Monday, June 29, 2009

"Madoff Took $60 Billion And All We Got was This Lousy 150 Years"

So Bernie Madoff, thief and swindler, got 150 years in prison, and will likely die there.

Ehhhhhkselent, Smithers.

I read how Ruth Madoff was weepy weepy about her husband's fraud and how "devastated" she is; and that "I am embarrassed and ashamed. Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."

Ruthie? You drove a dream car, lived in a dream home, and lived a dream life. The money you thought was 'honestly' gained was (among other things) not merely stolen but the fruit of human extermination. The Picower Foundation and other abortionist organizations gave the fruits of their murders to your husband to 'invest.' He stole them, and you enjoyed them.

And even if he HADN'T have stolen them, you still enjoyed them.

Sorry.

No.

Sympathy.

Whatsoever.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Heard the News Today (Oh Boy)

We also note the passing today of Michael Jackson. He was 50.

(As if you can possibly have avoided hearing that news. For the next week it's gonna be All Jacko, All The Time. Bleah.)

But anyway. Say what you will about his revolting personal life--well, he was like King Solomon. An example of what happens when you are simply too damned successful, too young. You wind up with the equivalent of a thousand concubines and a hat full of pagan idols, starting with your own self.

Ask yourself, reader: could YOU have handled worldwide fame and a billion dollars worth of spending cash better than he did? Be glad you haven't been asked to.

In the end: This is the Michael Jackson that should be remembered.



ADDENDUM

Demerol.

Christ have mercy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

+Farah Fawcett (1947-2009)



Goodnight, sweetest Angel.

Goodnight.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mis-Adventures with Debentures


[Executive Summary: This is the fourth part of an irregular series of essays about the United States Dollar--what it really is, and what the boys in Washington are doing with it and will do with it.]

Imagine if you will if you had a bank, worth $1 billion--that being the amount out in loans today.

(Okay. As long as we're dreaming, I want a Maserati, Detroit Tiger season tickets, and a date with the first lady of France.)

But anyway...

For a billion-dollar bank, Federal law says you have to have the equivalent of $100,000,000.00 in funds in a vault. This is called your "reserve." You don't have $100 mil in real funds on hand; no bank (other than a Federal Reserve branch bank, which is a different critter) in its right mind keeps that kind of cash on hand.

They would have, however, other papers that are, or should be, worth $100 mil in its possession in order to stay in business. Such high value papers are called "Securities." Banks have to be very careful that their "securities" are "secure." Not just physically secure, but financially secure. For starters, the bank (generally) can't own stock. Bonds only. Furthermore, independent rating companies give the bonds ratings, starting from "AAAA" (U.S. Treasury notes) down to AAA, AA, A, BBBB, etc, down to D, which are wastepaper debentures (corporate junk bonds). Banks aren't supposed to have D bonds and if they do they don't count toward the reserve required.

What happened was this: imagine, if you would, if someone went into a bank with a magic wand, waved it three times, and said to the manager, "Yanno, those AAA bonds in your vault? They're now worthless--they're all junk bonds. I'm changing their ratings from AAA to D. And you can't use D bonds toward your reserve. So, your reserve just dropped from $150 million to $50 million. You're required by law to have $100 mil in the vault. Better do something quick or we shut you down!"

That "something quick" consists generally in calling in loans. Like RIGHT NOW. A bank can go to the "Fed" to get money out, but what happens if all the banks have this happen at once (like last September)? Everyone wakes up one morning and, if they're a banker, they have a nervous breakdown. Which is what happened in September.

Here's how it happened.

****
Now I'm no financial wizard, but here's a good explanation of where it started when what went wrong, went wrong. (Warning: it's uses naughty language and may not be safe for work.) It's a PowerPoint presentation that uses stick figures and funny dialogue to sum up the whole story.



Read it. Go ahead. I'll wait.

The CMOs didn't even need a downturn in housing prices to go bad. Housing prices just needed to go flat. And that was all it took.

With bankers and investors swearing at each other over the phone about the non-payments not being made, someone decided that the CDOs and CMOs were as crappy as the loans that underlay them. More specifically, happened on September 2008 was the after effect of someone at Moody's or one of the other bond-rating organizations, in April of 2008, doing exactly that, in their official capacity. (Without bothering with a magic wand.) They decreed that Collateralized Drawing Obligations, or "CDOs" and Collateralized Mortgage Obligations, or "CMOS" to be, not AAA grade investments, but D grade investments.

Poof. Zillions in reserve funds go bye bye. And they have to sell these CDOs and CMOs to boot. Which nobody will buy.

All of a sudden a WHOLE LOTTA BANKS have to come with money from SOMEWHERE to meet their reserves, or they shut down.

To do this, they have to stop lending money to anybody.... which is what happened. Nationwide, systematically, and overnight. It's as if a quarter-to-half-a-trillion dollars beamed up to the Enterprise, never to be seen again. (One friend of mine in DC tells me that CITIBANK's president was half an hour away from closing every CITI ATM and bank branch in the country at the time of the meltdown in September.)

And your average banker then asks: "WHADDAWEDONOW??!?".

So. A lot of really, really, really big banks bought a lot of these "CDOs" and "CMOs" These CDOs/CMOs were fancy paper wrapped around rotting fish heads which were the essentially worthless subprime mortgages they had been issuing for years.*

(*Small digression here. The bullshit subprime mortgages were issued by the banks with a gun held to their heads by the Federal government by means of the Community Reinvestment Act. However, these same banks which sold the mortgages at gunpoint cooked up the CDO's all on their own without any help from the Federal government.)

So. What we have here is the financial equivalent of this line from "Armageddon":

Imagine a firecracker in the palm of your hand. You set it off, what happens? You burn your hand, right? You close your fist around the same firecracker, [clenches his hand into a fist] and set it off. Your wife's gonna be opening your ketchup bottles the rest of your life.


Had they not cooked up the CDOs, they would have been out zillions of dollars (because the bad mortgages still would have been written off) BUT the economy's hand would have been (merely) burned. But by cooking up these CDOs, they turned what should have been a small disaster into something that almost caused the entire system to blow off its right hand--to almost completely self-destruct.

By another analogy: they took a pile of manure, froze it solid with cold air, then built a skyscraper on a foundation of that frozen manure, hoping to get rent from the skyscraper to pay for the manure. What happens to the skyscraper when summer comes and the manure melts? Building faw down go boom.

So who is at fault for our current mess?

Three groups: Congressional Democrats (in particular--Chris Dodd and Bawny Fwank) are at fault for forcing the banks to make these subprime loans to those who couldn't possibly have paid them back, without some sort of government guarantee (like USG Guaranteed Student Loans of the sort that got me through college and law school).

Second, The banking "geniuses" who cooked up the CDOs were at fault for knowingly creating the financial equivalent of a financial Chernobyl.

And third, Congressional Republicans then in power were absolutely at fault for (a) not catching this thing before it exploded and (b) for deliberately not regulating the financial industry sufficiently to even catch it before it exploded.

So: Quo vadis, O Obamessiah? Where are we going now? Asking the wife to open our ketchup bottles? No? Stay tuned.

Next: Brother, can you spare 1,040,000,000,000 dimes?.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Endangered Specie: When Gold Money Isn't... Money

[Executive Summary: This is the third part of an irregular series of essays about the United States Dollar--what it really is, and what the boys in Washington are doing with it and will do with it.]






In our last episode, we talked about a dollar that was a lie--it was a piece of lead-nickel that appeared to be a 1797 United States silver dollar, but wasn't.

You see that coin up above?

It's not counterfeit. It's a picture of a $50.00 coin. Made of real gold.

But it is still a lie.

What you see is a $50 dollar gold piece. Prettiest coin design we've ever had. It should be--it was created by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, one of the great sculptors of all time.

It contains one full ounce of gold, at 99.9% purity. It was (really) made by the United States Mint.

Let's look at the reverse side for a moment:



Shore is pretty, innit?

"A Family of Eagles." By Mrs. Miley Frances Busiek.

And it says that it's $50.00.

There's even a law that says it's $50.00.

But that, again, is another lie.

* * * *

It says here that there is an effort afoot to determine the names of certain individuals who threatened jurors in a Federal criminal-tax trial in Las Vegas, NV.

Apparently, they're trying three people in that city for violating the tax laws of the United States, apparently for believing what the government told them.

And the trial has the locals there so angry, so up in arms, that some of them have threatened violence against the jurors should they convict.

Now this is a serious matter, and I'm not condoning the actions of the threateners (although I can understand why the newspaper involved doesn't want to give up the information).

The people of Lost Wages are apparently angry that these three people are being tried because they, er, actually took the United States at its word.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, some businessman is on trial for using $50 gold coins to pay as wages--then claiming in each instance that they were paid only $50.

Now, that's very interesting. Last time we discussed dollars that claimed to be dollars but were worthless--they're counterfeit. And here we have a man using perfectly legal $50 coins to pay his employees: legal tender by Federal law. And yet they're trying to put him in jail for doing what the law says he should be legally allowed to do.

Now we both know what's going on here. This character is trying to jimmy the system so that he doesn't have to pay taxes on the "$50.00" in wages he paid his employees. You, and I, ... and he ... all are aware that this was nothing more than an attempt to dodge taxes by playing games with the tax code.

Those $50.00 gold coins he paid were not worth $50.00; they were worth about $750.00 each, more or less. By using them to transact his business, he was simply avoiding paying his taxes. (The Feds, in this trial, say he was evading his taxes--a crime. Whether he was or not is a matter for the jury to decide.)

But I'm here to say this: the guy at least gets points for cleverness. Or being too clever.

By half.

But then, what does this say about what a dollar really IS?

It's simple, really. A dollar is what the Federal Reserve says it is. NOT the Federal government itself. Even when the Federal government makes "gold money," it's not making money. It's reshaping gold into a pretty shape with pretty slogans impressed in it: "United States of America." "In God We Trust." "Liberty." "E Pluribus Unum." Which may or may not mean anything anymore.

And one other pretty slogan as well in this case: "$50."

* * * *

PS. It should be noted that the gentleman in the story above was subsequently .... convicted and sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment for tax fraud and tax evasion.  Really.

"Woodie Allen Eyes The First Lady of France...."


....as well he should.

"So say we all!"




Teenagers are Better than Congress Because....

(Endlessly forwarded. Anyone know who wrote it? Email me if you do. RLK.)

Teenagers are better than Congress because. . .

1. Teens can be forced to take care of their own dirty laundry.

2. When caught in a lie, teens will admit it.

3. No one forces us to give teens more money to waste.

4. Most teens are smart enough to read something before they sign it.

5. Teens do not cuss as much when they think nobody else is listening.

6. It's easier to find out who teens are talking to on their cell phones.

7. When we get tired of hearing it, teens can be sent to their rooms.

8. Everyone understands teens need supervision when they handle weapons.

9. Teens only think they know better, Congress is convinced they do.

10. Teens grow up.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fridge Pic #012: And YOU thought YOUR job was bad?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not One Dollar



[Executive Summary: This is the second of an irregular series of essays about the United States Dollar--what it really is, and what the boys in Washington are doing with it and will do with it.]

This is, by every appearance, a silver dollar. A very rare one. I am its proud owner. Ahem.

It bears the year 1797, only the third or fourth year the United States made dollars of its own. And it's in remarkably good condition--"Extremely Fine" or better.

Dollars of the time were the same size and weight as a similar coin, called the "Spanish Milled Dollar," which was essentially standard currency throughout the Western Hemisphere. Spanish Milled Dollars ("milled" meant that the edges were reeded, like the quarter in your pocket) had been made in Mexico since 1505, and, when new, were of a highly reliable weight and purity. They passed for an amount equal to approximately five and a half Spanish dollars to the British pound. A quarter to a half dollar was a standard day's wage for an adult male farm worker of the time.

Since smaller change was rare, these coins were often cut into pieces: an eighth of a dollar--12.5 cents in the new American currency--was called a "bit." A quarter dollar was, therefore, "two bits." (A shave and a haircut, BTW, was considerably cheaper than two bits at this time.)

Now let's take a look at the back:



Interesting, isn't it? It doesn't even say that it is "ONE DOLLAR", all it says is "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA." Everyone knew it was a dollar by the fact that it was silver (when you dropped the dollar, it 'rang' like a bell), from its size, and from its weight. Marking it as a "dollar" was thought superfluous.

Coined currency with real worth, during this era, was called "Specie."

Coins, you see, were very specie-al. No joke. Coins were much preferred to the paper currency in circulation at the time--called "Continentals", a fiat currency that was by this time worth about $100.00 paper to $1.00 silver. People didn't trust paper currency (for reasons we'll discuss in a later essay) and thus preferred coin if they could get it. It was only in coin form, made from precious metal, that real money was considered to have inherent worth.

Then and now, a coin, made of gold or silver, was in fact both a statement of trust and of distrust in the government that issues it.

By putting its image on the coin, the government was putting its 'good name' guarantee that the coin so marked was a "real" coin: that it (say) really was a dollar's worth of silver, of standard weight and purity: that is, that the silver had not been diluted by base metals, or "debased".

It was also a symbol of distrust in that people who wanted coins in transactions demanded that the coin as such was a REAL THING having REAL WORTH--and that in accepting coin (rather than say paper currency) you were saying that you really wanted to have REAL VALUE in trade rather than an accounting entry, which all that paper currency really is. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)

But. Even coins were not entirely trustworthy, as here.

You see, this "silver dollar" is, in fact, utterly bogus.

A coin collector can easily spot the flaws, but I'll lay them out for you. The date is entirely in the wrong position; it should be much closer to the rim. Secondly, the picture you see on the back--the "Heraldic Reverse"--was not used in 1797 coins, but rather on 1798 coins (and later). American Silver Dollars of the year 1797 had an eagle on the back holding a wreath in its mouth: the eagle was particularly scrawny and unimpressive and also did not hold up to wear well, hence the change in design.

But that's not all. You can't really tell from the picture, but the coin is not silver. It's far too dark and dingy--apparently a lead-nickel mix of some sort was used to make it. Drop it on a table top and it does not go "ring," it goes "thud."

And the weight is off.

And the reverse is not offset 180 degrees from the obverse as a coin is (take one out of your pocket and look at it: coins are, by tradition, always rotated opposite sides between the front and back; this particular one, they're not).

In short, this "silver dollar" is in fact a lie. It is neither silver, nor a dollar; it was not made in 1797, but more likely around 1997. Or later. It says "United States" but is in fact likely a product of the Chinese metalworking industry.

I'd like to be charitable and say that, given the huge number of easily spottable flaws, that this thing is what coin collectors call a "fantasy piece"--that is, meant to be a mere souvenir, rather than a serious attempt at counterfeiting.

Nevertheless, the dimwitted could still be fooled.

As here.

The original owner (not me, thank God) was much displeased to find it decreed bogus. He had paid some $800.00 for the thing in the far east, where such counterfeits are common. He was trying to sell it in the States for $1200.00. I bought it from a dealer for $12.00.

Wouldn't it stink to think you had something that was worth a thousand dollars and to have it turn out to be worth (almost) nothing?

Imagine if the man had taken it to the bank and said, "I want to borrow money from you. Here is a $1000.00 coin. I want to leave it with you as security."

How would the bank react after (a) issuing a $1000.00 check to the man and then (b) finding it was utterly bogus and worth nothing? They'd be seriously ticked.

They'd also be seriously broke, or at least out ten large.

Multiply this little example of this one bogus coin by a billion times, and you have the basis for the banking meltdown that occurred last September, shortly before election day.

[Next: we have a few adventures with some counterfeit debentures.]

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Funeral for a Friend: Tiger Stadium (1901-2009)



God help us.

This is Tiger Stadium, or what's left of it. This is a view from across Trumbull Street. The open gaping hole to your right is the edge of the last section of the stadium left still standing.

And even this last section they have begun to demolish at last.

For five generations, the words "Michigan and Trumbull" meant joy. Now it's a symbol of the death of this city.

In a city of two million now shrunk to a third or less of that number--where GM now means Government Mandate, Chrysler is Fiat by fiat, where rotting corpses of homes by the thousands blight the city, where a hundred auto suppliers are now bankrupt--where our new mayor, a basketball star, has no resources to achieve any improvement at all--where white and black stare at one another balefully across a foul trench called Eight Mile, and both stare, equally balefully, at the Arab community in Dearborn--we desperately needed some hope that the city was not doomed.

Instead: this.



They were supposed to save this last section and turn the field area into a park. It took them ten years to determine they couldn't even do that. Now it's just another rubble pile, soon to be just another empty lot where the pheasants will nest.

I know, we all know and have always known, that the tired old lady had to go.

Columnist Ron Dzwonkowski of the Detroit FreepNews put it pretty well: the rotting corpse of Tiger Stadium was a monument to a city run by The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight--the bureaucratic equivalent of Keystone Kops.

This is about what Tiger Stadium was allowed to become in its final decade: a big, ugly symbol of a community that can't get things done. Couldn't save it, couldn't remove it. And so it stood, rotting, and sending a horrible message....When such an obvious eyesore as Tiger Stadium is allowed to languish for a decade, what hope is there for getting a vacant building torn down in a neighborhood? Or resolving the fate of the Michigan Central Station, the city's signature symbol of blight? The sprawling old Packard factory that catches fire once a week?


Indeed. It had to go, and I guess now as as good a time as any.

But.

Still.

We cannot deny that this was the last thing that unified our home city, the last place left where our people, elsewhere so infected with mutual ethnic hostility and rage, could come together and be as one, at least for a couple of hours a day.

In Virginia, they obsess about 1865. Here, it's all about 1967.

Except at Tiger Stadium.

Back in the day, that is.

Yes, I know that we have a nice new stadum, just two miles thataway. It's called Comerica Park--named after a bank, formerly "The Detroit Bank and Trust", that, last year, moved its headquarters to Dallas, and taking all of its jobs with it.

And lovely as it is, the audience is now as white as the Tigers' home-field uniforms. The old unifying aspect of the park is gone, along with everything else that made this city great.

This is no mere building demolition.

It is clear that the death and destruction of Tiger Stadium is our Waterloo, our Surrender on the USS Missouri, our Churchill's funeral. An undeniable symbol of our collapse and fall.

Let us remember:

We were a world class city once.

We were the "Arsenal of Democracy," the "Motor City."

We built the tanks and the ships and the planes that crushed Hitler's empire and shamed the Soviets into surrender without a shot fired.

We were the home of Norm Cash and Al Kaline, of Stevie Wonder and Mo-Town Records, of the Big Four... makers of the best cars (and the most cars!) on the planet.

A city where an ordinary man with a high school education could live the American Dream--a house, a car (or three), kids in school and a vacation up north.

We were the fourth largest city in the nation.

We even tried to compete for hosting the Olympics.

No longer.

The war between black and white, between union and management, between the greed of the haves and the greed of the wanna-haves, has finally caught up with us.

Not only has the world passed this city by, it has, in the end, left us in the dust.

I am Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair!







ADDENDUM:

Detroit's city motto is "Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus"
Latin for, "We Hope For Better Things; It Shall Rise From the Ashes"

To which I can only reply:

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;
Domine, audi vocem meam!
Fiant aures tuae intentae
Ad vocem obsecrationis meae.
Si delictorum memoriam servaveris,
Domine, Domine, quis sustinebit?


From the depths I cried to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears attend the voice of my supplication.
If you, O Lord, remember only our iniquities,
Lord, Lord, who can survive it?


- Leonard Bernstein, "The Mass", 1969

We must trust in Him now. We have no other choice.

God help us.

Flag Day 2009





Nothing more need be said.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Tale of Two Pennies



[Executive Summary: This is the first of an irregular series of essays about the United States Dollar--what it really is, and what the boys in Washington are doing with it and will do with it.]

This is a story about two coins.

It is also a story about my future and yours.

Let's start with the coin pictured above. That's a penny--i.e, a U.S. one cent coin. A rather battered 1839 "Large Cent, Coronet Type," according to R.S. Yeoman, the godfather of American coin collecting. The last "Large Cent" was made in 1859; starting in 1860 the Small Cent (present sized) replaced it.

This coin is in "Good" condition, as a coin collector would term it; it's in "crappy" condition, as you or I would say.

I got it at a coin shop this week for $5.00, pulling it out of a grab bag.

Let's look at the back:



Very simple: a wreath, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and ONE CENT.

Back in the old days, and I mean the OLD days, they used to produce "pennies" that actually contained about 1 cent (as valued then) in copper. They were about double the size of a present day penny, and about 3x present day weight. (Today's pennies, which are now made of zinc, are now very light and only weigh about 80% what pennies did five years ago.)

Now, let's look at this shiny NEW coin that the Federal Government is now releasing.



This is one of the new Presidential dollar coins--this particular one memorializes the general (some say war criminal) William Henry Harrison, known for his victory at the Battle of Tippicanoe... and for the fact that he died of pneumonia after spending only a month as President. He was elected President in 1840, the year following the minting of the penny above.

Let's now look at the back:



Admittedly not a great pic, but you get the idea: Statue of Liberty, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, $1.

Now let's compare the two coins directly.



They're almost identical in size and weight.

And one more fact:

Compared to $1 of 1839 money (when the dollar was still backed by gold* and was worth $20.67 for an ounce of gold) the 1839 penny shown here had a buying power of about 25 cents in present day money.... or, in comparison to the present price of gold at $940.00 per ounce this instant... the 1839 penny was worth, today, about $0.445.

Now, what's the point of all this?

First, note that in this entire essay (until now) I never used the "cent" symbol of ¢ because it's no longer on my keyboard. Why? Two reasons: First, it used to be found over the number 6, where it has been replaced by a ^ carot symbol--largely because a cent ¢ is of so little value people don't generally even think in terms of 'cents' any more. You never see it at a grocery store, even; they use the "$.00" format. Even in pop culture, the term is corrupted (like the rap star known as "50 Cent", who doesn't even bother to use a plural).

Furthermore, about twenty years ago you first started seeing (Lincoln) pennies in little boxes at the store: "Take-a-penny-leave-a-penny." Today it's not at all uncommon to see nickels and dimes in the same pots. People don't bother with it any more. Only the quarter, it seems, is still taken seriously for any commercial purpose.

But more importantly, given the present inflated state of the dollar--which stands about $26.50 being needed to buy what $1.00 did in 1913--shoud the dollar undergo another period of heavy inflation (say, 40% inflation for two or three years) the buying power of the dollar and the original buying power of the penny shall be about the same.

And so, guess what? The U.S. will finally have brought back the Large Cent.

Not by that name, of course.

Next in this series: Gotta Holla About My Brand New Dolla

Thursday, June 11, 2009

And Now, Element One-One-Twoium



It is reported that Element 112 (current name: Ununbium, or 'one-one-two-ium', symbol Uub) has been added to the Elemental Table; it is the heaviest, and most dense, element known; it is also very rare, and as far as has been determine, there has only been one atom of it detected, in some cyclotron in Germany in about 1997.

So. Dense. Heavy. Unique. What do we name it?

Helenthomasium?

Monicalewinskium?

Oprahmium?

Your guess is as good as mine.

"These are all of those of which the news has come to Hahvahd
And there may be many others, but they haven't been discahvahd."


ADDENDUM July 17, 2009

One-one-twoium is now COPERNICIUM. That's quite an honor, having an element named after you. I'm sure that somewhere he is pleased.

Of course, there were only four atoms of it ever found.... frankly I think we should take one of those two elements lamely named after some village in Sweden (Yttrium and Ytterbium) and rename one of THEM after Copernicus. Then we could rename 112ium after someone truly deserving of having four atoms with the half life of a fly's short term memory appropriately honored. Obamium, anybody?

Abomination at the Holocaust Museum

We note with sorrow the shooting of an armed guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

The shooter is a demented, perhaps senile racist who, at 88, wanted to go out with a bang.

And he murdered guard Stephen T. Johns, who shot and wounded him before dying, and in so doing saved the lives of many children and others in the museum.

Mr. Johns, thank you for your service to your nation and the truth. You died as heroically as any man serving on the front line in Afghanistan or Iraq. God bless you and grant you rest and eternal memory.

And as for the shooter--

There is a saying in Hebrew: "Ymech schemo."

And may Christ forgive me for saying that.

ADDENDUM:


A Jewish friend of mine emails me the following:

"Make up your mind. Either you're eternally cursing the man or you're not."

Let me explain what this is about.

A brilliant essay in First Things from 2003 cites a story from Simon Wiesenthal that goes like this:


In his classic Holocaust text, The Sunflower, Simon Wiesenthal recounts the following experience. As a concentration camp prisoner, the monotony of his work detail is suddenly broken when he is brought to the bedside of a dying Nazi. The German delineates the gruesome details of his career, describing how he participated in the murder and torture of hundreds of Jews. Exhibiting, or perhaps feigning, regret and remorse, he explains that he sought a Jew—any Jew—to whom to confess, and from whom to beseech forgiveness. Wiesenthal silently contemplates the wretched creature lying before him, and then, unable to comply but unable to condemn, walks out of the room. Tortured by his experience, wondering whether he did the right thing, Wiesenthal submitted this story as the subject of a symposium, including respondents of every religious stripe. An examination of the respective replies of Christians and Jews reveals a remarkable contrast. “When the first edition of The Sunflower was published,” writes Dennis Prager, “I was intrigued by the fact that all the Jewish respondents thought Simon Wiesenthal was right in not forgiving the repentant Nazi mass murderer, and that the Christians thought he was wrong.”

The essay goes on to state that among Orthodox Jews, when mention is made of an enemy of the Jewish people--whether it be Hitler, or Arafat, or our nameless gunman at the Holocaust Museum--one often hears an imprecation--"Ymech shemo"--after saying the person's name.

It literally means "Let his name be erased."

There is an interesting contrast here to a common trope in fiction: in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, and echoed in the Harry Potter books, the name of the hideously powerful force of evil in both stories is not spoken by any but the most fearless. In Lovecraft, the dark gods Cthulhu and Hastur are both referred to as "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named"; so is Voldemort in the Potter series The nameless one must remain nameless for fear that in hearing his name he (or his minions) shall be summoned and harm the speaker.

This is not what is meant by the Hebrew phrase in question.

It is a curse, an active assault on the soul: it expresses a wish and a prayer for the utter annihalation of the evil individual referred to--that he be erased: Not merely from human memory, but from eternal memory. I.e., let his soul disappear, let him never have existed.

It is, I submit, as dark a curse as can be spoken--assuming that curses, like magic spells, cause the execution of the act wished for.

Of course, the curse is, from a Christian point of view, empty: for only God, the maker of the soul, can destroy the soul (the so-called 'Second Death' of the Book of Revelations, when the soul, cast in the 'lake of fire,' is consumed). In fact, it may be impossible to destroy the soul.

On the other hand, the Old Testament is filled with numerous (rather nasty) passages where some of the various ancient Hebrews, such as Deborah, Samuel, Esther, and Samson, wish for and rejoice in the utter destruction of their enemies: Sissera the general, the sons of Haman the butcher, the king of the Amalekites, or the Philistines.

This is the morality of the Old Testament. But Christ teaches: "Love your enemies, and pray for your persecutors. When a man asks for your cloak, offer your shirt as well. When a man strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left also."

And, at Matthew 5:24-25, we are told that, before we make "an offering at the temple," we are to go first and reconcile ourselves with our brother, lest the offering be rejected.

But then it is obvious that a faithful Jew does not and should not adopt the Christian teaching's attitude of unlimited forgiveness toward the persecutor (if he did, he'd be a Christian, right?).

So. What then are we to make of Wiesenthal's lack of forgiveness?

I respectfully offer that he did no wrong.

The SS man who confessed his sins of anti-Semitism to "a Jew--any Jew", may well have saved his own soul in doing so. I cannot be sure, but what I think occurred was this: the man saw that he was about to make his ultimate 'sacrifice before the Temple' -- i.e., he was dying and about to see God -- and he needed to unburden himself of his vile atrocities and other sins and to ask forgiveness.

Whether Wiesenthal forgave him is in itself irrelevant from the point of view of the SS man. Wiesenthal, the man, simply provided an audience--and, perhaps, it WAS an opportunity for forgiveness to the man--simply by standing there and listening.*

But. Wiesenthal, in fact, did not forgive the man. Nor need he have. It would take a truly heroic, perhaps even superhuman, individual in Wiesenthal's situation to actually forgive. And I don't blame him in the least for not doing so.

But I aver that whether Wiesenthal did forgive him or not was irrelevant. Only God, in the end, could judge that SS man's soul--and erase it if, in His judgement, the man deserves it.

But if one were to wish in God's hearing, as one writer did, in reaction to the story:

Let the SS man die unshriven.
Let him go to hell.
Sooner the fly to God than he.


...one would likely hear God's reproof:

That's MY call!

So. When I wish that Mr. James Wenneker von Brunn should cease to exist for killing a total stranger at the Holocaust Museum out of naked race hatred, I suppose I should add that I don't mean it.

Much.

But I can certainly understand and sympathize with those who do.

Lord have mercy.

P.S. There's a line from Stephen King's death-row novel The Green Mile that may be relevant here. There is a scene in that book where a dead murderer, having just been executed, lies on a guerney; one of the prison guards, himself an evil man, starts to curse the corpse.

"That's enough," says the lead character, silencing him. "He's square with the house."

= = =

* The essay first included the following line here: "...(the fact that he had been ordered there at gunpoint is beside the point)."

But is it? The SS man gave a command to another guard, who caused Wiesenthal to come, willy-nilly, and listen to him. Wiesenthal was, in a way, a "forced confessor". So does that matter one way or another? Had he called a prisoner-priest at gunpoint to shrive him instead, would that shrivenness had any effectiveness? Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. I don't really know.

I can only guess, however, that if that SS man was forgiven, God still made him "pay the debt to the last penny", or, in Catholic terms, sent him to purgatory for a VERY long and terrible stay.

ADDENDUM

Andrew Breitbart hollars Jacceuse! at the leftist press for trying to make a conservative out of the Holocaust museum shooter.

Nice try, fellas. van Whazisname was about as conservative as, oh, the guy who shot the basic trainee grads in Arkansas.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!

[Executive Summary: another entry in the ongoing blog wars involving yours truly, Charles Johnson, and, in a new twist, "LGF2." Feel free to skip this one if you find such inside little league baseball boring. Which it is, really.]

[NOTE: This entry has been edited for structure but not for content since it was originally posted.]

Well, well, well.

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has actually gotten me to agree with him, there actually IS someone out there more abominable than he is.

And that's a real accomplishment.

A little background as to this silly dispute.

Blog 1: LittleGreenFootballs.com ("LGF1")

On the one hand, we have one Charles Johnson, aka "The Squire of Gothos," formerly well-respected blogmeister of LittleGreenFootballs.com, who has managed to piss off huge numbers of his own readers by carrying out large scale purges of religious believers, Catholics, dissidents, and generally people who don't agree with him in every aspect.

He (as long term readers of this silly feud will know) did not ban me personally. On or about February 14, I resigned from his blog, and sent him a 'going away present' where I excoriated him for his abominable on-line behavior. I signed it with my real name.

Charles then used this as an opportunity to out me–i.e., identify me and my personal 'pseud that I used on his blog. This is exceedingly uncool, a violation of privacy, and an all around despicable thing to do to one of your own readers and participants. This has led to a sort of a long term mutual bitching session between himself and myself. His behavior of late has been abominable, of which more presently.

In short: Charles has been randomly banning every individual he can identify who believes in Jesus. Bad move. But there are even worse characters out there on the net....

Blog 2: Defending the Defensible ("LGF 1.5")

At a particularly lame sock-puppet blog known as "Defending the Defensible", an individual, whom I am certain is Charles Johnson of LGF, posts under a pseud, "Defenseman." Defenseman's bete noir is a rival blog to LGF1.0, called "The Blogmocracy." That blog is made up of numerous exiles from Charles' web site. The obsessive nature of Defenseman's focus on LGF2 is such that the writer "Defenseman" MUST be Charles himself. The sock puppetry allows Charles to go after his self-created enemies without actually held to account himself.

In a thread here, he tries to go after a rival of Charles' named Rodan.

Blog 3: "LGF2 The Blogmocracy"("LGF2")

This rival, the so-called "LittleGreenFootballs2.com", which calls itself "The Blogmocracy," is made up of certain earlier exiles from LGF–its leaders are individuals known as "mats" [sic], "savage" [sic], "Rodan", "LanceKates", and "m", among others. Other LGF exiles comment there, but all of these above named five individuals are the ringleaders of LGF2, and have article posting privileges.

I made a courtesy introduction of self to them since they linked to my blog. No, I didn't do any research on them or their backgrounds; life is too short and I have had other things to do.

However, in joining certain discussions at LGF2, particularly here and here, it became clear that at least two of the central figures at LGF2 are self-admitted supporters of Serbian-generated genocide–in particular, the internationally-recognized slaughter of 8000 captured male Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica in July 1995. In particular, I name "Rodan" as being an open advocate of genocide (view his remarks on those threads) and I also name LanceKates as being foolishly and stupidly in accord with Rodan.

LanceKates's stance is rooted, I am sure, in ignorance, and a willingness to stand with a 'buddy'.

But Rodan exhibits just enough knowledge of the events in Bosnia to be termed a willing and full throated genocide cheerleader and thus fully culpable for his own vile words.

And it is for that reason I have disassociated myself from LGF2. First, and foremost, because I do not enjoy being physically threatened by clowns simply for disagreeing with them. But secondly, Rodan's status as a genocide cheerleader is undeniable from his vomitous posts. Since LanceKates, m, savage, et al, have taken no steps to shut Rodan's mouth, I have to assume that they either agree with him or do not want to confront a friend of theirs who has fallen off of the edge of the plate. That's their privilege; it's also my privilege not to let my name be associated with them.

So anyway, Charles, through "Defending the Defensible" (LGF1.5) is trying to use the argument between LGF2 organizer "Rodan" and yours truly to get people to separate themselves from LGF2, because Rodan is clearly exterminationist in sympathy.

Okay, Charles, you got me. I'm no longer posting to LGF2–but not because of anything YOU said. The choice not to blog there was mine own, made before your essay, but after Rodan accused me of treason and nobody else at LGF2 took action to shut him up (although "savage" did tell him to 'tone it down a bit').

But it doesn't make what you do at LGF1 any more acceptable.

COOTIES

The real issue here, is what I call "cooties."

Now cooties, as historically minded readers will recognize, are body lice of the sort that plagued trench-warriors of WWI. However, when I was growing up, "cooties" was a term used by popular girls in elementary school to stigmatize the "uncool" among their classmates. "Eeeeew, cooties!!!!" I particularly remember one girl, call her "Buffy", who used that against the uncool kids in my class on an ongoing basis, including, ahem, your humble author–back then, far more humble than now.

Short version: Charles tries to 'infect' with 'cooties' all those who disagree with him. Very girlish. Very LITTLE-girlish.

An occasional poster at "Defending the Defensible" (LGF1.5) named Perpetua put Charles' style of nonsense very well and correctly identifies it as a form of girl-on-girl aggression. I'm reposting it here with her permission (and urging my readers to visit her blog at www.perpetuaofcarthage.blogspot.com).

To wit:

It occurs to me that the way LGF is run is similar to the sort of “relational aggression” practiced by a clique of middle school girls with a “Queen Bee”. It is a sort of bullying that is not physical but emotional. As Wikipedia puts it:

“Relational aggression, also known as covert bullying is a type of aggression in which harm is caused through damage to relationships or social status within a group rather than physical violence.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relational_aggression

Wikipedia also provides this list of characteristic behaviors:

Gossip – Where the abuser tells others personal information about the victim.

Lies – Where the abuser lies about the victim to others.

Betrayal – Where the abuser breaks agreements with the victim.

Isolation – Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the victim’s friends.

Exclusion – Where the abuser prevents the victim from socializing with the abuser’s friends.

Humiliation – Where the abuser humiliates or shames the victim in front of others.

Gossip is what Charles did when he revealed the real names of people he had banned.

Isolation and Exclusion is what Charles does when he bans people.

Lies are what Charles does when he misrepresents why people were banned.

Humiliation is how the Karma system works to control what people dare to say. One is humiliated by expressing an opinion that is unpopular because the negative Karma is shown. There is even a place on the website where the most unpopular comments are displayed. Charles also humiliates people with abusive language like calling people Idiotarians because they believe in Creationism. And Walter L Newton actually writes “F**k You” at people and Charles leaves the comments and doesn’t reprimand Newton.

RLK here again. In other words, Charles is engaging in the same behavior that "Buffy" did when I was in second grade; to wit, pointing and squealing, "Eeeeewwwww! Cooties!"

Except that in this case the cooties lead to bannings and (far worse) outings.

I made a related observation in that same thread about Charles, to wit:

Richard L. Kent, Esq. Says:

May 31, 2009 at 9:26 am


Yanno, it’’s really astounding, how frakking, unbelievably *junior highish* the whole LGF loyalty test madness is.

Charles is acting like the head cheerleader of the eighth-grade squad during a time of the month. Either you hang out with her and everybody else or you’’re shit, a nobody, nonexistent, nonhuman, a ““wierdo,”” an ““extremist””.

An untermensch.

“Innie” vs. “outie” behavior. I was obsessed with that kind of mind-think when I was sixteen since I was an “outie” by right of geekdom. But I graduated, grew up, and eventually got all that crap out of my system.

This is the first time I’’ve ever encountered this kind of thuggery in the adult world.

Charles, what I have to say to you, you craven, sniviling wuss, is this:

Stop man-struating and regrow the pair of testicles that God gave you at conception. Your behavior is loathesome, beneath contempt, and utterly stupid.

Stop it.

And evolve already.

I stand by my statements, Charles. Do stop this childish behavior of yours. And evolve–i.e., grow up.

While I kinda-sorta appreciate Charles supporting me (at least against the abominable Rodan) it doesn't really justify or make acceptable what he, Charles, is doing either.

OTOH, it's clear that "Defenseman" (Charles) is just trying to divide his opposition. Nice try, Trelane.

Let me sum it up:

Charles, you're still behaving badly. Very, very badly. Stop it.

"Rodan," you are an idiot and a vile genocide cheerleader. Be silent. Be still.

To the other LGF2 guys, associating yourself with a genocide cheerleader degrades you all; reconsider doing so please.

In conclusion....

To the whole "LGF1.0 v. LGF2.0 with LGF1.5" thing, all I can do is quote Mercutio:

"A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!"

Monday, June 1, 2009

"I Got the Baby! I Got the Baby!"

Rather than focus on the weekend's abomination any further, I'd like to mention this:

On May 16, a five year old girl in Destin, Florida, saw an 18 month old baby, in a pool, fall to the bottom without her "floaties." She jumped in the water and saved the baby's life.

The little girl's name is Riley Braden.

In the immortal words of the Hokey Pokey: "That's what it's all about."

God bless you, Riley Braden. Grow and be good. We expect great things of you.

ADDENDUM JUNE 23, 2009

Riley got the highest award for lifesaving yesterday from the Girl Scouts. She's said to be either the youngest, or one of the youngest, ever to receive the award.

When asked what she liked the best about the day, she replied: "The attention!"

God bless you, Riley. God bless you.