Saturday, August 29, 2015

Israel, the U.S. and You!

Nigel, a knowledgeable friend of a friend, sent this letter.  He says he was sick of reading about U.S. aid to Israel from people who "were really nasty, misguided, and probably Anti-Semitic.  ...  

"Why," he wonders, "do the same idiots spout the same old lies and restate the same old B.S.?"

What follows is what one man wrote in defense of Israel and against the "nasty, misguided, and probably Anti-Semitic" people. 

 + + + +

Israel receives money to purchase U.S. weapons made by U.S. companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, L-3 Communications, etc. These are all U.S. Companies with U.S. employees and U.S. manufacturing footprints.

About 1/3 of the money from the U.S. to Israel goes directly back to the U.S. Treasury through taxes. The other 2/3 goes to companies which employ U.S. workers and are owned by U.S. taxpayers. 

All capital gains, share repurchases, and dividend payments are eventually taxed with proceeds again going to the U.S. Treasury. So it takes a bit of time, but all money provided to Israel for weapons/arms purchases comes back to the U.S. Treasury. 

Since the money comes back to the U.S. Treasury after earning a return, the U.S. taxpayer actually makes money on the whole transaction. For example, if Boeing earns a 10% return on all invested capital, the taxpayer receives the remaining 2/3 at 10% interest.

This is far higher than the U.S. government can earn investing in U.S. government bonds. So you can stop whining. There is a delay, but the U.S. taxpayer actually comes out ahead in the end.

Now what does the U.S. get in addition to the return of its money?

1) Israel keeps American scientists, engineers, and manufacturers employed. As King Obama cuts military spending, Israel picks up the slack so that American defense workers aren't fired and join the food stamp lines.  [Editorial note:  "King Obama" doesn't cut military spending and has not done so!  The Pentagon continues to dominate the U.S. budget  and will doubtless do so for the foreseeable future!]
2) Israel buys America's most sophisticated systems and weapons, which Israel always upgrades as Israel is the 2nd most important technical center in the world. Israel always informs the U.S. of these improvements, so the U.S. receives invaluable RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT for free. These improvements are often included in the weapons the U.S. employs at home and around the world to protect us. Not too shabby.

3) Israel is basically an extremely large and powerful U.S. military base. It would cost the U.S. 25x to run its own bases in the region if it tried to recreate Israel's footprint. The U.S. uses Israel as a first line defense against the Muslim terrorists including Iran and ISIS.
So from the U.S. taxpayers' prospective, the U.S. gets to outsource a very highly trained and skilled military on the cheap. And while the U.S. has military bases elsewhere in the Middle East, they are much smaller, very expensive to operate, aren't permanent, and aren't safe to house our most powerful weapons.
4) If the U.S. is ever attacked by Iran or other Muslim countries with missiles, the Iron Dome System (which Israel and the US. jointly developed) and other systems being developed will be used to shoot down those missiles. The system works so well because it has been extensively field tested to knock down the Hamas rockets.
What many Americans don't realize is that Israel has effectively become the 51st state. Nearly every S&P 500 company has an Israeli division. And a huge amount of Israeli technology is inside every smart phone, router, and computer. If you used your smart phone today to make a call or access the internet, you've used Israeli technology (lots of it in fact). 

Unlike China which just provides cheap labor and cheap manufacturing and then steals our technology, Israeli technology helps to make U.S. products and services better. From Apple to Intel to Facebook to Cisco, nearly every tech company shaping our world today and tomorrow has assets in Israel which benefit U.S. consumers and taxpayers. Without Israel, a major R&D center for the entire U.S. Fortune 500 would simply not exist.
Also, there is no Muslim country that would ever fight for the U.S. (air power and boots on the ground) in any significant way. The U.S. outsources the second best air force in the world for FREE. Why do I say free? Because the Israeli government provides the top shelf pilots, training exercises, and bases. Israel, by taking on Hamas and Hezbollah, has already been fighting (and bleeding) for U.S. interests. And if Iran were to ever to get close to attacking the U.S. with missiles, Israel would without delay attack on our behalf. That is meaningful and irreplaceable.
P.S. - Your life has probably already been saved by technology developed in Israel. Israeli doctors, scientists, and researchers are working at the bleeding edge of nearly every medical advancement. Moreover, just about every major American pharma, biotech, and medical device company employees Israelis for their superior skills and educations.
If you see a paralyzed American soldier walking with robotic limbs, that is Israeli technology. And if you or your family members have been sick in the past 10 years, they've been helped by Israeli medical innovations. 

Though the doctors treating you won't tell you (they probably won't even know), your life will likely be saved by some very smart Israelis working half-way around the world for the betterment of humankind.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Christian Fundies vs the Taliban

The following article comes from RightWingWatch.  I have changed just a few words:  where the interim dean used the word, "Christian," I substituted "Muslim."  Where she used the word, "God," I substituted the word, "Allah," and the word, "Scripture" was changed to "the Koran."

* * * *

Recently, Rena Lindevaldsen, Liberty University Law School's interim dean, delivered an address to students on the question "Do Government Officials Have Authority to Impose Their Morals on Others?"

Lindevaldsen's answer was a resounding "yes," provided that the morals being imposed are Muslim ones. But if the morals being imposed are not Muslim ones, then the answer is obviously "no." As she explained, "civil government only has the authority that Allah has established" and so "civil government, if it's acting rightfully within its authority, should be acting consistent with the Koran."

"Government's only just authority [is] derived from Allah and it's purpose is to protect those inalienable rights that we have been given, not to infringe them as we're seeing take place a lot in society today," Lindevaldsen said. "Whether it's zoning or taxes or marriage or abortion, in those issues, government doesn't have authority to say that these things are appropriate because they're contrary to the Koran."

* * * *

The point of this little exercise is to illustrate rather dramatically that rightwing Christian fundamentalists who insist on their way or the highway, who have convinced themselves this is a Christian nation, who are devoutly certain that their god demands his laws (as interpreted by fundamentalist rightwing Christians) become the law of the land, are no different in essence than Muslim fundamentalists/extremists!

And that, my friends, is why they're so dangerous.

There's more here

Jeb Bush's Vision is Eric Cantor's Vision

Eric Cantor, one of the most sloppy political philosophers in modern times, has endorsed Jeb Bush for president.  Evidently, Jeb's vision for the United States lines up with Eric's vision for the United States.

Here's what Cantor twitted:

"Governor Bush is a true conservative leader with a long-term vision for this country and the practical know-how to implement it," Cantor said in a statement. "After eight years of anemic growth and declining international relevance, America needs a president that can re-energize our nation and recapture our greatness – Jeb Bush is that man. I look forward to working closely with the governor and his team as they chart a course to the White House."

Okay, when you've stopped laughing, give that statement another read.  I've come to believe, founded on overwhelming evidence, that Eric Cantor is one of millions of Republicans who live in an alternate reality, or who believe that if they believe some thing with enough fervor it will become true, or who simply are incapable of perceiving the truth through the fog of their political power ambitions.

I mean, really, read this sentence again:  "...Bush is a true conservative leader with a long-term vision for this country and the practical know-how to implement it."  That is probably the biggest pile of hogwash I've read in a long time.  Jeb is thought to be the smart brother.  He's not.  G.W. Jr. is much smarter.  Jeb has no long-term vision for this country.  He can barely get from one day to the next.  And if past is prelude, watch out, because his long-term vision for Florida when he was governor was to privatize everything, break down the Constitutional barrier between church and state, ruin our public schools, and make his rich friends richer.

But even more bizarre is Cantor's statement that "After eight years of anemic growth and declining international relevance, America needs a president that can re-energize our nation and recapture our greatness."

We could write several pages about how Obama's economic program has saved the country from another Great Depression; how job growth has accelerated; how the deficit has shrunk; how millions of people without health care, now are covered under the Affordable Care Act; how we've repaired our relationships with world leaders and other countries which G.W. Bush managed to destroy; how we pulled back from the Middle East and at the same time finished our business with bin Laden, etc., etc.

Hmmm.  So why would Cantor or anyone want to go back to the economic "growth" we suffered through under Georgi W. Bushki, who bailed out everyone but the people who needed it, whose economic policies damn near destroyed our country, whose international shenanigans brought us nothing but heartache and death and the evolution of hatred as expressed by the resurgent 7th-century barbarians, ISIS?

If there are any right-wing Christians reading this, please get on your knees and pray to your god that Jeb's vision (which is Cantor's vision) never, ever gets put into play in the U.S. of A. 

Donald Trump has visions, too.  Actually, they're nightmares, and I don't agree with him about the time of day but once in awhile he makes me laugh, especially when he jabs people like Cantor for their stupidity.  When he heard that Cantor had endorsed Jeb, he said something to the effect, "Well, who cares?  Who wants the endorsement of a person who lost in one of the biggest Congressional upsets in history?"

As chief clown in the Republican wannabee Clown Car, Trump may yet bring down the Republican Party.

And that's a good thing.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Huckabee and Huckster

On the left:  Mike Huckabee:  Baptist preacher.  Teevee personality.  Presidential wannabee.  Homophobe.  Anti-Choice.  Faux Christian.  Close friend of Josh Duggar.

On the right:  Josh Duggar:  Member of infamous family of gadzillion children.  Right wing Christian spokesperson.  Homophobe.  Anti-Choice.  Child molester.  Has addiction to violent sex.   Faux Christian.  Close friend of Mike Huckabee.

Is this a great country or what?  

[Photo from Americablog, and Tengrain at Mock, Paper, Scissors/Flickr]

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Martin Luther should be excommunicated

[Photo from Wikipedia]

Some years back a Lutheran pastor friend of mine presented me with a gift.  I expressed my gratitude in an appropriate manner and put it on a shelf.  The gift was a small statue of the one Lutherans consider their founder and the closest thing in Lutheranism to a saint.

While this is neither here nor there, the statue is very well done and may have accrued some value.  I'll keep it a little longer.

Ask most Lutherans what they know about Martin Luther (1483 - 1546) and if you get anything at all it will consist of a few pious phrases about the great piety of Pastor Luther and how he began this thing called Protestantism, posting 95 theses on a church door, and that the Lutheran churches are named after him.

Ask many Lutheran pastors what they know about Martin Luther and based upon my experiences from years past, I'd guess you'd get comments very similar to those expressed by the laity.  Luther is spoken of in reverential terms, as worthy of emulation and adoration, and if by chance his shortcomings are mentioned, they are hushed over with some fanciful mental gymnastics which usually involve phrases such as "Well, he was a man of his time, and a man of his culture," which is used to excuse the fact that not only was he a raging anti-Semite, but ignorant of the Bible in the most profound sense, and filled with bile and hatred for those who disagreed with him.  Luther had no scientific leanings, but abhorred the use of reason as a means of determining the truth.  He believed in magic, in witches, and in evil spirits.

Martin Luther is known best for his notion of "salvation by grace, through faith" which he had stumbled upon while reading the New Testament.  It resonated mightily with him because he had always felt unworthy before God; that he could never live up to what God demanded of him.

Aha!  Here was his answer.  He didn't need to worry anymore.  All he needed was faith and God would accept him.  His "works"  --  those things he did or neglected to do --  didn't matter so much relative to his salvation status.

Then there's the story of him nailing his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenburg (the story may be more legendary than real.)  He opposed the Roman Catholic practice of granting "indulgences" for the payment of money and his "theses" were arguments against the practice.   An indulgence was thought important for it could take years off a person's time in purgatory.  Luther thought this practice could not be supported by scripture.

Maybe he was just looking for an out.  He was headstrong and willful and didn't bow easily to authority.  There were many other practices current in the Roman church which could not be found in Scripture to which could also have objected.  The notions of "mortal" as opposed to "venial" sins is not found in the Bible.  The idea that a priest can forgive sin is not found in the Bible; nor was the doctrine of purgatory.

Whatever, it was his belief in salvation by grace through faith, that became the core of his "protesting" system.

Certainly, Luther was a man of his time.  We cannot expect him to know of Biblical criticism, historical criticism, literary criticism.  He would have no knowledge that Paul's letters are the earliest books in the New Testament and that the Gospels come much later.  He would not know that a number of the books or letters attributed to Paul were not from his hand at all, but from other, unknown writers.

Furthermore, Paul believed in seven heavens.  I've always been curious as to why that fact is supremely ignored by ancient and current theologians and religious historians.

What follows are some quotes which put into bold relief why it is correct to say Luther was a man of his time.  These were collected from his writings by the Freethought

Luther says:

"Idiots, the lame, the blind, the dumb, are men in whom the devils have established themselves: and all the physicians who heal these infirmities, as though they proceeded from natural causes, are ignorant blockheads."

"I myself saw and touched at Dessay, a child of this sort, which had no human parents, but had proceeded from the Devil.  He was twelve years old, and, in outward form, exactly resembled ordinary children."

"In Switzerland, on a high mountain, not far from Lucerne, there is a lake they call Pilate's Pond, which the Devil has fixed upon as one of the chief residences of his evil spirits...."

"The fool [Copernicus] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy.  But sacred scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth."

"No gown worse becomes a woman that the desire to be wise."

"We may will lie with what seems to be a woman of flesh and blood, and yet all the time is only a devil in the shape of a woman."

"When I was a child there were many witches, and they bewitched both cattle and men, especially children."

"As to the common people, ... one has to be hard with them and see that they do their work and that under the threat of the sword and the law they comply with the observance of piety just as you chain up wild beasts."

"Some [demons] are also in the thick black clouds, which cause hail, lightning and thunder, and poison the air, the pastures and grounds."

"The winds are nothing else but good or bad spirits.  Hark! how the Devil is puffing and blowing..."

"A large number of deaf, crippled and blind people are afflicted solely through the malice of the demon.  And one must in no wise doubt that plagues, fevers and every sort of evil come from him."

"An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons.  Some must be free, some serfs, some rulers, some subjects."

"I feel much freer now that I am certain the pope is the Antichrist."

Yes, Luther was a man of his time.  Not many today would agree with the sentiments expressed above (although there are some among us who probably agree too readily!).  For most of us, Luther speaks nonsense.  His words have no meaning.  We know that what he believes is simply not true in any sense.

So, when Luther speaks of deaf, crippled and blind people as if their afflictions were caused by a "demon" or the Devil, we cringe for we know he is full of shit.  (By the way, he was quite vulgar and often used the word, "shit," in his sermons).

So by what irrational strangulation of our mental faculties do we conclude on the one hand that his interpretation of the Bible is correct and should be a foundation stone of our faith (if we are Christians) but the rest of what he believed is pure shit?

If Luther's ideas about the world and the universe and people were full of shit, why does anyone give credence to his notion of "salvation by grace through faith."  What makes him "right" in this belief and not in his other beliefs, other than our wish that it is so?

If truth be told, this is a terrible doctrine that makes God into a horrible monster.  It means that a person who spends his or her life doing good, making the world a better place, saving lives, etc., but rejects Luther's notion of faith, will spend an eternity in torturous hell fire, whereas a Hitler, whose life is committed to killing many millions of people and destroying entire countries, can be welcomed at the Pearly Gates if, at his last breath, says "I believe.  I have faith in Luther's Christ."

What utter nonsense!

The title of this essay speaks of Luther being excommunicated.  That's nonsense, too.  The Christian church still reveres this corrupt and ignorant fool.  He belongs, he's one of them.

Termination of the Chosen People Contract

To:  Lord, our God, King of the Universe

From:  The Jews

Re:  Termination of Our Special Status as The Chosen People

As you are aware, the contract made between you (God) and Abraham is up for renewal, and this memorandum is to advise you that after, yes, those many millennia of consideration, we've decided not to renew.

We should point out immediately that there is nothing in writing, and contrary to popular beliefs, we have not really benefited too much from this arrangement.

If you go back to the early years of our arrangement, it definitely started off on the wrong footing.  Not only were Israel and Judea invaded almost every year, but we went to enormous expense to erect, not one but two Temples and they were both destroyed.  Of course, you know all this, but we feel it's a good thing to account for all the reasons we wish to terminate the contract.

After the Hittites, Assyrians, etc., not only were we beaten up almost daily, but then we were sold off as slaves to Egypt (of all countries), and really lost a few hundred years of development. 

Now we realize that you went to a great deal of trouble to send Moses to lead us out of Egypt; and those poor Egyptian buggers were smitten with all those plagues.  But, reflecting on those years, we are at a loss to understand why it took almost 40 years to make a trip that El Al now does in 45 minutes.

Also, while not appearing to be ungrateful, Moses did lead us to the left instead of to the right at Sinai:  To the only place in the Middle East without any oil, and with water that is controlled by Jordan and Syria.  Oy, if only he had stopped to ask directions.

OK, so mineral rights were not part of the deal, but then the Romans came and we were really up to our necks in dreck.  While it's true the Romans did give us water fit to drink, aqueducts, and baths, it was very disconcerting to walk down one of the vias, look up and see one of your friends or family nailed to a three-by-four looking for all the world like a sign post

Even one of our princes, Judah ben Hur, got caught up with Roman stuff and drove like a crazy man around the Coliseum!  It's a funny thing, but many people swore that Ben Hur had an uncanny resemblance to Moses -- go figure.

Then, of all things, one of our most up-and-coming carpenters (he did great work, real cheap) declared himself your son (there was nothing said like this about Abe) and before we knew what was what, a whole new religion sprang up.

To add insult to injury, we were dispersed all over the world two or three times while this new goy (oops, guy) really caught on.  We were truly sorry to hear that the Romans executed him like so many others, but -- and this will make you laugh -- once again we were blamed.

Couldn't someone else be chosen, maybe just once?

Now here's something we really don't understand.  That guy, Jesus Christ, really came into his own.  Millions of people revered and worshiped his name and scriptures - and still killed us by the millions.  They claimed we drank the blood of newborn infants, controlled the world banks, operated the world's media, etc.

Are we beginning to make our point here?

So let's fast forward a few hundred years to the Crusades.  Hoo boy!  Again, we were caught in the middle.  They, the lords and knights, came from all over Europe to smack the Arabs and open up the holy places, but before we knew what hit us, they were killing us along with everyone ese.

Every time a king or a pope was down in the opinion polls, they called for a Crusade or Holy War (today they're called a jihad), and went on a killing rampage in our land. 

So, you tested us a little here and there, but some bright cleric in Spain came up with the Inquisition.  We all thought it was a new game show, but once again we and quite a few others were used as firewood for a whole new street lighting arrangement in major Spanish cities. 

Alright, that ended after about a hundred years or so - in the great scheme of things not a long time.  But every time we settled down in one country or another, they kicked us out.  We wandered around a few hundred years or so but it never changed. 

Finally, we settled in a few countries but they insisted we all live in ghettos, while the Russians came up with progroms.  We all thought they made a spelling mistake and misspelled "programs," but we were dead wrong (very dead wrong).

Apparently, when there was nothing else to occupy their time, killing Jews was the thing to do. 

Now comes the really tough noogies.  We were doing quite well, thank you, in a small European county called Germany, when some house painter wrote a book, said a few things that caught on and became their leader!  Oh boy, what a bad day that was for us -- your Chosen People (by now, you must be getting the drift of this email?)

We really didn't know where you were in the earth years 1933 to 1945.  We know everyone needs a break now and then, even the Lord God Almighty needs some time off.

But when we needed you most, you were never around.  You are probably aware of this, but if you have forgotten, over six million of your Chosen People, along with millions unchosen others were murdered in cold blood.  They even made lampshades out of our skins!

Look, we don't want to dwell on the past, but it gets even worse.

Here we are, it's 1948, and millions of us are displaced again, when you really pull a fast one.  We finally get our own land back!  Yes, after all these years, you arrange for us to go back.

Then all the Arab countries immediately declare war on us.  We have to tell you that sometimes your sense of humour eludes us.

So, with all the wars, and we're now in a new century, but nothing's changed.  We keep getting blown up, hijacked and kidnapped.  We have no peace whatsoever.

Enough is enough!  We hope you understand that nothing's forever (except you, of course), and we respectfully would like to pull out of our verbal agreement vis a vis being your Chosen People.

Look, sometimes things work out, sometimes they don't.  Let's be friends over the next few eons and see what happens. 

Meanwhile, how about this idea?  We're sure you recall that Abraham had a whole other family from Ismael (the ones who got the oil).  How about making them your chosen people for a few thousand years?

Respectfully yours,

The Jews

[Author unknown.  Hat tip to Bob Poris.]