Saturday, December 30, 2017

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Thanks for returning to the Gauntlet for yet another installment of our Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away, and the thirty-third track in this series of Band Camp hosted 391 & the Army of Astraea industrial-electronic music releases.

I thought I'd take a pause between the headier pieces of philosophy and analysis lately that have been featured and opt for for some noisy New Year's fun. And so, today's track is entitled "The Drop", and it's also a little but of a departure from the last few aural forays, first and foremost in that it's in that oh, so assailable genre of dance music known as Dubstep.

Created for the most part in the Soundcamp Mobile Music App; sampler compositing module, with Arturia synth additions in Ableton Live, and finalized in Audacity 2.1.3 (yes, I will upgrade to the December 6th release Audacity 2.2.1 on all my computers and give you my review later), "The Drop" is an experiment in unbridled excess, and sampling programs like Soundcamp should probably have warning stickers that read: "This is the result of what happens when industrial-electronic artists are allowed to play with beat samplers."


Till next time.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Palestinian Group Think and the Victim Narrative: Part Two

I'd like to start this continuation from the previous installment with a brief and less than frivolous look at a widely sold food product in the Arabic world known as Panda Cheese.

Perhaps you have heard of this company's products, or perhaps not, but the take away here is the not the cheese itself, but rather the very popular marketing campaign that the makers have conceived, and how it reflects general Arabic sensibilities and humor, which I believe are symptomatic of their overall perceptions of what is normally called "the conquest narrative".

Videos of the Panda Cheese commercials are easily available to watch on Youtube, but to demystify the general theme of all of them I'll give you the recurring motif in a nutshell.

1. To the tune of Buddy Holly's "True Love Ways", one person offers cheese to another, or suggests that cheese needs to be purchased.

2. The second person, usually a male, insists that they do not want to eat cheese at that moment, or that there are more than enough other food items to eat.

3. A Panda arrives, or I should say, a man in a Panda suit arrives. Why the company icon is a Panda, I have no idea.

4. The Panda glares at the non-compliant "cheese denier" and then suddenly engages in various acts of vandalism, such as knocking over their shopping cart, computer or television set, attacking their property, such as their automobile, with a club, and smashes their non-cheese products by stomping on them. In one case, the Panda even disconnects an IV from a patient in a hospital bed.

5. Due to the destruction, and the clear threat that it will continue, the initial offender quickly complies and orders or purchases the cheese, sometimes aggressively shoving their child to pick up more cheese faster, as to not risk angering the Panda further. The slogan is "Never Say No to Panda".

The Panda Cheese commercials are on some level tongue and cheek, and are admittedly almost undeniably very funny, but beneath that overt comedic layer, the deeper cultural sensibilities are so telling that I can't imagine that the writers were/are not aware of them. In case I'm not making myself clear, the message is: submission to violence is normal, and that violence is normal.

In the west, trade and commerce and nobility and militarism have always had very different places in society. Kings and warriors may have been accorded honor or not depending on their record, but tradespeople were always traditionally thought to be most effective and esteemed when they not only gained financial wealth but also engendered a sense of fairness and trust to their customers.

Adherence to this commonly accepted standard even bore a negative stereotype of the inverse in 1950's America, when those buskers who attempted to seem "too trustworthy", such as used car salesmen, were thought to be untrustworthy and deceptive. Luckily, the old Roman motto: "Caveat Emptor", or, "Let the buyer beware", usually sufficed to circumnavigate the cunning wiles of these knaves.

However, on some level, Arabic culture traditionally disdained the art of sales, particularly retail, and depicted sellers as "ignoble", or at least, lower. Interest was, and is considered usury according to Sharia law, and Islam, as is a common inclination it shares with Christianity as well with Socialism's guiding principles, often conflates wealth with the sin of greed. Sure, there were Arab business persons back then. Hell, even Mohammad himself worked a caravanserai, but in general there is a good reason why Coptic and Assyrian Christians, Jews, Mandeans, and other minorities in Middle Eastern Muslim dominant cultures did, and still do in some cases, power the economic machines of their nations.

In the medieval context, Muslim's, like Christians, prized their idealized knights and warriors as being noble and beyond the concerns of avarice. However, it was also quite acceptable for a knight to wrest land and wealth from his enemy, especially if his enemy was a non-believer.

Clearly in the Muslim world, dhimmi, such as Christians and Jews, could be abused for their non-belief, but then again, so could fellow Muslims, if the attack was based on an amorphous community standard of consensual morality. For instance, if a Caliph was corrupt he could be deposed, and if he was deposed, it was of course Allah's will. Thus, the ends justified the means and his deposition was indeed "meant to be". It was no longer a coup or insurrection, it was the righteous triumphing over the wicked. If it worked out of course. If it didn't, then some mental gymnastics needed to be plied.

This psychology still occurs today on the village and national level all over the Muslim world, as (barring a few moderates) politics swing from Muslim extremist to military despot and back again, over and over. Democracy is problematic as it could potentially limit Islam, and that would be just crazy. Allah is all powerful, but apparently he needs help, especially when it comes to killing people.

Throughout the ages Islam thrived on the intimidation of non-Muslims, both to increase the size of the Muslim community by pressuring dhimmi to convert, and also by taxing them to increase the wealth of the kingdom. Once large communities, such as the Zoroastrians in Iran were decimated, and so nothing was thought of the use of intimidation to force conformity. After all, when the entire country, and eventually the entire world is Muslim, then that's the day that rainbows and unicorns start, right? Wrong. The day the entire world is Muslim, just like any other faith, is the day that those people turn on one another, as is the history of humanity. There is no great salve, no day of idyllic conformity that will "fix" the world. Be it Islam, Christianity, or Communism, adherence to a single ideology will not usher in a golden age. Quite the contrary, it will only bring death, because an ideology that demands to be THE singular ideology implies such a degree of conformity that the only solution is an ever shrinking consensus that is designed to eat itself.

This brings me to premise number two. The Palestinians deny the very conquest epic they aspire to.
Premise 2: The Israelis have taken Palestinian land "illegally", and the gradual increase of Israeli territory has diminished Palestinian held land.

Refutation 2: The Palestinians have taken part in five wars against the State of Israel, incessant acts of terror, and several violent uprisings. These have been part of their effort to win the contest and take control of the entire territory in question, with the end result being the stated "death of the Jews", which is still listed as part of the Hamas charter. Thus, these are not Gandhi-like civil protestors fighting imperialism of the European colonial sort with strikes in an effort to establish parity and egalitarianism, they fully believe in the normal paradigm of the conquest narrative that has defined much of human history.

They just don't like that they've lost.

Had they won those wars, there would not be a Jewish state at all. It would certainly be Sunni Muslim, with a scant few Jews and Christians, if any. On the contrary, of Israel's eight million citizens, two million are Arabs, and of the four-and-a-half million more under occupation, a large share of them work in Israel on a daily basis.

This is by no means an equivalence to South African apartheid, nor is this an ethno-religious genocide as we have seen in Bosnia and the like. Not by a long shot, and deep down, the Palestinians know that. They rely on Jewish idealism and the Jewish desire for peace to keep the struggle going, and as I specified in Part One of this article, the struggle has made many a Palestinian leader quite wealthy.

In a normal conquest narrative scenario, when one force engages another force in combat, the winning force wholly decides the terms of the peace. "To the victor goes the spoils" is the usual sensibility, but quite foolishly, Jewish idealism got the best of the Israelis, and they decided that they required the agreement of the losing side.

Now obviously, a harsh peace can embolden future war, as we saw in the aftermath of the Versailles treaty at the end of World War One, which paved the way for Hitler and the continuation of the war as a sequel called World War Two. Thus note to self, don't make a peace too harsh, but on the other hand, one does not require the defeated side to agree to all of the conditions of the peace.

That is equally an act of folly.

Rather than delineate the shape and size of the Palestinian state for them as victors, the Israelis sought and waited for the Palestinian leadership to agree on a map that they were, and will, never to agree on. This is because the Palestinians fully believe in the conquest narrative. They want it all! Israel had a chance to establish a solid boundary and disengage in 1967, but that would have entailed not having access to the cheap Arab labor base that Israeli business owners like so much, and so, there was engagement on both sides, no matter the rhetoric and/or violence.

I personally believe that the Israelis are generally more apt (in quantity) to want peace than the average Palestinian, and in fact they might be framed as being obsessed by it as per their hitherto mentioned Jewish idealism. It is a subject that is endlessly discussed, written and sung about, in Israel, and is perhaps the quandary that they live with that is best reflected in former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir's famous quote, when she said, "We will have peace when the Palestinians love their children more than they hate us". However, even acknowledging their desire, the Israelis are also very practical, are distrustful of other side, and as I have pointed out, do not wish to take on the FULL mantle of conquest. The Israelis have never fully smote the Palestinians, regardless of what Fatah and Hamas contest, and they can be at best condemned for administering the territories with a somewhat heavy hand, that by Arabic standards is not actually heavy, unless plied on them by a non-Muslim community. When a kid in the West Bank stubs his toe it's somehow the Israelis fault, but when King Hussein of Jordan massacred 5000 Palestinian refugees in a camp in Jordan, well, we don't need to talk about that.

For those of you who are reading the installments of this article and do picture the Israelis as the "evil imperialists" in this scenario, and conversely believe that the Palestinians are poor indigenous folk who were just minding their own business in "the wilderness", riding camels and the like, before the Israelis showed up, you are betraying either your complete ignorance of the complex realities of the situation, or you have been politically conditioned by Marxist deconstructionist elements that are part and parcel of the Palestinian public relations machine.

As an interesting by product of writing this article and selecting the images to attach to it, I just so happened to run into one photograph that for me says it all. It's a picture of a group of young Palestinian demonstrators dressed up as the Na'vi from the James Cameron film "Avatar" (inset to the left).

Their message could not be clearer.

We are the oppressed "natives". The Israelis are the "aliens".

Never mind that there never was a period of history in the last 3,200 years that there was not a Jewish presence in the Levant, and that Jews have been an oppressed historical minority for the the last 1,800 of those years, but who am I to contradict such a potent, if silly, Marxist parallel.

In fact it's such a viscerally simplistic trope that you may enjoy a previous Gauntlet post from last May, unrelated to the Palestinian question at all, which dissects James Cameron's Avatar for the unapologetic globalist-socialist polemic it is.

Till next time.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Palestinian Group Think and the Victim Narrative: Part One

In the aftermath of the indubitably press-worthy US-Jerusalem embassy move story that the media has so dutifully covered over the last few weeks, we were all visually treated to the incredibly predictable global Arab / Muslim reaction to the announcement. In light of this uptick in violence and hyperbolic rhetoric, I thought it might be a good juncture to upload a post that I've been peripherally working on for a few months about Palestinian group and political victim identity and by extension, general Muslim perceptions regarding their relationship with the non-Muslim world.

As a disclaimer I should point out that obviously, what follows is an analysis of socio-cultural patterns of behavior, and do not reflect the sensibilities of either all Palestinians or all Muslims, particularly those who are aberrant exceptions to those dominant cultural themes discussed hereafter.

A friend, once famously (at least to me), and very wisely, described the political aspirations of the Palestinian cause as the "history of bad ideas and decisions". By this he of course meant that the leadership of Muslim Palestinians in the occupied territories, i.e., Fatah (the P.L.O) and Hamas, before and since the creation of the State of Israel, had at every opportunity plotted a political course that was so strategically ill-advised that there was no way their leadership could supply them with any of the stated goals of their movement, no matter which goal one is referring to.

In retrospect, it is painfully obvious, and has been for quite some time, that the leaders of those para-military, public relations-driven juntas have gained huge personal financial wealth while keeping "the people's struggle" going, at the expense of their manipulated population; a sizable portion of which coincidentally continues to subsist in less than ideal living conditions. Of course, these privations were, and are, always blamed on the "horribly evil Israelis/Zionists", rather than a failure by the leadership to improve the people's lot. But, they, the Israelis, were/are the foreign imperialist occupiers, and that is acutely "obvious" to everyone. After all, these Jews spoke an "alien" language, or rather languages, plural, they practiced a different faith, and maintained folkways that are, well, just weird. The Palestinians often cry that they are the victims of an ongoing genocide, but as the size of the Palestinian population has once again doubled in the last twenty years, I must point out that this math therefore clearly defines the Israelis as "the most incompetent genociders in the history of the world".

But, I digress.

Palestinian Muslims Arabs, and by extension, the rest of the Muslim world, have been involved in an ongoing internal rewrite of their own history for almost a century now, and this rewrite has required them to embrace a narrative that has fused modern political aspirations with Arab Romanticism (i.e. a romance they possess with their own ancient history and heroic figures), Western Leftist (Socialist) "oppressed indigenous persons" historical revisionism, and a selective interpretation of certain portions of the Quran, Quranic abrogation, and a retroactive deconstruction of the historical development of Islam and its relationship to the other monotheistic religions. This philosophic melange, fueled by bombastic hyperbole, aggravated emotions, some philosophic acrobatics, and the innate clannishness of regional Arabic culture, has resulted in the Palestinians being the most susceptible Arabic sub-cultural entity to suffer from "Group Think".

I don't think that this phenomena is any amazing news flash to anyone, globally, but if you are in doubt of this paradigm, I recommend a quick perusal of that bastion of all things verity, YouTube, and watch closely to any video wherein a group of "average" Palestinians are asked an opinion question, in a group, on the street in Israel or the territories. It is absolutely fascinating how when put on the spot, glances are shared and faces search for peer approval for the "correct" answer to every single question. One dare not be wrong, because the consequences of being on the socio-political outside are just too great and damning. Ironically, this phenomena is exactly inverted when Israelis are asked literally anything in a public forum, for as the old joke goes, "Israel is a country with four million (now eight) prime ministers". But, in the Palestinian's case, this filial loyalty to the established narrative is a requirement of being accepted as part of the community, and so, the narrative they ascribe to must be potent, consistent, holistic, straightforward, and above all, INCREDIBLY simple.

So lets look at the Palestinian "story", and analyze it by its own criteria, and compare it with recorded historical facts, and juxtapose and interpolate it against the Israeli, or rather, the Jewish "story".

As an aside, it is almost needless to say that the Palestinians are the first to make the supposed, and oh so, political distinction between Jewish, Israeli and the dreaded "Zionists" (It is interesting how so many people who are not Jewish believe they have some sort of right to define Jews, Jewish Culture, or Judaism...hmm). As I have made clear about myself in previous articles, unlike leftist revisionists, self-hating Jews, or deluded ultra orthodox traitors, I personally fail to see a grand distinction between Jew and Zionist on any substantive basis, because, to me, a Zionist is just a Jew who believes that Israel has a right to exist, and they are not a group or inhuman monsters working a conspiracy theory that sounds remarkably like Herr Hitler's medieval-inspired hate polemic powered by an orderly conformity to Germanic civilization. Thus, I deny this distinction as a valid element in this argument and consider it moot. You are free to personally disagree, of course, but that is not the way of the Gauntlet. 

I also strongly believe that when pressed the grand majority of Palestinians, particularly those radicalized by political Islam, (and generally women even quicker than men), will dismiss this public relations fantasy and reset to their innate emotional narrative (a trait they share with western leftists), and they will blur the line between the two, and embrace the hyperbolic posturing and conquest narrative that is clearly dominant in their sub-culture. 

But once again, I digress. So lets begin...

Premise 1: The Palestinians generally believe that they have a natural right to the entirety of the land in question due to a primogenitor of culture, genetics, dominance, and length and duration of habitation within said land. This entails that they are not simply the descendants of Arab immigrants from surrounding nations, but that their ancestors were part of the initial conquest of the Holy Land under the Caliph Umar, and ultimately they must assert that they are tangentially the genetic descendants of the biblical Canaanites, Ismaelites, Philistines, or other local Hamito-Semitic or Aryan peoples. Contrarily, the Jews, or Israelis, can't possibly be the genetic descendants of the biblical Children of Israel or any other local people, and in general they deny that the Jews were ever the historically dominant population of the area. The proof that Palestinians believe supports this is that the Jews were predominately historically absent from the land in great numbers, speak a "foreign" language, and practice a religion that has been supplanted and superseded by the final revelation, Islam.

Refutation 1: When given an equivalence of their fellow countrymen currently living abroad, who hypothetical seek to retain their ethno-religious identity in exile, and long to return to their homeland, the entertainment of this premise results in overt cognitive dissonance among Palestinians questioned.

Palestinians can not fathom considering a return after more than just a few generations, since to accept that paradigm would be tantamount to acknowledging and justifying the return of Jews to Israel after their long absence. Thus, this thought must be replaced with a false logic denial that Jews must have never lived in the region in the first place. This is easily reinforced collectively by the fact that Palestinians are tied together in clan bonds sub-regionally, by city, town or village, by dialect, and macro-cosmically by Islam, which is a religion they share with 1.8 billion other Muslims worldwide. Thus, the Jews can easily be depicted, and/or vilified, in folk culture and in the media as the ultimate "stranger" as a means of polemic, regardless of actual common knowledge, information, or personal experience.

In contrast, Jews have historically possessed a language apart, and held onto a religion that was designed as an inward looking system that was born and designed specifically to serve their needs as a community in exile from their homeland. This trifecta of distinctions in race, religion and language made it easier for Jews in the diaspora to maintain their folkways and to breed little Jews through the generations. Surely, there was intermarriage and conversion into the faith (once again, usually through marriage), but this allowed Jews to continue to exist as a distinct ethno-religious entity without an ethno-state for about 1800 years after the political fall of the last Jewish political entity in 135 C.E.

According to both Roman and Jewish sources, and modern population studies, Jews supposedly made up about one-tenth of the population of the Roman Empire, but probably far less than 5%, if you ask me. By the first century Jews comprised sizable minorities in Egypt, Libya, Syria, North Africa, and what is now Iraq and Iran. However, the onus of Jewish culture was centered in Jerusalem, and the majority of Jewish numbers were localized in Judea, whose total population numbered somewhere around 1.5 million persons. The population of the area was broken down into the Jewish, Idumean, and Samaritan communities, with lesser numbers of Ismaelites (Arabs), the remnants of the Canaanite population, Syro-Phonicians (Lebanese), and Greek and Roman colonists. Jews and Idumeans were by this time virtually indistinct from one another and represented some 80% of the total population. In the three dreadful wars with Romans at least 85% of the Jewish population of the land was exterminated right out, leaving the land "empty" to any travelers in late antiquity who happened to journal about the desolate environs of what the Romans renamed "Palestine". Linguistically it was named so after the non-Canaanite tribe that "occupied" the coastal strip (Gaza) about a millennia earlier. Were it not for the spread of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, it is highly unlikely that the non-Jewish, non-Samaritan, non-European population of the region would have survived as a viable distinct ethnic entity into the modern era. In fact, as late as the Ottoman period (16th to 19th century), Palestine (not what the Turks called it) was both abysmally poor and by all metrics would be considered "underpopulated".

In the wake of the Roman War the majority of Jews abandoned the region entirely and fled to surrounding nations. It is estimated by geneticists that the majority of the Ashkenazi Jewish community which flourished in large numbers starting in the fourteenth century was originally derived from about 600 Judean refugees who landed in Southern Italy and made their way north and north east.

Muslims first arrived in Palestine in the late seventh century from the Arabian peninsula and began the process of settlement and conversion. Genetic studies point to the fact that Arabs who live specifically around the Nablus area share many gene markers with the remaining (less than a 1000 person), Samaritan community who live nearby. Since these markers are localized around Nablus it is quite clear that local Arabs were at one time Samaritans who were converted to Islam. Likewise, Palestinians boast a melange of markers that combine Arab genetics with Jewish markers, paternally, and Sub-Saharan markers, maternally, which points to Jews being converted to Islam, and their African slaves being manumitted. This melange of Canaanite, Jew, Samaritan, Arab and African genes, and to a lesser extent Kurdish and Turkish influence, in essence supplies the core of Palestinian genetic identity.

A large percentage of the Palestinian population, specifically clustered around the Nablus (Ancient Greek: Neopolis) area in the northern West Bank is believed to be descended from Samaritans who had converted to Islam before the modern period. Like Jews and Christians, Samaritans converted to Islam in large numbers over the ages due to taxation, harassment and persecution under various Muslim rulers, particularly in the Turkish Ottoman period. Scholars believe that certain Nabulsi family names such as Maslamani, Yaish, and Shaksheer, and others are associated with Samaritan ancestry, and of course, the DNA is there.

The issuance of the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphates' edict of al-Hakim in the year 1021 C.E., under which all remaining Jews and Christians in the Levant were forced to either convert to Islam or emigrate, left the Samaritans (who had also been massacred by the Romans) at the hands of the rebel ibn Firasa - who imposed a dramatic slew of forced conversions upon their community which led to a sudden, dramatic decrease in their presence. This aided in lowering Samaritan numbers from close to a million and a half strong in Byzantine times, just prior to the Muslim invasion to a scant 146 persons by the end of the Ottoman Era.

Similarly to Egypt, which was approximately 90% Coptic Christian upon the arrival of Muslim forces, it took until about the year 1200 (more than 500 years) for attrition and the process of Islamization to shift the population of Palestine to Muslim dominance. While the general population of "Palestine" was minimal from the Muslim conquest of Umar to when the Crusaders arrived, the Crusader Kingdom further diminished both the Muslim and Jewish populations. With the reconquest of the Levant by Saladin, the Holy Land was firmly delivered into the numerical upper hand of Islam. Regardless, the population remained low, never exceeding 350,000 in number until the 19th century, and was divided between the distinct but shrinking Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian communities and the slowly ever-increasing Islamic presence.

In time, the Jewish community in Ottoman Palestine gained some numbers from Sephardi Jewish refugees arriving fresh from Andalusia (Southern Spain) around the year 1500, but the Turks just as soon routinely "resettled" many of these newly arrived "proto-Zionist" Jews to recently conquered European territories like the Balkans and Austria, in order to help facilitate the Sultan's hand by placing subjects who, well, relied on the protection implicit in reciprocal, or rather, dependent relationship.

This situation continued with various small influxes of Jews to specific towns and cities in tandem with a slow general migration of Arabs across the Jordan for the next three to four hundred years with little change. While the Muslim community grew exponentially in birth rate in tandem to the growth in the local economy and improved services through the late Ottoman period, much of this was spurred on by development that originated in part from forces external to the area; including the Turks, British, Christians and Ashkenazi Jews, rather than from local entrepreneurship.

It wasn't until the late nineteenth century when the birth of the Zionist movement was spurred on by the Dreyfus case and the publication of Theodore Herzl's "The Jewish State" that this all changed. As an ethno-religious community which viewed itself, and was viewed as, somewhat foreign, yet attached to the European context, Jews soon embraced the self-deterministic thread that had grown up around them starting with the independence movements of the late eighteenth century and culminated in bevy of European nationalist and social movements that were born in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.

In light of the numerous massacres that occurred in this period in Eastern Europe and the rising tide of Antisemitism in Western Europe, Jewish immigration to the area suddenly increased, much to the chagrin of the "indigenous" Palestinian population, many of whom had themselves not so long ago immigrated into the area.

Contrary to the emotionalism of the established Palestinian narrative, there was never a period in the recorded history of the "Holy Land" from 1208 B.C.E. (the Mernepthah steele) until the present in which there was not some Jewish presence, be it large or small, in the land. To be fair, the same can be said for non-Jewish Palestinians. From their ancient Canaanite, Philistine and Ismaelite antecedents through the Ummayad Caliphate till the present, non-Jews have likewise shifted from majority to minority and back again, and then again, and like the Jews, there has always been a non-Jewish presence in this often disputed land. Hence, the crux of the problem.

To be continued in Part Two.

Till next time.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Taxation and our Democratic Republic: Choose Your Poison

1. Taxation and Parliamentary Representation in the British Colony of North America

At one time in the long past, or the "before-time" of our current dystopia if you will, we, the United States of America, was not a nation as we recognize them today. We were, simply put, a business endeavor of two or three English stock interests that sought to become successful commodity importation distributors - the Virginia Company of London, the Plymouth Company, and their arch-nemesis, the Dutch East India Company.

This period of exploration and colonialism is often referred to as the start of the British Empire to historians, and the beginning of European Imperialism over people of color (i.e. Native Americans and Africans) by Marxist identitarian deconstructionists. But for most current Americans, feelings about the British or identitarian politics aside, this pre-history of the United States, is viewed singularly as the "Genesis story" of our nation.

Every school child that has grown up, or is growing up in America is taught about the two competing colonial settlements at the start of it all - Jamestown, Virginia and Plymouth, Massachusetts. We learn about the rough militaristic Virginians carving out shares of land from the Native tribes they fought, and we also learn about the strangely-attired religious dissenters in Plymouth, well, eating turkey and cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Somehow, most of us jump fairly quickly from those two outposts and ignore the intervening period, which we just call "British".

We all know that those two little fort-towns didn't stay that way for very long, and successive wave after wave of other British people, and Scottish, and Scots-Irish, and Welsh, Irish, Germans, Poles, Dutch, French, Spanish Jews, more Africans, and even a smattering of early Italian immigrants, made their way to these shores in the century-and-a-half that followed.

The settlements grew from two small towns to thirteen colonies, ports and cities, which stretched from the tip of Maine in the north to the southern border where Spanish Florida started. 

It seems, and seemed, that everything was bound to stay that way, until 1765, when a group of upstarts called the "Sons of Liberty" announced their existence. They were a secret society that sprung up in chapters throughout the colonies, with a specifically strong presence in urban shipping ports such as Boston and New York City. Their call to creation was the "Stamp Act", which was a British parliamentary bill that taxed Americans in the colonies directly. The purpose of the bill was to accrue money to pay for British troops stationed in the colonies during the Seven Years War, called the French and Indian War to us. The result was the Sons of Liberty's call to arms, "No Taxation Without Representation!".

The group soon disbanded in the wake of the Stamp Acts repeal, but other taxes followed, and the Sons merged into the general dissent movement that would become the separatist movement that led to the American Revolution, the Continental Army and Congress, and eventually, the declaration of the United States of America as a separate entity free from British ownership, laws, and taxation.

2. Federalism, Republicanism, and Taxation in the Post-Revolutionary United States

However, while the revolution was based in the classical liberal values of the enlightenment, there was nevertheless no consensus when it came to the means of how the government should be run and how the state should or would tax citizens, and for what. One party, the Jeffersonian Republicans, previously called the Democratic-Republicans, and later related to the Whig Party, and today's Republican party, vied for strong local state rule, no taxation, and freedom of religion, thought, etc. The other party were the Federalists, under Adams and Hamilton, who became known as the Democrat party by the 1830's, and who fought for a strong central government, and the indebtedness of states to the federal government to insure that the states not fight one another or the Federal government. By this they created the national debt, which enabled the United States to borrow money from European nations such as England, France, and Holland, which we used to build America's infrastructure through the nineteenth century. In case you never connected the dots and just loved the musical "Hamilton", it was because of this conflict between the parties that Hamilton was eventually shot in a duel in 1804 by Aaron Burr, Jefferson's Vice-President, known as an avid opponent to the fascistic tendencies that Hamilton oft displayed throughout his career.

As the first Secretary of the Treasury, appointed by George Washington, Alexander Hamilton imposed the first of America's taxes on goods, such as whiskey, and in essence, his taxes were no different than those imposed on the colonies by the British Parliament before the revolution. Regardless, the nation prospered, and taxes on specific goods and import tariffs paid for the growth of the country. As a largely agrarian society, states' rights were largely overshadowed by general cooperation between local governments and thus the Federal apparatus grew. Don't get me wrong, at this point in time it was entirely necessary, the US government needed to exist, and to be strong. We couldn't just be isolationist farmers, for that surely would end with the British waltzing back in, as they attempted unsuccessfully in the War of 1812. 

After the second war with Britain, America grew prodigiously, and industrialization took root, often more in the north than south. in the 1830's the Democrats had their turn in office with a rabble-rousing populist named Andrew Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812. As a president I have very mixed feelings about Jackson, and his military campaigns against the Native American population are among the worst of any president, and should be condemned, but he is in one way a great hero to those who are repelled by taxation, for he attacked the banking system, and made great headway in halting their progress. Amid four assassination attempts, Jackson removed federal deposits from the national bank, and he even paid off the deficit. It was the first time we had been debt free since the Constitution had been ratified, and it was to be the last time. 

3. Taxation and the Federal Reserve Banking System in the Twentieth Century

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Reconstruction, and further growth of industry, the late nineteenth century paved the way for the expansion of the state and banks. The new industries had created a new type of entrepreneur, one who was adept at establishing a monopoly, manipulating the stock market, and understood how to take their millions, and make them into billions. Robber barons like J.P. Morgan and the like, aided the "powers that be" to get back on track with Hamilton's original vision of America as a debt machine. In league with big industry, the Fed grew into a big corrupt business, and that business needed more control. It probably didn't hurt that the alliance between those forces also controlled industrial manufacturing as we mechanized. Long before President Dwight Eisenhower condemned the Military-Industrial Complex, it was already flexing its tentacles before World War One.

On February 3, 1913 racist-globalist president Woodrow Wilson sold us out to the banks and enacted the treasonous concept of income tax. On December 23rd of the same year the Federal Reserve Act was activated and created the Federal Reserve Banking System. Merry Christmas.

Most people accepted the notion of income tax and welcomed the system as a means to abate bank runs and the like, which had occurred as recently as in the Panic of 1907. Surely this was the fix. Well, it seemed to do the trick, at least until the start of the Great Depression. To his credit president Franklin D. Roosevelt eventually pulled us out of that crater, with the help of a boat load of Socialized policies, and a new war to stimulate industry.  

After World War Two, the United States experienced its greatest increase of wealth ever, and thus, the banks were ready for their next move. They needed us to abandon the gold standard. Without gold to back up paper money, they could just print more money to pay off debts. Hell, if it devalued the currency, they could just print more.

President John F. Kennedy issued the final last stand in a valiant attempt to reverse the "fiatization" of the USD with executive order 10001 in 1963, shortly before his assassination. Did I imply those events were related? Or did you just infer them to be so? Who knows? Seems like a pattern though.

A few years later in 1971, President Richard Nixon finally capitulated to the finance wizards of the day, and took us off the gold standard, nearly two-thirds of the way through the 20th century. We had long since been a nation of farmers and had long been industrialized. Why now, you may ask?

4. The Big Picture - The Global Economy, Globalism, and International Banking

Under Nixon's predecessor, bag-of-crap Lyndon Johnson, a policy was developed called "The Great Society". This was a code for the implementation of a number of Socialized entitlement policies that were designed to "fix" inequality in America. Surely, there were still poor people, and the horrible bane known as Capitalism had been crushing them. We had to do something, right? To not would be immoral, or so thought the Democrats. 

Johnson came up with a web of entanglements that would keep specific groups voting Democrat for the foreseeable future. Make a group indebted, or better yet, dependent, and they will stay true. It's essentially the same strategy as Alexander Hamilton suggested, but now, the Democrats could keep African-Americans in the Ghetto, while professing they were helping them, and still have African-Americans vote 90% Democrat. How benevolent the liberals were/are! They would raise taxes on the middle class and rich, and give it to the poor THEY CREATED. Blacks were doing very well in the first half of the twentieth century, and were rapidly entering the middle class. As Johnson was quoted: "Give me this (the money to do it), and I have the niggers voting Democrat for the next hundred years". Wow! Just wow!, but boy was he right! Ironically, ideologues on the left still don't acknowledge that their party is the party of racism. From fighting FOR slavery in the Civil War, to authoring the Jim Crow Laws of during Reconstruction, to the overt racism of Woodrow Wilson through Johnson and the Anti-Desegregation movement of the late 1960's, they have disabled the African-American community, with money taken from our collective income taxation.

The altruistic entitlements the left seems to adore so much have created the debt and dependency that has allowed the size and power of the Federal government to expand, as well as the might of the federal reserve, which is a private bank that holds the purse strings of policy. But they are the party of big government, leading to the ultimate big government - one world government.

The "Fed", has sought from the beginning to evolve us from a low-tax, low-debt entrepreneurial republic to a high-tax, indebted, obedient consumer culture, because they do not think about Americans per say, but rather the delicate ecosystem of global "free trade" and economic trade blocks such as the European Union.

Interestingly one foreign president did try to get his nation back on the gold standard in the 1980's and 1990's. Iraqi Ba'thist Socialist Secularist dictator Saddam Hussein, engaged the dual cardinal sin against the international banks by introducing the "gold dirham" at the same time as suggesting that gasoline be traded in Euros rather than USD.

As a result, the banks, and our Saudi oil business partners said jump, and we asked "how high?", and invaded. Those responsible for the invasion got to rebuild Iraq while lining their pockets, only to get to do it again ten years later. A great bonus, plus the instability they created and permitted a radical Sunni insurgency to coalesce into the entity known as ISIL and global terror increased. But, I always assumed that was part of the plan as well, in order to keep the war on terror eternal and keep Halliburton happy. Sigh.

5. The Solution - Income Tax is Treason

Don't get me wrong, I am not 100% against all taxation, just income and estate taxes, and I have always propounded an alternative to income and estate taxes - a flat nationwide sales tax at 10%, which would reflect actual consumer purchasing is, for me, the answer.

High but competitive tariffs and a lower Corporate tax rate are essential for the sound functioning of fair international trade and small businesses. A few new laws could also force that as well, and keep corporate money on shore rather than abroad.

As far as tactics go, I'm not quite sure how to go about either removing income taxation or on how to tame the Fed. The recently passed tax break bill is a good start though, with a middle class tax break and lower Corporate tax rate.

It insures no taxes for those making under 12k a year,  and minimal under 24k. Excuse me if I'm wrong but at that income level those people are considered "the poor", aren't they? Oh, champions of the under class.

It's estimated that the reform part of the bill will lower middle class tax burden by about 2k. True, hyper growth will only leave us with a hangover later, but, if we are going to spend, we should invest in fixing infrastructure and the like, so the at least when and if the economy does dip to the negative again, that won't be such a pressing issue. Sure, giving people more money will just stimulate consumer purchasing in the short run, and while I'm as suspect of trickle down as the next guy, I can't imagine that a competitive corporate tax rate wouldn't make at least some manufacturers employ here instead of abroad.

Suddenly, liberals are coming out of the woodwork worried about the deficit. Which begs the question, why didn't we hear so much about those concerns when Obama raised the debt ceiling, over and over and over again? I guess my only response is that if they really like paying higher taxes I'm pretty sure that the IRS will cash their checks. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find any government on earth, ever, that has "refused" money. In fact, almost no one on a personal level does either, unless a string is attached.

Obviously, whether in the new bill, general Republican entitlement cuts, or my anti-income tax stance, we will always need SOME federal programs and infrastructure, such as the national military, highway system, social security, medicare, and certain government agencies. But at least with my 10% sales tax proposal that money would then come from commerce, rather than a redistribution of wealth, which is Marxist-thinking.

Some have suggested cutting the military and going back to each state having local militias. It took a long time for state militias to essentially evolve into "the national guard", and I don't think we could ever go back. Even so, I do not fear a second Civil War between any states in the US. However, as Jefferson said, we need to bear arms to insure the government is beholding to us, and not the other way round. But if the Civil War taught us anything, it's that some controlled Federalism is not necessarily at odds with Republican values. Hey, after all, Lincoln was a Republican.

Till next time.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

'Tis the Season: Sectarian Religious Charity and Intra-Community Moralism

I live in a charity-free world. As a consummate Capitalist, I find myself generally uninterested in giving charity on a personal level. Now, I know that many of you, perhaps deservedly, have just uttered a gasp of altruistic revulsion after my little confession, but in my defense I must offer that I have no problem with the fact that a portion of my tax money is used in state-run programs to help those who are in need. I also happen to be virtually surrounded by people in my life who give to numerous charities, in my opinion perhaps even excessively.

On the other hand, I give quite readily, and generously, in exchange for any service offered or rendered. Thus, if an individual displays a talent in a public forum, such as singing, dancing, etc., etc., I am much more inclined to reach for my wallet than if they just accost me otherwise with an empty cup shoved at my chest. Likewise, I am very liberal with gratuities for my server in any exchange, including retail eateries and the like. In my opinion, good service should always be rewarded.

As to the content of this post, I normally do not address moralistic issues here on the Gauntlet, but let me lead you through the my motivation for creating this outing. While working on a variety of forthcoming posts which focus on politico-religious community interactions, specifically in the form of three specific articles respectively dedicated to speculation on the future of Islam and reformation, Palestinian collective religious-political psychology, and my admittedly partisan observations regarding the US Jerusalem embassy move / two state solution, I stumbled into a general discussion regarding the abuse of charity by religious institutions with extended friends on Facebook.

This is of course nothing new, and I'm sure that a fairly large percentage of pretty much everyone out there is familiar with one story or another regarding a friend, acquaintance, or family member, who fell under the spell of a movement, charismatic figure, or just plain had become so emotionally invested in giving charity, specifically of the religious sort, that even other believers felt that the person in question had "gone off the deep end" of giving too much for their own good.

There is no denying that helping those less fortunate than ourselves is a noble endeavor. In fact, I suggest that the origin of charity arose historically in concord with our earliest forays into group social dynamics - that of the first simple prehistoric hunter-gatherer clan bonds. Surely, in a tightly knit extended family peer group, the care for those who could no longer, or were never particularly good at, providing for themselves, was part and parcel of being a member of the community, if not objectively quantifying one as "a good person" by others in the said peer group.

As civilization grew from immediate blood bond groups to include a plurality of extended identity groups, this notion was not simply abandoned. Quite the contrary, it became codified in law and discussed philosophically. Frankly, it behooved even the most despotic ancient Mesopotamian king or emperor to promote programs to feed the poor, care for the incapacitated, and the like, not just as a means to display their magnanimity or beneficence, but more so to assist their civilization in running smoothly. This was no different, regardless of any religious pretext, than building roads, waste removal, and public safety. These endeavors aided commerce and helped a city flourish. Many modern thinkers often conflate, sometimes intentionally, these programs with some kind of proto-Socialistic leaning, or as an outgrowth of tribal identitarianism, but nothing could be further from the truth. Charity, of the organized sort helped oil the wheels of civilization, and clearly assisted in keeping per capita income up, and consumer spending higher than if left unattended.

This in turn  led to the creation of organizations, many times themselves a part of the extended Temple structure, and these structures applied collected personal charity in proxy for the donator. Sure, the king, public official, or a magistrate, attempting to curry favor with the community, could gift a large public donation as a means to virtue signal, but they were also giving to the same organization as the average Gilgamesh. Micro, or macro-cosmic charity is a great equalizer. A man or woman of modest means could donate like a king, if so driven, and if he or she was more interested in the result of the donation, rather than the virtue signalling of it all, they were of course free to contribute their donation anonymously.

Overall the evolution of the "charity concept" manifested in three distinct paths. One, personal unrecorded donations given from individual to individual; two, voluntary donations to organizations; and three, mandatory donations levied by the state that were in essence a tax. Linguistically I must add that "levied" is the best word to describe this latter form, because it was most fully developed in the Hebrew Torah as per the laws of pertaining to the Levim, or Levites, as they are called in  Latinized English.

The ethno-religious priestly castes of ancient Israel, known as the Kohanim and Levim, and some other minor family clans, were commanded by God to serve in the Temple in Jerusalem. This was to be their hereditary lot, because in this deal with Yahway, and the other Israelite tribes, the prior inherited no actual land territory as a means to support themselves. Thus, their welfare fell to the other tribes, who were commanded by the faith to donate to the Temple, enforced of course by the reigning king. This "tax" is referred to as a "tithe" in English, as reflected from Old English word for "a tenth", which was the amount of the Mosaic Levirate tax in the ancient Kingdoms of Israel and Judea - 10% per household.

The tithe went to directly support the physical upkeep of the temple itself, and the welfare of the Kohanim and Levim who were appointed to manage operations therein. After the final destruction of the Jewish Temple by the Roman army in 70 C.E., the collection of the tax, as well as its purpose, ceased to exist, and thus, Jewish charity shifted to a more general moralistic notion known as "Tzdakah". Tzdakah has little to do with donating to a specific religious edifice or even organization, but is considered a morally righteous act and is, by extension, is part of the "Tikkun Olam", or "healing the world" concept. As an intra-community faith group it is also incumbent upon Jews to give charity to Jews in need, prior to giving to non-Jews. This premise may have obliquely evolved out of the Levirate tithe, but more so it arose out of post-exile rabbinic philosophy, and was intentionally designed to insure the continuance of the Jewish community as a distinct, mobile ethno-religious minority within the larger gentile world. This was crucial, specifically in light of the fact that the population of Judea had been severely diminished by up to 80% in the aftermath of the Roman genocide.

In the aftermath and subsequent birth pangs of the derivative monotheistic faiths, both Christians and Muslims inherited parts of the charitable notions kicking around Judaism as it shifted from its Temple-driven base to a Talmud-driven base in the early centuries of the first millennia.

Islam, as a similar "community solidarity machine" embraced the Tzdakah concept and made it one of the five pillars of their faith, known as the principle of "Sadaqah", or "Zakat". It varies somewhat from the ancient Jewish tithe in that Zakat doesn't quite make the full 10%, and accounts for 2.5% of a Muslim's annual earnings. Nevertheless, It could be argued, linguistic similarity aside, that the premise and practice of the two are extremely similar. I expect that Islam sought to offset this personal fiscal "loss" to individual Muslims by instituting the "jiyza" tax on non-Muslims to be collected by the state, and which served the dual purpose of coercing non-believers into the fold - a necessity completely superfluous to Judaism as a non-proselytizing faith.

According to traditional Islam, a Muslim who consciously refuses to pay Sadaqah-Zakah-Zakat is considered an apostate, and in a Sharia compliant society they can be jailed. Today, in most Muslim-majority countries, as in Israel and Christian-dominant nations, charity has become wholly voluntary, while only in a handful of Muslim lands; notably Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen, Zakat is mandated and collected by the state. Shiite Muslims, unlike their Sunni counterparts, have traditionally regarded Zakat as private and voluntary, and rather than forward it to the national government, give charity directly to imam-sponsored endeavors and programs.

In contrast, Christianity, with its retro-active focus on Christianizing the "Old Testament", and finding means to incorporate biblical lifestyle and morals into their community in an emulation of the Christ, embraced the pre-exile tithing principle iterated in the Torah and Gospels, and seamlessly morphed it into "donations to the Church", thus insuring the fiscal solvency of the papacy. While not compulsory, the Synod of Macon in 585 C.E. made tithing canon law, and in reaction to the nascent Protestant Reformation, the Council of Trent in the late sixteenth century, ruled that Catholics who failed to pay the tithe suffer excommunication.

The birth of Protestantism saw a redistribution of the Catholic Church's wealth by monarchs such as Henry the VIIIth of England, who appropriated Catholic wealth and land to benefit his nationalized Church of England, with the continuation of "tithing" in the pews for the masses of course. Not to say that Catholic monarchs didn't seize land and wealth for themselves as well, and to be fair we should never forget King Phillip the Fair's decimation of the Knights Templar, and the French Catholic persecution of the Cathars, Waldensians and Huguenots.

In the Protestant context, and reflecting the many competing sects therein, the means and methods of giving charity has become manifold, and as diverse as the sects in question. Though giving is always and uniformly encouraged as an act of faith. While not overtly intra-community oriented, Christianity, as an evangelizing faith, does require that the "good news" be spread, and thus, while a very public seasonal collection endeavor like, say, the Salvation Army, may aid non-Christian people in need. Nevertheless, the goal is designed to encourage those who receive the "Armies" aid toward "salvation", and it offers to those who contribute "points" toward their own salvation. This works on a visceral psychological level when you have proposed that only people ascribing to your doctrinal system are viable candidates for admission to your specific idyllic vision of the afterlife. The distinction here being of course that many Christians and Muslims believe that their respective heavens are only inhabited by their "righteous" coreligionists. For Jews, such concepts are decidedly more abstract, and the thinking has more commonalities with "enlightenment-driven" non-monotheistic faiths such as Hinduism and Buddhism. This is perhaps not surprising in light of the antiquity of Judaism and in the general polytheistic context in which it grew and evolved.

For we in the west, the concept of secular humanism developed as part-and-parcel of the Classical Liberal Values of the Enlightenment, and encouraged, or maybe demanded, the separation of faith and state in a very explicit manner. One may give to an organization, religious or otherwise, if one so desires, but by no means can it, or should it, be enforced by law. In the United States, most political Conservatives would be overtly adversarial to this sort of government mandate, but I must also add that statistically Conservatives donate slightly more cash to charity, though maybe not time, and certainly they contribute more to religious causes.

I don't know if any of my observations regarding the evolution of the charitable ideal are anything new, but I hope that they were at least educational. Perhaps one day humanity as a whole will all share the optional nature of charity, regardless of faith or nation, and give if and when one sees it personally fit, or not at all, and not be judged either way. But hey, who am I to change human nature?

Till next time.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away

Well, before I get back into any of my scheduled political rants this month, and trust me there are a few planned, I thought I'd finish off the "Veritas" uploads with the third and final part of the work. "Veritas - Part III (Thumb Flamenco Remix)" marks the thirty-second upload in the Gauntlet of Balthazar BandCamp hosted 391 & the Army of Astraea Electronic Music Piece of the Day Give-Away.

This section, Part Three, features a meandering piano line played and recorded in the "Thumb Jam" mobile music app, and serves as the "melodic" climax of the piece. The Flamenco element rose up out the more Industrial / Electronic elements of Part One and Part Two, I suspect not just because of my affection for Regional Spanish Folk Music, but due to the minor key that I happened to be playing in Thumb Jam at boot up.

As a review, I must say that Thumb Jam is a really user friendly (and easy) app to operate and very fun to play around with, even if, or maybe even more so, if a piece is improvisational. The piano sound/s are in some respects better than many other similar apps, and maybe even a good chunk of the upright piano synthesizers out there that cost many hundreds, or thousands of dollars more than a free Google Play Store download like this (without the in-app purchases of course). Also, you can extract the notes as midi data and further alter the sound in pretty much any digital audio workstation program to your heart's content. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the conclusion of this experimental opus, and as always, till next time.