised when you have not heard of them, much less have used them.

Given the way the world is headed, here are some Apps you can expect to see soon:

WaterUp will tell you where you can find potable water once the electricity grid goes down for the last time. It will guide you to the nearest pond or stream, based on GPS, which should keep working because the GPS satellite system works on solar energy. You can even agree with groups of friends in advance where to meet up!

TeaPartyIn provides an endless loop of helpful reminders that weather fluctuates naturally and all societal problems, including your being unemployed, hot, hungry, and thirsty is the fault of Communists in the government. Show a little enterprise! If you got corpses, open a hamburger stand.

BadaBingo turns your iFad tablet or phone into a three-card monte table. Whatever the chumps have left to bet with can be yours. Use WaterUp to find a good location early.

MyTurret allows your device to control the aim of the armament of your choice, whether mounted to the roof of your car or at the entrance to your home. Be sure to stock up on ammo, they won't be making more once the music stops.

OpenSourceUniversalApp will monitor the Cloud to determine when the government and multinational corporations are no longer functioning well enough to enforce their laws or property rights. It will then download every book ever written, song ever recorded, movie ever distributed (including porn), and App ever made be greedy geeks to you device. You can have all that entertainment at your fingertips. Until your battery needs recharging.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mexican-American War Timeline

Note: throughout the period covered, Native American Indian tribes did not accept the right of Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, or the United States to occupy their lands.

Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 sets the boundary between the United States and Spain at the Sabine River, the Red River, the Arkansas River, then the 42nd parallel west to the Pacific Ocean. Spain ceded Florida to the United States, and "The United States hereby cede to His Catholic Majesty, and renounce forever, all their rights, claims, and pretensions to the Territories lying West and South of the above described Line." [See text of Adams-Onis Treaty]
Mexico becomes independent of Spain, 1821. The new government encourages immigration to the Texas region, including by U.S. citizens.
1828. A Mexican government fact finding mission finds U.S. citizens are seizing land in Texas by fraud and by force and are suspected of plotting to annex Texas to the United States.
1836. Texas War of Independence. A Mexican army led by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna enters Texas to restore order. U.S. citizens form militias, and after suffering a string of military defeats, defeat the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836. Captured and as a prisoner of war under duress, Santa Anna signed papers (Treaties of Velasco) promising to cease hostilities. Mexican troops were to relocate south of the Rio Grande, but this was not stated as an actual boundary of the Republic of Texas. The boundaries were to be established in a later treaty. Texas reneged on some of the provisions, and the government of Mexico refused to ratify the agreement, as it was beyond Santa Anna's authority and extracted under duress.
1837. The United States of America recognizes Texas as an independent nation. President Martin Van Buren turns down a formal request from Texas for annexation.
1842. Faced with bankruptcy, Texas again pursues annexation by the U.S., with the alternative of stronger ties with Great Britain. Mexican troops capture San Antonio, but later withdraw. The U.S. and Great Britain continue to haggle about where to draw the West Coast line between the U.S. and Canada.
October 18, 1842. U.S. Commodore Thomas Gatesby Jones seizes Monterey, California in Mexico. He had orders to "protect American interests" on the Pacific coast and thought that war between the U.S. and Mexico was imminent. Thirty hours later, receiving news that in fact the U.S. and Mexico were still at peace, Jones apologized and withdrew.
1844. Possible annexation of Texas is a major issue in the presidential election campaigns. An annexation treaty was signed on April 12, 1844, but because of the slavery issue (Texas practiced slavery), Congress does not pass its own bill for annexation until February 28, 1945. John Charles Fremont first enters California on a military exploration expedition.
November 1844. James K. Polk elected President. He and fellow expansionists plan to find a pretext to admit Texas to the union and buy or take New Mexico and California from Mexico.
October 1845. Thomas Larkin, U.S. consul in California, writes Polk that France and Britain have opened consulates there and were urging Mexico to send troops to counter the large influx of American adventurers in the region. Secretary of State Buchanan encourages Californians to revolt against Mexico, as Texas had. The commander of the U.S. Pacific Squadron is given orders to seize San Francisco if he were to "ascertain with certainty" that war had broken out.
July 1845. Brigadier General Zachary Taylor moves U.S. troops into Texas, and Polk insists the Rio Grande is to be the boundary with Mexico once Texas is annexed.
August 29, 1845. Polk orders General Taylor to regard any crossing of the Rio Grande by Mexican troops as an act of war. Taylor given permission to attack first, at his discretion, and take Matamoros on the south bank of the Rio Grande, but not to penetrate further into Mexico. But Taylor, cautious, advances only to Corpus Christi.
December 29, 1845. President Polk signs resolution of Congress admitting Texas to the United States.
1845-1846. The Mexican government repeatedly rejects offers to sell California and the land north of the Rio Grande to the United States.
January 13, 1846. Polk orders Taylor to advance to the Rio Grande and construct Fort Texas opposite Matamoros.
January 27, 1846. Fremont arrives in Monterey, telling Mexican authorities he just wants to resupply before marching north to the Oregon territory. Instead he fortifies Gavilian Peak (now Hawks Peak) and raises the American flag. When confronted with 200 Mexican troops, Fremont and his smaller force abandon their fort on March 9th.
March 1846. Taylor begins construction of Fort Texas on the Rio Grande.
April 12, 1846. Mexican General Pedro de Ampudia sends General Taylor a demand to withdraw his troops to the Nueces River.
Mid April, 1846. General Mariano Arista takes command of Mexican troops and informed Taylor that in his opinion, the war had begun. This was not authorized by the Mexican government, which enduring a civil war.
April 25, 1846. U.S. forces under Captain Seth Thornton clash with Mexican forces north of the Rio Grande; Mexicans win the battle.
April 28, 1846. Polk discusses with his Cabinet asking Congress to declare war.
May 8, 1846. Battle of Palo Alto.
May 8, 1846. John Slidell reports the failure of U.S. attempts to buy the desired lands. Polk says he is preparing to ask Congress to declare war.
May 9, 1846. Battle of Resaca de la Palma.
May 9, 1846. Morning. U.S. Cabinet votes to declare war with 1 dissent.
May 9, 1846. Bearing secret orders from Polk, Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie meets Fremont at Upper Klamath Lake. [The orders had been given in on October 30, 1845]
May 9, 1846. Evening. Dispatch from General Taylor handed to President Polk, reporting the Thornton disaster and declaring that hostilities had commenced.
May 11, 1846. Polk asks Congress to declare war on Mexico, stating "Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil." Later that day House of Representatives passes declaration of war 174 to 14.
May 12, 1846. Senate, after a lengthier debate, approves war 40 to 2.
May 13, 1846. President Polk signs the Declaration of War with Mexico, making it official.
June 14, 1846. A few people in the small town of Sonoma declare California an independent republic (Bear Flag Republic). This is before news of the war arrived.
December 22, 1847. Abraham Lincoln, Whig Party congressman from Illinois, introduces his Spot Resolutions, challenging the idea that the war began when American blood was spilled on American soil.
February 2, 1848. Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico cedes Texas and what later became the states of California, Nevada, Utah, most of Arizona and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming to the United States.


Walter R. Borneman, Polk, The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, trade paperback edition, 2008, Random House, New York.
Wikipedia, used to double check and fill in some dates.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Genesis and Genocide, Hitler and Moses

"And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city, we left none to remain." - Deuteronomy 2:34 (Holy Bible)

In Jewish and Christian mythology the first five books of the Bible are said to have been written by Moses himself. Certainly Moses is a central figure, particularly in the second book, Exodus, in which he leads the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. At the end of the fifth book, Deuteronomy, Moses is said to have died at the age of 120, in Moab, never having entered the land of the Canaanites. Joshua then led the Jewish tribes, conquering the city of Jericho and, afterwards, conquering areas west of the Jordan River and Dead Sea.

It is likely that the Jewish original conquest of what I will call Palestine was not quite as clearly genocidal as the Bible indicates. The above quote from Deuteronomy is ascribed to the period during which the tribes were wanderers, before settling in Palestine. The Jews where not alone in trying to exterminate their neighbors, they just recorded it earlier than most. Enslaving the conquered was another common option, as was killing all males and keeping women as wives and slaves. The Egyptians, Sumerians and Babylonians also boasted of their skills at war and built their grand civilizations with slaves.

Many other instances of genocide are recorded in the Bible. For instance in Samuel, Chapter 15, God himself is quoted as saying: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
At one point the Babylonians did an ethnic cleansing of Judah, leading to the Exile. Most scholars think most of the Bible was written in Babylonia to keep the Jews culturally united until they could return to Judah. [6th century BCE; see Babylonian captivity]

What makes the Hebrew record different is its pretense to being a display of God's plan for the world. If you accept the Bible as a plan, you are basically stuck with approving of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Adolf Hitler could well be said to have been the Moses of Germany. He was born in an ethnically German area of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The most fateful decision of his life was doubtless when he decided to abandon a career as an artist to enroll in the German (rather than Austro-Hungarian Empire) army at the beginning of World War I.

Germany defeated Russia in the war and still had troops in France when it surrendered. Corporal Hitler, like many Germans, went into denial. Instead of accepting that if Germany had fought on its army would have collapsed, the myth of the "stab in the back" was created. In this version of history Communists and Jews (often the same people in Germany) were blamed for the loss of the war. There was some basis for this mistaken view. The Balfour Declaration, which may have induced some German Jews to hope for a British victory in the War. After Kaiser Wilhelm abdicated, the transitional government that negotiated the surrender of Germany was socialist (of the Marxist, internationalist sort, not of the nationalist, Nazi sort).

Germans had some genuine postwar complaints. The United States piled into the war late, tipping the military balance. A just peace was promised in return for an armistice. Instead the British, French and Americans imposed a very punitive peace that essentially destroyed Germany.

For Hitler and his admirers the Promised Land was a Germany consisting of all ethnic German majority areas. For Hitler and the more anti-Semitic National Socialists these lands would also have to be purged of foreign races, including (but not limited to) Jews and Gypsies. The more aggressive version of this doctrine included invading non-German areas, purging them, and colonizing them with Germans. Not unlike the prior colonization of the United States and British Empire.

The German nationalists wandered in their wilderness only slightly more than a decade before gaining power in Germany, or the rump of Germany that had been left by the wolves after World War I. In the late 1930's Hitler's government started taking back, or incorporated for the first time, the ethnic German areas outside the official borders. To be sure, he was happy to seize some areas that were not German, like much of Czechoslovakia. The last (perhaps) piece of German pie Hitler gobbled was western Poland (which was a part of Germany taken away by the peace treaty after World War I). The mighty British Empire, itself built over the centuries by the process of military conquest, ethnic cleansing, and genocide, declared war on Germany soon after Poland was attacked. World War II was on.

Like Moses, Hitler was not to see his promised land. Other nations were not interested in accepting the Jews he wanted expelled, so he killed them in the Holocaust, which is one of the most appalling acts of cold blooded mass murder of non-combatants in modern history.

In the end Germany was dismembered, not reunited. Hitler committed suicide rather than surrendering, echoing Masada, and the concentration camps were liberated before they completed their grizzly task. Later the capitalist West put together its three bites (British, French, and American) of Germany in order to use them as a shield against the Communist Block. Only in 1990 did East Germany reunite with West Germany to form the modern (and might I add, civilized and non-militaristic) nation of Germany.

Since World War II ethnic cleansing, and even genocide, has continued here and there around the world. Nationalism, religious prejudice, and greed are still problems. Yet a new earth has grown up too where many if not most people have a modern, civilized outlook. Civilized nations do not even have the death penalty for criminal acts. In theory no nation is supposed to engage in military aggression, though in reality the U.S. has been the worst offender in the last decade or two.

We need to keep a watch out for leaders who advocate ethnic cleansing, genocide, or war. They need to be stopped before they cause harm. We need, in particular, to respect the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities. The whole world should accept the enlightenment ideal of religious toleration and the brotherhood and sisterhood of the human race.

History books are filled with wars and genocides. This makes us forget that most people have lived in peace most of the time. Most people do not murder their neighbors. Nor do villages or cities exist in a perpetual war with each other. Even mighty nations have spent most of their times in treaty-bound peace with their rivals. We have much to build on even as we remember and criticize the horrors of the past.