Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blog Against Racism Day

December the 1st is Blog Against Racism Day.

1) Martin Luther King. As a pastor, he drew inspiration from Jesus. He could have advocated violence, but he used reason and dialogue instead.

2) Rosa Parks, be at peace. I like Rosa Parks. She just got tired of being told what to do, when the rules were evil, and she used her own free will, again hurting no-one. This is a true American.

3) Vanity Fair's latest issue carries an article about Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind series of books. The Left Behind series, what Vanity Fair deliciously characterised as a "Vengeance Fantasy" for evangelicals who resent being disagreed with, feature a vengeful Jesus, returning to boil the blood of non-believers, and slaughter every last one of them. Contrast this with the Jesus Christ of Martin Luther King. Mr. LaHaye's wife wrote a marriage manual stating that, for some reason, God preferred people to have intercourse than to indulge in oral sex. Needless to say, I reject Mrs. LaHaye's authoritative word about what God thinks.

On a tour of the Holy Land, led by Mr. LaHaye, the evangelicals on tour with him "chuckled warmly" when an Israeli tour guide said that the Arabs "breed like fleas," and would be driven into the desert. THAT'S RACISM. As a half-Jewish person who follows Jesus, while reading that article, I had the rare privilege of being ashamed of both halves of myself, in the same paragraph.

That's live racism, happening today, and a lot of people indulge in it. There are almost a billion Muslims in the world, and about 350 million Arabs, of which maybe 3 percent sympathise with the terrorists. I've met plenty of Arabs and other Muslims, and to hate these people I've met is satanic, just as it is to hate someone on account of their Jewishness, Christianity, Buddhism, or atheism. That's not pollyannaish; it's fact. I've seen it, I've met these people. There are heaps of Jews, Christians and Arabs in the world who are perfectly fine people, and we're all being held hostage by the violent or hateful people among us. And no religion or race is pristine, I'm sorry. All of us have that core of hateful people. If we're forced into war (as I felt we were, where Afghanistan was concerned, though not at all where Iraq was), then that's one thing; but no general, president or terrorist can order us to hate.

Monday, November 28, 2005

China Updates

The Economist, in a November 19, 2005 Special Report ("China's World Order/Aphorisms and Suspicions"), weighs in on China's situation:

"In Central Asia, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), a security forum comprising four Central Asian states plus China and Russia, is increasingly challenging America's military presence in the region." "In August, China and Russia staged their first joint military manoeuvres since the cold war. "Peace Mission 2005", billed as a counter-terrorist exercise, looked far more like preparation for a Chinese assault on Taiwan." (Italics added.)

China, says the Economist, "has also deftly used [the North Korea nuclear arms talks] to boost its ties with South Korea..."

"The Americans fear [a potential lifting by the EU on the arms embargo with China] would give China access to military technologies that could be used in a conflict with America in the Taiwan Strait."

Chinese deployments on the coast opposite Taiwan include "between 650 and 730 mobile short-range ballistic missiles, with the number increasing by around 100 each year." But, they say, "there are plenty of signs that China has little interest in resolving the Taiwan issue militarily and that it regards its extensive economic ties with Taiwan as hugely important." "Assuming that Taiwan does not declare formal independence...China appears ready to live with the status quo of a Taiwan that is, in effect, independent already."

I think this would be wise. If I were China, I would give over the idea of retaking Taiwan, in favor of winning the bigger battle, which will be (whether or not there's war) economic. Be aware: conflict is coming with China, even if it is only a trade war. Trade wars can hurt, though, and hurt badly. But be aware, also, of two other things: first, even if neither America nor China wanted war, there are other players in the region, such as India, with whom China has indeed gone to war. Especially in a situation of heightening tension, these wild cards could easily draw in China and America, just as Serbia once did the very conservative Russia and Austria-Hungary. Secondly, since China and America are rivals, and since both of their governments are rather ruthless and both countries are relative heavyweights, they won't shrink from making war if it seems to further their interests. War, if it comes, won't just use tactics; war will be a tactic.

Friday, November 11, 2005

NEW KATE BUSH!!! Double CD

Well, ladies and gentlemen. Kate Bush has returned. Her new double CD is called "Aerial." I'm just watching the video for the new single on her website. It's great. I'm just over the moon--it's such a strange coincidence, I was just talking with my good friend, and she mentioned she loved Kate Bush. So when I got home, I had it in mind to listen to Moments of Pleasure from my Red Shoes tape; then I put in the Single File video (yes, tape and video--it had been that long since her last CD). Like King Arthur's return, a legend both unlooked-for and unhoped-for. How we used to pine for her, hoping she'd someday tour America, in the 1980s.

I had been a huge fan ever since someone played Babooshka for me at a party in 1984. At the time, I was completing my Peter Gabriel collection, and she had sung on "Games Without Frontiers" and "No Self Control" (the latter song also featuring Phil Collins, debuting the gated drum sound that would make him famous on "In the Air Tonight") from the third Peter Gabriel album, and would sing on "Don't Give Up" from the So Album as well. I had every album, including The Red Shoes, her last release from 1997. Apparently, she had begun this new album in 1999, but had been involved with raising a relatively new son. Now she's got a double CD, and it's "flying off the shelves in the UK," where the first single has charted at number 4, her third-best-selling single ever, barring only "Running Up that Hill" and "Wuthering Heights."

Funny coincidence #2: I had just posted the King of the Hill with the dollar sign, below, before watching the old Kate Bush Single File video, and when I went online, lo and behold, the title of the new CD's single was: King of the Mountain. That lady always did have mojo.

Go to her official website at http://www.katebush.com/ or the unofficial http://www.katebushnews.com/ for more. Congratulations Kate, welcome back we missed you, the new music is bril, and the very best of good fortune on your new release!

King of the Hill

The fall of the Dollar as the world's reserve trading currency:

I know little about economics, so don't roast me alive if I misstep here or there.

A couple of years ago, at the start of the Iraq war, I saw eminent economist and historian Niall Ferguson speak about the situation. He mentioned that America was vulnerable because of its balance of payments deficit. China, until recently, has pegged its currency, the Yuan, at about eight to the American Dollar. This is why almost every single screwdriver, children's toy, or pair of shoes at Walmart is marked "Made in China;" our dollar is strong in China, so a few dollars buy a lot of goods.

This means two things: first, our manufacturing sector has been destroyed, and you can't find a thing marked "Made in America" anymore, because Asian goods are cheaper. Second, China and Japan are now sitting on over a trillion extra US Dollars. Professor Ferguson said that China and Japan are now financing our whole war in Iraq, by using these extra dollars to buy US Treasury Bonds, so as to keep the dollar from falling (and thus, their whole store of dollars from losing value). I asked, "if we're so vulnerable to China, won't they use this situation against us, for instance, by threatening to make the dollar fall, by unloading dollars?" He replied: "Yes. Not if, but when."

In 1956, when England and France backed Israel against Egypt during the Suez crisis, there was a run on the English Pound (that is, the English public all went to the banks at the same time to withdraw their money, because they feared a banking collapse). America agreed they'd bail out England, but angrily demanded they give up the Suez project.

France apparently took note: throughout the sixties, they unloaded their US Dollars, turning them in for gold (Dollars were originally good for 1/38 of an ounce of gold, from the US Government). During the 1960s, though, America was running foreign trade deficits (that is, more dollars were leaving the country than coming in). America's gold reserves couldn't cover its liabilities, if foreign countries wanted to convert their dollar reserves (which were growing, remember, because of the deficit) to gold. Finally, America was forced to go off the gold standard. Now, the Dollar is simply worth whatever the exchange rate decides it is.

The Dollar, since the Bretton Woods conference, had become the world's reserve trading currency; over half of all the transactions in the world were done in US Dollars. But that will not last forever. Our Congress has realized that our manufacturing sector has been decimated, and jobs lost, because of the weak Chinese Yuan. They've been lobbying the Chinese hard to let the Yuan rise against the Dollar. Of course, although it would seem that the weak Yuan did grease the outflow of dollars, the Economist insists that America's low household savings rate is the bigger problem. In any case, though, China is responding the way our politicians are demanding: China has now pegged the Yuan to a basket of currencies, including the Euro, the Yen, and the South Korean Won, instead of the Dollar. This won't bring our factories back, though.

Warren Buffett agrees: the Dollar's going down.

China on the Move

America will soon be at war with China, I think.

Why would China threaten us, or be threatened by us? China wants Taiwan back, and America has pledged to defend Taiwan. This island represents, in China's mind, a big loss of face, since it's now ruled by the Nationalist Chinese. The Communist Chinese feel that Taiwan should be a part of mainland (Communist) China.

China is arming up, buying submarines (submarines are good for blockades, as in the Strait of Taiwan) and other military hardware. France, and other European countries, recently sought to sell arms to China, but the US objected. As the Economist reported recently, the west is a bit concerned that China won't say why they're arming themselves. China is spying on British and American high-tech military and civilian firms as if there were no tomorrow (per an article in the Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk). China has now pegged the Yuan to a basket of currencies instead of to the dollar, thus relaxing China's dependence on the strong dollar.

As the current-affairs magazine The Walrus reported recently, America has recently made diplomatic overtures to India, promising to make it a world military power, darkly hinting at "knowing all the implications of this" (India is a neighbor and rival to China). America has also allowed Japan to begin using its troops non-defensively. Japan has recently had many significant disagreements with China, over natural gas reserves in the border area between Japan's southwestern islands and Chinese waters, and over Japan's refusal to acknowledge criminality during World War II. China visited Canada, America's biggest trading partner, following Canadian anger over America's refusal to honor the terms of NAFTA, during a dispute over softwood lumber. The goal: trade. Immediately after that visit, Condoleezza Rice visited Canada too, to reassure Canadians that the dispute was a very small matter.

China and Taiwan now trade with each other to a huge extent; I wish that China would forget about reintegrating Taiwan. My friends think I'm crazy, that China would never damage its economy by invading Taiwan. If I were ruling China, I'd concentrate on the economic battlefield too, and forget about the literal battlefield. They might turn out to have every advantage there. But China has different concerns than America does. I'm convinced that pegging the Yuan to the Dollar, flooding our markets with Chinese goods, and running up a huge trade deficit were quite conscious decisions on China's part, to get America, its rival, at its weakest point. I could be wrong, but I think America is going to war with China.