Cab Calloway performs “Doing the Reactionary”

February 27, 2015

Hat tip to Bill Harvey

Cab Calloway performs “Doing the Reactionary” and “One Big Union for Two,” both from the musical revue Pins and Needles , which was put on by members of the International Ladies Garment Workers and ran on Broadway from 1937 to 1940.

What if Vladimir Putin was a nice guy?

February 26, 2015

The fundamental fallacy which is committed by almost everyone is this: “A and B hate each other, therefore one is good and the other is bad.”
        ==Bertrand Russell

Keith Gessen, an analyst of Russian politics, says Vladimir Putin is definitely not a nice guy.  He also says that, even if he were, his goals and policies wouldn’t be that much different from what they are.

Russia will, one hopes, eventually change its leadership, but it is not going to be able to change its geographic location, or its historic associations, or its longstanding wish to keep the West—which hasn’t always crossed the border bearing flowers—at bay.  And that holds many lessons for the future.

Let me be clear: The actual Putin is not at all nice.  To take just a few examples:

140801173429-exp-gps-0803-take-00030629-horizontal-gallery1) between 1999 and 2002 he prosecuted a vicious war in Chechnya, complete with rape, torture, filtration camps and mass graves;

2) in 2003, he jailed his leading rival, the oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and, when the initial sentence was almost up, extended it;

3) in 2000-01, shortly after assuming the presidency, he oversaw a government takeover of the country’s main independent television channels, chasing their owners into exile;

4) over time he has enriched his friends to an astonishing degree, such that many of the leading billionaires in Russia owe their riches directly to their proximity to Putin;

5) it is becoming increasingly the consensus view that the September 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow and Volgodonsk [attributed to Chechen terrorists] were the work of the secret services, and it is hard to imagine that Putin, as the prime minister of Russia and, until just a month before, the head of the FSB, would not have known about them;

6) in his third term he has unleashed the worst aspects of Russian street politics, mobilizing anti-Western, anti-gay and anti-liberal resentment to shore up his domestic popularity; and

7) in 2004, supposedly as an anti-terror measure after the terrible seizure of a school in Beslan by Chechen fighters, he canceled elections for regional governors, replacing them with appointees.

via Keith Gessen – POLITICO magazine.

His indictment could also have included the murder of journalists, such as Anna Politkovskaya.

But, as Gessen pointed out, any Russian leader—and certainly any of Putin’s rivals—would have been a Russian nationalist who would have tried to restore Russia to the status of a superpower, who would have cracked down on internal opposition and who, given the experience of Russia and the USSR in the 20th century, would have resisted the expansion of Western military power to Russia’s borders.

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Hungary 1956 and Ukraine 2015

February 26, 2015

I was at the end of basic training in the U.S. Army in 1956 when the Hungarian people rose up against the Soviet occupiers.

hungarianfreedomfighter.timemanoftheyearIt would have been right and just for President Eisenhower to send me and other young Americans to stand with the Hungarian freedom fighters, especially since their uprising had been encouraged by the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

It also would have been reckless and foolish, because it could have provoked a nuclear war that would have destroyed the USA, the USSR, Hungary and much of the rest of the world.

The USA and USSR still have sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy each other and much else.  A military confrontation with Russia over Ukraine would be as reckless and foolish as defending the Hungarian rebels would have been then.

A truce, or a freezing of the Ukraine conflict, would not be to the benefit of the Ukrainian people, any more than the Cold War division of Europe was to the benefit of the Hungarian people.

Russia would be left in control of its vital naval base in Crimea and with a presence in the eastern Ukrainian industrial heartland.   Ukrainians ruled from Kiev would be forced to submit to the IMF’s harsh austerity requirements and to sell national assets at bargain prices.

The best that can be said is that it is better than nuclear war.

The ebb and flow of Russia in Europe

February 26, 2015
Russia in Europe 1914

Russia in Europe 1914

Since 1848, the United States has been secure within its present continental boundaries.  That’s not been true of all nations, and particularly not true of Russia and its European neighbors.  I’ve collected a series of maps from Google Image showing the ebb and flow of Russian power in Europe.

What they show is why, on the one hand, Russia’s neighboring countries would feel in need of protection and why, on the other hand, Russia would fear any hostile military power along its border, especially in Ukraine.

The Baltic states, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine did not exist as independent countries a century ago.  People who lived in these regions during the 20th century would have lived under several different governments, including some of the bloodiest regimes in history, without having moved from the place they were born.

1wk_brest_litowsk_vertrag_karte

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Scott Walker’s Southern economic strategy

February 25, 2015

right-to-work-2Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin is pushing through a right-to-work law, which gives workers protected by union contracts the right not to pay union dues.

It is part of an economic strategy copied from Southern states such as Alabama—to attract branch plants of industries headquartered elsewhere by means of low taxes, low wages and no labor unions.

The price of the strategy is low educational levels, low public services and deteriorating infrastructure—all the things that make a state attractive to entrepreneurial, high-tech and high-wage enteprise.

I think the Walker strategy is a bad one because Wisconsin can’t out-impoverish states like Mississippi, and the USA as a whole can’t out-impoverish nations like Bangladesh.  Even if we could, would we want to?

What we Americans as a nation need to think about is how to add value, and how to distribute the benefits among the working people who create value.

Scott Walker has been a highly successful politician, and looks to be a strong presidential candidate, by distracting attention away from these questions.   Instead he encourages people who are floundering economically to focus their resentment on their neighbors who still have union jobs and good wages, and away from the tiny economic elite who benefit from the low wage, high unemployment economy.

Read the rest of this entry »

New reports on the hazards of fracking

February 25, 2015

fracking-infographic-1024x767Source: Daily Kos.

I’ve long been aware that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas is associated with earthquakes, but I had thought the main reason was the settling of the geological strata after the fracking process is complete and the fracking fluid is pumped out.

But according to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey, the main cause of fracking-induced earthquakes is the injection of the huge amounts of contaminated waste water into deep geological strata.

Large areas of the United States that used to experience few or no earthquakes have, in recent years, experienced a remarkable increase in earthquake activity that has caused considerable public concern as well as damage to structures. This rise in seismic activity, especially in the central United States, is not the result of natural processes.

Instead, the increased seismicity is due to fluid injection associated with new technologies that enable the extraction of oil and gas from previously unproductive reservoirs.  These modern extraction techniques result in large quantities of wastewater produced along with the oil and gas. The disposal of this wastewater by deep injection occasionally results in earthquakes that are large enough to be felt, and sometimes damaging. Deep injection of wastewater is the primary cause of the dramatic rise in detected earthquakes and the corresponding increase in seismic hazard in the central U.S.

via USGS Release.

Meanwhile in California the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-profit conservation organization, has found deep underground storage of oil fracking waste water has allowed toxic and cancer-causing chemicals to contaminate aquifers, underground reservoirs that can be a source of irrigation and drinking water.

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The words for winter

February 25, 2015

winterSource: xkcd

It’s so cold a Jeep leaves its ice outline behind

February 24, 2015

ice-ice-jeep-01

jeep_frozen_sculpture.0Source: WITN, Greenville, N.C. (via Mike the Mad Biologist)

This accidental ice sculpture was created last week by a Jeep Cherokee in the parking lot of Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, N.C., last week.  Evidently the driver warmed up the vehicle before starting it, and the Jeep separated from the ice without melting it.

How journalists can be fooled

February 24, 2015

This interview with alleged ISIS fighters was broadcast last Nov. 1, but it’s one more thing that’s new to me.

Its significance is the claim of RT News (formerly Russia Today) to have exclusively interviewed ISIS fighters in the field, a remarkable accomplishment if true.

But a number of things in the interview should have raised alarm bells before the broadcast.

The supposed ISIS fighters, located in a Lebanese village near the Syrian border, say they are a “sleeper cell” in Lebanon, who will be activated when the time comes.

Why would members of a “sleeper cell” alert the Lebanese government to their existence by giving interviews?   It doesn’t make sense.   Advertising a sleeper cell defeats the purpose of having a sleeper cell.

Then, too, the interviewees either disagree with ISIS practice or don’t understand it.

The so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria beheads journalists, but the interviewees follow the mainstream Islamic teaching that journalists are messengers and so should be spared.  ISIS murders Christians, Shiite Muslims and people of other faiths, but the interviewees say it is impractical to establish a Caliphate in Lebanon because it is a nation of many religions.

I think the young men who claim to speak for ISIS are intentionally deceiving the reporter, or they are ISIS sympathizers who don’t fully understand the ISIS ideology.

Another reason, besides RT News’ sponsorship by the Russian government, to take RT News broadcasts with a grain of salt.

 

Muslim scholars say ‘Islamic State’ is un-Islamic

February 24, 2015

 Last September more than 120 well-known Muslim scholars wrote an open letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the self-declared “Islamic state,” and his followers rebutting their claim to represent Islam.

This is old news, but it is new to me.

These scholars included Sheikh Shawqi Allam, the grand mufti of Egypt, and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem and All Palestine.

In Islam, there is no equivalent of a Pope or a church council that can rule authoritatively on religious doctrine.

Instead Islamic rulers are expected to conform to the teachings of religious scholars, when these scholars are all agreed.  So this letter is as authoritative as it gets in Islam.

∞∞∞

Here is the executive summary of the letter, translated from Arabic into English.

1.  It is forbidden in Islam to issue fatwas without all the necessary learning requirements.  Even then fatwas must follow Islamic legal theory as defined in the Classical texts.  It is also forbidden to cite a portion of a verse from the Qur’an—or part of a verse—to derive a ruling without looking at everything that the Qur’an and Hadith teach related to that matter.  In other words, there are strict subjective and objective prerequisites for fatwas, and one cannot ‘cherry-pick’ Qur’anic verses for legal arguments without considering the entire Qur’an and Hadith.

2.  It is forbidden in Islam to issue legal rulings about anything without mastery of the Arabic language.

3.  It is forbidden in Islam to oversimplify Shari’ah matters and ignore established Islamic sciences.

4.  It is permissible in Islam [for scholars] to differ on any matter, except those fundamentals of religion that all Muslims must know.

5.  It is forbidden in Islam to ignore the reality of contemporary times when deriving legal rulings.

6.  It is forbidden in Islam to kill the innocent.

7.  It is forbidden in Islam to kill emissaries, ambassadors, and diplomats; hence it is forbidden to kill journalists and aid workers.

8.  Jihad in Islam is defensive war.  It is not permissible without the right cause, the right purpose and without the right rules of conduct.

9.  It is forbidden in Islam to declare people non-Muslim unless he (or she) openly declares disbelief.

10.  It is forbidden in Islam to harm or mistreat—in any way—Christians or any ‘People of the Scripture’.

11.  It is obligatory to consider Yazidis as People of the Scripture.

12.  The re-introduction of slavery is forbidden in Islam. It was abolished by universal consensus.

13.  It is forbidden in Islam to force people to convert.

14.  It is forbidden in Islam to deny women their rights.

15.  It is forbidden in Islam to deny children their rights.

16.  It is forbidden in Islam to enact legal punishments (hudud) without following the correct procedures that ensure justice and mercy.

17.  It is forbidden in Islam to torture people.

18.  It is forbidden in Islam to disfigure the dead.

19.  It is forbidden in Islam to attribute evil acts to God.

20. It is forbidden in Islam to destroy the graves and shrines of Prophets and Companions.

21.  Armed insurrection is forbidden in Islam for any reason other than clear disbelief by the ruler and not allowing people to pray.

22.  It is forbidden in Islam to declare a caliphate without consensus from all Muslims.

23.  Loyalty to one’s nation is permissible in Islam.

24.  After the death of the Prophet, Islam does not require anyone to emigrate anywhere.

Muslims believe the Qu’ran (Koran) is a transcription of God’s revelation to Mohammad.  The Hadith are sayings of Mohammad.   Shari’ah is Islamic law, and a fatwa is a ruling under Islamic law.

LINKS

Muslim Scholars Release Open Letter To Islamic State Meticulously Blasting Its Ideology by Lauren Markoe for Religion News Service.  (Hat tip to Jack Clontz)

English translation of the complete Open Letter to al-Baghdadi.

 


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