Farewell to 2012

Poor 2012.  Time is ticking away for this year and it’s leaving with an extremely tarnished reputation.

The year began badly with Obama appointing former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray as the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Director in a disputed recess appointment.  He followed up that piece of fiat rulership by denying the Keystone XL pipeline permit, which would have provided the United States with as much as 700,000 barrels of oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast.  Then there was the Fast and Furious gun-running scandal.

Tragedy struck in Arizona when Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and others killed in a mass shooting by a devoted Trotskyite.  Giffords survived but many others, including a child and a federal judge were killed.  Meanwhile, Congress battled it out over the Stop Online Piracy Act (House) and the IP Act (PIPA), which would have given courts the power to block websites participating in online piracy.

Speaking of piracy and traveling on the high seas, January witnessed the capsizing of the cruise ship the Cost Concordia when it ran into a reef.  Her captain, disobeying the law of the sea, was one of the first people off the ship and that he had steered the ship too close to shore to give his girlfriend a view.  Most of the 4,200 passengers and crew survived, but 42 died.

In the Middle East, the Afghan Taliban opened a political office in Qatar, in the wake of misbehavior by four errant U.S. Marines.  Iran, in the meanwhile, announced that it had produced its first nuclear fuel rod, providing fueling for a “civilian” nuclear facility in Tehran.  As Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu noted, “What does Iran need nuclear power for?  Their country is one big oil field.”

February was a busy month for the courts – and Obama.  The infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that California’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officials are not necessarily required to inform prisoners of their Miranda Rights when questioning them about crimes not related to their original sentence.  Obama, declaring himself a judge of sorts, altered the Birth Control Insurance Mandate to force religious organizations that hired secular employees to pay for their birth control and abortions, even if these procedure were against the religious organization’s creed.

The taxpayers found a temporary friend in Congress, which extended the temporary 2 percent payroll tax cut set to expire on March 1, 2012 to the end of the year (it’s now the end of the year and that’s what all the fuss about a Fiscal Cliff is).

Overseas, U.S. Defense Secretary notified the Taliban that it would be safe to re-capture Afghanistan sometime in March 2013, the date of the withdrawal of U.S. troops in that area.  Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have ended the 11-month conflict between Syrian “President” Bashar al-Assad and Syrian opposition groups.  The resolution included a call for al-Assad to step down peacefully.

The European Union, much to the dismay of Germany, agreed to a second Greek bailout, approving a $172 billion loan to Greece to prevent a default.  And lest you think massive tragedies only occur here in the U.S., 360 inmates died in Honduran prison fire and 55 civilians and government representatives were murdered in violence across Iraq.  Among the targets was an elementary school and another at a restaurant.

As the year “March-ed” on, we were treated to the spectacle of the Trayvon Martin shooting, in which an Hispanic man – George Hernandez – acting as a voluntary citizen patrolman in the gated community of Sanford, Fla.,, shot and killed 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, who was visiting his father.  There was a great outcry over the shooting.  Hernandez claimed that he had shot Martin in self-defense, therefore was within his rights under Florida’s “Stand-Your-Ground” law.  Later, it was determined through eyewitness accounts and Hernandez’ injuries that he was being beaten and shot in self-defense.

Maryland became the next state to legalize same-sex marriage.  British Petroleum (BP) and victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill came to a legal settlement in a class-action lawsuit, replacing a $20 billion escrow fund set up by BP with a court-administered fund.

Vladimir Putin was elected to third presidential term in Russia.  Afghan Pres. Hamid Karzai insisted NATO forces withdraw to their bases and allow Afghan security teams to patrol the countryside after an American soldier killed 16 Afghan civilians, including 9 children in Kandahar.  The United Nations approved the Syrian Peace Plan, relieving some of Assad’s more repressive controls.  French paratroopers killed a French Muslim terrorist, who had killed seven unarmed people, after a 30-hour standoff.  Mali’s government fell in a military coup, ousting democratically-elected Pres. Amadou Tourmani Toure.  Nomadic ethnic Tuaregs had created a rebellion against the Muslim majority country in order to create an independent state.

At the first Arab League Summit since 1990, Iraq took steps to reassert its position as a regional force.  Iraq reportedly spent $500 million on the summit and mobilized a 100,000 security forces to clean up Baghdad of its bad elements in order to host the summit.

In Spring, a young Secret Service agent’s thoughts turn to lust.  A dozen U.S. Secret Service agents in a prostitution scandal while preparing for Obama’s April visit to  Cartagena, Colombia.  The EPA issued more regulations hindering the practice of fracking, requiring energy companies to install expensive equipment to capture toxic gases released by the activity.

Business looked better as the House passed a $46 billion, one year business tax cut.  The legislation would allow businesses employing fewer than 500 people to deduct 20 percent of business income from their taxes, although Democrats were upset that the bill did not also include a hiring (or at least non-firing) clause.  The Republicans also defeated a bill that would have required a minimum tax of 30 percent on annual income over $1 million.  They argued that the tax would only bring in enough funds to cover one percent of projected deficits over the next ten years.

In Afghanistan, Afghan forces, in a deal with U.S. authorities, took over night raids and other special operations missions.  All such night raids would need approval from Afghan officials and a warrant from an Afghan court, which could be approved retroactively in instances requiring immediate action.

The former Chongqing Party was “red” in the face when former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai was removed from his positions on China’s Central Committee and Politburo.  His wife, Gu Kailai and a domestic servant were arrested for poisoning British businessman Neil Heywood in 2011.  Over in Europe meanwhile, Spain and Italy were deeper in the red.  Spain was obliged to pay nearly 6% on its ten-year bonds and Italy, 3.89% on its three-year bonds.  Iraqi insurgent attacks continued.

May brought flowers and Obama’s support of same-sex marriage, which was a message to the Supreme and Federal courts on that issue.  Facebook went public, raising $16 million but soon fell on its face.  John Edwards was acquitted of campaign finance violations in Greensboro, N.C.  over a $200,000 check from banking heiress Rachel Mellon during the 2008 presidential campaign.  He was acquitted on one felony count and a mistrial was declared on the other six counts.

Speaking of banks, bailout beneficiary J.P. Morgan Chase revealed a $2 billion trading loss.  The loss originated in the bank’s chief  investment office in London, the result of a poor investment strategy.  Financial institutions at the time were lobbying Congress to dispense with the Volkcer Rule and other restrictions on financial institutions.  Perhaps if they invested more in business enterprises and less in political campaigns, they’d be on solid standing and would have to visit Congress with hats in hand.

Obama took time off from his vacations in May to sign the Strategic Partnership Agreement with Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai.  The pact details the U.S. military’s role in Afghanistan after NATO withdraws in 2014.  It designates Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally and allows U.S. forces to remain in the country to train the Afghan army and conduct counter-terrorism operations.  Hours after the agreement was signed, terrorists attacked a Kabul compound used by Western contractors.

France went Socialist in May, with the election of  Francoise Hollande.  Greeks voted against austerity measures.  Despite a cease-fire, violence continued in Syria.  The decapitated bodies of 43 Mexican men and 6 women were found in a region of Mexico known for cartel violence.  Mexican authorities stated that in five years, 47,515 people have been murdered.  Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng was luckier, making a daring escape after his house arrest to the U.S. Embassy.  He was returned back to the Chinese but was eventually given asylum in the United States and is studying law in New York City.

At midyear, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker won a resounding victory against the unions in a recall election.  Union thugs tore the state capitol building apart and Democrat state legislators fled the state in protest, but Walker prevailed.  Meanwhile, Obama introduced a new immigration policy that allows immigrants who came to the U.S. before they were 16 the right to remain in the country as long as they meet certain educational criteria, had no criminal history, or were U.S. military veterans.

In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Arizona’s right to patrol its borders for illegal immigrants and in a mighty blow to the U.S. Constitution, upheld most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – Obamacare.

Attorney General Eric Holder was found in contempt over Congress on both civil and criminal grounds in regard to the Fast and Furious scandal.  In Egypt, meanwhile, former Pres. Hosni Mubarak was convicted of being an accessory to murder  during the Arab Spring and sentenced to life in prison.  Syrian government forces fired on unarmed U.N. personnel, preventing them from monitoring the joint U.N.-Arab League-sponsored cease-fire agreement.  Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo was removed from office for failing to prevent violence between police and homeless peasants.

It may have been 2012, but the financial ghosts of 2008 came back to haunt Barclay’s Bank of London.  Barclays agreed to pay $450 million to settle charges by U.S. and British bank regulators that it supplied inaccurate information regarding interest rates in order to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR).  The Libor interest rate is used as an international benchmark for other interest rates, including commercial loans and mortgages.  From 2005 to 2009, Barclays was accused of manipulating rates in order to increase traders’ profits and g ive the bank the appearance of financial health during the 2008 financial crisis.

Shame was brought upon Penn State University in June when its former assistant football coach, Gerald Sandusky, was convicted of 45 charges of child sexual abuse.

July is known for fireworks, but the wrong kind of fireworks went off in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater when 24 year-old James Holmes, wearing body armor, killed 12 people and injured 56, during a showing of the Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.   Holmes survived and was charged with 12 counts of murder.  He is eligible for the death penalty in Colorado.

By executive order, Obama exempted six more states (Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia) from the No Child Left Behind education law passed in 2002, requiring all students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.  The total number of states now exempt from the mandate is 32 and Republicans criticized Obama for his inappropriate use of executive authority in issuing the waivers.

Pena Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), was elected president of Mexico, defeating his leftist and conservative opponents.  Pakistan reopened NATO supply lines to Afghanistan.  Libya held its first democratic elections since 1964, with supposed Moderates taking power.  A suicide bomber killed six Israeli tourists in Bulgaria.  India suffered its blackout in its history, leaving approximately 370 million people without power.   The next day, two more grids failed, leaving about 670 million people without electricity.

Science got its place in history in July when scientists uncovered the “God” particle at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva Switzerland.  They had discovered preliminary evidence of the existence of the Higgs boson particle, which British physicist Peter Higgs theorized in 1964 gave matter mass.

More shootings heralded in the month of August, with a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisc., leaving six dead, including two temple leaders and the center’s president.  Three more people were injured.  The gun, Wade Page, shot himself in the head after being wounded in a police shoot-out.

U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R, Mo.) put his foot in his mouth when he made a comment to a St. Louis television station that women who are raped will just naturally self-abort.  Akin proved beyond a doubt that it’s possible for political candidates to self-abort.  In the meantime, the Republican National Committee formally nominated former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney as its candidate for President of the United States, with Paul Ryan as his running mate.

In the tech world, Apple won a $1.5 billion settlement from Samsung for infringing on its patents for six smartphones and tablets.  Overseas, the European Central Bank pledged to intervene in the Euro crisis without detailing exactly how it would solve the financial crisis of countries that had gone into debt supporting solar and wind energy.  Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was granted asylum in Ecuador.  And NASA’s probe, Curiosity, landed on Mars in search of organic materials which would suggest microbial life.

Syrian government forces launched an assault on its second-largest city, Aleppo.  Afghan police carried out two attacks in Helmand province against coalition forces, killing six NATO soldiers.

The XXX Summer Olympics were held in London, beginning with a bizarre opening ceremony paying tribute to Socialism’s role in English history.

September found the Democratic National Committee nominating Barack Obama again for President, amidst a hurricane that had missed the Republican Convention but drowned their own.  That’s what you get for wishing someone else harm.  In Chicago, teachers went on strike against stalled contract talks.  The length of the school day, teacher evaluations, and potential job cuts were the main issues.

In an effort to stimulate the economy, the Federal Reserve began buying mortgage-backed securities at a rate of $40 billion per month and continue to do so until the job market improved unless inflation interrupted their plan.  The Justice Department issued its final report on Operation Fast and Furious, blaming lower-level minions and allowing Attorney General Holder to escape accountability.

Speaking of “justice”, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq for his alleged involvement of the murder of a lawyer and a security officer.  Syrian Military Headquarters in Damascus was bombed.  Due to insider attacks in Afghanistan, NATO forces curtailed their joint missions with Afghani security.

And in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Ambassador Christoper Stevens and three others – Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty – were murdered in a fiery, mob-filled attack on the building in which they were hiding.  One of the guards reported on a gamester website that they were in imminent danger of attack.  Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice initially blamed the attack on a crude, anti-Muslim video.   Subsequent investigations indicated that the video had nothing to do with the attack, that it was only the claim of an anti-American policeman at the scene of the riot.

In October, Obama and Mitt Romney faced off in a series of debates.  Obama appeared very poorly in the first debate, not much better in the second, and according to popular polling, won an indecisive third round, though he was given a good deal of help by the moderator.  The moderator’s interference drew great criticism from political pundits.

Egyptian-born Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri pleaded not guilty to charges of 11 counts of terrorism for establishing an Islamic terrorist training camp in Oregon and kidnapping 16 people in Yemen.  In other news, the Federal Appeals Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In the Northeast, Hurricane Sandy took an unusual route up the Eastern Seaboard, making landfall in Atlantic City.  The storm was bad luck not only for the entire state of New Jersey, but New York’s Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island, as well as Connecticut’s South Shore.  Millions of people were without power for up to 12 days or more.  The Seaside Heights resort pier, including its roller coaster was destroyed, along with hundreds of homes.  Tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey were flooded for over two months.  Sandy was the second-largest Atlantic storm on record (after 2001’s Hurricane Olga).

Norway’s Nobel Committee awarded the European Union its Nobel Peace Prize.  Greeks protest the visit of German Prime Minister Andrea Merkel, and Syria began shelling border towns in Turkey.  Afghanistan announced that it would hold its next presidential election on April 5, 2014.

We all know what happened in November:  Obama won the presidential election by a 53 to 47 percent margin.  Most pundits were shocked, particularly after Obama’s poor debate performance and the shoddy shape of the economy.  Romney, whose career has been spent recovering ailing companies, was expected to win, especially as people were clammering for jobs.  However, one must never underestimate the public’s clammering for free entitlement programs.

December found America in shock over yet another mass shooting; this time, of 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.  One of the victims was the shooter’s mother, who was a survivalist, a gun collector, and a former kindergarten aide at the elementary school.  Investigations revealed that the shooter, Adam Lanza, suffered from a range of psychotic and emotional disorders.  Allegedly, his mother was preparing to have him committed to a mental institution.  Initially, he was mistake for his brother, Ryan, a Hoboken resident whose driver’s license his younger brother had stolen.  The shooting led to renewed cries for bans on ill-defined assault weapons and even guns in general, as well as a review of mental health treatment in the United States.

In Egypt, Islamists succeeded in having its Koran-based Constitution approved.  Dec. 21st saw the sun rise and set without an apocalyptic end of the world as based on certain interpretations of the Mayan Long Count calendar.  The only thing that happened that day was that John Kerry was nominated Secretary of State, something of a disaster in and of itself.

And in the last hours of 2012, Congress and Obama are battling at the edge of what has become known as the “Fiscal Cliff” which will see the end of tax cuts and an increase in entitlement spending.  The battle is over who will get the tax increases and what entitlement programs will survive the cuts.  One item that is off the agenda is a limit on the U.S. debt ceiling.  The Tea Party politicians and their Tea Partiers are hanging in there, though.  Whether we have anymore time left remains to be seen.  We’re pretty well down the road of Socialism.  One might say we have not only arrived but have taken up residence.

That is the political year 2012 in review.  Goodness only knows what we’ll face in 2013.  May God be with us!

 

Advertisements
Published in: on December 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm  Comments (2)  

A Strong Cup of Tea Party

“Taxed Enough Already.”  Those were the words of the initialized TEA Party.  There’s nothing certain but death and taxes.  As long as there are burdensome taxes, a government robbing its working citizens, there will be a Tea Party.

According to Fox News:

The Tea Party has had an up-and-down political ride since the movement helped Republicans take control of the House in 2010, but those elected in the midterm elections still appear to wield considerable power in the fiscal negotiations.

The roughly 50 members elected to the House two years ago have been a challenge for the more moderate House Speaker John Boehner since they took office. Perhaps most memorably, many of them refused last year to support a debt-ceiling bill because they said it didn’t reduce federal spending enough.

Just last week they squashed Boehner’s fiscal plan by refusing to compromise and vote on a tax increase for any American, despite the House speaker — in his so-called “Plan B” — having suggested extending tax cuts only for those making more than $1 million annually.

And their most powerful vote might be yet to come, should Tea Party-backed House members reject a possible Senate proposal over the next two days to extend tax cuts and perhaps avert massive federal spending cuts that start January 1.

“They lost in November, rather resoundingly, but still appearing to be doubling down,” Democratic strategist Christy Setzer told Fox News on Saturday.

To be sure, the campaigns of several Tea Party-backed Senate candidates imploded late in the 2012 election cycle, which in part resulted in Republicans failing to take control of the chamber and party leaders vowing afterward to take a more active role in future primaries.

Despite liberal-minded political analysts and others repeatedly pronouncing the death of the Tea Party, factions continue to fight and make themselves heard in Washington.

Boehner and other House leaders appeared to send a message to members of the chamber’s smaller-government, less-taxes Tea Party caucus who were reelected in November by taking away key committee seats from three members — Reps. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, David Schweikert of Arizona, and Justin Amash of Michigan.

However, Huelskamp sounding undeterred after Boehner’s so-called “Plan-B” vote failed, forcing the Senate to try to avert the $500 mix of tax increases and federal spending cuts over 2013.

Huelskamp called Boehner pulling the vote from the House floor “a victory for conservative principles.”

However, Boehner supporters that same night expressed their frustration with the Tea Party caucus.

“It’s the same 40 to 50 chuckleheads that have screwed this place up all year,” complained retiring Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio. Boehner has “done everything to make nice to them. Bring them along. It hasn’t mattered. I don’t fault him. He’s done his best.”

Boehner has passed major legislation in the past two years, but the Tea Party-backed lawmakers have led the opposition on several bills.

Fifty-nine Republicans abandoned Boehner in April, 2011 on a package to avert a government shutdown. That number ballooned to 101 on a November, 2011 bill to fund the government. Sixty- six Republicans voted in August 2011 against increasing the debt ceiling.

In addition, 91 Republicans vote in February against a bill to extend the payroll tax cut. And 52 Republicans voted against a bill to pay for the nation’s transportation programs in June.  We shouldn’t be too alarmed about the nay vote; the commuter fares into Manhattan are about sky-rocket right into the pockets of the union members who drive the buses and engineer the trains.

Though the movement has be characterized as a state-by-state grassroots effort, deep-pocketed Tea Party influenced groups such as FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity opposed Boehner’s Plan B and would likely oppose any future plan that does not include spending cuts.

“Conservatives are looking for a leader to fight against tax increases, to push back against wasteful government spending, and address the fiscal challenges in a bold way,” group President Tim Phillips said. “Sadly, this plan leaves conservatives wanting.”

We have news for Rep. LaTourette, a Congressman with obvious case of RINO syndrome:  we’re the “chuckleheads” who have to foot the bill for the legislation, the entitlement programs, and the debt that Congress continually heaps upon us.  Each year the debt goes unpaid, the service on the debt increases by millions, if not billions.  China, which holds our debt by buying our treasury notes, is just waiting until we’ve passed that point of no return.

The only people who are chuckling are inside-the-beltwayers, cocooned in the Capitol building, quite safe from the “predations” of the voters and the U.S. Constitution.  Congratulations and many thanks to our courageous Tea Party legislators.

Published in: on December 30, 2012 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Debt Ceiling Won’t Be on the Floor or the Table

Never mind the end of the Mayan Long-Count calendar, whose flip of the page passed on Dec. 21st without so much as a shooting star (although a friend who lives in Upstate New York noted that the sky was so bright that morning that it hurt her eyes); the United States is approaching the Fiscal Cliff on Dec. 31st, the deadline for an agreement to keep the country from going over the financial cliff through automatic tax increases.

Spending cuts are also on the danger list, though they are of no loss to anyone but Democrats.  What is off the table is an agreement on the debt ceiling.  Unless it was taken off the table, Obama refused to “bargain.”  Without the agreement to rein in debt, any agreements our bipartisan Congress comes to will be worthless.  We can’t borrow our way into solvency.

Congress has returned to the Capitol after their brief Christmas holiday and resumed their Perils of Pauline positions, with each side demanding the other take the initiative, according to the Associated Press.  Obama tried to quell the latest flare-up via a round of calls to Congressional leaders Wednesday night from Hawaii.  This was a crisis he just couldn’t manage from sand chair in Hawaii and so he boarded Air Force One and headed back to Washington.

Republican leaders planned to bring the House back into session on Sunday evening. But what legislation they will act on is uncertain.  Meanwhile, Senate leaders are working “off-stage” today to reach an eleventh-hour deal to avert a fiscal crisis, with no official proposals or votes expected until Sunday.  Harry Reid, our hero, has adjourned the chamber until tomorrow so Democratic and Republican leaders can negotiate on a deal to present to the House.

House members will officially return to Capitol Hill on Sunday in expectation that the Senate will present them with a plan to stop tax increases that are scheduled to kick in next week.  Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle vowed late Friday to scramble over the weekend to produce a new bill, on the heels of a high-stakes White House meeting with President Obama that is seen as the last chance to come together before the tax-hike deadline.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes Senators can come forward with a recommendation as early as Sunday.  Several senior administration officials told Fox News late Friday night that McConnell, a Republican, is showing strong signs that he will help seal a deal.

However, they acknowledges he will have a difficult time getting a deal passed in the Republican-controlled House, which has so far rejected any plan that includes allowing tax rates to increase for higher-earning Americans.

“We need to have everybody step back a bit,” Harry Reid said.  Spoken like a true bureaucratic leader.

The pledge to work on a new bill is by no means a solution to the sweeping set of tax hikes set to hit a few days from now, followed by the promise of steep spending cuts.  Lawmakers still have to write the bill and produce something that can pass both chambers.  Obama, speaking from the White House briefing room late Friday, voiced a dose of doubt about the Senate leaders’ final push for a deal.

He said he’s “modestly optimistic” but that if Reid and McConnell fail, the Senate should allow an up-or-down vote on his scaled-back proposal.

“The hour for immediate action is here, it is now,” Obama said. “We’re now at the last minute, and the American people are not going to have any patience for a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy. … We’ve got to get this done.”

The American people voted for economic suicide when they voted for Obama in November.  No one even knows exactly what the plan entails.  No one knows how much of his plan cuts tax hikes or cuts spending.  Considering how long this effort has been delayed, it’s possible lawmakers will miss the deadline and Americans will miss a good deal of money from their first paychecks in January.

Apparently, the Senate wants to tweak the Obama plan, which would include an extension of current tax rates for most Americans — but potentially adjust it so fewer earners see a tax hike, and add a provision dealing with a looming expansion of the estate tax.

The debt ceiling, which Obama wants increased, would not be part of this bill. And a senior White House official admitted it is unclear how a looming set of spending cuts would be addressed.   The White House official said that during the meeting, Reid and McConnell jumped in and offered to draft a new plan after Obama told them he thought his scaled-back proposal could pass both chambers.

The president’s plan is hardly the “grand bargain” lawmakers were shooting for just a few weeks ago – a plan that would narrow the deficit, overhaul the tax code and set the country on a course to curb its entitlement spending, all while averting massive tax hikes and spending cuts.   Those dreamers.  Instead, Obama wants a bill that cuts the tax hikes for families making under $250,000, people who already pay relatively little in the way of taxes. He has pushed that particular provision for months, though Republicans have adamantly opposed raising taxes on those making above $250,000.

Obama’s proposal would also extend unemployment benefits for roughly 2 million people expected to lose them next year, and deal with “other outstanding issues.”  Here in New Jersey, all emergency unemployment benefits are being cut as of Dec. 31st, regardless of when you started collecting.  A scurrilous manipulation, dangling millions of unemployed whose situation you can lay right at the feet of corporation-taxing Democrats in order to get the deal he wants.

It’s one thing to be tied to your state when you’re out of work; it’s quite another to be fettered to the Fed for your daily bread.  The political dagger hangs over you at all times; not much better than the corporate barons the public frequently blames for economic crises.  At least your employer would never tell you where you can live.

Fox News says, “The immediate challenge for negotiators, though, will be to craft a plan that does enough to spare most Americans a big hike without doing so much as to complicate the bill’s passage. There are a host of expiring provisions next year — from Medicare rates to doctors to payroll tax cuts — that some lawmakers hoped to address before the end of the month. The more items added to the bill, the trickier it gets to pass it.   Lawmakers have been hesitant to predict whether Congress will be able to arrive at any solution.

“We are obviously running out of time here,” McConnell said earlier Friday.

Lawmakers effectively have fewer than two working days to pass legislation. While the Senate was in session this week, the House does not return until Sunday afternoon.  Between now and Jan. 1, Congress has just a handful of options for sparing taxpayers. Aside from the scaled-back plan being offered by Obama or the new plan being drafted in the Senate, lawmakers could simply pass a short-term extension of current rates — buying more time to work out an agreement. Lawmakers might have to do this even if they reach an agreement by the weekend — because of the sheer time it would take to write that bill and bring it to the floor.

Or Congress could let the tax hikes happen, only to retroactively deal with them next year.  Maybe.  The Boston Globe reported Friday that the IRS may delay the impact of tax hikes by holding off on telling employers to change how much they withhold from workers.

The government tailors are still working on enlarging American’s pockets so that the Government’s bloated hand will fit into it.

 

Published in: on December 29, 2012 at 4:39 pm  Comments (3)  

The Last Bastion of Free Speech

Our Chinese students were very plugged in over Christmas.  Some of them had bought new Ipods and tablets for Christmas, and apparently, enjoying the gift of Internet freedom that America offers.

It’s no wonder they’re anxious to stay as long as they can.  Over in China, the country’s new Communist leaders are increasing already tight controls on the Internet and electronic publishing, according to the Associated Press.

China’s new leader, Xi Jinping and others who came to power in November are anxious about the Internet’s potential to spread opposition to one-party rule.  They insist on controlling information, now that they’re in power, despite campaign promises of more economic reforms.

“This week,” the AP reports, “China’s legislature took up a measure to require Internet users to register their real names, which would curb the Internet’s status as a freewheeling public forum to register complaints and anonymously report corruption and official abuses.

“’They are still very paranoid about the potentially destabilizing effect of the Internet,’” said Willy Lam, a politics specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.  “They are on the point of losing a monopoly on information, but they are still very eager to control the dissemination of views.”

“There are reports that Beijing may be disrupting use of software that allows Web surfers to see sites abroad that are blocked by its extensive internet filters.  At the same time, regulators have proposed rules that would bar foreign companies from distributing books, news, music and other material online in China.

Beijing promotes Internet use “for business and education but bans material deemed subversive or obscene and blocks access to foreign websites run by human rights and Tibet activists and some news outlets. Controls were tightened after social media played a role in protests that brought down governments in Egypt and Tunisia.

“In a reminder of the Web’s role as a political forum, a group of 70 prominent Chinese scholars and lawyers circulated an online petition this week appealing for free speech, independent courts and for the ruling party to encourage private enterprise.

“Xi and others on the party’s ruling seven-member Standing Committee have tried to promote an image of themselves as men of the people who care about China’s poor majority. They have promised to press ahead with market-oriented reforms and to support entrepreneurs but have given no sign of support for political reform.

“Communist leaders who see the Internet as a source of economic growth and better-paid jobs were slow to enforce the same level of control they impose on movies, books and other media, apparently for fear of hurting fledgling entertainment, shopping and other online businesses.  Until recently, Web surfers could post comments online or on microblog services without leaving their names.

“That gave ordinary Chinese a unique opportunity to express themselves to a public audience in a society where newspapers, television and other media are state-controlled. The most popular microblog services say they have more than 300 million users and some users have millions of followers reading their comments.

“The Internet also has given the public an unusual opportunity to publicize accusations of official misconduct.

“Some industry analysts suggest allowing Web surfers in a controlled setting to vent helps communist leaders stay abreast of public sentiment in their fast-changing society. Still, microblog services and online bulletin boards are required to employ censors to enforce content restrictions. Researchers say they delete millions of postings a day.

“The government says the latest Internet regulation before the National People’s Congress is aimed at protecting Web surfers’ personal information and cracking down on abuses such as junk e-mail. It would require users to report their real names to internet service and telecom providers.

“The main ruling party newspaper, People’s Daily, has called in recent weeks for tighter Internet controls, saying rumors spread online have harmed the public. In one case, it said stories about a chemical plant explosion resulted in the deaths of four people in a car accident as they fled the area.

“Proposed rules released this month by the General Administration of Press and Publications would bar Chinese-foreign joint ventures from publishing books, music, movies and other material online in China. Publishers would be required to locate their servers in China and have a Chinese citizen as their local legal representative.

“That is in line with rules that already bar most foreign access to China’s media market, but the decision to group the restrictions together and publicize them might indicate official attitudes are hardening.   Previous efforts to tighten controls have struggled with technical challenges in a country with more than 500 million Internet users.

“Microblog operators such as Sina Corp. and Tencent Ltd. were ordered in late 2011 to confirm users’ names but have yet to finish the daunting task.  Web surfers can circumvent government filters by using virtual private networks – software that encrypts Web traffic and is used by companies to transfer financial data and other sensitive information. But VPN users say disruptions that began in 2011 are increasing, suggesting Chinese regulators are trying to block encrypted traffic.

“Chinese leaders ‘realize there are detrimental impacts on business, especially foreign business, but they have counted the cost and think it is still worthwhile,’ said Lam. ‘There is no compromise about the political imperative of controlling the Internet.’”

The United Nations is urging its members to stifle its public with similar rules.  Obama, who has probably held the fewest press conference of any President of the United States, will have no scruples about passing such Internet restrictions here in the United States.  The only thing that stands in his way is the U.S. Constitution.

Something is very wrong when students from a Communist country seek America’s shores, while American students embrace Communism.  This group happened to be keenly intelligent; all master’s degree students or better in engineering.  Our own students barely pass minimum math and science standards; they opt for the easy way out and think nothing of surrendering their freedom.

These Chinese students are not from impoverished families.  They’re quite well-to-do, instantly dispelling the Communist myth of spreading the wealth.  They know that wealth is nothing without freedom.  They love their homeland of China, but are indifferent to its politics.

America has crossed the border into Socialism and are on the road to Communism and tyranny.  Being as ignorant of American politics as they are indifferent to Chinese politics, the Nephew’s Chinese friends are unaware of the dangers facing freedom of speech, even as they eagerly test out their new tablets on my brother’s dining room table.

Who would have thought that it would be the Chinese who would teach Americans the value of free speech?

 

Published in: on December 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm  Comments (3)  

A Chinese Hip-Hop, Marshmallow Shooter Christmas

This was probably the most unusual Christmas our family has ever spent.  The Nephew’s girlfriend invited nine of her college friends home for the holidays, one of whom is a PhD.  Three left before dinner, which made it possible to fit (barely) everyone around my brother’s table.

The Chinese students were all amiable, friendly, and very merry and very polite.  As we sat around the dinner table, they spoke of their studies and their plans for the future, as well as their families back home.  Soon, they got around to talking about siblings.  They queried each other about their status.  Each one woefully admitted that they were an only child (as is The Nephew).

“None of you has any brothers or sisters?” my mother began to exclaim when my older brother interrupted her.

“It’s China, Mom.  They have a one-child-only policy.”

But then one of the young men spoke up.

“I have a brother,” he announced smiling.  There was great exclamation around the table.

“You have a brother?!”  “I wish I had a brother.”

It was the sort of exclamation of wonder that we Americans save for things like swimming pools, Jacuzzis, horses, and private airplanes.  “You have an in-ground swimming pool?  Wow!”  or “You have your own Lear jet?!  Awesome!”

Imagine if I had told them that one of my former supervisors had seven brothers.  Seven?!  That’s a lot of brothers, even here in America.  My younger brother took it upon himself to combine the prayer and the toast and gabble on about his friends in South America.  As hostess, I intended for my older brother to perform that duty and welcome the guests at the table.

I arranged the seating at this dinner to content my mother, the matriarch of our clan.  To please her, I squeezed the poor Nephew between his father and his grandmother, although his girlfriend was just to the other side of his father.  I learned that seating arrangement from watching Pride and Prejudice.  You always sit across from your partner, not next to them, so that you’re compelled to mingle with the other guests.

After dinner, we Americans retired to the den, where the nephew got an excellent fire going.  He and his Chinese friends had put up a gigantic, 7-foot Christmas tree.  They only got the tree half decorated when they became bored.  My older brother said they had trouble putting the tree into its holder.  They’d only placed the trunk halfway in.  He couldn’t get these young engineers to understand that they had to put the tree on the floor.  But when he put in their terms – “put the load to the floor (so that the floor carries the weight),” they finally understood.

The Nephew finished decorating the tree and then he put the boxes in the basement, which was closer than the attic where the decorations had been languishing these last five years or so.  He was so helpful the entire evening.

As for my brother, he grew merrier as the day progressed and found himself under the dictates of a woman taking charge of his household (for the day).  At first, we had a fuss over a pile of mail that he apparently hadn’t looked at.  Amidst the clutter were unopened Christmas cards, checks, and notices, as well as the usual heap of junk mail and magazines.

“I don’t want you to organize my mail!” he complained.  “How do you know what’s important to me and what isn’t?”

“I think I can tell the difference between a flyer from Shop Rite and a check from your insurance company,” I replied.  And of course, I threw nothing away.  He used to have these same battles with his ex-wife, who finally threw in the dish towel.  Sisters aren’t as easily put off.  We can say some things that wives can’t.  He finally got into such high household spirits that he even ran upstairs and made his bed.

If China is the model for the future Progressive society, with its one-child per family policy, the world is in for somber times, as our Chinese guests could attest.  They are young yet.  My brother’s house looked like a college dorm, with blankets, pillows, empty water bottles and other late adolescent accoutrements scattered about the house.  The Nephew’s girlfriend sounded annoyed, but in the absence of any other Mrs. Big Brother, for that occasion, I was the lady of the house and it simply couldn’t be left in that condition.

They had gone next door to visit with my brother’s ex.  There was no telling when they’d be back, so I cleaned the place up myself, blankets, dishes and all.  I remember that age; almost adult, but not quite there in the household responsibility department (except for The Nephew).

So, as we opened presence in the den, the Chinese students sang Chinese hip-hop.  It wasn’t exactly “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” but it was at least merry.  Merrier than my brother’s house has been in a while.  I gave The Nephew his last gift after everyone had left the room.  I gave him a marshmallow shooter, along with a package of stale, hard mini-marshmallows.

His father came into the room and asked him what it was.

“What are you going to do with it?” Big Brother asked.

“Shoot G.G.,” was the prompt answer.  He went into the living room, took aim at his girlfriend, and his target.  She began running around the house, with The Nephew in pursuit.

“What are you doing?!” she shrieked.  “What do you think you are?  Six years old?”

Ping!  He got her again, and she learned what it means to have a brother.

The next time I go up to Big Brother’s house, I’ll have to dust for marshmallows.

Published in: on December 26, 2012 at 7:46 pm  Comments (3)  

Christmas 2012

Merry Christmas to all my readers.   Thank you for your support.  May you enjoy health, happiness and the warmth of family this holiday season!

“Belle”

 

Published in: on December 25, 2012 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  

Christmas Eve, 2012

On this Christmas Eve, 2012, let us thank the Lord that the dire predictions of doom, come what may in the future, did not come to pass on Dec. 21st and that we’re all alive to celebrate another anniversary of Jesus Christ’s birth.  God is still with us – and we’re still with Him.

We did not get everything we wanted for Christmas.  That is to say, we did not get a Conservative President in this year’s election.  More people have jobs, but they’re government jobs, not private sector employment.  Or they’re part-time jobs, which will make it nearly impossible for families to save for the future.  Government promises us that it will take care of health care, jobs, and education.  We would rather depend upon God than the Government, thank you very much.

I’ve got a job for Christmas.  It’s only part-time for the first three months and there’s no health care, for which I’m quite grateful.  I have my own, it’s inexpensive and I’d rather like to keep it that way, rather than be threatened by an employer or the government.  The job only pays one-third of my previous salary, although that may change after the first three months.  Either they’ll offer me more money at that point, or I’ll be in a better position for a better job.

Initially, I turned the job down because of the low pay.  But then I received a notice from the state saying that all benefits would be cut off unless the Federal government stepped in to pay the unemployed.  That’s what is wrong with depending upon the government; you can’t depend upon them.  They criticize businesses that lay off employees but they think nothing of terrifying unemployed people at Christmas time.  And if they do grant the money, we should kiss their assets?  Thank you, no.  I’d rather earn my money honestly, even if it is hard work, even if the employer did note that it was stressful work.  There’s nothing more stressful than depending upon a corrupt government.

I’ll wait and work for better things.  I always knew, that as a writer, the struggle would be hard.  The competition is stiff and the standards Olympian in proportion.  I’m up against younger people with fathers in the publishing business, younger people who attended Smith, Vassar, Yale and Harvard.  I once attended a speech writing seminar with a woman who graduated from Vassar.  Now, she’s a Fortune 500 Public Relations Strategist.  She won a scholarship to Vassar from a high school in Texas.  She was top of her class, had taken advanced placement courses.  But she still wasn’t ready for the rigors of Vassar.  Her classmates were all wealthy, prep school debutantes from important families who could afford the most expensive schools and teachers.   But she made it.

This is all material for New Year’s Day resolutions, though.  At the moment, I’m taking a break from last-minute preparations for Christmas Day.  I must begin the gift-wrapping process soon and before I go out tonight, I will place Baby Jesus outside with Mary and Joseph.

I’ve signed up for the Nativity Wars.  I can’t afford the $300-minimum lawn sets that wealthy people and churches can put out front.  But I found a stand-up, one-dimensional metal set that does the job very nicely.  My nasty neighbor was very pleased when the windstorm set in last Friday and blew down all my decorations.  As soon as the wind abetted, I went back out, set everything right and set up Mary and Joseph, where everyone driving by can see them.  I hope it annoys the bejabbers out of the Tattooed Lady, who pronounces herself a Good Christian.  I don’t pronounce myself a Good Christian.  But tell me that I can’t do something, like set out a Nativity, I’ll immediately take up that cross.

There are actually two outside now.  One is a small, homemade set inside a clear, plastic storage box with a lid.  I found a kid’s paint-it-yourself nativity set and a wooden stall at Michael’s.  I skipped the paint, put a wreath inside the box, and the white, porcelain Nativity figures inside the box.  Then on top of the box, I placed a blue star (the only one I could find…).

I wanted to send a message to my neighbors, to such in the community as are likely to see it, and to the world:  that’s “Merry Christmas” not “Happy Holidays”!  The trees and the bells and the candy canes are all nice, but Jesus is what it’s all about.  He was God’s gift to us and we owe Him, big time.  To those who are offended, who don’t believe, who don’t want to see, all I can say is this:

You can’t tell what’s inside the gift until you unwrap it.

Merry Christmas to all my blog friends!

 

 

 

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 2:50 pm  Comments (2)  

The Doomsday Report

The good news about last Friday, Dec. 21st  is that the world did not end.  The Mayan’s always maintained that the end of the Long Count was simply the end of a very long calendar and the start of new one.  New Age spiritualists saw it as the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  When the Moon is in the 7th House (it was in the 12th actually), and Jupiter aligns with Mars (it was in wide opposition), then peace will guide the planets, etc., etc.

The most notable headline for Dec. 22nd was that John Kerry is to be our new Secretary of State.  That news is disquieting enough for anyone to start building a fall-out shelter.  The three major credit agencies are predicting a downgrade in the United States’ credit if it doesn’t raise its debt ceiling by late February or March.  In other words, the country will run out of cash.

So Congress is playing chicken over the debit ceiling.  The Republicans deserve a good deal of credit for standing their ground.  They’re also demanding that tax rates be raised for everyone, not just the millionaires.  When 99 percent of the population is not paying taxes, it doesn’t very fair at all.

The country is still in shock and mourning over the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  The Progressives want to take everyone’s guns away.  The Conservatives want more effective treatment and constraint of the criminally insane (the people who just want to shoot up the local movie theater, shopping center, or kindergarten and then end it all).  Since the lunatics have been running the asylum, there’s been a relativistic redefinition of insanity. “Insane” is someone who wants to protect their freedom, or may be their life.  Crazy, huh?  Meanwhile, another gunman in central Pennsylvania shot down three people along a country road, and gun shop owners report that business is booming.

New Jersey, Staten Island, Long Island, and the Connecticut coast are still trying to recover from that other Sandy.  FEMA has a new, costly set of regulations that will make it more difficult and expensive for homeowners to rebuild in those areas.  Taxpayers tend to agree with FEMA since they’re footing the bill for these homes.  The EPA has a new set of air pollution regulations for commercial boilers as well, making it more expensive for manufacturers to do business.

Great Britain is contemplating breaking up big banks.  Allegedly, the Muslim Brotherhood is losing popularity, according to the New York Times; only one-third of Egypt’s registered voters bothered to turn out for the vote on the controversial constitution and 56 percent of those voters approved it.

Mexico released an American prisoner while North Korea captured one.  Russia’s president is distancing himself from Syria, while Puerto Rico announced it would overhaul its police force.  Alabama prisoners with AIDS will no longer have to distance themselves from other inmates.

ene-engineered salmon are swimming our way and Tunisia is having a palace sale on the all the property and effects of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali.  Three men appeared in Brooklyn court on charges that they had trained to be suicide bombers with a Somali terrorist group.  For four months, the case remained under seal.  The documents show no relation between the alleged crimes and the United States, although the group is linked to Al Qaeda.  The four defendants required Swedish interpreters.  The Senate approved a $633 billion dollar spending bill, while the military itself is planning on cutting $50 billion next.  The Senate and the Pentagon really to need to work on their communications.

alifornia’s state ban on gay-to-straight change therapy has been put on hold.  A Missouri judge blocked the new bill preventing birth control coverage, and an Iowa court upheld the firing of a woman whose boss found her too attractive.

Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Monti resigned after a budget vote.  Monti is in favor of raising taxes.  He’s not out of the running politically and will probably run again as a candidate, on the centrist platform that Italy needs to stay the course on structural changes.  After Berlusconi resigned amidst the global financial panic, Monti improved Italy’s global image but effectively raised taxes, worsening the country’s recession.  An important lesson for America.  Germany is optimistic, without any very good reason, as economists say that many economic indicators have yet to turn around.

Finally, Instagram, an app available on Facebook, is not winning converts with its policy of stealing people’s personal photographs for commercial use.  Guess they figure if the government can do it, why shouldn’t they make a buck out of all those photographs floating around on Facebook?

Yes, except for the Kerry announcement – and the passage of the Islamic Constitution, no matter how uncertain the Times claims Egyptian voters feel – and the debt ceiling crisis, there seems to be little new earth-shaking news that would be the pebble in the avalanche that will precipitate the long-term end of the world, or history as we know it.

Still a friend noted on Friday – she lives in Queensland, New York – that when she went outside that morning, the sky was so bright that it actually hurt her eyes.  Other residents in that northern clime reported the same phenomenon.  Did all those red, flashing meteors do something to burn up the ozone atmosphere?  Does that mean that climate change is a big hoax?

Better stock up on SPF 100 sunblock, guns, and cash.  It’s not over yet.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on December 24, 2012 at 12:22 am  Leave a Comment  

And Lo! It Did Not Come to Pass

6:11 a.m. came – and passed into history and the world went on its way; it did not end.  Locally, New York City was going through some wild weather, as was London at the same moment, affecting transportation, though to no unusual degree in New York City.

This End of the World event was like every End of the World event before it; no spectacularly cataclysmic fireballs slammed into the Earth, ending life as we know it.  All was calm.  Nothing seemed to have happened on Feb. 5, 1962, or any of the other dates marked for doom.  Yet events in 1962 soon followed that had a marked effect on civilization:  commercial communications satellites were launched, there was the Cuban Missile crisis, and the Supreme Court ruling banning prayer in schools.

The 1987 “Harmonic Convergence” saw Al Gore’s first presidential bid.  Gore would ultimately lose the presidency, but gained a following of environmental devotees with his book, and subsequent film, An Inconvenient Truth.

Today, we learn that Obama will officially name John Kerry as Secretary of State.  He was born in Aurora, Colo.  After serving in Viet Nam, he went before a Congressional committee and testified that the United States was guilty of war crimes.  This is the man who’s going to be our next Secretary of State?

On other fronts, the Plan B Tax bill has failed.  The House won’t pass the current bill, which has tax hikes in it; the Democrat Senate won’t pass the bill without the tax hikes.  So on this “Doomsday,” Congress dangles over the fiscal cliff.  Boehner has not ruled out making a “deal” with Obama, although Conservative Republicans are rebelling and Boehner could be removed from his position as Speaker of the House.

The two earthquake occurrences nearest to the 11:11 GMT deadline were a 1.7 tremor some miles north of Willow, Alaska, at 11:04 and a 1.9 temblor near Walnut, Calif.  Hardly earthshaking events.  Willow is just up the road from Sarah Palin’s hometown of Wasilla.  Walnut, a small, affluent eastern suburb of Los Angeles, has no special distinction.  Forest Lawn Memorial Park (famed for Hollywood star burials) and Cal State Polytechnic are its near neighbors.

In other news, scientists have confirmed that the Coral Sea floor is collapsing off the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia, putting its coastal areas in danger of a tsunami.  The scientists have had their eye on this area since 2007 but only recently confirmed that the floor is collapsing and announced it today.

Protestors for and against the Islamic-influenced Egyptian constitution have been clashing on the eve of the vote, which will take place tomorrow.   Syrian rebels fired warning shots at a civilian airliner that was about to take off from an airport in Aleppo.  The U.S. is also on alert for adverse reaction to the film Zero Dark Thirty, about the killing of Osama Bin Laden.

Today, there was also an official moment of mourning for the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, with bells tolling 26 times for each of the victims.  Meanwhile, New York Gov. Mario Cuomo is proposing complete confiscation of all guns, giving gun owners the “option” of selling their firearms to the government.

That’s what has happened so far this morning.  The decision to name John Kerry as Secretary of State, while it may be announced later, was clearly made early this morning and counts towards this astrological event.  It’s all about the point-of-no-return moment.  The moment Obama made his decision official that was kind of it.  Since the Senate is Democrat, there will be no problem of passing his nomination.  Not that the President needs their consent anymore since Congress abolished the Advise and Consent Senate Rule in the Constitution this past autumn.  Oh?  Didn’t you know that?

Tomorrow will tell the final tale of what the Long Count/Doomsday 2012 has wrought.  In this day and age of instant media, one no longer needs to wait for the New York Times to confirm something.  But in our hurried age of instant news, some small, but crucial stories get buried in the crush and go unpublished by the electronic media.

For instance, the Seattle Times reports today that the Issaquah City Council in Washington State has bought wholesale into Smart Growth, the community development arm of Agenda 21.  They just approved the building of moderate-density housing.  Apartment buildings up to 10-stories will be built within an industrial complex, guaranteeing thousands of new jobs in an environmentally-correct community.  The residents will want for nothing.

Except freedom.

 

Published in: on December 21, 2012 at 11:52 am  Comments (2)  

The Devil is in the Details

The idiom “the devil is in the details” derives from the earlier phrase, “God is in the details,” expressing the idea that whatever one does should be done thoroughly; i.e. details are important. This original idiom has been attributed to a number of different individuals, most notably to German-born architect Ludwig Mies van der Roche (1886–1969) by The New York Times in Mies’ 1969 obituary.  However, it is generally accepted to not have originated with him. The expression also appears to have been a favorite of German art historian Aby Warburg (1866–1929), though Warburg’s biographer, E.M. Gombrich, is likewise uncertain if it originated with Warburg. An earlier form “Le bon Dieu est dans le détail” (the good God is in the details) is generally attributed to Gustave Flaubert (1821–1880).  Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations lists the saying’s author as anonymous.  Google’s n-gram function reveals that the phrase “the devil is in the details” does not appear in print before ca. 1975.

It’s very interesting that the corruption of the now-common saying should have appeared in the late Sixties (at the very earliest).  Rumors of the birth of the Anti-Christ had been rumbling since before 1962.  Old, bearded men walked around with sandwich board signs that said, “Repent!” and “The End is near!”  1962 was the year the Supreme Court outlawed prayers in school (it took a while for the states to challenge the ruling – and fail in their quest to keep God from being expelled.

In 1961, Christian theologian Gabriel Vahanian wrote a book, “The Death of God.”  In 1966, Time Magazine’s cover asked, “Is God Dead?”  The idea was first proposed by German philosopher Friedrich Nitzsche in 1882 in the magazine, The Gay Science.  Notably, Nitzsche was addicted to opium and suffered a mental breakdown.  His statement was not a rant against religion and God, however, but against materialism and Man’s self-centered quest for power.

“God is dead,” Nitzsche wrote.  “God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us?  What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent?  Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us?  Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

The anti-materialism screed backfired with the turn of the 20th Century.  Beginning with The Friendship Society, which transmogrified into The Fabian Society, Man decided that he was materialistic but that there was still no God.  Since there was no God to feed the masses and house the homeless, Man would have to, collectively, become God, become his “brother’s keeper.”  Some people were naturally better than others, physically, intellectually, morally, and they would rule.  They would help the unfortunate and scourge the independent.  They would become the guardians of this Earth upon which they’d been placed and repair the damage done by industrialization and “greed.”

This plan failed.  The myopic Fabians could not see that they were not better than the next man and that they were flawed.  The freedom they rejected had been crafted out of a sense that Man, given the chance, would always turn tyrant to his brother, and become not his brother’s keeper but his brother’s master.

The older generation of the 1960s and the parental generation watched in horror as their children, particularly their older children, were lured by New Age religion, environmentalism, and drugs.  They watched as Progressives incrementally changed the textbooks.  The Catholic Church stripped saints, including Saint Nicholas, of their sainthoods in the Vatican II.  The Supreme Court decision against prayer in schools was the nadir event.  It was with these things in mind that popular radio broadcaster Paul Harvey broadcast, on April 3, 1965, his famous “If I Were the Devil” homily.

PAUL HARVEY’S ‘IF I WERE THE DEVIL’ TRANSCRIPT

April 3, 1965

“If I were the devil … If I were the Prince of Darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness. And I’d have a third of its real estate, and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — Thee.  So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first — I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve:  ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that ‘The Bible is a myth.’ I would convince them that Man created God instead of the other way around.  I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is ‘square.’ And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington…’

“And then I’d get organized.  I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting, so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting.  I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could.  I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves; until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames. If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions — just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

“Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography — soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money. If I were the devil I’d make the symbols of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.

“If I were the Devil I’d take from those who have, and give to those wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what do you bet? I could get whole states to promote gambling as thee way to get rich? I would caution against extremes and hard work, in Patriotism, in moral conduct.  I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on the TV is the way to be.  And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure. In other words, if I were the Devil I’d just keep right on doing on what he’s doing. Paul Harvey, good day.”

Various modern media outlets have rebroadcast Harvey’s speech, marveling at his sagacity.  “Drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.”  Yes, apparently the denizens of 1965 realized that metal detectors could be used for something besides beach combing, looking for trinkets.

Sometime during the 1970s or 80s, discussing the Devil went out of vogue.  Mentioning his name was considered judgmental and that you should not use his name in vain.  “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”  J.K. Rowling, in her Harry Potter series, sure got that right.  Meanwhile his most faithful followers grew bolder, fostering ancient pagan practices, and even using his ancient sign in a modern form.  Followers of the followers, not wanting to be ostracized by their peers, acquiesced.  Political correctness was the seed of this misguided faith.  Earth Day was born on April 20, 1970.

On this day before The End of the World – followers claim it’s Saturday, but the official winter equinox begins at 11:11 a.m. GMT (Greenwich Mean Time); 6:11 a.m. in New York City – it is to Paul Harvey’s prophesy that we should pay the greatest heed, and it’s telling that WOR radio broadcast it this morning.  The 1962 Great Conjunction was not (as it turned out) to be about the end of the world in terms of tidal waves, asteroids, earthquakes or other cataclysms, but rather, a birth.  The smallest of items in tiny print hidden amidst all the news fit to print in the New York Times.

I had to look hard to find it.  Tomorrow’s cataclysm could very well be some physical catastrophic event.  A huge snowstorm has descended upon the Midwest.  Tomorrow morning’s weather forecast is for heavy rain, high winds, and possible thunderstorms around 6 a.m., making for a very wet commute and possibly re-flooding New York City’s commuter tunnels.  We could lose power (again – which is why I’m going to run out to the local Big Box and see if I can find one of those Olde Brooklyn lanterns.  I ordered one online from Betty’s Attic, but it never arrived).

Toutatis could split apart and strike the Moon, causing tidal flooding here on Earth.  The Sun could shoot out a massive solar flare, possibly burning up our atmosphere or wreaking havoc on our electronics and communications systems.  No one really knows for sure; scientists claim there’s nothing out there that they can see.  I’ve given you an idea of what could happen, in terms of physical calamities in previous columns.  Some financial stability could erupt in Europe or Asia, having an avalanche effect on world markets.  Investors are a superstitious lot.

But the real danger is moral.  The catastrophe may not manifest itself in some gigantic, fiery (or watery) cataclysm, but in a small act that will set evil in motion.  One thing is clear in tomorrow’s astrological chart:  many people will be deceived or terrified into surrendering their freedom for safety.  “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

Since the event occurs at 6 in the morning in New York, other than an act of war or some physical cataclysm that will have worldwide repercussions (i.e., a volcanic eruption on the scale of the 1815 volcano in Java), a human form of the “calamity” will likely have its beginnings in Europe, where the day will be in full swing.

Last Friday’s massacre in a small town in Connecticut is an example.  Had it happened a week later, I would have said that’s the event.  Not to denigrate the agony of the loss, the massacre of 26 people (devastating as it was) is small in scale compared to the 16 million murdered by Stalin.  In fact, there’s a whole list of large-scale genocides out on the Internet.  Newtown was small in scale (comparatively speaking) but great in evil, given the ages of the victims.  This relatively small pebble could have great consequences, both for good and evil, for our self-defense, for the treatment of the mentally ill, for the protection of children, and for morality.

We can either turn the tide or be swept away by it, surrendering all our freedom for the mirage of total security.  Will we once again put on the armor of God?  Or will we (as is more likely) burden the innocence of childhood with body armor, bullet-proof vests and backpacks, and metal detectors?  Already, children for years now have not had the pleasure of feeling the breeze rush through their hair as they ride their bicycles.  Instead of learning to ride more safely, we simply slapped bicycle helmets on their heads and let them go on riding as they pleased.

We can armor-plate ourselves to the hilt, until we clank around like knights of olde and collapse from the weight or the heat.  These things do nothing to prevent evil from slithering its way into our hearts.  In fact, they keep good, not to mention common sense, from getting in.  In insurance terms, bicycle helmets cause what the industry calls “a moral hazard.”  Thinking they’re protected, children take greater risks when riding.  We fret about guns but the FBI reports that the most commonly used weapon of violence is the baseball bat.

Working as security guard in 1961, my father tried to show his superiors how removing a simple pin in a gate could allow criminals to penetrate a factory yard.  Unfortunately for him, the gate fell down and he was fired (we’d just moved into our new house – Mom was furious.  No good deed shall go unpunished.).  He also got into altercations with superiors about guards not establishing a pattern for criminals to follow (something he learned in the Army).  He was berated for that, as well.

The more layers of protection we add, the greater our peril.  In our desperation to prevent evil from happening, we close the door to safety.  The more we lend a sympathetic ear to cries for social justice and equality for all, the more unequal we are to the task of securing justice and preventing crime.

The greatest calamity that could happen tomorrow is that society will blindly embrace evil out of fear.

 

 

 

 

Published in: on December 20, 2012 at 9:49 am  Comments (3)