That Saying About: “Too Good To Be True ..?” In Western Democracies …

Voting MachineThere were radio quiz shows that provided impressive prize money to successful participants. We recall one called: “The $64,000 Question” at which the prize was said to be that amount of money, handed out on the spot to its winner.

Such shows were highly rated, with important sponsors and large audiences. They tended to last a while, gradually see ratings decline and then disappear. Whereupon some new version would presently appear. Some were accused and a few, proven to be frauds, with winners selected by producers, plays put on with casts and scripts calculated to maximize those ratings.

The shows characteristically sent out a coach to ‘warm up’ the live audience that filled theater seats to watch the show. That warm up largely consisted of instructing the attendees to clap, laugh and cheer on cue during the show. To magnify those effects and in case the audience failed to respond as wanted, recorded ‘laugh tracks’ were used by the sound man; a factotum always present in radio to provide appropriate sounds to accompany the script, a necessary auto crash, pistol shot, music, or here, audience laughter or applause. Little was left to chance; too much money was involved. Quite naturally as TV replaced radio, the function of the old sound man was replaced by the purveyor of “special effects” who also appeared on movie sets. Virtual reality is no new concept.

From time to time, given the investments present, a quiz show scandal would hit the headlines, it would leak out somehow that a particular show was “fixed” a fraud, not what it purported to be. It was always important that winners be seen as simply lucky or skilled members of the general public; that you could expect to cash in as well as the ordinary folk you listened to or watched. It had to seem “real.” Naturally, it usually wasn’t. That ‘too much money’ thing operating, right? When the reality of the unreality leaked, such shows would vanish for a while, until enough new listeners or viewers had been born and grown up to fill in a sufficient number of new suckers, per Barnum’s prescription of: “A sucker is born every minute.” Too, it helps that we want to be entertained, to hope for good fortune, to believe.

The pattern lives today, in the ever present state lotteries and proliferating casinos. The old ‘something for nothing’ shtick, in short. Rule by Lady Luck. YOU could win!

This brings to mind another side of this pattern, a very big bucks contest where some winner is selected by what amounts to in the end, Lady Luck or in this case, the momentary mindset of large numbers of voters. We refer to elections.

Elections entertain millions but there are only two producers every time: Democrats and Republicans. They alternate at success, as a response to the degree of affront felt by voters from the incumbents. The salient clue to the fix is the absolute failure of either side after winning, to change anything significant remaining from the predecessor.

The producers remain the same and as with the old quiz shows and presently, “Dancing With The Stars” on TV, they count the votes. Voters take their word for the result. It is assumed that they, with the largest interest in the outcome and enormous power and money involved, will keep each other honest. In a country where “crony capitalism’ has large business donors contributing equally to both parties …

Most places now use some form of computerized voting. Nobody knows how the results are actually obtained; the voting machines are provided by a few relatively small and very secretive producers who compete for the contracts with remarkably limited publicity and whose help is often required to obtain the election counts. Usually in locked rooms without any uninvolved witnesses. Add that in case after case in other places, dictators have used this process to control elections. But the U.S. and a few other places in Europe, no matter the level of general depravity, seem never to have a scandal about state lotteries, casinos or voting. Unlike every other aspect of government, those must be on the up and up, right?

Posted in Government, Policics, Voting | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

News Media’s Movie Set, Financial Reality and Echoes of Palm Sunday

WORLD FINANCE or PALM SUNDAY ... What a Difference a Few Days Can Make

What a Difference a Few Days Can Make

Well, let’s see: The ‘news’ media is helping the Obamafolk hide Russian’s invasion of Ukraine and Chin’s invasion of the Spratly Islands behind ISIS on the Iraqi/Syria border. The media and likely the White House are using the Chinese water torture on Hillary, drip, dripping bits of her various scandals lest they are forgotten as ex-Governor O’Malley is heated up for presentation in her stead.

The Prez and the Congress are selling a non-existent ‘recovery’ while hoping that the coming financial collapse will hit on the other party’s watch. (Neither wishes to channel Herbert Hoover.)

Much of Europe and the United States is staying financially afloat by borrowed and printed money, that if used by a citizen, would jail him for fraud, counterfeiting and nonpayment of debt. 

In short, the U.S. and the E.U. both have too many people too dependent upon government benefits that cost more money than those governments have available. The lenders who have made this possible are now worrying about repayment; the bond giant Pimco just worried whether the E.U. can continue.

If the governments can’t repay their debts, the banks, retirement plans and investors holding those bonds (A bond is just an I.O.U.) will lose their lent wealth. Banks will go bust for inadequate capital. Stock and real estate will not sell since few will have much money; their values will fall. And a lot of politicians will not be reelected. That last part is considered serious by politicians.

Places like China and India will not thrive as the U.S. and E.U decline, these ‘developing’ economies need customers. A falling tide grounds all boats, to paraphrase a cliche’.

Finance writers are wondering if the U.S. dollar might be the trigger for this cycle. It is becoming worth more as the Euro and Yen lose value. The dollar really isn’t worth more, but enough folks prefer it so it is enjoying a rising exchange rate. That makes repaying borrowed dollars more expensive.

Two things produce this: The Euro and Yen folk are printing more money, diluting their value by comparison with the dollar. And the Fed has all but shrieked on a bullhorn that it intends to raise interest rates, making the dollar more expensive to borrow. What any currency will be worth the day after the next collapse though, likely amounts to about a tinker’s damn as grandpa used to say.

For the moment, we can have some faith in the Swiss Franc, as the Bank of Switzerland had to give up the financial Russian Roulette played by the big boys. But comes the day too few customers can buy Swiss exports, that too will become a trap.

But a decent wine can be had for less than $5 a bottle, carne asada is, if not as good as a New York steak, still worthy and for the moment, gasoline is what passes today for affordable. Eat, drink and be merry, for today is the Christian commemoration of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem.

Of course, that didn’t last. Little in this universe seems to last; including financial collapses.

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GLEANINGS FROM THE PASSING SCENE … (Politically Uncorrected)

Alfred_E__NeumannA week full of significance, we believe; see how it strikes you …

Uber is targeted in Germany and under fire in Paris. (We don’t need no stinking new business models!)

A Woman was shot in the head in a road rage incident. (Will military helmets be added to seat belt requirements?)

The Feds are financing research at Rutgers University to provide a system that will automatically identify cyberbullying on the Internet. The system will monitor keywords, etc. We note that this will have to, in order to be effective, monitor the entire Internet. Will it limit itself to looking for cyberbullying? Well, you may ask the NSA, right?

Brain research has found a chemical that changes individual behavior to more social accommodation. (How long before the government expands the list of mandatory inoculations?)

Wetbacks with President Obama’s work permits are being hired as police officers, per report.

A Girl 12 tries to poison her mom for seizing her iphone.

Police in Chicago and other places are fighting to hide their use of cell phone surveillance tech, with or without court orders. (All together now: Big Brother is watching! We love Big Brother!)

Ground beef rose to a new record high. (Imagine its cost if we had inflation!)

Drones  are tracking stray dogs in Houston TX. (Hmnn … How about stray husbands, delinquent debtors and folk who speak ill of government?)

The Amish are under eviction (from their own property) and a $42,000 fine for refusing to comply with  County codes requiring smoke alarms, etc. (Religious beliefs used to matter.)

Payday Lenders are being forced out of business as the Department of Justice leans on lenders who finance them. (We don’t need no damn desperation loans!)

A Bullets divide the Army from the  Marines to the annoyance of Congress. The ammo fits the same rifle, but the Army version is environmentally friendly, while the Marine bullet actually kills people. Congress doesn’t want to pay for two bullets when one is cheaper …

A video presents a Cornell University Dean saying that ISIS is welcome on campus.

47% of US households are able to save nothing. US healthcare and Social Security are both in massive deficits. (Can you do the math?)

18 Girls and 1 boy were arrested after a mass fight in Elmira High School’s lobby. All racial identifications were omitted.

Illegal Immigration: Thousands of unaccompanied kids are still entering US. A new immigrant enters US every 33 seconds, per the US Census..

A Woman enraged at bacon missing from her burger, shot through McDonalds’ drive through window. (Remember when they said that if a woman were President, we’d have no wars?)

Federal Tax collections set new, all time records but still can’t keep up with the spending.

Iran continues to deny access to UN nuclear inspectors, as it has for years. (President Obama appears to find inspection unnecessary?)

Per the UN, the world’s worst violator of Women’s rights: Israel!

Parents are being arrested and jailed  for kids’ truancy in Florida. Also in Long Beach CA, Portales, NM (Daily Journal 3/26) and other places. (That will put those kids back under their brainwashing!) Imagine how this would be handled if we lived in a police state?

Now that our Prez seems to bless Iran’s nukes, Saudi Arabia is now interested in nukes. (The Prez is indeed leading the world …)

Pregnant employees must be accommodated, per the Supreme Court in the UPS case. Moms to be will henceforth rely upon the necessary higher prices to keep their jobs, whether they can perform them or not. (We suspect that some employers will be hiring fewer women.)

U.S. armed forces will practice a covert takeover of the American Southwest in July, on a massive scale. Why? Depends … Right wingnuts see it as preparation for imposing martial law upon the most independent part of the U.S. Left wingnuts see it as necessary preparation for putting down rebellion. We see it is the next logical step after stockpiling ammo, setting up prison camps and empowering the military to imprison anyone deemed suspicious without due process of law … all of which are already in place. That’s just existing law and logic. As for this practice: You know as much as we do.

A naked woman arrested at Dunkin Donuts said that her dance group dared her to do it.

And so has fled another week, nor can we blame it …

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Does The Middle East Model The World?

Frog ScorpionIt requires a strong grasp of reality to deal with the Middle East. The classic story is of the frog and the scorpion on the bank of the Nile. The scorpion asked the frog to convey him to the other side, the frog demurred: “You will sting me to death in the middle of the river.” “No,” said the scorpion, “That would kill me as well.” So the frog agreed and they set out across the Nile. In the middle, the frog felt the scorpion’s sting and as both began to sink, asked why the scorpion had doomed them both? “I don’t know,” the scorpion said. “This is the Middle East.”

Replace frog and scorpion with Sunni and Shia Moslemsl; behind them Sunnis, line up Arab tribes; behind the Shia, line up Iranian Persians. Sweeten the mix with ignorance and poverty. Toss in a match labeled: “Israel.” Stand well back.

Now, it seems that we may add nuclear weapons for Iraq, brokered by America’s President Obama. In reaction, Saudi Arabia announced that it will no longer eschew nukes itself. (It can hardly afford to  leave Iran with the only nuclear arms, given their centuries of struggle)

President Obama has been looking for his memorial; it appears that he will be remembered for setting off the second round of the nuclear arms race. An appropriate palm leaf cluster for his Nobel Peace Medal? God, or whomever you prefer to blame for cosmic jokes, must be laughing His head off.

Just now, Iran’s proxy Shia Yemenis are taking over Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and several other Sunni Arab constituencies have invaded Yemen to stop that. Iran is threatening. But the U.S. and E.U. are supporting the invasion; there isn’t much Iran can do and it is gaining its nukes and doesn’t, we presume, wish to jeopardize that.

The question now becomes, not what will happen in Yemen (who cares?) but what will happen in Islam. Will the Sunni/Shia combat spread, or stay in the Middle East? It is at bottom, a reaction against modernity, an intolerable presence to seriously doctrinal Moslems. (And to such Christians, too?)

Islamic civilization seems to be self destructing of its own contradictions in the face of modernity at a price of increasing amounts of blood. In the West, the same seems true of its founding Christianity, with less bleeding involved. Well, unless you count aborted babies …

On a wider scale, our species seems to be tearing down the major structures upon which it has erected its primary civilizations. Any replacement structure is as yet not obvious. That we are leaving behind that which has upheld us seems obvious. Quo vadis, domine?

Posted in Christianity, Islam, Middle East | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Yemen: Arab Invaders, Local Rebels, Iranian Meddlers and Qat.

SunniShiaAncients today may remember the lyric: “Bloody Mary’s chewing betel nut” from the musical “South Pacific.” Pacific Islanders chewed it for the low grade high it provided, ignoring, as it is addictive, the accompanying red smile it produced. In Yemen, the equivalent is qat (or if you prefer, khat.) And it doesn’t give you red teeth.

Yemen is the poorest of the Middle East places; a cheap drug happy to grow there is well received. And also exported for a few bucks of export income, if mainly locally. That is not why Yemen is in the news though; rather it is a result of wider interests. Nobody really cares about Yemen. Generally, anyway. Even Yemenis, so long as they have enough Qat.Yemen

But the Middle East is presently aflame between Sunni and Shia Moslem interests, a proxy war between top dogs Saudi Arabia and Iran. Yemen has just become a failed state, the elected government fleeing the advance of Shia rebels and the Sunni tribes so far standing aside, excepting a local al-Qaeda branch. Al-Qaeda note, is Sunni Moslem, not Shia Moslem.

The advancing Shia rebels are encouraged by the primary Shia power, Iran. They are so far, succeeding.

But this bothers neighboring (Sunni) Saudi Arabia and (Sunni) Egypt. So they have invaded Yemen to stop the advancing Shia rebels. Clear so far? The Shia Yemenis making progress are in fact, a minority. The Sunni Yemenis are a majority but are to date, not piling on. The government has fled; the reels are winning, it is a civil war. Now the Saudis and Egyptians are invading as if it were their business. It is not, though it is a real concern.

The concern results from Shia Iran moving in on the Shia reels. No Sunni Arabs are happy withy Shia (non-Arab) Iranians pushing into Arabia. That perennial battle has proceeded since Biblical days, back and forth. Got that so far? (If so, kindly explain it to me, I will appreciate that.)

From a White House release today, it seems that President Obama is with the Sunni side of this, opposing Iranian interests. While he is also busy handing Iran the nukes it demands. Foreign policy can be confusing. So can Presidents. Perhaps it simply comes down to inability to stop Iran from acquiring what it wants. Foreign policy is also basic realism, sooner or later.

I hope you grasp this, there will be a quiz next Tuesday. Bottom line is, two things:

1. Persians (Iran) and Arabs have been at odds for several thousand years and show no signs of slowing down.

2. Arab Islam is split between Sunni and Shia (Think Catholic and Protestant) and neither feels ready to allow the other hegemony. Or at bottom, a right to live. Add that those Persians (Iran) are Shia, though not Arab.

All that is without tossing in Jews and Israel.

So now, you understand what is and isn’t going on in Yemen. Here, have a few Qat leaves to chew; you’ll feel better.

Posted in Islam, Shia, Sunni | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Israel Can Handle Enemies; Who Will Save It From Its ‘Friends?’

Obama IsraelWWII Axis powers being big time anti Semites, the somewhat less anti-Semitic (and less public about it) victorious Allies magnanimously offered Europe’s remaining Jews their ancient homeland, recently liberated from the Turks. Neither Jews nor Moslems already in residence were consulted.

Theory likely was that it would finish removing the unwanted Jews from Europe and if they didn’t just disappear in the Middle East, the local Moslems would take care of it. As usual, the Jews failed to do as wanted; they created modern Israel in spite of all, fighting off all of Arabia to do so.

In a new wave of European and in America, Left wing anti-Semitism, the Obama Administration has not only publicly snubbed the Israeli Prime Minster, but invested money and personnel into Israeli election politics to prevent his reelection. The story was that the Obamafolk retained America’s traditional love of Israel; it was just Bibi Netanyahu that they couldn’t stomach.

But about a month ago, the truth came out: the Obama Administration is throwing Israel under the bus in favor of the Arabs. The Department of Defense has declassified its report on Israeli nuclear weapons., putting it into public reach.

It has been assumed that Israel has nukes but it has never been verified nor has Israel ever reported on it. This stance has held off a mid-Eastern arms race while at the same time, deterring attackers who had to wonder what they might unleash by attacking.

By releasing its detailed analysis of Israeli capabilities, the U.S. has scrapped that and challenged all the local Israeli enemies, including Iran, to secure their own nukes, since it is now public that the Jews have them.

It seems increasingly obvious that Obama intends to bless Iran’s acquisition of nukes (in lieu of any other alternative short of invasion) using an alleged delay and supervision as cover. That is a joke; the U.N. inspectors assigned to Iran are still refused either access or information they need for their job. Iran is laughing at Obama as it has long laughed at the U.N.

And the “threat” of a now overtly nuclear Israel will be used to incite the Arabs and Iran to hasten to ‘protect themselves’ from the Jewish threat. If the Middle East has seemed a tinder box to date, the new conditions sparked by this move of the Obama Administration throws gasoline onto the fire. Add to this, the White House is now rumored to be ‘considering’ supporting the Palestinian Arabs in the U.N.

It is hard to avoid noticing that this deliberate acceleration of the world’s nuclear arms race, round two, is a creation of the recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize,

Posted in Israel, Moslems, President Obama | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Long Road And Short Progress Of Homo Sapiens’ History

Mohenjo-DaroMost of us are aware at least vaguely, of Rome; an empire some two thousand years in our past. We marvel at its running water, supplied by aqueducts. At its six story apartments, its fast food joints, paved streets and underground sewers. At its radiant heating. How can all these be two thousand years old? What does that say about us?

Many fewer of us are aware of Mohenjo-Daro. It was a fired brick (not mud brick) city in the Indus valley. It was laid out on a planned grid, with paved streets, indoor bathrooms and underground sewers. We don’t know who built it and lived in it because it was at least two thousand years old when Rome was an Empire. In that light, Roman accomplishments seem less impressive.

The real question then, should not be how the Romans attained so much, but rather: How did it take us so long to attain so little more? In 1910, only 12% of American homes had bathrooms, though they were then over four thousand years old.

We have a theory about that. We all know that mighty empires have appeared and then disappeared in human history. Any of us who have been parents know that teenagers reject painfully acquired parental experience in favor of their own desires. That is needed if our children are to attain adult independence.

We know too that our children will make mistakes as they exercise their growing adulthood. We did that before them. But it is necessary if they are to stand on their own feet in future.Those mistakes of ignorance are a price our species pays in order to build a new generation, a new future.

And those mistakes also provide the wherewithal that founds that new future. They are blasting powder that frees our descendants of the fetters of a preceding society.

There are no guarantees; many new societies are stillborn, which may explain the four or five thousand years between Mohenjo-Daro and us. But nevertheless, here we finally are, marveling at the ruins pf Mohenjo-Daro.

It seems clear that we are disassembling our Christian Western society. To those of us with accumulated experience and historical knowledge, it seems pure destruction that our young are waging against what we have made. They are the new iconoclasts.

But we cannot see what will, eventually, be the result of that destruction. If history is a guide, seeing it, we would not understand it. But as with all parents, it is not given to us to live in the world of our children.

We have made an imperfect world; so will they; we are the same species. But as today has improved upon Mohenjo-Daro, let alone Rome, we can hope that our childrenss’ world will be better than ours, at least eventually, That has been our pattern, after all.

Of course, there are no guarantees: Mohenjo-Daro ruins are today, crumbling from neglect in Pakistan. Whoever or however one sees our origin, there is humor involved …

Posted in Archeology, History, Human Profress, Humanity | Tagged , , | 2 Comments