Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Just Wondering

Just wondering: why would a gay couple insist on hiring a baker with strong religious objections to gay marriage to perch two grooms on top of their wedding cake, or an antagonistic photographer to record the happy event?  One would not anticipate the yummiest fillings between the layers or the most flattering portraiture under such circumstances.

I haven't seen the text of Indiana's new "religious freedom" legislation, but I suspect it's just another example of political pandering; and I'm willing to give Mike Pence and the Indiana legislature a chance to "clarify" the "intent" of the law, and show us all that it's non-discriminatory.  In the meanwhile, maybe everybody should relax a little, and just wait and see.

The Co-pilot
Just wondering: given that Andreas Lubitz was suicidal, why did he decide to take 149 others along with him instead of just crashing one of the gliders he liked to fly into the side of a mountain?  Needless to say, I don't expect an answer to that question.

Lubitz notwithstanding, commercial flight remains extremely safe, albeit uncomfortable and often demeaning.  Should rules be changed?  Perhaps, but sometimes changing the rules makes things worse rather than better.  Let's give overheated heads a chance to cool a bit before taking action.

New York's Budget
Just wondering: why did Andrew Cuomo make little or no effort on behalf of State Senate candidates in the last election, when a bit more effort might have resulted in a Democratic majority in both houses of the legislature?  Did he want a Republican Senate to restrain him from actions that might have been seen as too liberal to support his presidential aspirations?

New York might have had an increased minimum wage, real anti-corruption programs, and real improvement in public education.  Now, alas, it looks like just more business as usual.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Is the enemy of my enemy, etc. etc... ?  Apparently not.

We have heard Yemen described as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and I suppose that's accurate enough a description.  We've also heard it described as an outgrowth of the classic Middle Eastern conflict between Sunni and Shi'a Islam.  That, I'm pretty sure, it is not.

The Houthi are adherents of the Zaydi sect, which is an offshoot of Shi'a Islam, but not nearly orthodox enough to satisfy the clerics who hold power in Iran.  Iranian Muslims supporting the Houthi because they're, sort of, Shiite, would be kind of like the Roman Catholic Church supporting Seventh Day Adventists because they're sort of...  well, you get it.

Move over to Iraq, and you find Sunni clients of the USofA fighting the Sunni zealots of Daesh, aka all those other names and acronyms tirelessly repeated in the American press.  Why are Sunni fighting Sunni?  Not because IS (aka etc. etc.) is especially naughty what with the beheadings and whatnot.  No, it's all about the usual, just as it was from the time of the Cheney invasions or even the CIA's 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected Mosaddegh government in Iran and installation of the Shah.

It's about the oil.

That's why Saleh could be fighting the Houthi one minute and supporting them the next.  That's why the Egyptian military, an equal opportunity oppressor of Islamists no matter what branch of Islam they spring from, is out there trying to restore Hadi to power.  That's why Americans, even some in government, are having such a hard time figuring out how and why anybody is putatively allied with anybody out there around the Persian Gulf.

Don't be confused.  Just follow the money.  Follow the oil.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Short Stuff

Ted Cruz?

I know I said I'd give up predictions, but I will comfortably predict that Ted Cruz will never be the our President.  There are a great many profoundly stupid Americans, but not enough so profoundly stupid as to elect Ted Cruz.  Also, he'd have to lose that insufferably smug expression permanently camped out on his face, and he's just too insufferably smug to look otherwise, even with expert coaching.

Hooray for Utah!

Utah has decided that in the absence of appropriate drugs to carry out capital punishment, it will use firing squads instead.  Well, why the hell not?  If we're willing to shoot members of wedding parties in the Mideast and unarmed black men in the Midwest, why not shoot convicted murderers?  It's fast, cheap, and (assuming the squad can shoot straight) almost as humane as the guillotine.

Lee Kuan Yew

I just watched a Charlie Rose interview with Lee Kuan Yew from some years back, and I was very impressed — by both of them.  Rose asked very tough, direct questions with complete civility, and Lee answered in kind.  Find the show online for an eloquent, entertaining, and totally unselfconscious defense of authoritarianism.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Bibi plays the race card (again)

Bibi stirred up a shit storm of paranoia and racism in the final days of the election, mirroring the game plan of his Republican allies in the United States.  Oy, gevalt, Arab citizens are voting!  Feel afraid, very afraid!  Democracy (it should be understood) is not to be trusted.

Ignore the fact that Arabs are just 20% of the population, and that they refuse to form coalitions with any of the "Jewish" parties because that would imply some level of approval of the occupation of the West Bank and the destruction of Gaza.  Arabs voting has to be dangerous.

Now that Bibi has come right out and said there will be no two-state solution (not that there ever was any real doubt where he stood), I suppose we can expect settlement expansion to accelerate.  Europeans, who recognize apartheid when they see it, will become even less supportive of Israel.  It really ought to be time for the USofA scratch its ass and say, "Well, duh, yeah, it looks a whole lot like apartheid to us too."  Will it happen?


The USofA will continue to mouth platitudes about the creation of a Palestinian state, but the solution to apartheid is not establishing a string of powerless, "self-governing" Arabic-speaking Bantustans and calling it a country.  The solution is full integration of all Palestinians into the Israeli state, with all the rights and opportunities of full citizenship.

It might not be a "Jewish state" anymore, but, at least, it would be a democracy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Is it time for the Dalai Lama to achieve nirvana?

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, has suggested that he might not trouble to be reincarnated at the end of his current life — and the Chinese are pissed.  They say it's blasphemous, no less!

Rarely do I find an article in the New York Times laugh-out-loud funny, but this one really tickled my funny bone.  Not only are the Chinese Communists insisting that the Dalai Lama be reincarnated, they are claiming the right to decide into whose body he reincarnates.  Coming from devout atheists, it's an idea silly enough to be worthy of certain House Republicans.

Yes, the Chinese think they'll have an easier time with the Tibetans if they can control Tibet's spiritual leader, but anybody familiar with their hand selected Panchen Lama's popularity knows they're wasting their time.

If I remember correctly from my anthropology days, Living Buddhas pass through a limited number of reincarnations before they retire into nirvana.  How many were predicted for the Dalai Lama?  I can't remember, but it just might have been fourteen.  Anyway, the Chinese probably would be better off with no Dalai Lama than with another Tibetan Buddhist apparatchik.  Xi should seriously consider just letting Tenzin Gyatso become one with the universe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Very Short Subjects

That "Open Letter" to Iran
Sillier and sillier.

Boku Haram "joins" Islamic State

Nemtsov assassination
Chechens?  Really?

Hillary's email
Just order some copies from the NSA.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bibi Speaks

I'll keep this short. Bibi Netanyahu came to Washington to bolster his tough-guy image in Israel and to land a body blow on Our President (aka "the schwartze") in aid of the Republic Party.  Get rid of the Dems, he figures, and the destruction of Iran is assured.

In case you hadn't noticed, the only possible alternatives to negotiation Bibi offered were truly crippling sanctions and military action.  Stronger sanctions and existential threats will leave Iran with no logical alternative but to hurriedly develop its nuclear capacity.  After all, Israel is believed to have upwards of 100 atomic warheads, and the means to deliver them.  If Iran resisted a conventional attack, would Bibi go nuclear?

Maybe.  The Evangelicals in the USofA would love that.  Their support for Israel arises out of their hope that the "End Times" soon will be upon us.  They figure on rapturing out and leaving the rest of us to deal with the mess left behind.

And a mess it certainly would be.