Tuesday, March 31, 2009

PETA death squads

You've heard about PETA, People for [Allegedly] Ethical Treatment of Animals. Of course you have. They raid laboratories that conduct tests on animals, spray-paint fur coats, that kind of thing. PETA members are themselves a kind of animal species — publicity hounds.

Despite their over-the-top shenanigans, I've occasionally summoned up a drop of sympathy. For one thing, some of the people who bash them appear to be the sort who think it's ridiculous to worry about the feelings of mere animals. Only people matter, they say.

And I believe researchers who deliberately give mice, rats, rabbits, and sometimes even cats terrible diseases and injuries to test possible cures (half the animals so treated, the control group, are certain not to have their condition alleviated) do become desensitized to suffering. Somebody needs to slap them around periodically, whisper in their ears the lines from Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner, as beautiful as anything I know in English literature:

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small ;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Now comes this:

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) published documents online showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) killed 95 percent of the adoptable pets in its care during 2008. Despite years of public outrage over its euthanasia program, the animal rights group kills an average of 5.8 pets every day at its Norfolk, VA headquarters.

According to public records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA killed 2,124 pets last year and placed only seven in adoptive homes. Since 1998, a total of 21,339 dogs and cats have died at the hands of PETA workers.

Despite having a $32 million budget, PETA does not operate an adoption shelter. PETA employees make no discernible effort to find homes for the thousands of pets they kill every year. Last year, the Center for Consumer Freedom petitioned Virginia’s State Veterinarian to reclassify PETA as a slaughterhouse.

PETA replies:

The source of the information posted is the deceitfully-named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). CCF is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year, not out of compassion, but out of greed (see BermanExposed.org and ConsumerDeception.com).

Most of the animals we took in and euthanized were not adoptable, and in fact, were taken in precisely because they were unadoptable. They could hardly be called "pets," as they had spent their lives on heavy chains or isolated pens, for instance. They were severely unsocialized, having gone mad from confinement or made aggressive.

Others were indeed someone's companions, but they were aged, sick, injured, or dying, and PETA offered them a release from suffering, with no charge to their owners or custodians. We offer our services to many impoverished residents who often can’t afford to provide for their animals even a dignified exit.

Okay, they score a few points (please read their whole rebuttal). This CCF outfit is not disinterested; it's a lobbying group, and its bills aren't paid by any humane society. PETA accomplishes a few good things, if its own claims are true. And of course, for some poor creatures euthanasia is the only compassionate treatment. I know; two of our cats with incurable diseases had to be put to sleep.

But the Web site Terrierman.com offers a more detailed, and convincing, indictment:

PETA injects killing solutions into almost all the animals handed over to the them, and then it contracts with a waste disposal company to have several tons of animals a month trucked away, out of sight and out of mind.

Why? Simple: they believe a dog in a shelter is better dead than kenneled for even a few days or a few weeks, and they oppose pet ownership entirely. PETA's Norfolk staff cannot be bothered to take time away from media-whoring in order to do the tough work involved in actually rehoming animals.

This, too, should be read in its entirety.

PETA may not be entirely evil, and among its stunt performers there are probably some kind-hearted but naive people. But PETA will never get a donation from me. They are not the only organization that spays and neuters animals to help prevent overpopulation — every animal shelter does. I'd rather support no-kill shelters.


Earth Hour strikes; women, minorities hardest hit

Headquarters, Earth Hour Is
Our Hour Foundation

While cursing the darkness of unredeemed mankind still wedded to the convenience of electric light, a Canadian family lit a candle.

Earth Hour candle sets Mississauga townhouse ablaze

A Mississauga family who tried to light a candle for Earth Hour nearly burned their Meadowvale townhouse down.

Afshan Khalid, 46, said her 8-year-old daughter tried to light a candle before Earth Hour started at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. “She was lighting up the candle and we thought it didn’t light up or the match fell somewhere that we didn’t notice and then we left,” said Ms. Khalid. The family was going to see friends and when getting ready, they lighted scented candles so they could see.

If you read pre-20th century history, you are constantly reminded of homes, towns, churches, ancient buildings, and cities (cf. London, 1666) catching fire and being reduced to ashes. It wasn't unusual in old times for cathedrals to be rebuilt several times, century after century, having burned to the ground.

Then that reprobate Edison came along and invented his damn bulb and everything went to electric double-plus-un-Greenness.

Finally the trend is being reversed. Earth Hour promises salvation, after the smoke clears.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Don't it make my blue eyes brown


Don't know when I've been so blue

Don't know what's come over you

You've found someone new

And don't it make my brown eyes blue

-- Crystal Gayle, "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue"

"This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who thought they knew everything and now show they know nothing," Brazilian President Lula da Silva said the other day after meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose eyes, fortunately, are the color of his name.

Orator in Chief Barack Hussein Obama is hard at work making sure that future crises, insofar as the United States is on the playlist, will not be caused by blue-eyed devils. The Leftist Establishment's race for race replacement in the U.S. isn't going quite fast enough to suit them (whites are expected to become a minority only in 2042 at current levels of non-white immigration and fecundity), but in his own kingdom he'll see to it that it happens faster than the blue eye can follow.

In a story it's unlikely any mainstream U.S. news source would report, The Telegraph says:
While Mr Obama has played down the influence of race over his government and policies, Washington is abuzz that the president has handed control of domestic policy, all White House social events, environmental issues and food safety to African American women - seven senior government posts in all....

President Obama used his press conference last week to joke that interest in his own race lasted "about a day" after his election. But below the radar, Mr Obama has been quietly transforming the upper echelons of government. Black woman only hold 192,000 of more than 1.7 million government jobs, making up about one in nine of the federal workforce, but Mr Obama has given them one fifth of the most senior jobs in government.
I have my doubts about that figure of 192,000 XX chromosome blacks out of 1.7 million employees in the federal government. My impression -- admittedly, I haven't counted -- is that there are at least 192,000 in every federal office I've ever visited. Putting that aside, since when does a United States president act "below the radar"? FDR's lend-lease program to help Britain before the U.S. entered World War II was as euphemistic as it gets, but it was out there in plain sight. This is an ethnic Manhattan Project.

But presidents (and this applies not only to Obama; I said the same about Jorge W. Bush-Gonzales) are no longer servants of the people. Along with the federal judiciary, they are our rulers. Congress merely gets to dramatize itself, like the Roman Senate long after the Republic was beyond living memory.

Oh, and then the Muslims-he's-not-one-of, but with whom he has a special understanding, are also to be given a place in his sun. The Denver Post reports:
In a bid to get more Muslim Americans working in the Obama administration, a book with resumes of 45 of the nation's most qualified — Ivy League grads, Fortune 500 executives and public servants, all carefully vetted — has been submitted to the White House.

The effort, driven by community leaders and others, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., was bumped up two weeks because White House officials heard about the venture, said J. Saleh Williams, program coordinator for the Congressional Muslim Staffers Association, who sifted through more than 300 names.

"It was mostly under the radar," Williams said. "We thought it would put (the president) in a precarious position. We didn't know how closely he wanted to appear to be working with the Muslim American community." [Emphasis mine.]

Above the radar, speeches and TV talk-show gigs. Below the radar, well, Obama will tell you about it when it's a fait accompli.

Even in the Germany of 1935, it was necessary to apply a coat of legality to promulgate the notorious Nuremberg Laws, which provided for the ethnic classification of the Volk into Aryans and undesirables. From Wikipedia:

After the promulgation of the Nuremberg Laws, Hitler received telegrams of congratulation from all over the Arab and Muslim world, especially from Morocco and Palestine, where the Nazi propaganda had been most active.[16]. Moreover, because of these, and the thousands of other racial laws promulgated during the Third Reich, a vast bureaucracy developed in Germany for the determination of people's "racial acceptability."[17].

The Orator in Chief don't need no stinkin' laws. He's the Man.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama gives Islam speech therapy

Barack Obama and Secret Service members
practice upcoming address to Muslim world.

As everyone agrees, President for Life Barack Obama is a splendid talker, at least when he is accompanied by a certain technological crutch. He believes there is no problem so great that it will not yield to his skill at saying nothing, but with panache. Charming birds from trees is not worth his effort; he could persuade an asteroid set on pronging the earth to change its mind and reverse course, needing but to open a dialogue with it.

We have it on the authority of Time that his eloquence drive is to be turned on the Muslim World:
When President Obama visits Turkey early next month, some observers are expecting he will use the occasion to deliver on his promise to deliver a major foreign policy speech from a Muslim nation in his first 100 days. But indications are that he will not give the speech in Turkey. The White House and State Department have not yet decided on the location for the speech, which is meant to undo some of the damage done to America's image in the Muslim world during the George W. Bush Administration.
This reminds me of how, when I am negligent enough to pick up a copy of Time in a dentist's waiting room, it is like getting an extra root canal. "Undo some of the damage done to America's image in the Muslim world during the George W. Bush Administration"? What about the damage done to the United States of America by the Muslim world during every administration since Carter's?

Trouble is, Obama's handlers are dithering about where exactly in Dar-al-Islam he should pronounce his historic message of "forgive us for breathing." Jakarta? According to the CAIR spokesman
Time quotes, it's a nice place to visit but you wouldn't want to waste your golden breath there. Rabat, Morocco? "Too far west." Amman, Jordan? Don't call us, we'll call you. Mecca and Medina? Non-Muslims are not allowed, so Obama fetching up there might raise questions. Cairo? Too anti-U.S.; the president might not live long enough to sign the surrender document. "Baghdad? Still too dangerous. Riyadh? Obama would be seen as being in the pocket of the Saudi royal family. Oman, Bahrain ... the list could go on."

Look, I've got an idea. Forget Old Islam. The future lies with New Islam. How about Europe? Brussels, for instance.
In the end, though, Hooper believes that geography may be secondary to the content of Obama's speech. "What will resonate is [Obama's] words and policies," he says. Muslims will respond not only to the location but also to "the fact that he's trying to reach out — with rhetoric, and hopefully also with actions."
Regardless of where B. Hussein Obama chooses to do his resonating and reaching out, in the CAIR spokesman's words, he'd better take an extra teleprompter as a back-up. An unscripted remark could call forth one, two, many jihadists: "A powerful bloc of 57 Islamic states is again pushing for the UN to make it a criminal offense to criticise or ‘defame' Islam."


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Obama bowling alone


For the first time ever, I find myself supporting Barack Obama.

Temporarily, you understand. I still think he is a soft-focus Lenin who will turn the country into a debtor's prison if he isn't stopped. But I can be fair. For five minutes, I'll defend him against enemies domestic and foreign, because of his alleged "gaffe" on that late night TV show. Namely, this:

President Obama, in his taping with Jay Leno Thursday afternoon, attempted to yuk it up with the funnyman, and ended up insulting the disabled. Towards the end of his approximately 40-minute appearance, the president talked about how he's gotten better at bowling and has been practicing in the White House bowling alley.

He bowled a 129, the president said.

"That's very good, Mr. President," Leno said sarcastically.

It's "like the Special Olympics or something," the president said.

Okay, not the soul of wit, but a mild little jest that deserved an appreciative chuckle. At the least, Obama earned an I'm-a-Real-Person lapel pin for showing that he is actually capable of devising an un-teleprompted one-liner that didn't come from his Little Red Book of Meaningless Sayings of Chairman Barack.


When I watched the tape excerpt of that moment, Obama reminded me of a human being instead of the Disneyland audio-animatronic simulacrum of Abraham Lincoln, programmed to repeat the same lines as each new mob marches in and takes their seats for a brief encounter with synthetic inspiration.

Of course, the Offended of the Earth gave him a piece of their mindlessness straight off. Oh my God, he's making fun of the handicapped! You can't say that! Send him to sensitivity training camp!

Even Republicans and other pseudo-conservatives who should have known better rushed (Rushed?) to bash him, just so they could pile on. If we still had free speech, they would have been better advised to note that any offendee group that can invent a prissy name like "Special Olympics" deserves to be made fun of every hour on the hour.


Poetic justice of a sort, I call it. The Great Divider whose main interest in life is to pander to every ethnic and racial grievance outfit gets whiplash from Indignation Nation.

So, Barack, I'm in your corner. For five minutes. Then I go back to being offended every time you open your mouth.


3/23 The last sentence must sound inconsistent with my stand against those who claim to be offended, believing that to be the trump card that overcomes all arguments (see my reply to Stephen Lawrence in the comments). I was trying to be ironic in my use of the word, but it's perhaps not very clear.

So if I could strike that sentence, I would. Well, actually, I can. With one keystroke I can make it disappear! What power!

Not even the judge in a trial really has that ability. A witness testifies, "I was told the defendant is an arsonist who collects Nazi souvenirs, cuts in line, and steals money from the church poor box," the lawyer says, "Objection! Hearsay,"and the judge says, "Sustained. The answer will be stricken from the record and the jury will disregard." Oh yeah?

Yet I can make ill-chosen words go away and in a matter of days, if not minutes, no one will ever know or remember! But it is bad form to change anything substantive in a posting once people have commented on it, so I won't. And now, besides one regrettable sentence, you have in addition a whole tiresome long-winded explanation.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The people who've seen life after death


For more than a year I've been attending monthly meetings of a near-death experience (NDE) group. Most of those at the meetings have had one or even more NDEs. I have not, but the group welcomes people interested in the phenomenon.

With advances in medical science, many patients in recent years have been revived after their vital signs (hearbeat, respiration, brainwaves, etc.) have stopped. Sometimes the revival happens without medical intervention. Sometimes the NDE occurs when death from an accident appears imminent, such as during a fall from a high altitude, which seems to confirm occult teachings that the consciousness can separate from the body even before the body is destroyed if its destruction seems certain.

Skeptics argue that those who experience NDEs weren't "really" dead, since they are now alive. But in at least many instances, the subjects met the medical criteria for death, sometimes for several minutes.
NDE experiencers typically report certain features of their temporary afterlife, too well known for me to repeat. You can read as many firsthand accounts as you want at the Near Death Experience Research Foundation web site.


What is said at the meetings I attend is confidential, but since I will not reveal any names or identifying information, I can't imagine anyone would mind if I share a few general observations.

1. It's one thing to read in books about NDEs, but hearing about them from individuals present in front of you who've undergone them has a different epistemological quality.

2. Outwardly, the NDE experiencers I've met are normal. They work at conventional jobs and appear to have ordinary everyday lives. Nothing about them suggests they are fantasy-prone.

3. They are absolutely convinced that they experienced a different order of reality, that it was not a dream or hallucination.

4. The meetings include people who attend fairly regularly and new attendees. I've now heard the regulars describe their NDEs several times. They don't always use exactly the same words (which would arouse suspicion), but I have never caught any of them in a contradiction. They give the impression that the experience was so powerful that it is easy to summon up in memory.


5. Some experiencers say they had their NDE(s) before they ever
heard of such a thing. One woman, now elderly, had her NDE in the 1940s. She is one of those who've told the story several times, with complete consistency, as though it happened last week.

6. Every description of an NDE when I've been present has brought up strong emotions in the person talking about it — and often in other experiencers just listening. Even if the NDE experiencer begins the account in a very calm, matter-of-fact way, sometime between sooner and later he or she is immersed in waves of feeling.

7. I've asked them directly: do they now have any fear of dying? Without exception, no.

8. One way or another, they describe the NDE as a spiritual experience, although not in standard religious terms. One woman, raised as a Catholic and with Catholic relatives, is unable to communicate the NDE experience with most of her family because it doesn't fit their beliefs.

9. Although they call the immediate NDE positive, sometimes extravagantly so, the aftereffects are by no means an unmixed blessing. It seems incredible to me, but even close friends and family members can reject or ridicule them when they reveal what they've seen. (The woman who had an NDE in the '40s told her sister-in-law about it, and was told in return, "Don't ever mention this to anyone." It was another three decades before she spoke of it again.)

They have been very candid about how hard it is to integrate the NDE into their present lives. Some feel they have important knowledge that they want to let everyone in on, but don't dare for fear of being thought cracked. Hasn't the NDE idea entered the mainstream by now? I asked. Yes, they answered, but only as a subject for jokes, like UFOs or the Loch Ness monster.


NDE experiencers sometimes feel caught between two worlds, not at home in either. They may believe they've known a larger existence, and have to keep shrinking their consciousness to be able to operate in the state of mind of almost everyone else in their environment.

Even so, I let it be known that sometimes I envied them. Although I know intellectually and feel intuitively that we survive the death of our current bodies that must be foreclosed on, it would be deeply satisfying, I said, to have actually visited the Other Side and know it experientially.

This was gently rebuffed. Combining several responses, this is what they said: We drink the waters of forgetfulness when we come into this life so that we can better fulfill our purpose here. Learning and growth would be much harder if our consciousness was always distracted by the various levels of the astral plane and others that the disembodied consciousness exists on.

For one reason or another, they said, we were allowed a preview, but we needed to or were told to return to this world. If there is a reason for you to have an NDE, you will have one. Otherwise, you will know the Other Side when the right time comes.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Only in California: Proposed taxes on marijuana, pornography

Having run out of normal things to tax, the welfare state of California is turning creative. From the San Francisco Chronicle (also known as Chronic-ill):
Less than a month after the Legislature approved more than $12 billion in tax increases to help bridge a $41 billion budget deficit, Democratic lawmakers have proposed more tax and fee measures they say would curb devastating cuts to state programs.

The proposals include a 25-cent fee for shoppers who use plastic bags; a tax on cigarettes to fund programs discouraging tobacco use; a $50 per ounce tax on marijuana; a higher income tax for the rich to help pay for schools; a tax on oil produced in California; and a tax on pornography.
If the object of taxes is to raise money, rather than to reform people, does it make sense to tax cigarettes so you can fund programs to discourage people from using them, thereby reducing the tax income?
"I think we're in a period in time where everything's on the table. We're going to be $8 billion down before the ink dries on the current budget," said Assemblyman Curren Price, D-Inglewood (Los Angeles County). …

"Education should be our prime priority," Price said. "We frequently are shipping funds away from education. My proposal is one way of ... trying to insulate education funds from those kinds of cuts."
Mr. Price, "prime priority" is redundant (as is "period in time"), suggesting that you suffer from a California education. That aside, you are no doubt aware that Hispanics make up 47 percent of the students in California, thanks to the Liberal Establishment's policy of population replacement. Being a politician, however, you could not be expected to suggest that closing our de facto open borders and encouraging illegals to return to Mexico could help the Golden Fleecing State reduce its budget shortfall in no small measure.

But California is Obamanation in its purest form: No Voting Bloc Left Unbribed. Gold nuggets for all! Bring your extended family! Excellent taco vending locations available! Sign here or make your mark, and watch those public assistance bennies fly to your mailbox and the nearest maternity ward.

So — no tax too big, no tax too small. Sorry, some taxes too small, but we'll fix that. Here is the Chronic-ill's list of Cali-form-ia legislators' newest suggested barrel scrapings:
AB87 (Davis)/SB531 (DeSaulnier): Fees for shoppers who use plastic bags.

AB89 (Torlakson)/SB600 (Padilla): Increases the cigarette tax.

AB390 (Ammiano): $50-an-ounce tax on marijuana, which would be legalized for recreational use.

AB462 (Price): 1 percent income tax for individuals who earn more than $1 million a year, to fund public schools and universities.

AB656 (Torrico): Oil severance tax to help fund the state's community colleges and universities.

AB1019 (Beall)/SB558 (DeSaulnier): Tax or fee on alcohol.

AB1082 (Torrico): Sales tax on pornography.

AB1342 (Evans): Cities and counties would be allowed to raise income taxes and vehicle license fees.

SB96 (Ducheny): Increases the income tax rate on the state's wealthiest residents while lowering the rate for some middle-class taxpayers.

If you're a "comfortably off" California grass-smoking, booze-drinking, car-owning consumer of pornography who sometimes forgets to take your organically-grown-natural-fiber Green Bag to the grocery, prepare to be a proud supporter of the state that never met a spending bill it didn't like.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

I can see right through you

I'm looking through you, where did you go
I thought I knew you, what did I know

You don't look different, but you have changed

I'm looking through you, you're not the same

-- The Beatles, "I'm Looking Through You"

A small gallery of ordinary objects, in transparent versions:






Macintosh monitor

I'm reminded of the time I used some "daily clarifying shampoo." When I looked in the mirror afterward, I thought I'd gone bald.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grace notes


Around this time last year, I wrote about Mozart as "the poet of Spring" among composers, for his music's fluid transition among widely varying moods, like the winds of the season. Recently I've been gratified to acquire a two-CD set of exhilarating performances of Mozart's last four symphonies. It was released last year by Linn Records, and features the Scottish Chamber Orchestra led by Sir Charles Mackerras.

Mackerras has long been one of my favorite conductors for just about anything he turns his attention to. He isn't particularly a "big name" conductor, but that is probably because he lacks the facility or motivation for self-promotion of, for instance, a Bernstein or Karajan. He certainly is respected in the business, having done guest appearances on the podium with many of the world's top orchestras.

Sir Charles recorded the Mozart symphonies before, for Telarc in the '80s, and I still have a couple of those discs. Good as they are, this new release is in my perception a greater achievement.


It's always hard to define or describe something as subjective as a musical interpretation, but I'll try. Mackerras's way with these symphonies has the structural integrity of Otto Klemperer — the architecture is very clear — but with an added halo of warmth. (That may not be entirely fair to Klemperer, because of the difference in recording quality. Possibly if we could hear Klemperer's performances in excellent modern sound engineering, they would have more "bloom.")

Listening to this set, it's hard to doubt that Mackerras not only knows the scores thoroughly, which could go without saying, but that he has formed his own view of the musical meaning of every measure. Not only are the balances superb (such transparency!), but many phrases that never especially impressed me before yield up their secrets. Again and again listening to these readings, I found myself thinking, "Oh, so that's what that's about."

Sir Charles has an amazing gift for getting orchestras to characterize the music, not just play the notes. And while it's not unusual for other conductors to come up with bizarre interpretations of Mozart's tempo indications, here they seem to me spot on. Where Mozart says Andante ("walking"), we get Andante, not an Adagio or an Allegretto. There is, though, some flexibility of pulse within movements; I don't know whether they are indicated in the score or they are artistic choices, but they feel right.


Linn Records, based in Glasgow, is an offshoot of Linn, the maker of audiophile components. They first became famous for well-regarded turntables some 25 years ago, but they now offer a full line of high-end audio products. And boy do they know something about recording.

The SACD layer of these hybrid discs is a wonder. (I assume it's 5.1 channels; my system is five channels, lacking a subwoofer, but I sure didn't miss one, the bass being tight and solid through my front left and right Focal 705V speakers.) The space of the recording venue, listed as Glasgow City Halls, is perfectly captured, as are the instruments. I prefer a slightly less reverberant ambience, but that's a matter of taste, and the reverb doesn't smear the lines.

This is a remarkably natural recording, the opposite of that canned "mixing board" sound that you often hear on even releases from major classical labels … not that many of those are still with us. I guess I mean you, Deutsche Grammophon.

There are still superlative performances that can stand up to any in the past, and so much the better when recordings do them justice.
3/13 I have corrected a few misstatements that resulted from my memory playing tricks on me, and which were kindly pointed out by a commenter.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Minnesota state agency helps Muslims buy foreclosed homes



It may be the worst of times for Minnesota residents who are pitched out of their homes, but it's the best of times for Muslims who want to move in.

Something called the New Markets Mortgage Program has been devised to create sharia-compliant mortgages. Says the report in the Bismark Tribune, "The program is targeted at low-to-moderate income families." Sound familiar?

Needless to say, the story is positioned as a heart warmer. Nawawi Sheikh and his wife or wives had been stymied in trying to get a home loan. Just like millions of other people at the moment, but in Sheikh's case, it was because the Western world's finance system didn't fit with his politico-religious system. So the state created a special deal for him and his fellow sharia-compliant Muslims.
The program is the brainchild of Hussein Samatar, director of the African Development Center in Minneapolis. "The process is different, but the outcome will look the same," Samatar said. "We wanted to be as conventional as possible, while respecting the tenets of Islam.
Samatar, who used to work for Wells Fargo, tried for years to launch Islamic financing. He said the fact that Minnesota Housing has agreed to participate is a nod to the Muslim community's growing economic power.
The loans are underwritten by Devon Bank in Chicago. Using taxpayer bailout money?
Devon is one of the largest Islamic lenders in the country. Corporate Counsel David Loundy said he expects the demand for Islamic financing to grow as more Muslims make their home in the U.S.

Loundy said Muslims tend to be good risks. "If they worked so hard to get to this country, they don't want to screw it up now that they are here, so they tend to pay their debts pretty promptly," said Loundy.
Worked so hard to get into this country? The United States government is practically begging immigrants to settle in America, especially if they're temporarily minorities, especially if they're Muslim, in its drive for population replacement.
Nawawi Sheikh's new three-bedroom south Minneapolis home is a former foreclosure. The African Development Center's Hussein Samatar said there are thousands more potential buyers like Sheikh out there. He said the New Markets Mortgage Program will help the Minnesota Muslims community put down strong roots.
"It is great news for the country, and it really sends a great signal that the United States is our country," he said.
It will be soon enough, if Washington has its way.
3/11 From Fox News:
For several months the FBI has been investigating about a dozen Somali-American men who disappeared from their homes in the Minneapolis area late last year and may have joined terrorist groups overseas. One of the men, 27-year-old Shirwa Ahmed, later blew himself up in Somalia. The FBI recently called him the first U.S. citizen to carry out a suicide bombing, and FBI Director Mueller said he was "radicalized in his hometown in Minnesota."
Nawawi Sheikh, featured in the news story, is one of the beneficiaries of Minnesota's No Muslim Left Behind Act. He is a Somalian, excuse me, Somali-American. I do not say that he is a terrorist or
that he has an explosive bone in his body. Who can know? They are always "moderate" Muslims until the day they become "extreme" Muslims. We can never sort them out in advance.

I do say it is insane to be inviting Somali Muslims to come live in this country.

We need no immigrants of any kind except a handful of those with some special expertise that cannot be duplicated by indigenous Americans. Beyond that, it is foolish to expect people from non-Western cultures who have a completely different set of values not to form enclaves and colonies of their own, contributing to a further fraying of the social fabric. Beyond that, we have to recognize that Islam is not "just another religion." It is a totalitarian worldview that allows for no alternatives except as a temporary expedient where it does not yet have the numbers to rule.

The government of Somalia has just voted to introduce sharia law. This is what Muslims do whenever and wherever they can. Why give them a foothold in the United States?


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Obama's brain (dis)trust

From time to time I attend a stock discussion group at the public library. This morning was one of those times. The atmosphere was funereal.

I don't trust stock tips and advice, although they can be a useful starting point for further research. But I've gradually come to respect this group that gathers weekly. Most of them strike me as very sophisticated and smart investors drawn from an urban area that has more than its share of high-IQ people.

As far as I can tell, they are pragmatists, not ideologues. The gentleman who tries to see that the discussion follows a minimally orderly procedure is an Obama supporter, albeit not an idolatrous one.


The last couple of meetings I've been at had a simple theme: Does anything work now as an investment? For that matter, is your money safe in any investment? Today half an hour was spent talking about utilities for their supposed stability and yield. Nobody thought they were likely to make a shareholder much money. No one even thought they were necessarily safe.

"I can't believe we've come to this," said one fellow. "Here we are debating whether utilities, the classic widow-and-orphan stocks, are too dangerous to hold."

On the way out I found myself heading to the parking garage with one of the participants who had said emphatically that he thought the economy was so catastrophic that he couldn't bring himself to buy, period. He was firmly on the sidelines to watch the coming collapse. (Not everyone in the group had been that bearish, but there were no bulls.) I asked him why he was at a stock discussion group in that case.

Just habit, he said. He'd been reasonably confident until recently that he could game the market. He'd voted for Obama and was favorably impressed at first by the president's choices for his economic team. That was then -- four months ago, a geological age in the investment world. "They've blown it," he said.


An article in the New York Post -- no friend of Obama, so take it for what you think it's worth -- offered a view about why an apparently respectable batch of economic advisors that originally garnered Wall Street approval is now about as popular in the financial world as Hugo Chavez.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, the former New York Fed chief, was supposed to have the experience needed to handle the banking crisis. Larry Summers, the head of the president's National Economic Council, was part of the brains behind the Clinton-era recovery. And Paul Volcker, chairman of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, helped save the free world back in the late 1970s and early '80s as chairman of the Federal Reserve when he squeezed inflation out of the economy and (along with President Ronald Reagan) helped return us to prosperity.

The disappointment on Geithner starts with the fact that, since taking the job at Treasury, he's failed to articulate a way to bail out the imploding banking system -- even though knowledge of the banking system's ills was supposed to be his strong suit. Worse, the word is that Geithner is still having trouble putting together a senior staff so he can come up with a bailout plan.

Thanks to all the class warfare produced by his boss, I'm told, Geithner can't find qualified people from Wall Street (the folks who know markets better than anyone else) to help solve the crisis. Instead, one saddened Obama supporter from Wall Street told me, "He's looking at a combination of bureaucrats and academics for these jobs."

Larry Summers? Everyone knows he's smart, but the word from Wall Streeters who are trying to pass him ideas for solving the banking crisis is that his ego's as large as his intellect. That is, they're finding him impossible to deal with.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is Volcker, a true American hero who as Fed chairman tamed the stagflation of the '70s -- but seems to be muzzled at a time when the country needs him most.

I suspect that there is gladiatorial infighting behind the scenes because Obama doesn't want to hear what his crew is telling him. Geithner, Summers, Volcker -- and you can probably add Bernanke -- may or may not be the cream of financial gurus, and doubtless don't agree among themselves about everything, but they are pragmatists who honestly want to restore the system to health.

But does The Miracle Worker? Or is Obama such a Marxoid that he wants to see the American capitalist economy spool down until there's nothing left but for an all-powerful State to haul us into a central planning Valhalla?


That's, admittedly, speculation. Under most circumstances, I agree with the saying that you should not attribute to conspiracy what can be explained by ordinary incompetence. Perhaps the worst that can be said of Obama is what I have believed for months, viz., that he is a callow poseur with a lot of personal problems who has been elevated above his pay grade by a consortium of hard-left Democratic party grandees and criminals playing by Chicago Rules. It's not impossible he means well.

But the lack of a coherent rescue strategy, the switchbacks, the oracular messages from Obama's team (Geithner especially) sound like what organizations do when the people at the top are not all pointing true north. They try cover the policy fissures with empty rhetoric. Not everyone is as good at empty rhetoric as Obama, though. And investors, including battle-hardened professionals, won't -- can't -- settle for that. Not now, when their financial lives are hanging by a thread.

In a posting at Belmont Club on "The Obama Economy," a commenter who calls himself The Old Guy says:

It would be nice if some adults from the Democratic party showed up at the White House and told Obama to stop, its over. ... There are some nasty, vicious, self-serving pols ... who at some point may be willing to throw Obama under the bus in last-ditch self-defense.
Politics being what it is, and politicians what they are, it should surprise no one if soon Obama's enablers will suddenly not be at home to him.


Thursday, March 05, 2009

Citi dump

Citigroup annual stockholders' meeting, 2009

As of this writing, shares of Citigroup are changing hands at $0.99.

A commenter at MarketWatch notes that share certificates are now available at dollar stores throughout the land.

Will the certificates will be worth something as collectibles on eBay, like the Enron code of ethics? Nah, wouldn't think so. There will be so many defunct corporate dinosaurs, Citi won't linger in anyone's memory bank for long. Besides, memory banks will no longer be eligible for bailouts once the national debt can no longer be sustained by the U.S. government contracting with every printing company on earth to create fiat money.

Tell me: if Citi actually zeroes out, do I still owe someone for the balance on my Citi credit cards?

UPDATE: A bright spark of a copyeditor at MarketWatch contributed this headline today:

"GE's CFO tries to talk investors off the ledge."


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Nothing to declare

Baby panda
(obligatory attention-getting picture)

"Let thy speech be better than silence, or be silent."
— Dionysius of Halicarnassus

He was a good head, was Dionysius, and what he advised still goes. Or, if you want a more modern source, consider the words of the famous Chilean-Finnish poet, José Käyttö-Näköislehden: "Your brain is bigger than your tongue for a reason."

Today I am full of thoughts on the disintegration of my country into a Soviet-inspired banana republic, a stock market that's fallen and can't get up, and many more subjects of great pith and moment. All of these thoughts are useless to anyone, including me.

Being pushed for time myself, I will not take up yours with piffle.


I know it's common wisdom among bloggers that if you don't come up with something new every day or thereabouts, your loyal readers will desert you for other outlets that provide more regular stimuli. If you imagine that reduced productivity at this site is a possible indication of alien abduction, so be it. That was a long time ago, actually. The past is another galaxy. They do things differently there.

So, no posting today when I have nothing to say, no strained humor and wordplay. It's a firm principle. Here I stand, I can do no other.


Except … well, I declare! It occurs to me that I have just wasted your time with a post about nothing.

What can I do to make it up to you? Only humbly apologize to anyone still reading this ridiculous posting (you know who you are).

Oh no! I have just wasted more of your time by apologizing!

I'm sorry about that, too.

Blimey O'Riley, I've just done it again! How do I get out of this cycle?

And yet again

Thanks. I needed that slap.


Monday, March 02, 2009

Scotland the formerly brave


In Scotland, Muslim victims of crime get priority over other crime victims. (Tip of the hat: Gates of Vienna)
... A senior officer revealed that the race and religion of a victim has now become a crucial factor in how police respond to crime.

Inspector Tom Galbraith, of Lothian and Borders Police’s diversity unit, told a conference on tackling terrorism that it was important to stop Scottish Muslims feeling “vulnerable” in case they were driven towards radicalism.

No one seems to have considered that Muslims might be driven towards radicalism by observing a weak society's favoritism toward them and signals that law enforcement will be bent in their favor. To anyone with inclinations toward jihad, the lesson is obvious: these Scottish infidels are pushovers. They want to be dhimmis. We can accommodate them.

Is the spirit of Robert the Bruce and Rob Roy MacGregor dead in Scotland, or only among Scotland's quisling politicians?
Speaking at a national security conference in Edinburgh on Thursday, Mr. Galbraith said, “It is not about treating everybody the same. If I have a young Asian man who has been subjected to a hate crime, I would rather put more resources into that than if it had happened to a white male because the white male is far less likely to end up becoming radicalised.”
Oh, aye? We'll see, laddie.