Friday, January 15, 2016

Film Making and Reality

Looking at the upcoming academy awards, two films stand out as emblematic of the world in which we live: Short, and Spotlight. Short details the ways in which the global financial industry routinely gambles with the world’s finances, and sometimes crashes that system, then whines until the world’s governments bail them out. Spotlight discusses how the Catholic Church is fundamentally corrupt . . . really at its core.

These two issues perhaps define the two central problems plaguing the world—organized greed, and organized religion.  

Organized religion exists so as to manage a global system of organizations and individuals who make believe they understand what happens after you die. They are, if you will, the middle men or interpreters between ordinary folks and the fake gods that were invented by early man to explain death and its presumed aftermath.  These organizations and individuals pretend to be able to manage your earthly life so as to guarantee you eventual access to a desirable afterlife.  Life is really about achieving a great deathlife.  In exchange for both money (many billions) and your agreement to cede to them control over your life, they agree to chat on your behalf with their pretend gods, so that you will be treated kindly once your time on earth is done. 

It turns out that this transaction is pretty rewarding to at least many, if not most of these paid interpreters.  They get free housing, transport, servants to prepare their meals, a nice, if boring clothing collection, and little to do, except to act informed. A few, see the Pope, live like kings/emperors of bygone eras.

Some of these interpreters get to act like absolute rulers, i.e., they can order folks to be beheaded, or otherwise killed in fairly gruesome fashion (see stonings). It is important to note that none of them have actual authority via any legal system, except when they manage to declare (like absolute monarchs always do) that their religious authority is the only legal authority in the land—see all lands occupied by Arabs, Persians, and Afghans.

So, the movie, Spotlight, sheds a small light on one of these organized religious systems—the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  It turns out that its priests have been raping the children of parishioners for centuries.  Not only that, but the entire religious order, from local parishes all the way to Rome, have been aware and covering it up for centuries. Even beyond the raping of hundreds, perhaps thousands of little boys, priests also have routinely raped and impregnated their housemaids, whose resulting children refer to the priests as “uncle”.  Thus, the entire system can be viewed as morally bankrupt. Perhaps it is time to sell all of the holdings, including that neat Sistine Chapel and turn over the proceeds to charitable causes everywhere. Perhaps the unemployed priests could get jobs as Mary Kay salesmen.

It is very unclear to me just why ordinary folks grant priests of any religious order the type of authority now granted. In the Middle East, the fundamentalists, if not the priests, seem to think it’s ok to cut peoples’ heads off, a pretty far remove from priests who merely rape their altar boys.  Nonetheless, it occurs to me that it is way past time to call this whole religious thing off.  I don’t know what would then occur. As I have noted in my writings about religion, I have no idea whether people would revert to savages, and begin killing anyone they don’t like, or whether instead they would just go back to watching reruns of I Love Lucy. But I fail to see how much worse it could get than what we now have.

And then there’s the greed thing. Seems dominant even over religion as a source of the world’s troubles. And it is never more evident than in the world’s financial systems. Banking has become totally corrupted by greed. Used to be that local banks accepted your cash deposits and, in return arranged to lend your money to others for a fee, part of which they passed on to you. They also charged you small fees for handling things like checking accounts.

But then Wall Street began getting “innovative” (super greedy). They began thinking that bigger really was better (we know it almost never is). So, the more successful banks began buying the smaller banks, until now there are hardly any actual community banks still in existence. Remember the days when banks could only operate within one state???

So, now all businesses have joined the banks in their zeal to take over other smaller but similar businesses. WalMart exists actually to put out of business all small local businesses. It is their business model. Airlines keep “merging” such that soon there will be only one airline, one bank, and perhaps one store.  And conservatives worry about “big government”. Hahahahaha. Big government will never be as dangerous to the world as Big Bidness.

At some stage, Wall Street decided that gambling was good, and that actual “investing”—you know buying stocks in operating companies and hoping they would be successful enough to return some of the proceeds to the folks who buy the stocks—was “quaint”.  Instead, we began building things called hedge funds. And, even worse, we began “selling short”. Now what actually is selling short? It is a Wall Street practice in which the insiders decide they expect or want a particular stock to fall in price. So, they sell the stock, even though they don’t own any shares. Then when they succeed in depressing the stock price, they actually buy the stock at the deflated price, and keep the difference.  It’s an amazing creation of Wall Street insiders.  We know it as a form of insider trading.  Or, even gambling.

And I am always amused when state government fuss about gambling, thinking that gambling is a bad thing and needs to be carefully regulated, or even eliminated—bad form don’t you know. But no one seems even remotely concerned about the fact that our global banks gamble for a living, almost all of Wall Street is in the organized gambling business (some might think of Wall Street is a form of legalized organized crime).

And then, when their gambling bets fail to pay off, we the public taxpayer is expected to bail out these gambling institutions, so that the owners and head honchos can still get their bonuses (instead of going to prison). Yeah, it’s a great system. And much like organized religion, we the sucker public play right along.

So, I am anxiously awaiting to see what either organized religion or organized crime (oops, I mean the financial system) has in store for us this year.  Will they figure out even better ways to screw the public, while still avoiding their share of taxes, and while buying all the valuable real estate in the country via hidden trusts, so that we the public have no idea who owns what. We are really dumb creatures, aren’t we??

I have written about my own views of religion and God (two entirely separate subjects I think). Someday I may decide to share those views so that my vast readership (all three of you) are able to understand from whence springs this total antipathy towards religion. On greed and banking, well, I imagine that I am not alone in my views.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Armed Insurrection

So, what must we make of this armed militia in Oregon and the Texas Gubernator challenging the President to take his guns at his peril?  I suppose the Texan is simply doing what we have come to expect of Texas politicians—acting terminally stupidly. Although, he must surely be close to that red line, beyond which the Marshals must be dispatched to bring him into custody. Do ordinary Texans actually support this idiot?  Seems hard to believe.

But in Oregon, we really are way over that red line. I see no ambiguity there. An armed group of citizens has moved in and taken over a Federal installation.  It is immaterial to me whether that Federal institution is a wildlife refuge or the US Treasury.  They simply cannot be allowed to do that. I believe the act is called an armed insurrection, and such acts need to be countered, by force if necessary, including by deadly force.

I think we can safely conclude that, were the armed citizens a group of Muslim-Americans, or a group of Black-Americans, they would now be either dead or in jail.  I understand, though, that our President is trying to be more cautious than, say, the Ferguson, or Chicago police departments. But really, enough is enough. The Oregon insurrectionists have declared that they are peaceful at the moment, but that they would rather be killed than give up their position. And if we follow one of their leaders, Mr. Bundy, it seems that this group is classic—they do not recognize the legal authority of the US Government.  I believe that Mr. Bundy is correct when he claims that he won his standoff with the government. He is, after all, not in prison, and he still owes over a million dollars to the government. His “win” doubtless provided the fuel for the Oregon insurrectionists.  So, if we do not act and act quickly, we are creating a new basis for challenging the authority of the government on any issue of our choosing. Don’t like taxes? Buy some guns, get a group, and go take over the Treasury Department in Washington.  Don’t like the government meddling in our ability to pollute the environment (hello Koch brothers)? Get a group, buy some weapons and go take over the EPA building in Washington.

I simply do not understand why the Federal Marshall's are not already in Oregon, backed by the full armamentarium of the US Military, demanding that this bunch of thugs give up . . . or be killed.  Cutting off their power supply is cute, but hardly the stuff of powerful nations. If we are the mightiest nation on earth, perhaps we need to begin acting like it.  Either that, or withdraw our military everywhere, and slink into our respective closets and start sucking our thumbs.

And a thoughtful reader of my perhaps incautious remarks notes:

"I think the feds are going to wait them out. It's the oldest tactic of siege warfare. Block off roads and supply routes , cut power, and wait while the brutal winter sets in and then ask them to negotiate when they’re desperate . . . why go in blazing? They can fly in an Apache I, at any time. Gas the place and move in and people will get shot. It makes sense to me. If they were in a city it would be a public danger but out there they will get desperate.

It is a perfect location to wait them out. There are only so many roads to get there. If a perimeter is set up and access denied to power and provisions , eventually they will lose communications to the outside world and when they resort to survivalist mode of hunting for food, etc.,  they will find that the perimeter will keep out game, they are ill prepared and poorly coordinated for being in such a remote area . UPS and FedEx are not going to be allowed to deliver the goods that they requested. These guys have kids and families and eventually they will get weakened by the situation.

Their purpose is to incite. If not given the confrontation and martyrdom they want, they will lose steam. Isis in Syria is similar. They want a holy war with the west, only we are not rushing in with ground troops to rescue an already oppressed Syrian regime. Those who look at this as weakness do not understand military strategy."