About Me

My photo

Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lucille Clifton 1936-2010 gritty optimism thru hardships passing in the night

From Blessing the Boats:

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back. may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Those who prey upon credulity and hope
take away the lives of their victims.
That is to say, fraud is a capital offense,
greater in scale and consequence than
taking bread or things. For prudent persons
can guard their stuff from thieves, but
honesty has no protection from cunning.

Where fraud is permitted, where it has no severe consequences visited by law upon the perpetrator, then honest traders are always undone by knaves. Decency is at a great disadvantage in the face of misrepresentations of fact made by fraudsters who are not punished in any way.

This truth was observed in laissez faire Europe by the dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin in 1726. The good dean wrote GULLIVER's TRAVELS among other great satires and reports. Jonathan Swift lived 1667-1745, tirelessly exposing the graft, corruption, and mendacity of hypocrites. His efforts had little effect upon the morality and laws he sought to uphold, and he was driven insane in his last years.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Theodor Herzl and Wagner - add to collection of Ironies

In 1895, a modest but highly educated German journalist was sent to Paris by his Editors to report on the "trial of the century". Theodor Herzl duly reported the details of the trial, of which he was an eye-witness. The French Army had imprisoned and then tried the highest ranking Jew in its ranks, convicting him on the facially implausible charge of being a spy for Germany. These legal proceedings were the culmination of the notorious event known as the Dreyfus Affair. The conviction of the Jewish officer was confirmed by the Supreme Court of France, even though there was not a scintilla of "evidence" supporting the charge, and in fact, another man admitted to having served as a spy.

Herzl walked away from the trial with the CERTAINTY that Jews, without a homeland, would not be treated with justice in Europe at that time. Where Captain Dreyfus, a fine officer, with undeniable competence and accomplishment, unsullied by any taint or corruption of any kind, could be blamed for losses in a military campaign in which he was not even involved, and where it was shown to the Supreme Court of France that there was no evidence in support of the charges, which were brought by incompetents who needed a scapegoat, his conviction was upheld on the single ground that he was a Jew. Blaming Jews, a largely unarmed people, had become a successful method for avoiding responsibility on the part of authorities across Europe. Here, it reached an apex.

After filing his reports during the day, Herzl would attend the Opera in the evenings in Paris. By coincidence, the Ring Cycle composed by the German composer, Richard Wagner, was being performed. Herzl was well-aware of the ugly anti-semitism of Wagner, who was a prolific essayist as well as composer. Yet, to his credit, he was able to appreciate the artistry and sublimely beautiful compositions. Even more extraordinary, he was able to take inspiration from the libretto itself.

The operas are loosely drawn from the bardic saga mythology of a Norse people. Wagner obtained copies and outlines and translations of the Poetic Edda, the Volsunga Saga, and the German Nibelungenlied. Like many intellectuals in this period of relative peace (late 1800's), Wagner found "Romantic" inspiration -- profound feelings -- in the epic literature of pagan gods.

Contrasted with his other compositions, Wagner's Ring Cycle is positively sunny and refreshing. Wagner invented most of the plot of the first music drama, the Rhinegold, by combining three unrelated Edda stories, developing a theme of Love versus Greed and Power. In the Valkyrie, the theme is Lover versus Law. In Siegfried, he practically defines Love as Freedom (from law and greed), and in Twilight of the Gods, he develops Love as a redeemer for those who resign themselves to it.

Virtually all of the sagas available to Wagner came out of Iceland, centuries after the isolated island had become Christianized by force. Transmitted with both apologist and euhemerist views, Wagner took the Myths as proto-science (explaining the mysteries) and proto-psychology (explaining ourselves).

Wagner was dead before Hitler was even born. However, Wagner's anti-Semitic views had been published, and he stooped to inventing a character in the Cycle who mimics the public caricature of greedy Jews -- although the character is in fact, a Germanic divinity. The Nazis did not invent anti-Semitism, or much of anything else. Nor do anti-semites, even talented ones, bother with logical consistency or decency. And to be "fair", Wagner did not express any great love for Germans or "Deutschland" -- which was not yet an independent united State, but from its various communities he had to flee on several occasions, and in which his music was banned until 1861.

So, what did Herzl draw from the musical dramas which had been drawn from ancient pagan poetry by a talented "Romantic" German exile?

Herzl was inspired to create Zionism. It was the only, the ONLY, remedy for anti-semitism. His fellow-German's artistry and the bardic ideas about community-building helped shape the concept of a Jewish homeland. Recovery of what was lost. Herzl, the Founding Father of Israel, was a devoted, lifelong Wagnerian.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bold Action and Big Ideas

President Obama said, as he took the office he is re-making: "History reminds us that, at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas."

Somehow, incredibly, there are folks who hear this challenge and think that he meant "bold talk and big government". No. Just not what he said, and not what he is leading us toward. Still, where are the bold and the brave? Who has ideas, large and looming with hope?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Financial Crisis - Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. and the Cause

Former Secretary of Treasury Henry M. Paulson, Jr. has written a book entitled ON THE BRINK; Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System. His account is revealing. He clearly had no concept of any oversight function, although he had a background and employment exposure to investment banking opportunities and risks.

Of particular note is that he dealt with the crisis -- as it came to a head in the 48 hours (48 hours!) preceding the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 13, 2008 -- by seeking to find another lender to cover the obligations which were due. In other words, he was trying to solve a situation created by bad loans (securities tied to defaulting mortgages) by finding a bank willing to chase good money after bad. Knowing the nature of the toxic assets, he looked for a sucker.

When Barclays (President Bob Diamond) was unwilling to make the deal because the British Financial Services Authority (Finance Minister Alistair Darling) did not support it, "we were beside ourselves". To the group of CEO's he had assembled in his lobby, he blurted, "The British screwed us!" I'll bet he used other words. He was "stunned" that Mr. Darling was unwilling to permit him to unload the problem "on the British tax payer".

In the book, Mr. Paulson falls upon his faith (Christian Science). He asks his wife "to pray for me". She immediately quotes Timothy II, 1:7 : "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind".

The problem is that he admits he kept bottles of pills -- sleeping pills -- which is medication prohibited by his invoked religion and contrary to the Scientist belief that he cannot sleep. In addition, exactly WHAT is he fearing? For his failure to find a sucker to be the last one holding the bag of increasingly toxic assets? Does he understand that the only "risks", the only thing at stake, is the collapse of Lehman, and of course, with that, the spiraling problems that would hit the insurer, AIG.

However, the real danger was that the failure of large financial institutions would cause all of his chums to lose their shirts. All of his associations were with investment bankers. (He had been Chairman of Goldman Sachs).

In Spring 2007, Secretary Paulson told an audience at the Shanghai Futures Exchange that "An open, competitive, and liberalized financial market can effectively allocate scarce resources in a manner that promotes stability and prosperity far better than governmental intervention."[19] He actively lobbied to remove all regulatory oversight from the financial industry while at the same time subjecting consumer rights organizations (lawyers, loan modification consultants, etc) to increased and burdensome regulation).

In August 2007, Secretary Paulson explained that U.S. subprime mortgage fallout remained largely contained due to the strongest global economy in decades.[20] The economy was already tanking and was way down from the levels reached during Clinton.

On July 20, 2008, after the failure of Indymac Bank, Paulson reassured the public by saying, “it's a safe banking system, a sound banking system. Our regulators are on top of it. This is a very manageable situation.”[21] He had to know that the people pretending to be "our regulators" were in fact the predators who had already scammed homeowner-borrowers by placing them into inappropriate loans and OptionARMS.

On August 10, 2008, Secretary Paulson told NBC’s Meet the Press that he had no plans to inject any capital into Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.[22] On September 7, 2008, both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went into conservatorship.[23]
Quoted from Wikipedia.

Conflict, and the Effects of hate-mongering

We can despise the extreme wings of our politics all we want, but we seem to have them: Little mobberies pushed by the lies of tyrants -- perhaps the revenant Marxists, and the eruptive reactionaries, anyone willing to boil the stew. Anyone crying that compromise "makes you look weak"!

We have no better example of the instructively negative consequences of extremism than what can be drawn from the modern epoch's history of France. Of course, it is difficult to avoid the simple allure of the earlier milestones composed by the ancien regime, the Revolution, and Napoleon. None of those events, however, glittering, bloody, and instructive, were "modern".

The tumultuous era from 1830 to 1905 has been narrated by Frederick Brown, author of FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE (2010). In this period, France ingested four different Constitutions, three dynasties, two republics, three revolutikons, one coup that worked and two that did not, two civil wars, one defeat in war that led to the German occupation of one-third of the country, two major financial scandals (neither of which involved Jews) that destroyed most savings accounts, and of course, the "trial of the century" -- the judicial and military scandal known as the Dreyfus Affair.

Now here is the lesson: What was The Cause of this turmoil? How did a nation that had brilliantly used accomodation and compromise to finally recover from centuries of corrupt oppression (Bourbons), the extremes of ideological terror (Robespierre, Orleans), and loss of almost all of its fighting age men (Napoleon), only to erupt again into chaos? What was the unrelenting driver for this self-destruction?

We know there is almost a genetic tension between Conservative and Liberal. In France, according to Brown, most of the turmoil during this period in France stemmed from battles between the conservative royalty/church clerical camp on the one side and the liberal or communard seculars on the other. And the conflict was painfully self-destructive. Even when the Protestant Prussians invaded in 1870, the two camps failed to reconcile.

Interestingly, the defeats and injuries suffered by France only further inflamed the idiotarian extremes of both these wings. Die-hard reactionaries (notably the L'Ordre Moral, and the pretender to the throne, Count de Chambord) took the defeat as God's punishment for the sin of failing to adopt the papal infallibility of Pope Pius IX. Secularists insisted that the losses were the result of betrayal of the Enlightenment thinkers who had created the Republic. Grace, whether divine or inspired by human creativity, was taken off the table. Again, as before, blood ran down the gutters, coloring the Seine red.

What is striking in this conflict is that as the tide of history rises against the clericals, they resort to more extreme and outlandish behavior, and ultimately, to an unprecedented degree of Hate-Mongering. After the misbegotten coup of 1889 led by the reactionary general, Georges Boulanger, the clericals sought to rally the public by claiming religious affiliation. Ironically, the means they adopted was to launch an anti-Semitic campaign. Thus, the attention of the world was diverted from the crimes, corruption and incompetence of the French rulers and military -- which had NO Jews (except for draftees and a jr. officer, Captain Dreyfus) -- to the fictions and false accusations made against shopkeepers and cobblers, the Jews. The hate-mongering took the forms of false charges against Dreyfus (blaming a Jew for the collapse of the French Army), the virilent fiction of the "Elders of Zion", etc.

The take-away point today is that we see the reactionaries now taking the same course -- in response to the rise of Obama liberals, the conservatives resort to hate-mongering and the scape-goating of blacks and Jews (compare, Dreyfus Affair). The Conservatives -- the true Conservatives -- should not do this. However, it is irresistable to the royal houses trying to stay in power and fearing the anger of the mob should the public ever demand an accounting.