16 November 2012

Aren't There Real Issues?

Apparently the American Media, both Right and Left, have decided that the weighty matters of foreign policy revolve either around Benghazi or Petraeus' penis.

Look. Benghazi was a screw-up, plain and simple. The Obama Administration got it wrong at first, because it politicizes intelligence information, as it politicizes everything. This is nothing new. Nearly all US presidents politicize intelligence, and therefore diminish their own ability to use intelligence effectively. The exceptions are Washington, Eisenhower, and Bush the Elder. See For the President's Eyes Only. Even now, the Obama Administration can't come clean with the simple truth, because they have to justify what they first said. See Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me.

And I'm sure that David Petraeus has behaved with more decorum and wisdom than former President Bill Clinton. It's worth noting that he stepped out of line. Good, it's noted. Now it's no longer news.

The Right Wing Media plays up one story, the Left Wing Media plays up the other. Each one tries to reverse the other's spin. That's the problem with News As Entertainment, as a kind of non-historical Short Attention Span Theater. The real issues, the elephants in the living room, get swept aside. Don't worry the public's pretty little heads. They don't want to think. Just give them bread and circuses.

So here's a question for the media: It's normal for war aims (or goals or rationales for fighting) to change during a conflict. How have the West's goals changed in the conflict with Al-Qaeda and Affiliated Movements (AQAM)? How have AQAM's goals changed, if at all? How do we use Joseph Nye's "Smart Power" to hasten this conflict to an end that is favorable to humanity? And who is doing that now?

I'm not interested in the occasional foreign policy screw-up. I'm interested in its overall direction. And I'm not at all interested in the occasional personal indiscretion.

08 November 2012

Republicans, Get Over It

1. 2008 was not a fluke. It is the new normal.

2. Nothing you do will win over Latinos as long as your rhetoric during the primaries is about building border fences. Try talking about managing a mobile population for their benefit and that of the US and Mexico, instead of the illegal traffickers.

3. Nothing you do will win over young single women until you accept that restricting a woman's access to abortion is an unfunded government mandate on her of $1 million per child that she must then raise. If you aren't going to put up the cash, then back off. Feel free to advise us that abortion is evil, but lay down the blunt instrument of the law.

4. Nothing you do will win over urban districts until you are in urban districts for the long haul as community organizers, not as carpetbaggers come just for the campaign.

It's time for a change, because your country needs some of your other ideas.

Congratulations, Mr. Obama! You are my President, and I will do my best to help you succeed in carrying out the duties of your office. But look at a map of the electoral districts before you decide that you have a mandate to overreach.

Because 2012 is not a fluke, either.

21 September 2012

Things Christians Should Know

Not everything this guy says is on target, but we would all do well to remember that Christianity is what happened when the ailing Roman Empire tried to lengthen its life by transplanting the Jesus movement into itself. There was a graft-vs-host reaction, and the graft won. The Roman Empire is long gone. But Christianity absorbed some of its ideas about hierarchy and the need for orthodoxy from its time as Rome's official government-sanctioned religion. This has affected all subsequent Christianity, East and West, even the Latter Day Saints. That is to say, the Church on earth is a human manifestation of God's Will, and therefore incorporates human failings along with human virtues. We need to keep that always in mind as we strive to be the People of God, to encourage each other in faith, and to do the works that God has given us. A tame Christianity that reflexively affirms the values of its surrounding culture or liberal or conservative subcultures, has surely strayed from the path illuminated by the One who was once crucified and is now resurrected.

Thanks to ET for sending me this one!

14 September 2012

Things Muslims Should Know

Last year some jerk who calls himself Sam Bacile made a semi-amateurish film called "The Innocence of Muslims" and posted it to YouTube. Sometime later some jihadi-takfiris translated it and dubbed it into Arabic, and then re-posted it to YouTube in time to start a riot in Benghazi to (1) commemorate the 9/11 attacks, and (2) provide cover for an attack on the US embassy.

Of course jihadi-takfiri jerks everywhere then instigated violence wherever they could, so as not to be seen to be less committed than their Libyan brethren.

And the people went along with this, because they are unaware of certain things. So, here are some things Muslims should know:

(1) The American government does not have the power to police the self- expression of its citizens. This is because we citizens are not subjects of our government - we are it's owners. We instituted our government to protect our rights, which are given to us by our Creator (Allah). And among those rights is the freedom to say whatever we want, in public, even if it offends our government or it's officials. That protects our ability to organize against whoever is in power, and vote them out of office, should they fail to use their powers properly. To protect our right to political speech, we don't let our government choose what speech to protect, because it might choose to protect itself instead of its people.

The benefit we get is better government than is the case in most majority Muslim countries. And with better government comes a better economy. The price we pay is that we must tolerate a certain amount offensive speech, against everybody, including hate speech by some Muslims against ourselves.

So things like "The Innocence of Muslims" aren't a big deal in America, not because we don't care about blasphemy, but because in order to protect our rights, we ignore such provocations.

If you would like to live in a free society, in which you can worship Allah as you see fit, then we suggest you ignore them, too.

(2) Bacile acted on his own without consulting the American government or the American people. Declaring all Americans or their government officials fair game to attack is tribal, not Islamic justice. While tribal justice may work in isolated areas, it is extremely dysfunctional in the modern world. You would do well to learn about the 1400 years and various schools of fiqh, or Islamic jurisprudence, as a better alternative.

(3) You persist in a false narrative that America and Israel are enemies of Islam. But if you look at the statics honestly, the most likely person to kill a Muslim is another Muslim. And that is forbidden by the Islamic law which you selectively ignore. Yet it is commonly done by the jihadi-takfiris who whip up your anger for their benefit.

American Muslims already know these things. It's time to spread the word.

25 August 2012

Bye, Neil

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon, has died at the age of 82, from complications after a heart bypass operation. By all accounts he was a great guy, a good engineering professor, and family man. His family asks that when you see the moon on a clear night, give him a wink.

Nothing NASA has done since the moon missions has had the same worldwide appeal. So now we have a push to return to the moon and then send people to Mars. I'm opposed, because there is nothing out there worth the cost and risk of manned exploration. We should send robots. That way we will at least continue to learn how to build better robots, whether we find anything interesting out there or not.

The other two missions of NASA should be exoatmospheric astronomy and astrophysics (the Hubble space telescope, the Wilson Microwave Astronomy Probe, the Chandra x-ray telescope, etc.) and figuring out how to get a person from the ground to low earth orbit (LEO) and back for the same price as a transpacific plane ticket.

Once that last objective is achieved, it will make sense to bring back the Neil Armstrong types and go exploring. Global society needs a frontier, don't you think?

20 April 2012

Why Inequality gets so Little Traction

I heard a guest on a recent National Public Radio show wonder why inequality in America is getting so little political traction this election year. Maybe it's because there are so many of us who know we have enough, and can't be bothered to envy those who have more.

11 March 2012

To be Surveilled or Colonized?

A few months after the 9/11 attacks, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) began a campaign of undercover anti-terrorism surveillance in mosques, schools, and Muslim neighborhoods, according to NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly in a recent speech given at Fordham University. That surveillance has thwarted 14 terror attacks from that time to the present. On the other hand, one reason the German Catholic and Lutheran churches failed to thwart the rise of Nazism and the deportation of millions of Jews to concentration camps was that Nazi informers infiltrated the churches. It's a question of balance.

Balance against the petrodollars funding the attempts by extremist Jihadi-Takfiris and their mullahs and imams to colonize our American mosques, schools, and Muslim neighborhoods. (As if American Islam were any less genuine or authentic than anyone else's Islam.) The Jihadi-Takfiris use methods of agitation-propaganda and provocation learned from atheistic Communism and thuggish violence learned from idolatrous Nazism in order to intimidate or eliminate their opposition within Islam. They function like an organized criminal gang, except that instead of peddling drugs, they are on a Crusade to peddle their narcissistic ideology, to which they themselves are addicted. Against such moneyed, organized, zealous criminal power, the balance of state power is sometimes needed, even welcomed.

But before we get to blasé about it, think of how you would feel if you went on a camping trip with some of your friends, only to find out, years later, that one of them, whom you trusted, to whom you bared your soul, was actually an undercover cop who was reporting your every word.

Our American Muslims need and deserve our care and respect. Maybe sometimes they also need the help of our law enforcement agencies to resist colonization by the Jihadi-Takfiris. But that help should be used  judiciously and circumspectly. Whenever possible, that help should wait for an invitation. And always, that help must respect and protect the privacy and dignity of Muslims who have given themselves to God, and not to the Jihadi-Takfiri idol of God.

09 March 2012

You Do Not Have the Right Never to be Offended

Adapted from the poisonous pen of the notorious Right Wing extremist, David Horowitz:

Last fall, a Muslim, named Talaag Elbayomy, attacked a Pennsylvania man name Ernest Perce who had dressed up like Mohammed for a Halloween parade. The attack was caught on film, witnessed by dozens of parade watchers, and verified by a policeman. 

Elbayomy was charged. But when he was brought before Cumberland County Judge Mark Martin, the judge dismissed the assault charges against the Muslim and dressed down the Pennsylvania man for being insensitive to the Muslim religion. Not only did Martin rule in favor of the Muslim attacker, he lectured Ernest Perce for insulting Islam: "Islam is not just a religion, it's their culture. It's their very essence their very being… And what you've done is, you've complete trashed their essence, their being. They find it very, very, very offensive. I find it offensive."

- End of Adaptation.

I find it offensive, and stupid, too. But in a democracy, being offended does not confer the right to commit violence. Yet Judge Martin unlawfully conceded the right to commit violent crime in the name of religion to Elbayomy, and by extension to all practitioners of the religion of Islam.

I doubt that Judge Martin would concede a right of violent redress to equally devout Catholics seeking revenge against members of the Obama Administration who are forcing Catholic organizations to provide insurance coverage for birth control. In other words, Judge Martin is just another knee-jerk, reactionary, Politically Correct "useful idiot" for Islamofacism, who desperately needs to be impeached from the judiciary, and disbarred from the practice of law. It is the job of the judiciary to defend ordered liberty, not to sell it cheap in a vain attempt to appease its despisers.

You do not have the right never to be offended, because if you do, then everyone else has no rights. The whole world must revolve around your sensitivities. And that's wrong.

03 March 2012

Birth Control is Not a Right

So Rush Limbaugh satirized Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law Student, who is advocating in favor of the Obama Administration policy that mandates employers who provide health insurance also provide coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients. I have yet to hear or read Limbaugh's remarks, or Ms. Fluke's for that matter.

What I can say, is that when my wife and I were Ms. Fluke's age, we were also living on graduate student stipends. We took care of our own birth control costs, and never thought to ask the University to help us with them. Because we assumed that birth control was not our right - it was our responsibility. Birth control is considered a right by people whose ideology confuses license with liberty.

On the other hand, the real issue is not graduate students, but the working poor. When you are bringing in such low wages that you have to count pennies, then maybe you do need a little help to make ends meet. Maybe the government should win this one. But Catholic and some other religious institutions have moral objections to birth control. At least let them have a means test, so that they will only be compelled to provide such coverage to those whom they pay wages too low to afford it.

That will at least provide those institutions a way to opt out of providing coverage for birth control by raising the wages of those lowest on the pay scale, and letting them make their own choices as to how to spend their own money.

How Dangerous is Theoretical Physics?

The String Theorists and the Loop Quantum Gravitators are busily chipping away at the problem what space-time actually is. For some time, my concern has been that if people can figure out how space-time is put together, then somebody might be able to figure out how to take it apart. In other words, the next paradigm shift in theoretical physics may have weapons implications, just like the last one, which gave us nuclear weapons. The atomic nucleus is not Nature's last word on explosive energy release.

That last word is actually the First Word - the Big Bang that began the Universe as we know it. The question is whether some yet to be discovered physics can yield intentional explosions between the intensity of a nuclear explosion and the Big Bang.

On the other hand, our astronomers are finding that planets orbiting around stars are commonplace. With all those planets out there, surely some are home to technological civilizations, and surely some of them have already discovered physics that is several paradigms beyond our own. If there were any explosive technology based on such physics, and if any extra-terrestrial civilization had used it, our astronomers would have seen it. So far, all the observable explosions and other energetic phenomena in space look natural. Or so we think.

Maybe theoretical physics isn't such a dangerous pursuit after all. Maybe.

16 February 2012

15 February 2012

Lunch Box Inspectors

Well, here's an outrage for you:


In an era of constrained budgets, inspectors for the State of North Carolina are searching through children's school lunch boxes and forcing them to eat state/federal-funded, school-provided lunches if what they bring from home fails to measure up to state guidelines.

Now I can see state and or federal guidelines for the nutrition of our nation's precious children. But I object to state or federal employees forcing compliance. Providing proper nutrition is the duty and privilege of the childrens' parents. Unless and until a child shows signs of neglect, or failure to thrive, it is tantamount to illegal search and seizure to snoop into his or her lunchbox. It is wasting scarce tax revenues on needless tyranny.

Or am I wrong? If we are all going to be paying for each other's healthcare, then maybe we all have a legitimate interest in what we may each be eating. Maybe we will all save money in the long run if we pay inspectors to do things like citing and fining me for the donut I ate during a workshop on plasma physics I attended this morning.

Perish the thought!

01 January 2012

The Problem of Free Will III: The All-Knowing God

In the previous two posts we established that we are conscious beings who are have Free Will within the constraints of being human in this universe. Indeed, the purely materialistic argument is that Consciousness and Free Will arose in human populations because they enabled us to gain survival benefit from behaviors that are unpredictable and more complex, creative and powerful than pre-determined reflexes. The atheist/materialist is thus forced to argue in favor of Free Will, rather than against it.

But the atheist/materialist points out that Free Will is incompatible with the usual notion of an Omniscient (All-Knowing) God. If God knows the Future, then the Future is pre-determined. If God does not know the Future, then God is not All-Knowing. And the atheist would be right, if the Graeco-Roman categories of Omniscience, Omnipotence, and Omnipresence were categories that circumscribed the Deity.

Here I side with the Muslims, when they say, "Allahu Akbar!" which means, "God is greater!" Greater than anything you can imagine, including your philosophical categories. But before we dismiss the argument with a slogan, let us consider an alternate reality that you alone control.

Let us consider your dreams. You are the Creator of every one of them. You yourself are Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent with respect to your dreams. Part of you must know how each one will turn out, because part of you creates and controls the plot. But you are still surprised at what occurs in your dreams. Except for relatively rare instances of "lucid" dreaming, you feel out of control, swept along by the current of events in the dreams that you dream up.

Elsewhere I have argued that the Universe and everything in it seems like one vast, self-consistent dream in the Mind of God. Given that we are made in the "image" of God, perhaps it is not too outrageous to wonder if God experiences something of the same surprise at God's own dreaming of this Universe?

And why should God be limited to only one dream?