Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April Fools

Here's a good way to wrap up April Fool's Day 2006.
As you read this, imagine what this would look like after another big terrorist strike here in the US, perhaps even a suitcase nuke in DC. That would make this whole stupid idea plausible. Is Bush dumb enough to attempt this without either that or a huge Middle East war - or both?
Just trying to view this through Republican eyes, nothing else. Not suggesting anything other than to defeat the Republicans this year and impeach the whole Bush gang before it's too late. Use and defend the Constitution before it's too late, America.

Quandary

I am in a quandary. I know, you think I'm always in one and you're right. But this one is special. Well, "special..." That might not be quite the right word. Here's the problem.
My wife talked me into going to the Piscataquis County expo last night. I think that's put on by the county Chamber of Commerce but I'm not all that certain about it. Anyway, it was in the gym at Piscataquis Community High School (PCHS) in Guilford. Maine, of course. So we went in and bought our tickets, $3.00 apiece, and proceeded to check out all the displays. I was surprised that there were so few merchants there. I think at least half the displays were of regional social services. What does that tell you about the local economy? Huh? It felt like being in Washington County although I suspect even there more merchants would show up for an expo, especially during mud season when there's absolutely nothing else to do on a Friday night except get drunk.
OK, so back to my quandary. Nearly every display table had bowls of candy, free. That seems to have become the main attraction at these shows. But a secondary drawing card was free raffles. Sign up for this or that drawing to be held Monday or whenever, name, phone number, address, Social Security Number (just kidding). I wonder how many calling lists I put my number on last night not even realizing it at the time! OH NO!! Sh*t!!!
No, that's not the quandary.
So one of the merchants had a lovely new beige and brown colored plastic portable toilet all set up on display, door wide open so you could look around inside. I am not kidding! And they were having a raffle, a free drawing. Sign up here. What they were giving away was a free portable toilet rental. I asked and it was like a free weekend rental if maybe you're having a party and you don't want your guests flooding your septic system, that sort of thing. So I signed up. If I win, maybe I'll have a party up on Eden Hill and invite y'all to come some nice August day when the blueberries are ripe. You can eat fresh berries and use the porta-potty for free!
OK, so these people have wood-grained refrigerator magnets that they were giving away for free for advertising. The logo is a blue crescent moon (like so many people cut into their outhouses) with the company name, "Foss Enterprises: Clean Portable Toilets" in bold. The rest says, "Rental & Service; Great Units, Rates, and Service; 'Your Business is Our Business, So Do Your Business With Us'; (207) 643-2068; Central Maine - Generally: Somerset, Piscataquis, Franklin, & Penobscot Counties; Licensed; Allyn & Lisa Foss; Insured; 274 Rowell Mountain Road; Solon, ME 04979".
Now that's a busy refrigerator magnet especially since it's only a small rectangle a little bigger than a business card!
Here's the quandary.
I picked up one of these magnets and put it in my pocket. I want to remember who to call when I claim my prize, you know, my free weekend rental? But when I got home and found the magnet in my pocket, then I realized...
WHERE on your refrigerator do you put a refrigerator magnet that advertises, again in bold,
Clean Portable Toilets
?????

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration Oversimplified

When was the last time you heard advocates for the wealthy say they wanted their immigrant workers to become legal workers or citizens? Ever?
The claim always floated around is that the illegal immigrants in the US, now numbering somewhere around 11 million, are having two negative impacts on the American economy.
1. They are taking away jobs for unskilled American workers.
2. They pay little into the system but are putting a strain on our social system, healthcare, education, welfare, etc.
It is argued that if these 11 million illegal immigrants were legalized, not only would that not solve the problem of them taking American jobs, but it would increase the second problem because legalized immigrants would be more likely to use social programs. I just heard one radio commentator suggest that legalizing the illegals would triple the cost of this second problem.
It's been difficult keeping informed about the immigration reform legislation being tossed about the halls of Washington this month. More than likely that is because the legislation isn't serious legislation. It's political. That means two things:
1. It can't offend the financial base of the Republican Party, namely the wealthy.
2. It needs to pacify the non-wealthy Republicans who actually do the voting.
In other words, any immigration legislation this year needs to be ambiguous.
I've heard from many sources that some proposed legislation would legalize 400,000 currently illegal immigrants. I say wow. While that is a significant number, what about the other 10.6 million of them?
Nobody can be fool enough to assume that we are going to round up and either imprison or expel over 10 million people who currently contribute to the US economy and make life much easier and more profitable for the wealthy in our country. Nobody who knows anything about the Republican party can actually believe that. Some of us can pretend it, but none of us actually believe it.
It is within reason to believe that we would be stupid enough to build a fence between the US and Mexico and then hire security firms to guard that fence. I'm sure the President and especially the Vice President have friends who would be glad to contract out those services at a considerable profit. So that option makes sense. And using that same logic it also makes sense to have privately run prisons offering the services of captured illegals to serve as low-cost laborers - slaves, in other words. That makes sense for some time down the road when we have assimilated ourselves to that sort of thing.
But the reality of today's immigration "problem" lies outside of all these concerns.
If the US really wanted to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into the US and encourage most of those who are here to go someplace else - which is what we claim that we do want - then it would be very easy to accomplish that objective. All we would need to do is send to prison anyone who employs an illegal immigrant. That same radio commentator I mentioned above said that in 2004, only four employers were actually fined for hiring illegals.
I read somewhere that there are 50,000 social security numbers which are all zeros. All zeros! I mean, 000-00-0000. Fifty thousand of them. And for some reason it hasn't dawned on the IRS to do something about that.
If the IRS and the US immigration service and the Department of Homeland Security can't deal with even just two duplicate Social Security numbers, let alone 50,000 obviously bogus ones, then one has to assume that someone with clout in government doesn't want the problem solved. But who with any clout in government doesn't want the problem solved?
Wealthy Republicans, of course.
Nobody is actually coming out and explaining it to the general public, but here's how I think it works...
There can be no doubt at all, no doubt whatsoever, that wealthy Republicans want low-cost labor. Whether they find it within the borders of the US or they have to go offshore to get it, they want it. It's a Republican objective.
There can also be no doubt whatsoever that wealthy Republicans want to minimize social spending. If you haven't discovered that by now you've been sleeping for the past six or eight decades.
Both of those objectives lead to more wealth with less overhead expenses for the wealthy who flock to the Republican Party because that is the party in the United States which is delivering what these people want, legislation encouraging lower wages and lower social costs. Republican legislation opposing those two goals is seen by these wealthy financiers as traitorous.
The current immigration situation works quite well when it comes to meeting those two objectives. If there is a problem, it is that liberals are having some success providing social services for these low-income workers and their families. But other than that, things are going quite well. There are 11 million people working for low wages, even below minimum wage in some cases, putting pressure on American workers to work for lower wages.
But in the eyes of these employers, something needs to be done to end the success of liberals to organize illegal workers and provide social services for them. It's not that we want the illegals to all go home. Far from it. What our Republicans leaders really want is a system where people who come to the United States illegally and work for low wages are afraid to use social services.
With that image in mind, now you are ready to understand immigration reform. Immigration reform is intended and designed to appease the American voter while increasing the fear factor felt by illegal immigrants, yet not discouraging large numbers of them from working for us at low wages.
That's politics.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Foreknowledge

We all should be familiar by now with the Bush administration's claim after 9/11 that we had no way of knowing that terrorists would use airplanes to attack us. That came from a multitude of high Bush administration officials.
I came across something today that is surprising. Reading in a conservative blog calling itself PatriotPostBlog.US, I found this tidbit referring to the 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Ahmed Yousef:
In 1995, after Ramzi's capture, he was being flown to New York for prosecution. As the transport helicopter passed the WTC towers, an FBI agent removed Ramzi's mask so he could see that the towers were still standing. Ramzi commented gravely, "We are not done yet." Indeed, Ramzi's computer, seized in the Philippines before his arrest in Pakistan, detailed a plan to hijack commercial aircraft and use them as flying bombs against U.S. targets—which his cadre succeeded in doing on 9/11.
Unfortunately this patriot blogger didn't give any reference for this information. It would be interesting to know more about what became of this knowledge and why the Bush administration was unaware of it even after the 9/11 attack.

Torn

I'm torn by two aspects of this story about an unfortunate Islamic couple's divorce in India. On the one hand I realize that it is a real shame to have authoritarian leaders dictating personal matters to the point where they don't even care what is moral, only what seems to them to meet religious law. But on the other hand I envy anyone living in a society where it is this easy to get a divorce satisfactory to the religious authorities! It's a little more complicated in Christian circles. It's no wonder it's against the law to convert from Islam to Christianity!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Zionist Blowback

There's getting to be some blowback on that paper that came from the academic dean of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government Steven Walt and University of Chicago political science professor John L. Mearsheimer. It seems that David Duke liked the paper and is now serving as the red herring for the Israeli interests criticized in it.
However, another Harvard professor, Alan Dershowitz, is offering sharp criticism of the paper. The New York Sun is covering the story. Dershowitz makes some claims in this article that I find a bit difficult to swallow, but that is no doubt reflective of my lack of understanding of the Middle East. One claim, for instance, appears here:

Those mistakes for Mr. Dershowitz include, for example, the assertion that "There is no question, for example, that many Al Qaeda leaders, including bin Laden, are motivated by Israel's presence in Jerusalem and the plight of the Palestinians," which Mr. Dershowitz says "is just absurd."

If Dershowitz is correct, then this view presented by the paper that al Qaeda is motivated by Israel's presence and policies is a common misconception not based on fact. But is it a misconception? Is it true that Israel's presence and policies in the Middle East is not a prime motivator for al Qaeda?
I am particularly confused by the next paragraph in the Sun article:

Mr. Dershowitz was particularly troubled by the claim in the paper that Israeli "citizenship is based on the principle of blood kinship." He pointed out that the authors had conflated Israel's law of return with its criteria for citizenship. "That's right from the neo Nazi Web sites. Anybody can be a citizen of Israel. He confuses the law of return for the criteria for citizenship. He never mentions that a Jew cannot be a citizen in Jordan and Saudi Arabia," Mr. Dershowitz said.

Aside from the obvious red herring concerning Jordan and Saudi Arabia, what is this hair that is being split between Israel's "law of return" and its "criteria for citizenship." Is this another common misconception about Israel? Does Israel not discriminate in favor of Jews in its citizenship laws? Or am I simply misunderstanding Dershowitz?
Among other things, Dershowitz calls the authors of the paper "two bigots" and compares the paper to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
But here's a good quote from the Sun article. Quoting Martin Peretz who is referring to the paper in question:

"This goes from the lobby in capital letters, from Jerry Falwell to every left wing Jewish Democrat in the House. It is the imagining of a wall to wall conspiracy and therefore it's nutsy."

So the problem with the paper is that it proposes a conspiracy theory. That claim should defuse the paper. The authors are nuts.
The Sun article concludes with this paragraph:

A former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Morris Amitay, who is quoted in the Kennedy School paper, minimized the document's significance. "I would be worried if Henry Kissinger was saying this. But who are these guys?" Mr. Amitay said. "As far as I'm concerned this is a tribute to the Jewish community. We couldn't do anything about Auschwitz, but look, we now control foreign policy for a region of the world so vital to American interests."

Say what? Isn't that exactly the point the Mearsheimer/Walt paper was trying to make?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Watching Grasshoppers

This morning I came to the conclusion that reading history is a lot more stressful than other kinds of reading. Reading history is a bit like watching grasshoppers. Now for most people, that would seem like a stress-free activity - lying out in the grass in the sun watching grasshoppers jump around. But just imagine that you were in a field where a few dozen grasshoppers were jumping around, each jump initiating and terminating in a state of almost total stillness for the grasshopper, and the task for you was to remember each position each grasshopper had been in before each leap. After all, if you didn't remember each position, it wouldn't be history. That's the sense I get reading a history book. And to top it off, there's always one more grasshopper jumping into the scene, usually from a hidden perch much closer than you would have imagined.
For instance, I'm reading a book called America and the Founding of Israel: An Investigation of the Morality of America's Role, written by John W. Mulhall, Deshon Press, 1995. Mulhall is a Catholic priest. In Section III of Chapter 4, he discusses President Wilson's approval of the Balfour Declaration, adopted October 31, 1917, which stated British intent to "view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people." This statement was a shift of British policy toward Zionism after the 1916 change in Britain's leadership. Wilson, at first reluctant to agree because of conflicts between the Zionist aims and America's relationship with Ottoman Turkey, nevertheless gave in to pressure from the Zionists. According to the author, British Zionist chemist and bomb maker Chaim Weizmann contacted Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, "the preeminent Zionist leader in America," (p. 64) and other American Zionist leaders who were able to reverse President Wilson's position about this Balfour Declaration.
Now if that's not like watching a field of grasshoppers, I certainly don't know what is.

Sunday Reading

Here's an interesting read on a bright Sunday morning in spring. I can just picture the righteousness of these people, can't you? This kinda proves the old adage that you can justify just about anything in the name of God. I don't sense that these people had any idea that they might be doing something wrong. Nor did Tom DeLay. After all, they were praying about it and the payoff was God's blessing, wasn't it?