Friday, February 03, 2006

War Is Not The Answer- Most of the Time

War is not the answer, I keep seeing this on bumper stickers; and it is true.  The problem with this oversimplification is that its argument is an appeal to emotion.  The fact is that wars have and will continue to occur, despite the fact that there is nothing more destructive, unhelpful, and stupid as a human endeavor.  Violence is usually the option of the powerless; those who feel they are correct in all their assumptions and that they must eliminate anyone that fails to agree with them or see their point. Their frustration in not being able to convince others and their fear that they might be wrong is the motivation to violence.  This is the case with Muslim fundamentalists.  They might best be compared with cornered animals, they are frightened and are lashing out with as much energy as they can.

I have actually been in a war, and I can assure you that it is not much fun.  There is a strange thing about war for the individual though; it can be exhilarating.  The closer you come to dying or being hurt, the more alive you feel.  It is very odd to return to civilian life and find that at first life has not the  charm one expected.  Edginess and expectation is the norm, this goes away gradually but never really leaves you.  War fighting is truly boring until something happened, waiting for something to respond to, waiting for time to pass.  When your comrades are injured or killed the feeling is more than that of loss, there is an emptiness that you sort of get used to, and gladness that you are still alive or not hurt and an awareness of the transient nature of life.

There is another war on the way, I am referring to the apparent inevitability of war with Iran.  I hope I’m wrong about this but I don’t think so.  Let’s face it Iran intends to blow something up, most likely Israel.  At the least they intend nuclear blackmail in an effort to dominate their neighbors.  There can be no doubt that the cruel and brutal regime that rules Iran wants to expand its reach to the Arab nations.  Now what?

Even the Europeans and Canadians must pause and consider the situation.  The problem with war is it’s often forced upon unwilling combatants.  No one, not even the much maligned Pentagon, actually wants to step into a hail of hot metal shards or bullets.  The human body does not react well to large puncture wounds.  This war is coming and it will begin in the form of a series of allied air raids on key points in the Iranian countryside where known installations are located.  There will be so-called collateral damage.

No war has ever been won and very few have ever been completely finished.  Today’s world is the direct descendant of World War I, which can be traced back to the Napoleonic Wars, which go back to the French Revolution, you can do the rest.  So I agree that war is not the answer, but it is an argument and a last resort. In the case of Iraq it is undoubtedly true that the idea was good but the execution was bad.  Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld definitely underestimated the task of cleaning up; if they estimated it at all.  I am a big fan of President Bush and believe he operates in what he thinks is the best action to take.  For this reason you can get ready for Chapter whatever in the continuation of the War to End All Wars which started in August 1914 and which continues today with a few breaks to rearm.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

2006 A special year in Sport

2006 is one of those years when, in the sporting world, a sort of harmonic convergence occurs.  Beginning Sunday with the Superbowl in Detroit, Michigan, continuing with the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and finally July’s World Cup Final in Berlin, Germany spectators should be sated with fabulous examples of athleticism.  Of all these events the World Cup Final will be the most watched, both in person and through radio and television.  The claims of commercial success will be mooted by excitement of the fans.

The Superbowl is the premier event in the United States; of course there are other championships of importance, for example the World Series in baseball, the NBA championship of professional basketball and “March Madness” to determine the National Champions of Collegiate Basketball.  There is no satisfactory tournament to declare a clear collegiate football national champion, so the Superbowl must suffice.  Most years this contest is unremarkable with one team clearly dominating the other; its anticlimactic nature has often cast doubts upon its value.

This year will be one of those different years.  I am picking the Pittsburgh Steelers to win, though it could easily go the other way.  I like the Steelers for the simple reason that the unquantifiable sports element of emotion is on their side.  In such a case any athlete will tell you that all else being equal the team with the most heart or will or desire will prevail. The game will be close and exciting. There will be a large audience for this event, but the best is yet to come.

Turin will present an opposite picture.  The Olympics, except for certain events, is all about individual achievement.  These athletes have trained for years, often in a solitary state and without much financial support, to earn the right to compete.  There is fire in their souls.  The sad thing is that corruption has diminished the importance of the Olympics and reduced it to simply another commercial production that showcases athletic ability.  Its audience is shrinking and not just because of a plethora of competing sporting events.  The Olympics has become the UN of athletics meaning that politics, money, and power have become the object rather than the good of sport.  Yes, hypocrisy has always been in evidence; Jim Thorpe is probably the best example of this.  Yes, politics have always been a key factor in presentation and site selection, Berlin 1936 being the most outrageous example.  The Winter Games in Salt Lake City saw the bubbling over of the corrosive impact of money on sport.  Still, the events will be exciting, the athleticism simply wonderful, the victories, and defeats heart-warming and heart-breaking.  For extended drama the Olympic Games still offer and experience worth having.

Now to the greatest event on earth; the FIFA World Cup Final, an event not to be missed.  This event will have the largest audience, approximately 37 million, and generate the most interest worldwide of any sporting contest. In the United States it will be mostly overlooked, but everywhere else the world will stop turning in places like Iran, Argentina, and England when their teams are playing. It is simply amazing how much interest and emotion is invested in this event. Suicides have resulted when teams lose; players have been assassinated when their side has been defeated. Since its inception in 1930 there have been only seven different winners yet the interest borders on the fanatical. Football is the number one sport in the world, it is played in practically every country and each of them wants to simply participate in the Cup Final; to win is the Holy Grail of sport. It is unlikely that the winner trend will change. I am picking Brazil to win for the sixth time, though England has a good chance of an upset. England is one of the gang of seven. Germany will have a chance to present itself as a premiere sporting nation and a beautiful locale. The rest of the world will wear its heart on its sleeve and be left gasping at the achievements on the field. What a year this promises to be.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Science? Not Again!

Ah, science it can be put to so many uses; actually helping humanity, starting and finishing arguments, interpreted in any way that suits, providing an appeal to authority, and best of all perfect for media distortion. Let's take a look at the latest in genetics. Hooray! We can now go about our daily lives guilt free. No matter what our behavior it's not our fault, it's all in the genes. Of course it makes one wonder about a time behavior wasn't programmed genetically. Was there such a time? If so how did the behavior get programmed genetically, if not how did the Big Bang come to have such an influence over pedophilia, murder, good works, compassion, height, weight, etc.

The study released yesterday claimed that all humanity is racist and this is due to genetic programming. I must say this conclusion raise questions about the relevance or usefulness of advanced education as certified by university degrees. This discussion ties in nicely to the end of the world environmental crisis described in the Sunday newspapers. Are these reports symptomatic of a larger malaise in the scientific community? Is there frustration about not being taken seriously? Or is this simply another case of an editor taking something from a report, perhaps even two lines, that suits their opinion and stipulating its factual nature? I really don't know. I do know that anyone who buys into these hypotheses has stopped, if they ever started, thinking.

Of course there is Global Warming it started about 16 thousand years ago and thank goodness, without it you wouldn't be here to read these words of wisdom. We poor humans have such a short life span and are so egotistical that we tend to think that our lives should be static, no changes from the time we step on earth until we depart. Nature should be immutable, of course that excludes the Theory of Evolution, but so what. Hurricanes may not exceed a certain number per year or else human emissions are too high.

This goes back to the earth's limits. Since we don't know and can't find out what exactly the weather was 30,000 years ago, except that it was frightfully cold in most parts, what baseline are we to use? Of course some scientists will say this, others will say that, who is correct. The answer is neither because the question is insoluble. When you hear that the weather is the worst in 500 years, you must ask how was the weather in the years preceeding.

When you awaken each morning make sure to enjoy the short time you have left, time after all is relative to each unique case, and don't worry about what you read in the newspaper, hear on the radio, or see on television. They may be right or they may be wrong but believe me there a plenty of neurotics ready and willing to take these worries for you.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Can Dissent Be Unpatriotic?

I had a very thoughtful email in response to my comments about Jimmy Carter, whom I stipulated was the worst president ever. Part of the reader's response was that as an "ultra-lefty" he or she was tired of being called unpatriotic for dissenting from the Bush Administration policies. It is difficult to respond to this as I have no idea what kind of dissent has been expressed by the writer, but I will take a stab at it. First let me be clear there is not nor can there be unpatriotic dissent.

Where I think the left goes wrong is in thinking that when they are name calling and flat out lying that they are dissenting. This is of course wrong. When Senator Rockefeller or Senator Kennedy come out against decisions they were consulted on and deny the fact, that is a lie and not dissent. Now, lying is also not unpatriotic. If it were there would be no patriots in the government and there damn few enough now.

Until the left can get over the fact that they must propose something rather than carp, moan, and agonize while ignoring the fact that they are becoming passe, then we will not have dissent only gripes.

What then is dissent? In the modern context it would be statements that George Bush has made poor choices in certain areas, made in such a way as to encourage dialogue. Dissent is not to ignore the actual events as in the who is responsible for the defeat of the Kyoto treaty debate; which was defeated 99-0 in the Senate prior to Bush being elected. Dissent is trivialized by accusing George Bush of causing hurricanes.

Dissent should propose a reasonable alternative. Simply trying to reveal techniques employed by the government to protect the nation, attempting to overturn an election through impeachment (Republicans were guilty of this too), and being thorough dissemblers is not dissent; it is war against the nation itself.

Why don't we see Conservative demostraters protesting the Liberals? Why are fundraising letters 80% scare tactics, why, as an electorate, do we tolerate intellectual dishonesty on both sides? I fear the answer lies in the inability of the general population to think critically or worse they are apathetic to the point of not caring at all. This attitude leaves the field to the wackos on the far left and far right.

The Liberals are going to protect our constitutional rights, especially those made explicit in the constitution. So how do we explain the massacre of the Branch Dividians by Bill Clinton? How do we explain the gutting of private property rights by the expansion of eminent domain? How do we explain Elian Gonzalez being taken from a legal guardian and returned to Cuba? How do we explain the internment of Japanese- American citizens, some second and third generation, during World War II? All these actions were taken by Democrat leadership and any dissent was blithely ignored.

No dear reader dissent can never be unpatriotic in the United States, it is one our core values. The problem arises when only one side is allowed to dissent. Go to a college graduation where a liberal speaker is making the commencement address and see how many conservatives protest, then do the same where a conservative is performing this duty. I think the contrast will be obvious and marked.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Another Environmental Crock

I heard the news today, oh Boy! Too much emission in the atmosphere! (with apologies to the Beatles). I really wonder if there is intelligent life on earth, besides me of course, when something like this can be printed as a serious news story. “Scientists say that emissions are pushing the Earth to its limits.” I have rarely heard any thing so ridiculous, especially given that no one knows if the Earth has limited recovery capacity or even what those limits are. OK, I understand that headline writers have the job of scaring the hell out of everyone, but why not scare people with something scary?

The only time anyone will know what the Earth’s limits are is when, or more likely if, they have been inexorably exceeded, which is not going to happen anytime soon. Remember Paul Ehrlich? We were supposed to extinct as a species by now according to his 1989 book. What about Silent Spring, it now turns out that the entire book was a hoax. How much of this environmental drivel are we supposed to swallow? Oh it makes great press, and the mass of humanity is hysterical enough to believe it, but what prediction other than the return of Christ has been so often wrong?

Guess what? This ecological nightmare is the fault of the United States of America, now there’s a surprise. The USA has assumed a mind-boggling bogey man power on every issue. I think this alone proves the premise that most human beings are pretty dopey. The news media are a modern day PT Barnum, anything to sell newspapers. Unfortunately for them the cable news networks are co-opting the public’s dirty little secret; everyone loves tabloid journalism. What’s worse is that once seen on TV it is assumed to be true.

My fellow earthlings, do not despair you may continue your lives without fear of spontaneous combustion, the rapture, or choking on greenhouse gases.