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Thursday, December 6, 2012

The only trickle down I see, are them marking my feet

A few thoughts and observations about Trickle down

When we hear folks talking about economic ideas, we have to understand that there are two kinds of misleading ideas out there. There are narrowly defined policy ideas that make economic sense in those narrow scenarios that they describe. And there are broad assertion about economics that are just put out to try to sell folks invisible cloth. Some areas of thought; Friedman's monetary ideas, other economists core ideas, even some of Marx's ideas, belong to the former category. Even if you disagree entirely with the general philosophy, some of the ideas are intriguing and true. And studying them is worth doing, especially if you disagree, because we all should learn to think critically. Being able to see both sides of every issue is important not only to lawyers and sophists, but also to those seeking genuine wisdom. I can't battle the abstract of "dogmaticism" if I myself hold dogmas and never challenge them. Ideas have to be examined and compared. Most good ideas make sense in their context, and understanding that context helps one to discard the nonsense. Can't get caught off guard by truth if one agrees.

But the other kind of stuff, is just invisible cloth. Trickle down is in that pile of steaming excretia. It is the notion that if tax and policy policies favor the rich somehow we'll all be better off. This sale goes back to the early 20'th century when many blue collar workers, or more often salesmen, who had no chance of "rising" were convinced by Horatio Alger stories to believe that they would one day be rich if they supported laissez faire policies and invested in the stock market. The grifters in the stock market stole their money and many of them were forced to ride the rails looking for a place where they could make their riches; but this "temporarily embarrassed millionaire" notion has never vanished among us Americans. It is why folks who ought to know better support such policies, even when the other folks are sharing nonsense arguments for why they should.

Again, at the core of trickle down is a truth. The King, because he has concentrated power has a vastly (geometrically in respect to his wealth or power alone) power to do good or evil, over an ordinary person. So loan your money to a rich person and, in theory, you'll get a better return than you'd get loaning it to someone poor. Except that history, and experience shows that that is not usually, actually in fact, the case.

Reality: Investors risk "Other People's Money", Not their own.

In actually, officers of any enterprise prefer to risk other people's money rather then their own. Kings held the crown jewels as a trust, and when they bankrupted themselves, they bankrupted their people. The only difference between some Wall Street investors and Bernie Maddoff is that Bernie guaranteed his investors a rate of return and that blocked him from being able to invest in actual risky ventures and reduced him to paying back his investors out of new investment and creating a ponzi scheme as a result.

Examine dozens of investors, companies, etc.... and their whole purpose is not reducing risk it is transfering risk. They will risk your money, pocket your fees, pocket any profits, and deduct any losses from your balance sheet. The results of investing in some stock funds or other Wall Street Instruments may be the same as with a Ponzi Scheme, but the Ponzi scheme was illegal, and the folks investing lost money on Wall Street are still working out in the open. A case can be made that it might be better to go back to keeping our money in mattresses, but then it would never do any work. At the core of the economic system we have has to be trust. Investors should not be risking other people's money while running "heads I win, tails you lose" games. There are a lot of folks who should be cooling their heels with Bernie. The idea of trickle down is related to the idea that if we invest in risky stocks we'll wind up with a giant retirement nest egg. Maybe, if the game isn't rigged as it was in 2000, or 2006 (and periodically since 1790). Sure, it trickles down, what is left.

And the investors will tell you while they are selling things to you that they are mavens who know so much more than you do. And when your money goes south and disappears, they'll say "you should have known better." The risk is on you.

Trickle Down Tax Policy is really transfering risks and costs.

Similarly, trickle down tax policy is part of a whole series of effects of naked aggression, legal bribery, extortion, and corrupt influence; that reflect more the power of sophistry and rhetoric, than credible policy.

If everyone is a temporarly embarrassed millionaire than I guess it might make sense to let the wealthy not pay their fair share of taxes, and to acquire more and more wealth. After all, a fair society floats all boats, and if the factory owner (nowadays usually industry owner) has immense wealth, that ought to trickle down to workers, traders, salesmen, and the guy at the corner store. No, that doesn't happen. On the contrary, wealth beyond a certain point is simply power. Power to buy influence, to buy followers, to buy allegience. It becomes a get out of jail card. And as with investors, it becomes about transfering risk. Think they can't afford to make their factories safe at Wallmart? It would cost them pennies on the dollars of their profits. Risk transfered to you and me means a sense of security and power for those in the offices.

It would be fairly easy to graph this using Maslowe's hierarchy of needs. The rest of us spend money fairly efficiently. It goes from us to banks, creditors, energy providers, stores, restaurants, and each other. The wealthy spend more than we do, but their entertainment needs to up arithmetically with their income, but their income goes up geometrically. A person making a million dollars might spend 10's of thousands of dollars on entertainment, but a person making tens of millions dollars will probably not be spending much more. On food, the curve will top out at even a lower rate. My income is close to the rate at which it makes no difference in how I spend for food at my current income level over a higher level. I might eat fewer meals at expensive restaurants, but I probably wouldn't eat many even if I were incredibly wealthy. The wealthy don't have a life-style difference that grows more costly at the same rate their wealth increases. That is why they insist on capping Social Security.

No, after that living wage, and then wealthy life-style premium, everything else becomes power and security oriented. It may be invested, but it won't be spent, on average. For every generous person giving away millions you find billionares giving away maybe a million; and mostly for quid pro quo.

No it doesn't Trickle Down, Joe

And finally it is worse than them simply not spending money when you let them keep more. They still spend money, but that money becomes more and more aimed at increasing their wealth and power. They invest investor money to corner the Silver Market (The Hunt brothers), or setup schemes to protect their nest eggs by creating derivative bets and making their own investors take the risk for those going bad. In this last swindle bubble, they actually set it up so that the risk fell on the taxpayer. In past times the wealthy tended to gamble their money away.

In the 1700's, Scottish Nobles, for instance, would gamble away land, that ideally shouldn't have been their personal property anyway, as the tenants on that property had been their for centuries and the nobles had essentially converted their trust as rulers into simple property thanks to the holes in "enlightenment" thinking. In order to make their gambling debts back, (or simply monetize their holdings) they'd wind up evicting their tenants and converting the property to raising sheep or industry. The wealthy come to own property simply because they have money, and with time, they come to own more and more property (as is happening here) until they own everything. Then people start getting evicted from property because they tend to be irresponsibility with those trusts.

Trickle Down or Oligarchy?

Our current generation of super-wealth is following that time worn track. Ceasar's triumvirate included people who got their wealth and power through the revolving door of business and government. Crassus for instance acquired huge holdings of lands by running the Roman fire-department. Caesar inherited the political machine of the Marius family. Crassus of the Sulla faction. And Pompeii represented the "new men" trying to horn their way into "old wealth." They initially were representatives of rival plutocrats, but eventually there were only three, and after that only one. Wealth comes to buy power, and power to buy wealth. Eventually these three came. And then there was one.

Anyway, it doesn't trickle down, but it can destroy our Republic.

Note, I've been so busy with a deadline my imagination hasn't been able to track to blogging, and a lot of ideas I was planning to blog on got side-tracked.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Market is not a person

A market is a place. Talking about the market one might as well be talking about the streets, the parks, a waste dump. It's not "the market" that sets the prices for things, or the market that moves up and down. It is human policy and human behavior. It may be legitimate to use the phrase as a short cut to saying that "the majority of investors bid up prices today," or employers calculate that they will make a certain amount of money if they pay such and such a price. Theorists like to say that economic formulas indicate that marginal supply = marginal demand at the equilibrium price. But that is abstraction. It is a logical error to confuse abstractions with persons. In the real world equilibrium are at best transitory and the only time a system is at rest is when the system is dead. Markets are a place. The players in a market are playing in a system of human relations, in which markets are one abstract element. The market doesn't decide anything. The people in that market, acting as members, in context of power and possession, do. Essentially they are collective entities

Thus Market government can be oligarchy, monarchy, republican or it can even be almost democratic. Governments are power constrained. Those who claim that "the market" is a being that determines prices is either a liar, a shill, or expressing his theology about who God is for him/her.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Neither Hope too much, nor despair too much

The title of this post is, according to an ex-girlfriend from years ago, comes from a Polish proverb. They are intimately familiar with both hope and despair, so they should understand what it means. What it means is in the title of a British Comedy; 'curb your enthusiasm.' And actually i think that the concept goes back to Epictetus and the Stoics. I seem to remember reading this same concept when I read Marcus Aurelius' book in "Harvard Classics." Both my dad and granddad owned partial full sets. Back in their day if you were trying to have a self taught education; the Harvard Classics could give you a real start. They were kind of a Reader's digest edition of the Western World's (Mainly 'Anglo Saxon') major works. Anyway, as happy as I am with Obama's win, i had a lot to blog about that I didn't have time to blog about before the election, and I have the same concerns after the election; aside from the certain doom that was intended for integral commonwealth were he to have won. So I curb my enthusiasm.

Anyway, what reminded me to write this blog was that Paul Krugman was surprised by the insane response of our righty frenemies. He writes about John Hinderaker of Bush is a genius fame who declared:

"To me, the most telling incident of the campaign season was a poll that found that among young Americans, socialism enjoys a higher favorability rating than free enterprise. How can this possibly be, given the catastrophic failure of socialism, and the corresponding success of free enterprise, throughout history? The answer is that conservatives have entirely lost control over the culture."

Concept versus Dogma

No the problem is that conservatives have so got caught up in their own sloganeering that they confuse their own concept rustling and no longer see the common sense in pragmatism, or not being too attached to slogans. What they think are principles are often nothing more than slogans with badly reasoned arguments offered for them. Obama's victory doesn't mean that Romney's complaint that the rest of us are lazy users, dependent on "Gubbernment" for a life. It just means that we believe we have a right to be part of the commonwealth and that, indeed "hairdressers" [famous comment from Edmund Burke that has defined aristocratic cons over democratic republicans since] have a right to a say in who runs the country. And you see that attitude in the current attitudes. Conservatives at heart are afraid of their own employees, neighbors and customers. And as we see from recent behavior they should be, somehow they forgot the "conserve" and prefer to practice cons. I don't mind them conserving stuff they earned, but they forget that what they are trying to conserve is often the result of raw exercise of power coupled with expertise at conning folks out of stuff that isn't entirely theirs.

But Paul "gets it" he next writes:

"Oddly, he doesn’t even seem to consider the more obvious possibility: after decades in which right-wingers have attacked long-established institutions — Social Security, progressive taxation, unemployment insurance — as “socialism”, a lot of young people now believe them, and think that this “socialism” thing really isn’t so bad. A case in point: Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper just ran the headline “America chooses socialism”, referring to the reelection of a president who enacted a health care reform originally proposed by the Heritage Foundation."

The idea that "socialism" is simply a pragmatic response to aristocracy, doesn't phase them. The "we" versus "I" built it debate clearly illustrates that some of what they call 'socialism' is just making sure that at least some things are run for the common good and not only the property/rule of local or national tyrants.

But the best part of Krugman's piece is the part referring to Monty Python:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Con versus the reality

Like I said, (last post) I love Paul Krugman, he's fighting valiently to expose the con that masks itself as conservative. I hope people will start listening to him, because he knows what he's talking about. Krugman continues that thread in his latest post Krugman notes:

"..... Romney’s “plan” is a sham. It’s a list of things he claims will happen, with no description of the policies he would follow to make those things happen. “We will cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget,” he declares, but he refuses to specify which tax loopholes he would close to offset his $5 trillion in tax cuts.

And his private speeches talk to his real base, the folks he compares to the 47% who depend on Government(s) [such as their private ones] to function. He says government can't create jobs, private enterprise does. He reaffirms the trope that letting himself and his fellow monied-aristocrats have the money will somehow put people back to work. And he does it in the same voice and using the same deceptive methods he uses when selling workers at factories he's acquiring on his buyouts and how he'd never send their jobs to China -- before he promptly does so. People shouldn't be fooled. Krugman isn't. He offers an alternative plan that is as simplistic as the other. Krugman is tongue in cheek but there is a serious point underneath.

"Here it is: Every American will have a good job with good wages. Also, a blissfully happy marriage. And a pony."

Romney is full of stuff

"Romney is faking it. His real plan seems to be to foster economic recovery through magic, inspiring business confidence through his personal awesomeness."

Romney says as much "Government doesn't create jobs;" Only the magic of oligarchy does. Sure, right, in China.

"Where Mr. Romney says he’ll achieve energy independence, never mind how, Mr. Obama calls for concrete steps like raising fuel efficiency standards. Mr. Romney says, “We will give our fellow citizens the skills they need,” but says nothing about how he’ll make that happen, pivoting instead to a veiled endorsement of school vouchers; Mr. Obama calls for specific things like a program to recruit math and science teachers and partnerships between businesses and community colleges."

And this represents traditional Democratic Republican policies. It's kind of "Field of Dreams" for politicians. "If you build it, they will come. Romney's dreams all involve dumping the business of the commons on aristocrats. It's an old vision. It was the kind of capitalism you saw in France before Louis the 16th lost his head. When the business of government, the commons, public systems, are put in the hands of private citizens you get dysfunction, usury, and corruption; because such folks are usually after rent, not achieving a mission of the public good. Naturally. This is a lesson of history.

"So, is Mr. Obama offering an inspiring vision for economic recovery? No, he isn’t. His economic agenda is relatively small-bore — a bunch of modest if sensible proposals rather than a big push. More important, it’s aimed at the medium term, the economy of 2020, rather than at the clear and pressing problems of the present."

But Obama's vision is better than Romney's. It's just not "left" enough to push back much against all the ground we've lost. The Center usually is a mid point between aristocrats and commoners. Our current system is a mid point between aristocrats with a conscience and commoners with no conscience; and trying to hold onto what few gains the rest of us commoners have made. When the right pushes back it is usually pushing for elitism and aristocracy. That is what they are trying to conserve; their own wealth and privilege. Not general common rights, etc...

...."If you didn’t know what was actually going on in the U.S. economy, you’d think from reading the Obama plan that America was a place where workers with the right skills were in high demand, so that our big problem was that not enough people have those skills. And five or 10 years from now, America might actually look like that. Right now, however, we’re still living in a depressed economy offering poor prospects for almost everyone, including the highly educated.

... And nobody is willing to call a spade a spade, not democrats not republicans, not most of our comfortable well fed pseudo reporters sitting in chairs in the corporate media. We are in a depression.

Indeed, these have been really bad years for recent college graduates, who all too often can’t find anyone willing to make use of their hard-won skills that were expensive to attain. Unemployment and underemployment among recent graduates surged between 2007 and 2010, while far too many highly trained young people found themselves working in low-skill jobs. The job market for skilled workers, like that for Americans in general, is now gradually improving. But it’s still far from normal.

And here is where I disagree with Krugman. He writes:

"In a better world, the president would be proposing bold short-term moves to move us rapidly back to full employment. But he isn’t."

Underlying that is power and ownership, not just short term ameliorating proposals. The fact is that we are suffering a financial and debt driven depression, and behind that is the raw power of elites. For things to move forward the common folks; folks like you and me have to have some savings and income, and we have to be relieved of unfair debts. And that is a power issue not just something that can be fixed with short term Keynesian fixes. But we are facing a steady diet of lies and propaganda. Krugman writes:

O.K., we all understand why. Voters have been told over and over again that the 2009 stimulus didn’t work (actually it did, but it wasn’t big enough), and a few days before a national election is no time to try to change that big a false belief. So all that the administration feels able to offer are measures that would, one hopes, modestly accelerate the recovery already under way.

Obama's efforts will work some, but not because they put people back to work until the economy fixes itself, but because the processes and income transfers involved in putting people back to work shift resources back to where the 30% at the bottom are a little less dispossessed and while the top 1% will continue to own all the improvements in our financial positions at least we won't be dispossessed by them as much as before. Money makes money, and money and power multiply; maybe even multiply by factors of 10 or 100. That was Vilfredo Pareto. Krugman knows that, but what is he going to do? The right knows that, but they think there is nothing wrong with the rich morphing into nobility and they are practicing the big lie. So Krugman is also right when he says:

It’s disappointing, to be sure. But a slow job is better than a snow job. Mr. Obama may not be as bold as we’d like, but he isn’t actively misleading voters the way Mr. Romney is. Furthermore, if we ask what Mr. Romney would probably do in practice, including sharp cuts in programs that aid the less well-off and the imposition of hard-money orthodoxy on the Federal Reserve, it looks like a program that might well derail the recovery and send us back into recession.

So it's a choice between survival, and protecting the current system, and radical change for the worse. For now we have to accept survival.

And you should never forget the broader policy context. Mr. Obama may not have an exciting economic plan, but, if he is re-elected, he will get to implement a health reform that is the biggest improvement in America’s safety net since Medicare. Mr. Romney doesn’t have an economic plan at all, but he is determined not just to repeal Obamacare but to impose savage cuts in Medicaid. So never mind all those bullet points. Think instead about the 45 million Americans who either will or won’t receive essential health care, depending on who wins on Nov. 6.
I'm just an amateur, but I've been following this subject since High School and practically minored in it in college.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Money isn't a Bubble or a Ponzi Schemes

Paul Krugman is my favorite economist. I've been arguing this same subject for a while, and it's nice to see professor Krugman encapsulate the same arguments I've been making for years without the same gravitas.

Paul Krugman: "Noah Smith, who is a better human being than I am, wades through an anti-Krugman rant to find an interesting nugget: the claim that money is a bubble. It isn’t, of course; but my explanation of why it isn’t is a bit different from his, and has wider implications."
We've got these idiots who want "real money" -- which means money with intrinsic value that someone can stick in a mattress and hide. But Paul notes the distinction, what a Bubble is:
"I’d start by asking, what do we mean when we talk about bubbles? Basically, I’d argue, we mean that people are basing their decisions on beliefs about the future that are based on recent experience but can’t be fulfilled. E.g., people buy houses because they expect home prices to keep rising at a pace that would eventually leave nobody able to buy a first home."
Professor Krugman knows how to explain things so even a drop out can understand:
"Bubbles don’t have to involve prices. You can have a local construction boom driven by rapid growth in an area’s population and employment, when the main thing driving that rapid growth is … the local construction boom, which will eventually collapse when enough houses are completed. The point, whether prices are involved or not, is that the expectations of individuals add up to an aggregate impossibility."
Yes a bubble is similar to a Ponzi scheme except that usually a lot of folks are in on the risk and self-deception. Paul notes:
"This sounds a lot like what happens in a Ponzi scheme, where people are relying on an ever-growing number of new subscribers, and are doomed to disaster when the pool of potential suckers runs dry. And as Robert Schiller taught us long ago, bubbles are in fact “natural Ponzi schemes”, in which Bernie Madoff’s place is taken by the invisible hand of confusion."
The invisible hand of confusion is supplemented by people who do understand what is happening and plan to get their fill and get out before the whole thing collapses. Paul shows that fiat money is not a bubble:
"Is fiat money a bubble in this sense? Not at all. It’s true that green pieces of paper have no intrinsic value (except that they can be used to pay taxes, which is actually important), so that my willingness to accept green paper from you is based only on my belief that I can in turn hand that green paper over to someone else. But there’s nothing to prevent that process of monetary circulation from going on forever."
Except of course human herd behavior and human self destruction (the hurd running off a cliff):
"So what is fiat money? It is, as Paul Samuelson put it in his original overlapping-generations model (pdf), a “social contrivance”. It’s a convention, which works as long as the future is like the past. Obviously, such conventions can break down — but then so can things like property rights. In fact, you could argue that almost every asset in a modern economy owes its value to social convention; green pieces of paper could become worthless, but then so could any paper claim, which is, after all, worth something only because laws say it is — and laws can be repealed."
I downloaded the Real Economists article.
"And once you realize that a social convention is not at all the same thing as a bubble, several related fallacies fall into place."
A lot of our prices, and the wages we pay people are based on social convention. Which is a fancy word for generally accepted habits. It may make no sense that teachers are paid less than stock market cons, but the stock market cons pay themselves and someone pays the teachers and society might claim they are worth more, but refuses to pay them more.

"Take the common claim on the right that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme because the system has few real assets. It’s true that Social Security is mainly a system in which each generation pays for the previous generation’s retirement, in the expectation that it will receive the same treatment from the next generation. But like monetary circulation, this process can go on forever; there’s nothing unsustainable about it (yes, demography, but that’s about the levels of taxes and benefits, not the fundamental nature of the scheme). So there’s nothing Ponziesque at all."
But it makes a good argument for those who would prefer most of us rout around in garbage dumps for our meals.
Paul: "A final thought: the notion that there must be a “fundamental” source for money’s value, although it’s a right-wing trope, bears a strong family resemblance to the Marxist labor theory of value. In each case what people are missing is that value is an emergent property, not an essence: money, and actually everything, has a market value based on the role it plays in our economy — full stop."
The ponzi scheme is the idea that any of the thefts committed by right wing ideologues will ever trickle down to the people ripped off.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Outsourcing to China: Thanks Romney

Texas Instruments Sensors & Controls becomes Sensata

I started writing this post last week, but if anything the subject has gotten hotter, so I'm glad I'm glad I already started this because all that reading I did last week helps contextualize what is happening. Context? If you go to Sensata Technologies you find this on their "about" us page:

The name Sensata comes from the Latin word sensata, meaning “those gifted with sense”. To complement our business and name, our logo is inspired by Braille, the writing system based on touch.

That's nice. But if you dig a little you find this was originally an all American company that did cool things for our country. But now it's been internationalized. Though most of its market is still here in the USA.

Our highly engineered devices satisfy the world’s growing need for safety, energy efficiency, and a clean environment. These are devices that improve safety, efficiency and comfort for millions of people every day and are used in automotive, appliance, aircraft, industrial, military, heavy vehicle, heating, air conditioning, data, telecommunications, recreational vehicle and marine applications.

Gosh, I remember an American Company that used to do that sort of thing. I loved that company. Wonder what happened? Oh:

Until 2006, we were called Texas Instruments Sensors & Controls. Today we are the world’s leading supplier of sensors and controls across a broad range of markets and applications.


Gosh, this was Texas Instruments? No, fortunately that company is still around. It's webpage is here: What happened? Why didn't we get an international company and still have Texas Instruments? I thought that the purpose of competition was to have multiple companies competing with each other to make an ever more satisfied and happy consumer? What happened to Texas Instruments Sensors and Controls?

They are being shipped to China. Indeed as the Daily Kos said in an article, Romney is an expert of creating jobs. Just not in the USA.

Sensata creating jobs--overseas

Today they claim that Sensata has created lots of jobs, way more than the 170 they are outsourcing from Illinois to China.

Yes, Sensata has created thousands of jobs. The problem is, they are all overseas.

Read More at Daily Kos

Well what can you expect? Romney is conducting a hostile takeover of what he sees as a corporation named the US. The tried and true methodology of hostile takeovers, is that you pitch your real intentions to the owner/investors of the company, because you'll make lots of money from what you are going to do and they need to be onboard. And you lie to everyone else. What Romney is doing to Sensata, through his lawyer and "blind trust" is what he seems to plan to do the country.

The Debate

The particular factory that is forming the epicenter of this atrocity is located in Freeport Illinois. This is one of the central locations for the famed Lincoln Douglas Debates, which took about 7 hours and really didn't end until Lincoln won election. As between then and now some folks were claiming that the founders wanted to restrict the Federal Government from regulating oppression, and Lincoln dug up facts that revealed their arguments as lies. The South got violent largely because they were already a violent place that used slavery and oppression as a pillar of their economy. And the notion that the words of Jefferson might apply to women and blacks was foreign to their worldview. The logic was as incontrovertible then as it is now, and the tyranny of a corporation moving a factory to China so they can pay slave wages to their employees is every bit as much tyranny as that of slaveholders. "Power exercised,...for private, separate advantage" [John Locke]. And Sensatta is being outsourced to China by Bain Capital which is doing the buyout and outsourcing. Blind trust? Wanna buy a bridge? This needs to be debated

The workers at Freeport might have thought that accepting to work for a non-union operation would protect them from outsourcing, but no it didn't. Huffington post reports that:

"several workers from Sensata have pleaded with the former Massachusetts governor to intervene at the private equity firm and prevent the offshoring of their jobs, so far without success."

Romney claims that he can't intervene because of his blind trust, but that is a lie. He has his personal Lawyer running the trust with the power of client confidentiality. I don't believe for a second that if he thought an investment was a loser he wouldn't intervene. This is his philosophy. He's said he'd have preferred Chapter 7 bankruptcy (liquidation) for Detroit [City and the Automobile industry]. He is darwinist about economics. His vision of free enterprise is that the strong survive and the losers don't count. This is what he said to his wealthy backers in Florida last year, and he's repeated it in debates.

Clearly Americans need to see where this debate is heading. Jobs don't magically appear when we are competing with folks paid far less than we are paid, even educated people, and policies and laws that give all the advantages to oligarchs and corporate monarchs. And a Takeover Artist is not going to fix something he makes all his money from.

We should all support the petition to get them to debate in Freeport Illinois on outsourcing. If Romney won't show up, Obama should anyway;

The Freeport City Council passed a resolution Monday, July 16, urging former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, to take a stand for the 170 American workers facing outsourcing by Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies in Freeport. The resolution passed unanimously in an 8-0 vote.

The workers at Sensata in Freeport are protesting. And the full power of the state is enforcing the private power of corporate tyrants. Do we stand for this, or do we stand up for ourselves.

Six people were arrested Wednesday morning at a north central Illinois plant run by Bain Capital-owned Sensata Technologies, where 170 workers are set to lose their jobs by the end of the year.

If Obama doesn't mention Freeport and Sensata between now and Monday, we need to pressure him too. Thom Hartman's "Brunch with Bernie" segment today had him reminding us that we need to support Obama for reelection, but also pressure him on the issues of importance to all of us. Stopping outsourcing, and making it unprofitable to eff our workers ought to be a priority. It is amazing that a man who has every intention to eff all of us is running for President. I just wish more people understood what is happening.

We need to demand respect, work to earn those demands by working our tails off, and to stop standing aside and letting those who would be tyrants instead of people with a trust from us, run us over and dictate to us.

Further reading:
Mitt profits as workers are effed:
CNN visits Freeport
This article has good details:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Using the war against Women to Abolish Liberty Part I

There really is a war against Women. Of course you'll never hear most of the folks prosecuting it admit it. This is because they need women to vote for them.

This is nothing new ....When the USA first was created, our elites were involved in a struggle to create a republic that would give them power, but were also trying to avoid a return to aristocracy and monarchy. The Right likes to portray our founders as being clear on the subjects they were arguing, but they weren't. They extolled democracy, and lamblasted it, at the same time. What they wanted was a system that would embody rule of law, protect their contracts with the government and each other, and protect themselves against both the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of emerging aristocrats. Events in the USA like the Shays revolution terrified them, and the French Revolution sent some of them into fits of apoplexy. They often were pushing back against the people, even as they sought to manipulate people into keeping them in office. This is still true to this very day. They couldn't get elected unless they found a way to link their special interest with their victims own interest.

Thus it was that Southern Slave Holders were able to enlist poor, non-slave owning, whites - who couldn't compete with the wages paid to skilled blacks - to help them protect their "peculiar institution" and then later got the descendents of those same people to help them create a regime of terror and oppression that also was used to oppress working white folks. Folks identify with the wealthy and powerful. In this country they think that "one day they'll be rich and powerful." Folks let the powerful transfer their narrow expertise in conning people and making money into the idea that the folks who have those attributes are also wise and experts on things totally unrelated. Thus demagoguery and business go together in our society whether we are talking about religious politics, business politics or business politics. You can talk about "welfare queens driving Cadillacs" and folks will believe what you are saying even if others think you are nuts. It's called "coded language" and it works like a dog whistle for those whose fears are tuned into the notes being sounded. Fear makes people band together, and our right has been expert at manipulating people for a long time.

So there is a lot of coded language within the right in this day, because the power model hasn't changed... When the right goes after an issue, the goal is power, and the main goal of that power is "private, separate interest" of the private actors who constitute the wannabe aristocrats of the Republican party. They may not be literal teabaggers, but their goals involve teabagging people, including the people they convince to support them.

So the war on women isn't really a war on women. It is just another way to use dog whistles and coded language to keep, project and extend power, for the folks who want to be oligarchs in this country, and at this point, have acquired the kind of power to let them exercise oligarchic powers. But it is a real war nonetheless. When Romney talks about "life starting at conception" he is appealing to people's emotions on behalf of laws aimed at locking down women's rights.

Life begins at conception is part of a "reductio ad absurdum" that has some almost comical implications. For one thing, if a fertilized ovum is a "person" then the life of a sperm or an ovum can be equally "constructed" to be "persons" as well. For literalists this could lead to the felony criminalization of masturbation for men, or miscarriages or even the annual period. In the article: In the Anniston Star, called "When life is legal: The meanings and implications of ‘life begins at conception’ belief" by Jim Vickrey, where he writes:

If a fertilized human egg is “alive,” as many of my Christian friends claim to believe, so are the ovum and spermatozoa constituting it. If the latter be not so, then secular evolutionists must be right: Life can be created from life-less stuff.

So if the religious literalists get their way then:

Accordingly, if a conceptus is a “person,” as many believe, then its constituent parts must be alive or, at the very least, “quasi-persons,” likely deserving of equal protection under the law.

Read more: Anniston Star - When life is legal The meanings and implications of ‘life begins at conception’ belief

And he notes it gets worse. Nothing that Leviticus condemns masturbation, so if life is defined to begin at conception and sperm and eggs are defined as persons, then conceivably masturbation could once again be a criminalized activity. This could lead to a lot of men getting locked up. Hooray for Prison industries! But seriously, life at conception is mainly targeted at women:

"First, we should insist that the proper health and medical authorities investigate the facts of every miscarriage occurring anytime near the now-mystical, medically unjustified, 20th week of an expected 36-week-long pregnancy in order to satisfy ourselves that the miscarriage was not, in fact, induced."

So, witch hunts here we come!

"Second, we should insure that 100 percent of all miscarriages are reported to the Alabama Departments of Health, Records, et cetera, for data maintenance of death statistics; to proper law-enforcement agencies for information purposes; to the newspapers for obituary purposes; and to the funeral homes of choice for the purpose of picking up and delivering the remains prior to the funeral. Moreover, if the fetus is a person, in fact, why are we not now reporting such news routinely? Could it be because most people, in fact, don’t consider miscarriages to “really be the death of a person,” thereby requiring such, preferring to deal with their grief in private ways?"

Oh, yes, and not to mention criminalizing birth control and even efforts to control menstration. Keep the women at home! And it would be a boon to newspapers:

"Third, we should insist that the survivors, those responsible for creating the “person” who’s just died, be issued a birth as well as a death certificate, identifying the “person” by name and the cause of death."

But of course that all shows why even Christian folks with common sense used to have common law ideas about conception and abortion:

"It’s easy to see why the common law, historically, has not tried to identify the moment of conception or fertilization (since there isn’t one), which terms are not even precisely or consistently synonymous in medical dictionaries, and why it opted to define a legally protected fetal interest as arising at viability, the new thinking of our “activist” highest state court to the contrary notwithstanding. It’s just as easy to see why, while reading statutes purportedly based upon identifying when life begins and so when “personhood” arises, the above-stated list of “horrors” now includes as well as new ones born of religious zealotry, such as requirements for “transvaginal” or other sonar examinations before legal abortions."

But of course, as the author notes:

"After all, just as the state once had the legal right to restrain and retain black citizens as slaves, now the very men who usually decry the “intrusive hand of big government” into our lives seek to assert the legal right to intrude literally into the sanctity of a woman’s womb to enslave any zygote found there. Defining a one-celled, virtually invisible to the naked eye, conceptus as a “person” or a “baby” leads one to all sorts of strange places. If you, Dear Reader, are a self-described “pro-life” person, which we all are, why should not what is written above become standard operating procedure?"

Okay, with all that, there is still a war on women going on. And the absurd effort to define life starting at conception is part of it. Think I'm joking? Romney is for it:
And Rand Paul,
"Akin, Ryan and others are original cosponsors of HR 3, which sought – before a public outcry prompted a reversal – to create a legal difference between “rape” and “forcible rape.” The bill still eliminates tax breaks for health insurance premiums on policies that cover abortion-related expenses and prevents women from paying for an abortion from a health savings account. A complete explanation of the bill from the Christian Science Monitor is available at"

Text of HR 3:

And this says nothing about their war on working people's pay:

Wisconsin Senator/liar:"Women paid less because money is more important to men"

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Electoral Fraud from the GOP

The predicted voter fraud is occurring. Of course it involves corrupt and dishonest officials private companies and Republicans, as usual:

"Problems first emerged earlier this week in Palm Beach County with forms turned in by Strategic Allied Consulting, which the Republican National Committee (RNC) paid $3.1 million to register voters in Florida and six other swing states. Palm Beach prosecutors are examining 106 voter registration forms submitted by one Strategic Allied Consulting worker, some with apparently forged signatures."

So much for worrying about Democrats voting, much less committing voter ID fraud. These efforts are designed to make sure only Republicans vote. As usual voter fraud, by ordinary democrats, is abusive projecton by folks seeking to protect their power despite the fact that people loathe them for the crooks and liars they are.

" Nathan Sproul, the firm’s owner, has been well-known in top GOP circles for years. Operating under other corporate names in the past, his firms have been accused of “dumping registration forms filled out by Democrats and other improprieties aimed at helping Republican candidates.” He has a long history of shady operations while in the pay of GOP officials both within states and on a national level."
"As a result of this reputation, the RNC insisted he create a new corporate entity before giving him $3.1 million to voter “registration” in seven swing states."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Secret Sins

Nitzivim - Garrisons

The theme of the beginning of the portion of the Torah known as Nitzivim (Deuteronomy 29) is “secret sins” versus “do the right thing.”

“Perchance there is among you some man or woman, or some clan or tribe, whose heart is even now turning away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations — perchance there is among you a stock sprouting poison weed and wormwood. 18 When such a one hears the words of these sanctions, he may fancy himself immune, thinking, "I shall be safe, though I follow my own willful heart" — to the utter ruin of moist and dry alike. 19 The Lord will never forgive him; rather will the Lord's anger and passion rage against that man, till every sanction recorded in this book comes down upon him, and the Lord blots out his name from under heaven.”

When Moses warns the people of Israel about the dangers of “serving the gods of the nations” I’m sure most of us think, “I only worship the one God” I’m not in danger of having a heart of “poison weed (also known as Gall) and Wormwood”. But of course we are surrounded by the results of folks who think that they are immune from the rules that apply to everyone else.

Unfortunately these folks often try to conceal their true feelings and beliefs. But it is obvious in their actions. How many people we know worship the stars in Hollywood or the dollar? How much better would this world be if folks would apply the principles of justice to their business dealings or their political acts? We can’t know what kind of “gall and wormwood” is in someone’s heart until it comes out in something they do, but such behavior affects us too because God does know and because as Rashi notes; people who have hearts of “wormwood and gall” tend to increase evil among us.

This passage also says: “Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.” So this gives us one guideline for dealing with the potential gall and wormwood in our own hearts. When I look at my own heart and see anger rising, jealousy, frustration, or rage; I know that sooner or later my hidden feelings are going to surge out and cause me to do some overt thing that is really going to mess me up. It comes down to where is my heart centered? Is it centered on the pursuit of enlightenment and awakening, or am I worshipping money and power? Am I focused on spiritual improvement and love for God and others, or am I consumed with lust for the God of wealth and status? What do I really need and why should I pursue it? If our foundations are solid, then our hearts won’t be of “gall and wormwood” anymore. But what secures that?

The Hasidim believed that there were two things that could give us strong foundations: Respect for truth and Love of God (Ahavat Hashem), which equals love of the Law (Ahavat Torah), which equals love of ones fellow man (Ahavat Israel. It is community and love for each other flowing out of respect for the Rules that make that community what it is that can give us the foundation for a life time of faith and learning. And it is friendship that is the basis for all these loves, because we build our love for Israel on a foundation of loving one another.[Source Somewhere A Master -- Elie Wiesel]

But of course that love for community can also be a basis for trouble too. Too often a love for our own friends, our own causes, makes us forget that it is God’s laws that apply, not the ones we make up, or even our own interpretations of them. Gods laws aren’t what we tell each other they are, they are what the ineffable one decrees in actuality. They are reality not some codice. None of us can afford to fancy ourselves immune to the corrupting influences of pride, vanity, or simple misunderstanding on ourselves and our communities because that leads to misunderstanding and delusion.

Ellie Wiesel, writing about the historical fight between the Hasidim and the Gaon of Vilnius writes “The ancient Sages Shammai and Hillel differed in most areas of Jewish life, yet they maintained relations of mutual esteem and affection.” “why was it that no authoritative voice was heard … to proclaim that both the words of the Besht and the Gaon of Vilna reflected Gods living truth?”

I would submit that most of our historical conflict start from the secret sins of pride and fear that prevent us from being able to communicate with one another without conflict and that if we simply could take the time to get to know one another, be humble about our knowledge, and agree to learn from one another, we’d have fewer overt sins because our secret sins would no longer come from hearts of “wormwood and gall” and we’d stop being afraid to be friends. The literature is meant to be understood, not taken out of context, or used as a pretext for violent behavior. And the temptation to pride is strongest in political and religious leaders -- so we need to learn to spot it in others as well.

Of course once wormwood and gall are in the heart, they tend to grow and push aside any genuine friendship and mutual respect and replace it with demagoguery, egoistic assertions that “I’m right and you are wrong” and vilification. Thus the secret acts that God punishes flow into very overt misdeeds that bring about our own problems and that can utterly destroy people and communities. They don’t stay secret very long.

Dogma is the development of rigid doctrines governed by authority of men. Men are fallible. Authority is the assertion of men’s opinion over spiritual matters that they can dictate either/or what God says, or what is meant by scripture. Dogmatic people are so arrogant they try to bind future generation to interpretations and arbitrary understandings as if they were God. They usually have good sounding reasons. But the results of arrogant dogmas are all around us in tyranny, oppression, poverty and ignorance. It is our duty to redeem them by digging out the diseased wood (wormwood) and removing the Gall. Then their original context can be understood and their wisdom applied to the present. Not always an easy thing -- but a duty of any spiritual person. Because with religious doctrine, wormwood and gall is also the ossification of what had been legitimate and living teachings into the lifeless dead hand of authority and dogma. Every generation has the duty to bring their literature alive so that it can teach and guide present generations not enslave and oppress them.

Once one understands that religious literature is literature; not history, a compendium of scientific facts, or necessarily direct truths about material reality, one can both appreciate all religious literature and see revealed the monstrous nakedness of most people claiming religious authority. The Bible doesn’t necessarily say what people claim it says. Because, it was written down by men, God didn’t necessarily say that because he told Moses so and so, that we are to treat modern people the same way. If God says to do something and we are part of a religion, there must be some reason. If God appears to be saying something not true, then the liar is not God, it is the person's understanding of what is being said or the context.

The source of both spiritual enlightenment and humility is when people realize that even if scripture says something, that doesn’t automatically make it the right thing to do. Scripture refers to spiritual social and conventional beliefs and practices at some point in time; the other pertains to the rock of actual current reality. Those who would distort religion for personal advantage can always use religion the way a ransomer uses the words in the newspaper to fashion a ransom note. But they are just liars. Just because the Bible has God telling people they should stone for certain sins, doesn’t mean that is an appropriate punishment for us, or even that we are, any of us, qualified to render such judgment. Both the ancient Rabbis, and the founder of Christianity understood this when they said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The most grievious sins are the secret ones, and the "gall and wormwood" that causes people to disdain others or be too certain that they are always right and others are wrong.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When Religion Matters -- Why inflame people?

Today's news confirms that our "Sam Bacile" [see previous post,] is actually; Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who apparently was behind "Innocence of Muslims,"

"Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday."[AP via Arizona Daily Star]

The Government now claims:

"The official said authorities had concluded that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was behind "Innocence of Muslims," a film that denigrated Islam and the prophet Muhammad and sparked protests earlier this week in Egypt, Libya and most recently in Yemen. It was not immediately clear whether Nakoula was the target of a criminal investigation or part of the broader investigation into the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya during a terrorist attack."[]

And of course they Government found "Bacile" after AP did.

"The AP located the man calling himself Bacile after obtaining his cellphone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who has promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt's Christian Coptic populace has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country's Muslim majority." [AP via Arizona Daily Star]

His partner, Sam Klein also hates Mormons:

"The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques."

Of course they aren't following the money, and if the investigation stops with Sam Klein and "Bacile" it will be failing to do the most important thing that any investigation can do: "Follow the Money" because the Coptic community doesn't have the kind of money or the incentives to want to inflame Egyptians more than they already and a production like this takes more money than a small-time con man can manage on his own. I wonder who funded "Sam Bacile"'s efforts. I think it is highly suspicious that this film was timed to be released just enough before the elections to try to provoke an Iran Hostage type reaction from Moslem fundamentalist/ literalists.

And of course the people taking advantage of this situation are being described as "Salafists" which is a code speak for front groups for Al Qaeda, so it's already done it's job.

Who Benefits?

The question remains who benefits from inflaming violence? Romney launched his attack almost before the embassy was attacked. He ended up criticizing a dead ambassador for trying to defuse an incendiary message to local moslems. So Romney thinks he'll benefit from inflaming the middle east, and his cohorts feel the same way. So, could there be money from one of his secretive backers paying for this film? It certainly makes the Citizens United movie about Hilary seem like a chump change investment by comparison. This is a gift that keeps giving for war-mongering imperialists.

And of course Al Qaeda benefits from inflaming Salafists too. They were almost on their last leg. What Moslem wants to wear 8th century clothing and get himself killed so that the Saudis can charge more for their oil? But of course it's a lot easier to recruit fundamentalists if the "enemy" is insulting their religion. And Bacile claiming to be a Jew has the benefit of inflaming both Jews and folks who want to kill Jews. Anyone seeking to diabolically create an intentionally unstable situation (maybe to sell guns) benefits here. Take your pick, could be Machiavellian Arabs doing it to themselves or Machiavellian Republicans behaving as traitors to their own country.

So, this being a, so far successful, conspiracy; we may never know who funded "Sam Bacile" but we know who seems to have been planning to use these attacks to get himself elected.

I'm sorry, but I don't put it past them. I wish this were an extreme opinion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When Religion Matters -- Loony Toons

I'll See Your Loony Toons and raise you ours

You see this movie Innocence of Muslims  was made by people who acted one set of lines and thought they were making one movie, and then nasty words were dubbed in, and the director turns out to “not exist.” This is classic “agent provocateur” behavior. And if it fools people, all the better for the ones who staged it and provoked it.
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," they said in a statement to CNN about the movie, ".
The Cast and crew were played. And now simple Moslems the world around are being played. And who is playing with them?
The Wall Street Journal identified the filmmaker as Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real estate developer. The Journal reported that, in its telephone interview with Bacile, he characterized his film as "a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam."
The Al times claims:
"“Sam Bacile” told The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press in interviews Tuesday that he was an Israeli-born Southern California-based real estate developer, who received $5 million from “100 Jewish donors” to finance his anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, “Islam is a cancer,” he told the Journal and AP."
So is this a cynical manipulation by the Mossad? What does Israel gain from Moslem hatred of their people? Nothing. It could be the work of cynical arms producers or warmongers, because only warlike and warmongering factions can gain at Israel’s expense. Ordinary Israelis gain nothing from the terrorist attacks such reactions provoke.
Except for one problem.  Sam Bacile may not exist!  Some of the actors talked about this “Bacile” fellow speaking perfect Arabic and looking like an Egyptian with an Arab entourage.
“But several elements of “Bacile’s” story appeared on further examination Wednesday to be phony. There are, for instance, no California real estate license records  for anyone with the last name Bacile.  And the fact that Bacile said precisely “100 Jewish” donors financed the project also seemed dubious. Israeli officials, contacted by Al-Monitor, declined to say if Bacile was an Israeli citizen, demurring in part because of uncertainty over whether that was a real name”
My own suspicions point to Karl Rove, and/ or the Saudi Secret Service; or maybe sinister arms dealers.  The article says this identity has to be fake because Bacile can’t have Jewish family members in Cairo and still be Jewish:
“Steven A. Klein, a Hemet, Calif.-based “consultant” to the film and self-styled terror expert, told the AP Wednesday that Bacile had family members in Egypt. With reports suggesting there have been fewer than 100 Jews living in Egypt since 2004, it did not seem that Bacile's Egyptian Jewish family members would be hard to locate — or easy to protect. 
He’d better stay in hiding because I’d like to kick his ass too. On the other hand. Steven Klein really exists and is defending the movie. Who is Steven Klein? Who is Bacile? Steve admits [Bacille]’s not Jewish:
Klein, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg on Wednesday, admitted that “Sam Bacile” is a pseudonym, and that Bacile is neither Israeli nor Jewish. Klein further claimed to Goldberg that he didn’t know Bacile’s real name, didn’t know his origin, and that he had only met him in total for one hour.
This looks like a setup job, an agent provocateur. An effort to inflame religious hatred for the sake of politics.  Even if the Mossad had been involved or my theory about Karl Rove turns out to be true. It ought not to be so easy to cynically use people this way.  Maybe this is a teachable moment.
A trace of the cell phone number used by “Sam Bacile” led the AP to a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, outside Los Angeles Wednesday.  Nakoula, of Egyptian background, acknowledged to the AP that he had been a manager for the company which produced the video, but denied he directed it. Court records show that Nakoula was convicted of federal bank fraud in 2010 and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
The article goes on to implicate Egyptian Copts.
“The AP said it had originally been given Bacile's cell phone by Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American Copt and anti-Islamic activist who is a principal with the National American Coptic Assembly. Coptic groups sharply distanced themselves from Sadek and the film, and expressed sorrow for the violence in Egypt and Libya.”
But  I don’t think they want to be attacked any more than Israelis, Jews or Wall Street Financiers do.  Copts have been victims of some awful violence lately. And unless we want them all to immigrate to the USA I don’t thing they’d want to be tied to something so incendiary either. But who knows?
No this looks like a Right Wing setup.  And Klein is no mere insurance salesman:
“Klein describes himself in the bio of a self-published 2010 work, Is Islam Compatible with The Constitution, as a Vietnam vet who since 9/11 has used contacts in the Arabic Christian diaspora community as translators as he has scoured Southern California mosques hunting for terrorist cells. “With 9/11, 2001 I immersed myself with Islam in America; went to every major Mosque in SoCal with Arabic speaking Christians as translators and uncovered useful information about many Mosques being the headquarters of terrorism in America,” Klein wrote.”
So Klein turns out to be a member of a Right wing Church:
Klein is a member of the Church of Kaweah, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as "a secretive cohort of militant Christian fundamentalists preparing for war" with Muslims. Klein said that he, Bacile, and the others responsible for the film were refugees from the Middle East.
So I see the cynical and exploitive hands of folks like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers here.  The “100 Jews” will probably turn out to be one or two wealthy billionaires and this whole thing will probably turn out to be a cynical attempt to manipulate the USA election by stoking up trouble outside the USA.
“An examination of California public records by Al-Monitor shows that in July 2011, Klein registered a group called the Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment (CCFA) as a California business. The group has reportedly staged a few protests in front of Southern California high schools in 2011 to express opposition to mosques. “
Last year Loonwatch covered them as the loony toons they were last year. In May 2011:
“About a dozen members of Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment perched themselves on the sidewalk outside Murrieta Valley High School Tuesday, handing out fliers to students walking by.”
You see our loons provoke your loons, and the cycle becomes a death match of stupidity.  I don’t criticize the religions themselves. But our holy people and leaders need to engage in some reflection.   It is the maturity and wisdom with which Islam, or Christianity, is interpreted that is at stake and failure to use real spiritual wisdom allows both our peoples to be manipulated and both religions to be corrupted.  Moslems and Christians are both being played and as long as they are both led by religious charlatans and demagogues the results of such games are going to continue to be ugly and tragic.
There is a spiritual war within the hearts of people, and until we awaken and see the many corridors in our hearts there is every possibility that surface teachings will be used to shut down access to deeper ones, and that folks will be played into enmity by evil persons who pretend (and may even have convinced themselves) that they are good and righteous people. Other issues are being played the same way, and no people are immune from such manipulation of their cultural fears and understandings. A little doubt is a good thing. Too much certainty is the road to the darkside.
This is why we not only have to practice separation of religion and politics in our civil life, but we also have to struggle with the same subject in melding our spirituality with living in this material world of needs and desires.

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When Religion Matters Part I Background

When Religion does matter Part I


Our founding fathers had a completely merited and two way fear of religion and politics. They were familiar with atrocities such as the inquisition, the Salem Witch trials, and the violence of the reformation and counter-reformation; and they didn’t want to see that kind of violence in the USA.  They knew that at the root of such violence comes from the influence that authoritarian, dogmatic, and corrupt religion can have on politics. They knew the predilection of preachers, ministers, and priests to engage in convenient, parsed, polemical and sometimes corrupt interpretation of religion, in the pursuit of fame, power and money.  And they knew that such religious demagoguery could lead to the rise of fanaticism, dogmatism and authoritarianism.  They also knew that politics can exert a multiplying influence on the rise of such corruption if religion is allowed to become a tool of politics.  Thus Separation between church and state was meant to protect the Church from the corrupting influence of political power and politics from the violence of corrupt religion.
They weren’t wrong.  We see how religion is corrupted by politics, and how the corrupt use politics to corrupt religion and intrude on people’s lives.  Once we see this in terms of the moral issue of “corruption” we have an incomplete framework for analysis, because we need a yardstick to measure the corruption of religion or politics. 
I’ll save a full discussion of this issue for another time, but one measure of both the ideological and the potential for corruption is the ease with which religious beliefs can be manipulated by the cynical and ambitious.  On that score literalist and facile understandings of religion are the most vulnerable. Because the cynical can understand religious beliefs and motivations and exploit them, even when they don’t believe them themselves.
All modern religions have a level of understanding that says “both material truth and textual truth are true, if you think one contradicts the other then you don’t really understand the material and are not truly enlightened.”  Priniciples such as “right to life”, “the Trinity”, and various  conflict between obvious norms of behavior and religious texts,  exist in all religions.  Really spiritual beings manage to observe these conflicts and resolve them without being trapped into insanity.  Fundamentalists of all religions tend to seem to ignore the fundamentals of textual interpretation and never penetrate beyond surface meanings.  They seem to get locked into resolving conflicts between material reality and religious text – by rejecting material reality.  This happens largely because their teachers are manipulating them. And it makes a point on which others can take advantage of them.
An example of such a conflict is the mandate, felt by most Moslems to protect the name and reputation of the Prophet.   The result of this mandate is that Moslems get tricked sometimes or miss the point of the mandate completely. 
I’m not a Moslem so I won’t offer any literary suggestions for those who would honor folks who stab, attack or blow up critics of the prophet.  But I can offer the suggestion that if you feel that way someone is manipulating you.  And the ease with which religious charlatans and demagogues from within a religion can manipulate believers is directly proportional to the maturity with which religion is interpreted and believed in.  It doesn’t reflect well on Islam or modern times that people can provoke wars, riots and authoritarian revolts by deliberately creating a movie to criticize the Prophet Mohammed.   You are being played folks.