Friday, September 29, 2006

Squeaky Wheels...

.....get the grease. The Montlake neighborhood in Seattle organized. Boy did they organize. They didn't want any more freeway in their neighborhood, and eventually the DOT obliged. As seen in the photo (from the Seattle Times under Fair Use doctrine) the DOT took some of the Arboretum, some of the University of Washington, and has resurrected the once-defeated RH Thompson by simply dumping an exit ramp on Lake Washington Boulevard, which also runs through the Arboretum.

In conjunction with the state effort to rebuild the Viaduct, this is simply the highway planning of the mid-60s. Voters then thought they had driven a stake into the heart of efforts to use the Arboretum as a highway, but the project has risen from the dead.

It will be interesting to see if the people who saved Seattle in the 60s and 70s have all moved out of town, leaving only a disgruntled rabble easily manipulated or bullied into accepting the rule of the roadbuilders. If the city had the spunk of the Montlake neighborhood, this whole project would be binned, and the planners sent back to the drawing board- with instructions to actually solve a problem by including a light-rail solution.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Will Wonders Never Cease

Well, this has certainly been the most remarkable week in my life. The Congress appears to be ready to suspend or repeal habeus corpus. Habeus corpus, of course, is simply the core of law as we know it. But, what did you expect?

Let's review for a minute-
70% of Americans want us out of Iraq
70% of Americans want national healthcare
70% of Americans want marijuana legalized
70% of Americans have no problem with gay marriage

What's a poor minority to do? The only way the Republicans can stay in power is to suppress the majority.

Well, don't look so glum. First of all, marijuana smokers have lived with these dictatorial powers directed against them for years. Second of all, as the time we have to deal with global warming becomes shorter and shorter, it may be that these new-fangled dictatorial powers will come in handy.

So maybe, instead of screaming at your Republican neighbor, you might quietly sympathize with him about having elected a Saudi-hugging big-government unfunded-mandate peabrain to preside over the dismantlement of the safeguards of private property. Who knows, maybe he feels as bad about it as you do.

Nice Long Cuts

Let 'Em Roll by Big John Patton- Big John on the organ, Grant Green, guitar, Bobby Hutcherson, vibes, and Otis Finch, drums. Blue Note CDP 0777 7 89795 2.

So, if it's Blue Note, and it's a jazz quartet, you would expect all of the cuts, but one, to weigh in over six minutes. And so it came to pass.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I Did Not Know That

Governor Gregoire sure has her finger on the pulse of the state.
A group of us have been arguing on the P-I Comment threads about the viaduct, about 8 or 9 regular commenters who show up for each new thread.  Naturally, when Gregoire dropped her 'tolls' bombshell, I clicked on the new thread to give the rest of them an elbow in the ribs and a big guffaw.
Instead, I found about 40 new commenters, never before seen, who thought tolls were a good idea.  Yes, an overwhelming majority, with absolutely no interest in the reasoning or details of the actual project, but ready to pay a toll!  Talk about one born every minute!
I'm still trying to figure out if I would have wanted to know this about my fellow citizens 30 years earlier.  Yes, it does open new career opportunities, such as selling bottled water- if you consider that kind of thing to be a career.  

Monday, September 25, 2006

Eye Candy

Sunset on the Tahuya Plateau.....

The Faith and The Sword

 An important reminder, coming to us via Mercury Rising-
The treatment of other religions by Islam must be judged by a simple test: How did the Muslim rulers behave for more than a thousand years, when they had the power to "spread the faith by the sword"?

Well, they just did not.

For many centuries, the Muslims ruled Greece. Did the Greeks become Muslims? Did anyone even try to Islamize them? On the contrary, Christian Greeks held the highest positions in the Ottoman administration. The Bulgarians, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians and other European nations lived at one time or another under Ottoman rule and clung to their Christian faith. Nobody compelled them to become Muslims and all of them remained devoutly Christian.


In 1099, the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem and massacred its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants indiscriminately, in the name of the gentle Jesus. At that time, 400 years into the occupation of Palestine by the Muslims, Christians were still the majority in the country. Throughout this long period, no effort was made to impose Islam on them. Only after the expulsion of the Crusaders from the country, did the majority of the inhabitants start to adopt the Arabic language and the Muslim faith - and they were the forefathers of most of today's Palestinians.

THERE IS no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to impose Islam on the Jews. As is well known, under Muslim rule the Jews of Spain enjoyed a bloom the like of which the Jews did not enjoy anywhere else until almost our time. Poets like Yehuda Halevy wrote in Arabic, as did the great Maimonides. In Muslim Spain, Jews were ministers, poets, scientists. In Muslim Toledo, Christian, Jewish and Muslim scholars worked together and translated the ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. That was, indeed, the Golden Age. How would this have been possible, had the Prophet decreed the "spreading of the faith by the sword"?

What happened afterwards is even more telling. When the Catholics re-conquered Spain from the Muslims, they instituted a reign of religious terror. The Jews and the Muslims were presented with a cruel choice: to become Christians, to be massacred or to leave. And where did the hundreds of thousand of Jews, who refused to abandon their faith, escape? Almost all of them were received with open arms in the Muslim countries. The Sephardi ("Spanish") Jews settled all over the Muslim world, from Morocco in the west to Iraq in the east, from Bulgaria (then part of the Ottoman Empire) in the north to Sudan in the south. Nowhere were they persecuted. They knew nothing like the tortures of the Inquisition, the flames of the auto-da-fe, the pogroms, the terrible mass-expulsions that took place in almost all Christian countries, up to the Holocaust.

WHY? Because Islam expressly prohibited any persecution of the "peoples of the book". In Islamic society, a special place was reserved for Jews and Christians. They did not enjoy completely equal rights, but almost. They had to pay a special poll-tax, but were exempted from military service - a trade-off that was quite welcome to many Jews. It has been said that Muslim rulers frowned upon any attempt to convert Jews to Islam even by gentle persuasion - because it entailed the loss of taxes.

Every honest Jew who knows the history of his people cannot but feel a deep sense of gratitude to Islam, which has protected the Jews for fifty generations, while the Christian world persecuted the Jews and tried many times "by the sword" to get them to abandon their faith.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

We've Changed All That

In Moliere's The Doctor, the 'Doctor' at one point suggests the problem is with the patient's heart, and moves to listen to the heart by placing his stethoscope low on the patient's abdomen.  "But Doctor," another person asks, "isn't the heart up here?"
"Oh no," the 'Doctor' replies, "we've changed all that!"
In that spirit, I present White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's new interpretation of the Constitution- with an intro by Mark Evanier-

This morning, Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked if it isn't true that it's the Supreme Court that's supposed to decide if something is constitutional. His reply was as follows...

No, as a matter of fact, the president has an obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. That is an obligation that presidents have enacted through signing statements going back to Jefferson. So, while the Supreme Court can be an arbiter of the Constitution, the fact is the President is the one, the only person who, by the Constitution, is given the responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend that document, so it is perfectly consistent with presidential authority under the Constitution itself.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Enough With The Scholar Defense

The Pope is no more a scholar than George Bush is an historian.
A scholar does not take one sentence, centuries old, and present it with no context to listeners with no background.  This is doubly, triply, or quadruply true when the sentence, uttered by a critic and foe of a religion, is used to characterize the religion.  Nothing, in fact, could be further from any possible meaning of scholarship.
You knew that, of course.  That the church of the Inquisition, the church of the Irish civil wars, the church that smuggled Nazi priests out of Croatia after WW II, that this church should remind us of the past, is the height of imprudence.  We're having enough trouble dealing with what that church did to little boys in our own state in the 50s and 60s.  That's what the Pope would do well to remember.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

An Unfinished Essay

George Bush, the greatest proponent of the ‘Big Lie’ technique since Hitler, is now the head of a movement that accuses Clinton of ‘stabbing us in the back’ by allowing 9/11 and claims that anyone who questions the wisdom of Bush is a traitorous ‘appeaser’.

Considering that Bush has led the nation well down the path of secret prisons (remember when he claimed they didn’t exist?), torture, unprovoked aggression against nations that had no intention of attacking us, and a dictatorship in which he regards the Constitution as a "piece of paper", maybe we should look at what happened to the Germans when they traveled down a similar path.

There is general agreement that Hitler rose to power because the Germans came to believe two Big Lies- one, that they had lost WW I because their army was ‘stabbed in the back’ by civilian politicians, and two, that a worldwide conspiracy of Jews had attacked and subjugated Germany in accord with their secret plan, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

In the spring of 1918 the Allied powers believed it would take another two years to invade and defeat Germany, and were massing huge armies for this final task. What they could not know was that Hindenburg and Ludendorf, by then the de facto rulers of the German military, would gather the remaining German troops and waste their lives by sending them directly into the firestorm of Allied artillery and machineguns. When the final German offensive on the Western Front had ended, the German army was totally destroyed. This is the truth about who stabbed the German army in the back.

After the Armistice American firms rushed to invest in German industry and take advantage of the helplessness of German workers. As an illustration of their success, in WW II a full half of the vehicles used by the Wehrmacht were constructed in Ford and GM factories in Germany.

Henry Ford, an anti-semite who hated unions as much as he hated Jews, soon realized that Hitler could be his best friend. (Ford was so pro-Nazi that he actually employed a Nazi to head his company secret police in Dearborn.) Ford paid for the distribution of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Like the ‘confessions’ exhibited in the show trials of Stalin, or the ‘evidence’ gathered by U.S. torturers in our modern "War on Terror", the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were completely bogus. Many Germans, however, could not face the fact that Hindenburg and Ludendorf had destroyed their army, and they felt the desperate need for a strong figure to protect them and make them feel safe.

And so they turned, from the great German history that brought forth Einstein and Thomas Mann, to the pitiable drug-addicted slime that constituted the Nazi party. To these Germans it seemed entirely believable that the Jewish cobblers and tailors and butchers, who were their neighbors, were part of a hidden world conspiracy to defeat Germany, a conspiracy that could only be defeated by attacking, first, Austria, their former ally in WW I, and then, many other countries. Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, France, England- all of these were nations in which "international Judaism" plotted to overthrow innocent Germany.

We can see a pattern here- a pattern of outright gibbering insanity that rested its case on two Big Lies, lies that never had a shred of evidence to support them. A pattern of naked aggression, at first unchecked because Germany had secretly rebuilt the most powerful military in the world at that time. A pattern that finally united the people so the world in a hatred of Germany so strong that, 60 years on, the Germans still walk with their heads held down in shame.

There are striking parallels between the German worker of 1939 and the American worker of today. In 1939 the German worker thought their standard of living had risen under Hitler. It hadn’t, just as our average wage has not risen since 1970. The German worker could buy no more butter in 1939 than he could in 1930, but he could buy ersatz butter made from coal-oil (we call it ‘margarine’), just as the American worker today thinks the daily combo from a fast-food restaurant is better than the fresh fruit and vegetables we can no longer afford.

Like today’s American, who worships the cargo-cult of the freeway, the German worker believed the building of the autobahn proved the superiority of German culture. The Germans, like us, lacked the oil resources to power their economy, and, like us, were ruled by nincompoops who actually might, at several points of the war, have seized the most strategic oil fields, but failed to do so.

So, at this critical moment, when we have the grandest military and the grandest roads in the world, but lack the oil to power them, when the standard of living has stagnated for 30 years and Americans are beginning to ask why workers in other countries live better than we do, what is to be our fate?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

One year, long ago, my parents took us down the coast to Los Angeles. We went to some places they wanted to go to, driving the 101 where it perches on the edge of the continent, eating Chinese in San Francisco, and visiting the small town where they got married in 1945.

We also went where the children wanted to go- Disneyland, where we waited in line for rides, ate some cotton candy, and were not terribly impressed by the amusement park, in spite of having seen it on tv.

And that, in a nutshell, is the 'magic of Disney'- crap and cotton candy that can't hold a candle to real life. Some people prefer it, and worship little mouse statues that don't even look like mice.

Me, not so much.