Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday with Five Broken Cameras and Broken Commandments

The Jewish festival of Passover may celebrate a myth, or more likely the Passover story is part mythology, with a germ of truth. The basic tale is in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, Chapters 11 and 12. The key point is that when the Jews were getting ready to leave Egypt, all the first born Egyptian children and cattle died on an appointed night.

If the whole story is not a myth, and if you don't believe in supernatural crimes against humanity, then there is only one conclusion. Gangs organized by Moses went around and killed a bunch of innocent children, and cattle, in the night.

And so the Jews celebrate passover. They make it a celebration of freedom from slavery in Egypt, and I am all for freedom, and for celebrating freedom.

But given at least 3000 years have passed, would it not be a good idea to stop reminding the world every year that instead of killing the Pharaoh that night, which would have been justifiable tyranicide, they killed an untold number of Egyptian children?

Imagine if Germans annually celebrated the Holocaust like it was a good thing, or if Americans celebrated Wounded Knee or some other massacre of native American Indians.

Good Friday is pretty weird too. If there is anything that whips up Christians to kill Jews, besides high interest rates, it is Good Friday. The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God or at least the Messiah or a Prophet or some sort of rabble rouser who was against the quaint Jewish custom of stoning people to death for sex outside of one man to one woman marriages.

Good Friday follows Holy Thursday, at which Jesus had his last meal with the Apostles. This was on or near the Passover, according to Mark Chapter 14. Mark is the Gospel with the best pedigree. There is reasonably good evidence that it was dictated by the Apostle Peter in Jerusalem, and in it Peter confesses to having denied Jesus three times. It contains no childhood account of Jesus, the account of the resurrection is short and sounds appended, and Peter is not marked out as the head of the church. According to most Bible academics, the other three Gospels make up stuff to add to Mark's version.

I doubt the crucifixion is merely symbolic. Taking everything into account, it was probably a historic event. Psychologists have documented how it is common for bereaved people to imagine a visit (while asleep or even while awake) from someone who recently died. If even one Apostle (or Mary Magdalene, the first person to see him in Mark) had such a vision, it is easy to understand that a decade later every survivor in the inner circle would at least refrain from contradicting the story that Jesus rose from the dead. It is notable that in Mark there is no "doubting Thomas" story to counteract the cynicism of the less gullible.

In time the false Apostle Paul made the Jesus cult into a story about Jesus's triumph over death. This was not a new story: Osiris, Hercules, and Cybele all had cults promising some sort of life after death. Passover became part of the tradition of non-Jewish Christians. Paul also began wrangling for control against Peter and James, Jesus's brother, who led the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem. This led to the hatred of Jews that became such a strong component of Christianity and led directly to the Holocaust of the 20th century, not to mention 19 centuries of Jew killing in between.

But perhaps the best (as in most uplifting) interpretation of Good Friday is that, since Jesus was the first born Son of God, that God is an Egyptian. The Jews murdered Jesus like they murdered the Son of the Pharaoh back in Egypt. Tie that into the story of the Good Samaritan and a few choice other sayings from the Gospels, and you can argue that it is bad to kill people just because they don't belong to your religious or ethnic group.

What a concept.

Many of the parables of Jesus clearly speak to peasants, who were in the majority for most of the world's post-hunter-gatherer history but are now becoming a rare breed.

5 Broken Cameras was nominated for an Academy Award this year as Best Documentary Feature. In it we see arrogant expatriate European Ultra-Orthodox Jewish settlers stealing land from and beating up lovable Palestinian peasants just east of Jerusalem. Some (but not all) Zionists believe that God hands out title deeds, that they are not subject to the commandments in Exodus: "Thou Shall Not Steal," and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house ... nor anything that is thy neighbors."

Think of how many people get recruited into Islamic Jihadist groups after watching such obvious injustice. They won't think "Just a few bad Jews are doing this." They won't even think "All Jews are doing this." They will think "Jews are doing this with American help."

We (Americans) should not be helping anyone steal anyone's land. In fact, American's might want to consider all the land (and other stuff, including labor) we've stolen (including by fraud) over the past 300 or so years. In the name of Justice, or Jesus, or Osiris, or Nature, we should make restitution. Or at least stop killing and stealing.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Franz von Papen's Memoirs

Just finished posting my notes on the memoirs of Franz von Papen.

I will be writing several blog posts on subjects related to Franz von Papen. He was not a Nazi, but he was closely associated with Adolf Hitler's government, being his first Vice-Chancellor. He was also briefly Chancellor in his own right before Hitler came to power.

He has been accused of being many things. My main interest is in whether he was really acting for the Pope when he enabled Hitler to come to power. Certainly Papen had close ties to the Vatican, and he did provide the crucial Roman Catholic votes in the Reichstag to allow Hitler to assume power legally.

It's a long story, suitable in truth or with exaggeration for spy novels. It has a lot of lessons about international relations (among other things von Papen had been assigned to the German embassy to the United States before World War I). Check out the link above to read my notes, or wait until I have time to post more polished essays here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sequester, Marijuana, and Useless Politicians

A tidal wave of criticism has hit the federal budget cuts popularly called "the sequester." I kind of like the budget cuts. They are not exactly how I would do things, but let's step back and look at the bright side of the news, the silver lining.

Those liberals who pretend that racking up an ever-higher national debt is not a problem might want to go back to high school and study the section of algebra dealing with compound interest. That includes you, Robert Reich. Until they do that there is probably no point arguing. This particular essay is for those of you who understand that debts do need to be repaid, and the United States of America could become a third-rate nation again (as it was in 1781) if it does not get its finances straightened out pretty quickly.

Every politician has his paymasters and even is, to a small degrees, subject to the voters of her district. The military budget is based on putting military bases or contracts in almost every Congressional district. No pol wants cuts to affect their district. Social Security payments go out to every district. Farm payments mostly to to farm states, but they have disproportionate influence in the U.S. Senate because even states where heat-seeking drones would have trouble finding a few voters still get 2 Senators. And so on, so that any cuts in the federal budget hurt some people in enough congressional districts to preclude that particular budget line getting cut in a fair and open vote.

Everybody's priorities differ. I would cut the military budget by 90% if the American people would lend me an ax, but I am countered by people who would feel a lot safer if the military budget were doubled and the Medicaid budget were cut by 90%. It is true on every issue. One citizen's subsidy is another's tax burden.

We have three choices: pay more federal taxes, reduce the federal budget, or implode financially some time between now and (I'm guessing) 2020.

I actually am willing to pay somewhat more in federal taxes, but as a humble, not particularly successful journalist I am at the low end of the income and taxation spectrum. I wish I was making a million a year and could pay just $300,000 or so in taxes. But I know if I was the kind of person who thought $1 million a year was just deserts for having gone to med school or law school or business school or even the school of hard knocks, it would seem to me like I could get a lot of pleasure out of that $300,000, and maybe the recipients of federal largesse could try a little harder rather than sitting around waiting for my money to be transferred into their greedy and lazy hands.

And who do the politicians want as a friend in the primary? Me, with my $25 donations, or the $1 million per annum income guy with his $10,000 donations and bundling of ten such donations just to sit at a table near the guy who doles out the dollars and tax breaks?

The federal government is not a socialist government. It owns no industry (well, maybe a few ammunition plants and the like). It spends other people's money, and for the most part does not spend it very productively. It does not even tax the rich to subsidize Social Security.

And let's take some responsibility, folks. Yes, us. We want to stop wasting public safety money criminalizing marijuana, but nothing ever changes at the national level. The Democrats almost never deliver on any of their promises, Obama in particular.

Then there are you Republicans out there who should know the value of social peace and good infrastructure. Without social peace there will be no profits. Social Security, food stamps, and federal spending on education and healthcare buy some social peace. Cut them out, and the Bolsheviks will come back out of the woodwork (where I happen to know they are still lurking, like bedbugs, and increasingly pesticide-resistant).

You Republicans elected the Republican twits in Congress, and they are in a majority in the House of Representatives. They are too busy striking poses for Tea Party fanatics to actually spend some time governing. As a result, the military budget has been cut along with the rest of the lot. We might have to make do with one less aircraft carrier. Which still means we have just about all of the functioning aircraft carriers in the world.

So programs that genuinely protect public safety are being cut. But a lot of bullshit is being cut too. The problem is not the budget cuts, but the failure to get rid of loopholes and agricultural and industrial subsidies. Make the oil and gas companies pay some taxes for a change. Tax the alcohol producers.

Fortunately the economy is growing. This is a testament to the people who get up and work every Monday, including the honest, productive business managers and owners. With a growing economy tax revenues should grow, even with all of the tax-dodges out there.

That will not be enough, not for a while. The Congress is supposed to run the Pentagon, but the Pentagon runs Congress. The rich should be thankful they had the opportunity to get rich by exploiting their fellow Americans, but all most of them do is bitch. ["This cocaine isn't very pure!" or "Why is that homeless person ruining the view from my Mercedes?" "Or, what do you mean I can't deduct my wife's collection of $10,000 boots as a business expenses?"] Especially the ones who get their money from trust funds and inheritances. Despite my dislike of Lenin and Stalin, the idea of just lining up the trust fund set for liquidation does have a certain emotional appeal.

I say, let's sequester more in 2014. Let's sequester 20% of the military and homeland security budget, 20% of the subsidies to corporate farming, and 20% of anything that goes to anti-marijuana majority states until they let my people go.

I mean it. Let my pot heads go. Did you hear that, Representatives? President Obama? Senators? If you can't even accomplish that, what do we need you for?

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is Zionism a Crime Against Humanity?

Newly appointed United States of America Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday chastised the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for saying Zionism is a crime against humanity.

Actually, Mr. Erdogan was saying that the international community should consider Islamophobia, or prejudice against people who have Islam as a religion, as a crime against humanity "like Zionism or anti-Semitism or fascism."

There are so many problems with both Mr. Erdogan's and Mr. Kerry's statements that it is worth teasing out the many facts and ideas encompassed by them. Is Zionism a crime against humanity? Let's begin by understanding that Erdogan used the term "crime against humanity" in a rather loose manner.

Crimes against humanity have been defined by international agreement to be serious attacks on humans, possibly including humiliation or degradation, that are a result of government policy. They include, but are not limited to, government-sponsored or enabled murder (particularly mass murder), torture, and physical brutality including rape, as well as denial of human rights for political, racial, gender, or religious reasons. In the context of war they become war crimes. In the worst case they include genocide, the mass murdering of an ethnic or national group, and ethnic cleansing, the murder or expulsion of people from a state for ethnic reasons.

On its face, the general term Zionism is simply the wish of ethnically Jewish people to live in the region near Jerusalem. There is nothing inherently criminal about that, any more than wishing to live in Paris or Nebraska.

Then again, being anti-Semitic is not a crime against humanity, unless it is government policy. Being anti-Islamic is not a crime against humanity, unless it is government policy. Even being fascist is not a crime against humanity; there were fascist states that did not commit such crimes, such as Austria before it was united with Germany in 1938.

However, in practice crimes against humanity have been committed. Fascist crimes against humanity and war crimes are well-documented. Where does Zionism stand in the historic record?

In the 1800s when the modern Zionist movement picked up steam, modern Palestine (including what would become the State of Israel) was part of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire. Many Jews had long lived peacefully in Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem. Zionists were able to move to Palestine and buy land there, expanding the Jewish population. Perhaps there was some illegal immigration, but for the most part Zionism was characterized by legal immigration into Palestine.

When the British Empire took over Palestine (and most of the Middle East) after World War I, they were obligated to Jews for helping them to win the war. They allowed much more Jewish immigration into Palestine, which created some Arab discontent, but still the immigration was legal and peaceful.

Then came the Holocaust. Many Jewish survivors were angry, militant, and did not feel bound to the old system of ethics or law. Zionism changed. Terrorist Jewish groups appeared in Palestine (they mainly targeted the British at first) and Zionist organizations brought in large numbers of Jewish settlers illegally (by then the British were limiting Jewish immigration to try to placate the increasingly powerful Arab states).

Then the United Nations, which was still largely a military coalition, interfered. The Jewish minority (particularly the newly-arrived European Jews) wanted to create a Jewish State. The native Palestinians wanted to kick out the British Empire and have a democratic state, in which they would be a 65% majority, more if illegal immigrants were expelled. The British and United States pushed the U.N. to favor the Jewish nationalist plan.

U.N. Resolution 181 (November 29, 1947) was also not, in itself, a war crime or crime against humanity, but it acted as an enabler. Rather than calling for elections within a united Palestine, which would have led to peaceful electoral struggle, it called for partition, or racial segregation. It was actually just a recommendation to the British Empire, not a law. While the word independence was used for Arab-Palestinian and Jewish-Palestinian "states," they were to be in an economic union together, with recognized rights for minorities in each.

Another interpretation would be there would be two autonomous regions within the State of Palestine. It should also be noted that the vote was rigged. 13 nations voted against the resolution, including most neutral nations. The 33 votes in favor came mainly from the U.S. and its puppets in Latin America, the Soviet block, and the British imperial block.

There was no declaration of war. Violence escalated. Both Arab and Jewish militias were encouraged by Resolution 181 iteself. Both sides weaponed up and outsiders (more Zionists, including American Jewish organized criminals, and Arab hotheads from several nations) helped promote the situation into a civil war. Both sides had factions that engaged in ethnic cleansing (and both sides had citizens and groups that were appalled by the violence). The better armed, trained, and motivated Jews won. The new State of Israel came into existence on May 14, 1948 when the British quit the scene.

I cannot recount all the wars since that time, or all the crimes against humanity and war crimes on both sides.

Is Zionism a crime against humanity? In the post 1948 setting we find the most troubling evidence that Zionists, now controlling the Israeli government, committed crimes against humanity. There was clearly a great deal of ethnic cleansing. Palestinians driven off by violence were not allowed to return, and so their lands were seized and occupied by Jewish settlers. This was the policy of the State of Israel, and its courts, not just individual Zionists. The process has continued decade by decade since that time, punctuated by attempts by Arab states to obtain a military victory over Israel.

On the other hand, a large number of non-Jewish persons remained within the State of Israel, and they have at least nominal human rights, including the right to vote.

While it is worth examining all the actions that might be construed as crimes against humanity committed in the region, that would take a voluminous study.

I would refrain, and would recommend politicians refrain, from calling Zionism a crime against humanity. The thing to do is to address current injustices by restoring private property that has been stolen from anyone in occupied Palestine since 1948, and by carefully investigating all deaths of unarmed civilians on both sides.

Few nations and ideologies are truly free of the taint of crimes against humanity. The goal of the "law" is to eliminate these practices. In particular, the treatment of African Americans in the officially segregated States of the United States before roughly 1968 appears to amount to a crime against humanity.

Mr. Kerry should help clean up his own house before busying himself with lecturing other national leaders, Israeli, Turkish, or Palestinian. Perhaps, thrust into a prominent role, he is thinking of running for President in his old age. Perhaps he is just prepping to do the traditional campaign shake down of Zionists in the United States.

Resolution 181 is worth a read (see link above). The nation as a whole is called the Economic Union of Palestine.

It is my fond hope that any Palestinian state will be secular and tolerant of all religions, rather than Islamic. Given the definition of crimes against humanity, any state that plays favorites, or promotes segregation of religious or ethnic groups is engaging in crimes against humanity. That should include the United States and the United Nations.