27 February 2007

Who now mourns for Galileo?

According to Q, I don’t understand science (among other things). (I believe he had this posting in mind.) Typically, he offers no explanation of where I went wrong, just makes the assertion that I don’t understand science. (And this in a comment in which he, again, takes me to task for just making "lots of statements.")

I’ve long been amused by the sweeping generalizations made by believers in evolutionism about those who are sceptical of it. You can be sceptical of Big Bang cosmology, as proponents of Steady State Theory once were (in some cases still are). No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science. You can be sceptical of the Standard Model of particle physics. No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science.


There are about five theories about why the (Western) Roman Empire fell. If you reject one, or even all of them you won’t be told you don’t understand history; you won’t be accused of being an irrational obscurantist. You can believe that mathematics is a true science; or you can believe that mathematics is not a true science. No problem. You won’t be told that you don’t understand science. You won’t be accused of being anti-science.

You can believe, with Einstein, that science ought to proceed from examinations of physical reality and capture all aspects of it, have an emphasis on internal consistency and avoidance of asymmetrical or contradictory explanations, and create a visualizable understanding of the meanings of the scientific theory; or you can believe, with Niels Bohr, that a scientific theory need not capture all aspects of physical reality and therefore did need not possess an intuitive physical meaning or be entirely free of contradictions. Whether you agree with Einstein or Bohr, you won’t be told that you don’t understand science; you won’t be accused of being anti-science.


You can believe that a theory of origins can be properly scientific; or you can believe otherwise. But here it’s different. Here, with a theory of origins which, unlike relativity, cannot be falsified by experiments and which, unlike Big Bang cosmology, does not begin with observations in the present and about present states of affairs and extrapolate from presently observed phenomena past states of affairs -- here it is totally different.

Express the least bit of scepticism about this theory, a single theory -- a single theory, mind you! -- and you are told that you don’t understand science. In fact, you’re anti-science. Think of it! For all science you understand no science, because you are sceptical of a single theory. For all science you are anti-science, because you are sceptical of a single theory.

I wonder why that is? Could it be because evolution, as a theory of origins, has religious implications (for both theists and non-theists), that other theories don’t have?


Q, when you read an expression of scepticism about the scientific credentials of a given theory, responding with "You don’t understand science," in addition to being a bit of overkill, is also ad hominem, an assertion about the person stating a position, rather than about the position itself. (I know you hate hearing that, but it’s not my fault that it’s true.)
Here is a much more intelligent comment on my scepticism of evolution’s credentials. Note that the author of said comment actually presents, however brief, an argument, rather than the ridiculous assertion that for all science I understand no science. Take a lesson.

Bearing in mind that Q has never met me, it may be interesting to note that
Dr Lewis Irving Held, of Texas Tech University thought enough of my understanding of science to recommend me for an undergraduate research fellowship in biology (that recommendation was in the form of a letter of recommendation). (Family matters meant that I could not apply for the fellowship after all, but I think I still have a copy of Dr. Held’s letter of recommendation somewhere in my personal effects.) What may be most interesting about Dr. Held’s recommendation is that I was never -- ever -- a science major at university. I was a liberal arts major. (This was all back in the 1990s, but my understanding of science hasn’t changed. And, what’s more, Dr. Held didn’t think to ask what I thought about evolution when he wrote that letter of recommendation. His recommendation was based on my coursework performance, not my philosophy of science.)

What gets me about these people is that they are often the same ones who mourn for Galileo because of the way the Church treated him for his heterodox views. Kind of like the way that people get treated today for being sceptical today's orthodoxy, evolutionism. Oh, yeah, and global warming.

"You don't understand science," is easy enough to say, but if one's grounds is simply scepticism about a theory -- a single theory -- then "You don't understand science" just isn't enough. Did I also mention that it's ad hominem? Typical Q. Oh so typical.

I await your next brick.
25 February 2007
As if Congress isn't already busier than a one-armed paper-hanger in a wind storm, what with passing non-binding legislation and all (among various other forms of responsibility avoidance) they have to go and do this.
23 February 2007
Like other Neo-Calvinists I spend a lot of thinking about cultural renewal. One belief I have about cultural renewal is that it requires the inculcation of wisdom, one attribute of which is to ask appropriate questions.

Just this afternoon I heard a caller to The Sean Hannity Show say that he wishes all the money we've spent on the war in Iraq had been spent on finding Osama bin Ladin. He’s opposed to the war in Iraq. Fine. I can respect that.

Something I have difficulty respecting is the foolishness of thinking that anything significant will result from apprehending OBL.

A wise person (or at least one who would like to be wise) should ask, "What happens if bin Ladin is captured?" Do the terrorists lay down their weapons? Do they stop setting roadside bombs? Does Iran stop supplying weapons, and men, to the unsurgents? Do we all gather around a camp-fire, roast marshmallows, and sing kumbaya?

Hardly.

If capturing OBL is really worth all the time and money spent on the war in Iraq then certainly some great result is expected. I cannot see what that result might be. Certainly the war on terror will not simply end there. If a commander’s followers are any good battle does not end with his death or capture.

There is one more question: If we capture OBL, can we then focus on the war in Iraq? Or will there be some other objection to it?

I have my suspicions.

Rush Limbaugh seems to think that there is something important to the fact that the United States haven’t fought a declared war since WWII. I doubt that Limbaugh would assert that the conflict in Iraq is an undeclared war. (I would agree if he wanted to claim that the 2002 authorization of use of force in Iraq constitutes a sufficient declaration of war.) But his statement to the effect that we’ve not fought a declared war in over 60 years amounts to a "So what?" to the charge, if one accepts it, that we are presently fighting an ‘undeclared’ war.

I happen not to think we are fighting an undeclared war. However, the Constitution gives to Congress authority to declare war. If someone charges that we are fighting an undeclared war the appropriate answer, whatever else it may be, should never be, "We haven’t fought a declared war since World War Two."

At least that’s how it should be if you really believe in the rule of law, which, as a Christian, I do.
22 February 2007

Belief in God as a pre-rational commitment (1)

A reply to ‘Q’ (at last)

In his last set of comments Q managed to raise a point which I would be remiss in not dealing with. I’ve been meaning to post this for several days now, but I didn’t want to give the appearance that this blog was going to be a never-ending series of replies to Q. Believing that a sufficient amount of time has elapsed, I want to deal with that point now.

In previous postings (
here and here) I asserted that belief in God is a pre-rational commitment. I was responding to Q’s question about the difference between God and the Tooth Fairy, and said, among other things:

[B]elief in god is as much a pre-rational commitment as is belief that rationality is superior to irrationality. Belief in the toothfairy is not ‘properly basic’. I count that as an important difference.

Q responds by saying
first:

Toothfairy versus GOD


Both can't be seen. Both can not be perceived in any direct manner. Both seem to do stuff in secret and know things that they couldn't unless they were all seeing and all knowing.

and:

A line such as "belief in god is as much a pre-rational commitment as is belief that rationality is superior to irrationality" doesn't prove a thing. It's an opinion. That's all. More over it's an opinion that draws a conclusion from an equation that is deemed to be correct as a starting point. It translates to : if A is true then B is true to. B is true. Therefor [sic] A is true. E.g.: Belief in the FSM (Ramen) is as much a pre-rational commitment as is belief that all circles are round. See, I just made clear that there's a flying spaghetti monster so you should worship it !

To his first response I say simply that he just can’t be serious. Employing a similar logic I might as well attempt to demonstrate that there’s no difference between an apple and an orange. Observe:

Both have skins. Both have seeds. Both grow on trees.

Wow.

That’s what happens when you try to pass off recitation of superficial similarities as profundity of thought. Clearly, despite similarities, there are important differences between apples and oranges. Q’s recitation of the similarities between God and the Tooth Fairy tells us nothing.

In his second response Q says

1
(a) that my claim that belief in God is a pre-rational commitment (or a basic belief) proves nothing;
(b) that my assertion is a conclusion reached by affirming the consequent (i.e., If A then B. B. Therefore A.); and

2 that he can make clear that there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster merely by asserting that belief in the FSM is a pre-rational commitment.

With respect to both 1 and 2 he is, frankly, way off base. With respect to 1(a) I didn’t say anything was proved by the assertion, only that this truth (i.e., that belief in God is a pre-rational commitment) distinguishes God from the Tooth Fairy. I’m confident of this because, despite what they may tell their children, people who believe in God do not also believe in the Tooth Fairy. (I never told my child there was a Tooth Fairy, or a Santa Claus, or an Easter Bunny and so forth.) If Q thought I was trying to prove something by the assertion that belief in God is a pre-rational commitment then he wasn’t paying attention.

With respect to 1(b) it should be now clear that since I made no argument about belief in God being a pre-rational commitment it simply is not possible for me to have committed the logical fallacy he attributes to me. “Belief in God is a pre-rational commitment” hardly has the form “If A then B. B. Therefore A.”

What I mean by saying that belief in God is a pre-rational commitment is that, however one comes to have such belief, such belief really does not come at the end of a chain of reasoning. Let’s say you have a belief, B5, and that your belief B5 is based on another belief, B4, which in turn is based on your belief B3. You can see that what you have here is layer upon layer of beliefs, which if followed backwards take you back to a fundamental belief which we will call B0 because it is not based on a more fundamental belief. B0 does not come at the end of a chain of reasoning; it is the beginning of a chain of reasoning. B0 is for you a basic belief.

Leaving God aside for a moment (so to speak), an example of a basic belief would, I think, be the belief that positive evidence must be presented for any and all beliefs (beliefs about the nature and purpose of existence, the nature and possibility of knowledge, and of ethics) including belief in the existence of God. Note the nature of this belief. It is hardly a belief for which one could provide evidence. “I believe,” one says, “that people ought to provide evidence for any and all beliefs – beliefs about the nature and purpose of existence, the nature and possibility of knowledge, and of ethics – including belief in the existence of God.”

Clearly there is no positive evidence to support such a claim. A belief like this would be like a belief B0. Not only is it not based on some other, more fundamental belief, it is difficult to see how it could be. Any attempt to justify this belief will assume as true precisely the belief that we are attempting to justify. In other words to say that there must be a belief which serves as the basis for the belief that positive evidence must be presented for any and all beliefs assumes that positive evidence must be presented for any and all beliefs. The belief that positive evidence must be presented for any and all beliefs is therefore basic. This is why I said that the commitment to reason is pre-rational. You can commit to rationality (however you may define it), but you can’t justify that commitment by an appeal to reason.

So, getting back to Q, my saying that belief in God is basic, or a pre-rational commitment, wasn’t intended to prove anything. The question I was answering was not, “What evidence do you have that God exists?” but rather, “What is the difference between God and the Tooth Fairy?” One difference, again, is that belief in God is – at least for some – basic, while belief in the Tooth Fairy is not even seriously entertained by any philosopher with whom I’m familiar, living or dead, much less entertained as a pre-rational commitment, or basic belief. Even children, in my experience, who believe in the Tooth Fairy do not hold that belief as basic. (And children do have basic beliefs.)

I cannot take belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as basic, not even to humor Q. The Flying Spaghetti Monster was offered up as, and intended to be, a caricature in response to the Intelligent Design controversy. Its ‘pedigree’ tells us that it is not entertained even as a serious belief, much less a basic one.

Having explained something of what I mean by pre-rational commitment, I owe an explanation for why I hold belief in God as a basic belief and, therefore, a pre-rational commitment. But I’ll have to do offer that explanation a subsequent posting.
21 February 2007
The way people carry on about war and other forms of upheaval, one would think that the absense of such things is the normal state of affairs. Ayaan Hirsi Ali offers food for thought for those who think so.

People ask me incessantly what it’s like to live with perpetual death threats. This question is most often asked by Westerners, with the naiveté of those who consider life to be naturally peaceful. Born in Somalia, the daughter of an opponent of Siyad Barré’s dictatorship, I grew up in my country, then in Saudi-Arabia and in Kenya in an environment in which death invited itself without end. A virus, a bacterium, a parasite, a drought, a famine, a civil war, soldiers, torturers: death could take all forms and hit anyone, anytime. When I had malaria, I got well again. When I was circumcised, my wound transformed into scar tissue, and I survived. When my Qur’an teacher fractured my skull, doctors saved me. A bandit put the blade of his knife against my throat: I’m still alive, and more of a rebel than ever before. (Emphases mine.)


The fact is life, even at its best, is difficult. Much of our activity is intended to remove all the difficulty from life, as if life should not be difficult. Much of our political discourse in this country is focused on who, or which party, promises to remove difficulty from our lives. And each time some difficulty is removed, or its degree of severity decreased, we respond by insisting that one more difficulty be removed, and another and another. All of this rooted, of course, in the fear of death.

Ali’s perseverance as a rebel, despite having a bandit’s knife against her throat (among other things), suggests that instead of trying to remove all the difficulties from life that we can, we ought to strengthen ourselves to confront and live through difficulty.

The simple fact is this: there has never been a truly lasting period of personal peace and affluence. Every such period has ultimately failed (take, e.g., the Great Depression); and those who thought – fantasized – that it should be otherwise (or would continue to be otherwise indefinitely) were the ones who were unable to cope, and suffered the most, when it did so.

We can alleviate some suffering: we can offer palliatives for it. But we cannot remove it from our lives. Neither can we escape death. Not even in America.

The reality is that, although we don’t realize it because we are affluent enough to be surrounded by sufficient distrations, we all live under a perpetual death threat.

So many people would have so little power over us if we truly understood that.
19 February 2007
Representative Loretta Sanchez (D. Ca.), says she doesn’t understand what the troop surge is intended to accomplish. She doesn’t understand how this troop surge is going to succeed where previous surges have not. She doesn’t know what the plan is.

All this can be only because she isn’t listening. In that she is not unlike a caller to the Limbaugh show last Thursday. This caller had what he no doubt thought was a brilliant question: Given that there are presently around 130,000 troops already in Iraq, what is the addition of 21,000 going to accomplish? Rush tried to explain that the 130,000 troops are stationed around the country; he wanted to go on to explain that the additional 21,000 will be stationed in and around Baghdad, but the caller stopped Rush right after he said that the troops were stationed around the county, saying, “We’re not talking about the country. We’re talking specifically about Iraq.” He was convinced that ‘around the country’ meant a country other than Iraq, rather than the country of Iraq.

See? These people don’t know because they don’t want to know. They don’t understand this war because they don’t want to understand it. And they don’t want to understand this war because they don’t want to fight this war.

What should we have expected? These are the same type of people who didn’t want to fight a cold war. I know: I was in that war. Had these people had their way back then, we’d have lost that one too. Can you imagine losing a war –perhaps the only one in all of human history -- in which no bullets or bombs fly? (Just my luck, to be in the only war in history in which no bullets fly. But I digress.) Should we really expect people who had not the stomach for a cold war to commit to fighting a hot one?

The real question is not how this troop surge will work when the others didn’t. The real question is why wasn’t a troop surge specifically targeting Baghdad implemented before?

To come up with the answer to that question one should probably think political appearances, not military realities.

P.S.


I know it’s difficult to believe, but there really are people who do not want to know certain things. I was still in my teens when I realized that there really are people who do not wish to know things. I’ve often wondered why. My favorite hypothesis: Knowledge often brings with it responsibility. I’ve been reading philosophy since at least age twelve. But my clue to this did not come from reading philosophy, however, but from watching “Hogan’s Heroes”. Think about Sergeant Schultz, who, when confronted with some of the activity of the POWs of Stalag 13 would respond by leaving the area, saying, "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!" You see? If he acknowledged what he knew, he’d have to acknowledge a responsibility to act upon what he knew. All Schultz wanted to do was wait out the war and go back to his toy company.

But can we have a whole party who doesn’t want to know? Why not? What if a whole bunch of Sergeant Schultzes formed, or joined, a political party? Why, you’d have a party that didn’t want to know, wouldn’t you?
16 February 2007
One way to get the upper hand in an argument is to recast your opponent’s position. As an example I offer the following cartoon:
















Opponents of the resolution presently being debated in Congress say that the resolution itself (among other tactics) will embolden the enemy. We do not say that the simple act of questioning the wisdom or advisability of a strategy will embolden the troops.

Besides, a resolution is not an interrogative. Saying, “We oppose the troop surge” is not a question. It’s a declaration. And one is hard-pressed to see just how making such a declaration can not embolden the enemy.

Let’s say you’ve somehow managed to get yourself into a fight in a bar. At some point in the altercation you inform me of your intention to employ a knife hand on your opponent’s jugular. As you approach your opponent to do precisely that, I yell out, loud enough to be heard by your opponent, “Hey man, I don’t think that knife hand to the jugular is going to work. Knife hand is your weakest move!”

How do you think your opponent feels upon hearing that? Relieved? Confident? Emboldened? The one thing he probably doesn’t feel is frightened.

More importantly: How do you feel? As you approach your opponent, how’s your morale?

H/T: Center for American Progress
15 February 2007
Rush Limbaugh was just talking about the ‘torture’ on the television show ‘24’ and how it is, according to some, influencing the way our interrogators conduct their interrogations. A friend of his emailed Rush to object to the depiction of torture on the show, saying, “Even I had to turn away when that drill came out.” (There was a scene in which a CTU agent had his shoulder drilled into.)

Just one question for that guy: Given that the torture scene and the nuclear explosion were equally as fake, did you sob for days on end over the (fake!) loss of life in the (fake) nuclear explosion? Are you suffering from PTSD because you saw a nuclear bomb go off in Los Angeles, California?

Give me a break.

An astute caller just called in suggesting that we send children over to Iraq to conduct these interrogations, since, according to Hollywood, the behavior of children is not influenced by what they see on television.


Now that's funny.
08 February 2007
PepsiCo reports 4th quarter profits of $1.78 billion. That profit is on $10.38 billions in revenue for that quarter. That profit margin works out to 17.15 percent.

Recall, now, that ExxonMobile reported profits for 2006 of $39.5 billions, or a paltry 10.5 percent profit (on $377.1 billions in revenue). 10.5 percent, a little more than a measly dime on every dollar of revenue. A dime. Outrageous.

Hmmmm. PepsiCo makes a 17 percent profit. ExxonMobile makes a 10.5 percent profit.

Yes I do realized that with respect to PepsiCo we’re talking about a single quarter, and with ExxonMobile we’re talking an entire year’s worth of business. But just about every quarter we’re treated to harangues about the evils of Big Oil.

PepsiCo’s profit margin (17 percent) tells us that PepsiCo is charging comparatively more for its products than ExxonMobile (with a 10.5 percent profit margin) is for its products. Think we’re going to be hearing about the evils of Big Soda any time soon?

And when you think about it, Big Oil does much more for us than Big Soda. Big Oil gets us to work, school, wherever, every day. Big Soda makes us fat and diabetic. (PepsiCo owns the Frito-Lay snacks, Pepsi beverages, Gatorade sports drinks, Tropicana juices and Quaker foods businesses. It used to own Taco Bell. Mmmmmm. Yo quiero.)

Big Oil is evil. Big Soda is benign.

If only people knew a thing or five about business and economics. Pitiful.

Note: Yes, I understand that I’m comparing PepsiCo’s 4th quarter profit with ExxonMobile’s 2006 year-end profit, so it seems a bit unfair. But I’ve been tracking ExxonMobile’s profits for several quarters now, and 10 percent-plus-or-minus-a-few-points was about its average quarterly profit last year. Assuming both companies’ profits follow current trends the comparison is pretty close to fair.
An update to this posting: My ‘colleague’ Mary*Ann has supplied a link to a letter posted in The Observer. The letter was written by Osama bin Ladin. You know Osama. He’s the man whose death, if we can ever bring it about, will instantaneously end the War on Terror.

One thing I like about this letter is that it answered the question, Why do they hate us?

The answer, largely ignored by the press is they hate us because we are not Muslims: “The first thing that we are calling you to is Islam.”

Reading bin Ladin’s criticism of us for our ‘separation of church and state’ and of his desire that we institute sharia law reminded me of Justice Breyer. Breyer, as we all know, likes to subject us to the laws of other nations, laws ‘foreign to our constitution’. (The laws of other nations are not binding, he informs us, but they are instructive. Yeah. Right. Hey, Mister Justice, they become binding when you write them into the body of our constitutional law. But I digress.) I note he seems to have no interest in subjecting us to the dictates of sharia.
Alexandra Pelosi thinks evangelicals are obsessed with sex because abortion and homosexuality are the only two things they care about. One would think, then, that if women got pregnant by some means other than sexual intercourse (and I don’t mean in vitro fertilization) evangelicals would be more accepting of it.

In fact, Pelosi, despite doing a documentary study of evangelicals, still doesn’t understand them. Evangelicals’ concern is with the ethics of abortion; they think it’s wrong, and sex has nothing to do with the reason why. The only connection between sex and abortion is that without sex abortion would be unnecessary. It’s not like there’s come problem with abortion just because one must have sexual intercourse in order to conceive a baby that one might want to kill. However babies are conceived, we believe it is wrong to kill them. It’s not about sex; it’s about the right to life. If women got pregnant by eating peanut butter, they’d still have a problem. And the problem would not be with peanut butter; it would still be with abortion. (The sort of superficial thinking Pelosi demonstrates in attributing evangelicals’ position on abortion to an obsession with sex is, of course, no surprise.)

Pelosi also complains that the Christians she would talk to had the Bible right on their palm pilots. So when she asked them a question about why they believe this or that they would scroll to the appropriate passage of Scripture and quote that passage. (“ ‘See?’ “ she said, ostensibly quoting at least one of them, reading from his palm Bible, “ ‘war is good.’ “) So it was difficult to debate them.

Silly woman, clashes of worldviews are clashes of ultimate authorities. It seems not to have occurred to her that she consults her own authorities (whatever they may be, whether ‘scientific consensus’, the consensus of leftist academe, or her own desires) just as readily.

In other words, Pelosi’s own moral choices are just as ultimately religious as an evangelical’s. The difference is simply the object of her worship.

H/T: Laura Ingraham for audio clips of Pelsosi interview
07 February 2007
"The word is out that the southern border is undefended. Border agents won't dare to draw their weapons, and the drug cartel will double their effort to drive a wedge in our border." -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif

Why would our federal government be party to railroading two border patrol agents?

That’s the question you’ll want to hear answered when you read this article by Jerome R. Corsi at WorldNetDaily:

"Department of Homeland Security official admitted today the agency misled Congress when it contended it possessed investigative reports proving Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean confessed guilt and declared they 'wanted to shoot some Mexicans' prior to the incident that led to their imprisonment" (emphasis mine).

Why would DHS do that?

When I was in the Army the mission of my unit (3d Armored Division) was to guard the West German border from invasion by the Soviet bloc. Here, I sit in my own country while foreign nationals (some of them armed and uniformed) cross our border like it’s not even there. Two Border Patrol agents shoot a drug dealer and end up in federal prison, while the drug dealer they shot gets ummunity and a green card.

Some 218 years ago the original thirteen states of our union formed this union, and thereby created the federal government, for, among other things, their mutual (i.e., ‘common’) defense. Presently, the fed have virtually thrown down a “Welcome” mat at our southern border. Residents of a nation who would not extend like courtesy to us traipse across that mat with impunity. When one of the purposes of our constitution (‘common defense’) is thwarted by the very entity charged with the duty of carrying those purposes in effect, what recourse do the people in the states have?

A drug dealer has a green card. Two Border Patrol agents, who as it turns out may not be guilty of the crimes they were charged with, are in federal prison.

Homeland Security. I feel so safe. I wonder if the President is as lax about his property lines in Crawford, Texas as he is about our border.

P. S.
It won’t do any good dropping the ‘racist’ bomb here: my father is of Mexican descent. This isn’t a race thing. It’s a ‘hey-do-we-have-a-country-here-or-not’ thing. I find it easy to tolerate people who need work. But immunity anc green cards for drug dealers? As we used to say when I was in the Army, “@#%&* that!!!”

H/T: Freedom Folks
Hugh Hewitt said on his show yesterday that he doesn’t understand why Andrea Chaknis, thinks it is “incongruous” that Harvard student, and track star, Sean Barrett, would join the Marines.

It’s easy. She thinks it’s incongrous because she believes the liberal hype that only those with no other prospects join the military. Barrett clearly has other prospects. It's incongruous that someone with other prospects would turn away from them and join the military. You don't take your last resort first.


What's incongruous to us, of course, is the idea that personal peace and affluence trumps the defense of the very nation which has made those prospects possible in the first place.
06 February 2007
In all seriousness, and speaking of the Tanker Brothers, there’s a posting up on one of the most important aspects of the War on Terror: defense against the Caliphate. This desire of those we have been calling ‘Islamofascists’ to institute a world-wide Caliphate is an aspect of the War that gets very little attention. Too often, terrorists are treated as if they use their weapon of choice (i.e., terror) for no other objective than revenge. How silly!

A weapon used in warfare is a weapon used with an objective. Revenge isn’t a very intelligent objective. Conquest is. And it would be foolish to think that terrorists aren’t very intelligent and therefore we have not much to worry about when it comes to conquest. The people actually blowing themselves up may not be very intelligent, but the people higher up in the hierarchy are. Besides, you should never underestimate your enemy.

I wish we would hear and see more in the news on the subject of the Caliphate, especially since Osama bin Ladin claims Iraq is the capital of the Caliphate. As I’ve said before, the President may not be the smartest man ever to occupy the Oval Office, but he understands the significance of the Caliphate. Maybe that’s why he ignores popular opinion when it comes to the Iraqi theater. A majority of Americans may want the Iraqi theater to go away, but they can’t wish the Caliphate away. That fact trumps the opinion polls.
A flock of women have filed a class-action suit against Wal-Mart for discrimination (see here and here). You know, with all the law-suits going on, and for all the sorts of reasons they go on, one wonders if, in our increasingly litigious society, we’ll see the day when straight women file a class-action suit against gay men for sex discrimination.

Too much time on my hands

Well, it’s about the time of day when people start wandering about with coffee and snacks in hand. There’s a guy with a breakfast burrito.

Mmmmmm. Crescent rolls. I like crescent rolls. I’m feeling…inspired.


99 Crescent Rolls

(to the tune of 99 Red Balloons)

You and I in a pastry shop
Buy a bag of rolls with the money we’ve got
(The) plan was to set them out of sight
To wait unseen until midnight
But that bag of rolls like Pavlov’s bell
Sends its message; now I’m in hell
Floating in my stomach’s eye
Ninety-nine crescent rolls go by

Ninety-nine crescent rolls
Floating in my stomach’s eye
It's getting late. I salivate.
There’s nothing here to satisfy
Digestive system now alive
Opens up its famished maw
Big black hole, an ugly sight!
As ninety-nine crescent rolls go by

Ninety-nine lit cigarettes
Ninety-nine cups of coffee
Back and forth pacing, finger strumming,
To get my mind out of my tummy
I can’t believe my wife made cake
This is more than I can take
My will power is on the line
As ninety-nine crescent rolls go by

Niney-nine hallucinations
And each of them a crescent roll
It’s almost over; and I’m very hungry
In this jail that was my study
If I could find a book to read
To get my mind out of my stomach
But what’s this here? A crescent roll!
I think of Cindy, and then I hurl

No, it's not brilliant, but it sure passes the time.

The Rolling Victory Fast!!!

As mentioned in my previous posting, today I’m participating in the Tanker Brothers Rolling Victory Fast, another one of those great ideas (like MTV -- back when they still had music) I could wish had been mine. It is customary for RVF participants to dedicate their fast as, for example Mary*Ann did. I am dedicating this fast to two specific men presently in Iraq (one Marine and one soldier), but I’m keeping their names to myself for good reasons.


UPDATE: I should also mention that I'm honored to be doing this on the birthday of the beloved Ronaldus Magnus (6 February M1911A1 – 5 June 2004), THE Commander in Chief. Hooah!!!





"Maybe the Democratic leadership have gone so far left that they've left America." -- Ronald Reagan.
05 February 2007

Rolling Victory Fast: It's my turn now!

I'm taking over from Mary*Ann, to make my contribution to the





Because I get up very early, I must go to bed now. But don't you worry Mary*Ann, I'm on it. Consider yourself relieved.
Remember John Edwards’ “Two Americas” speech? There are two Americas, he said, "One America that is struggling to get by, another America that can buy anything it wants, even a Congress and a President. " (As if it were ever any different -- anywhere, even America.)

Here’s his America:




Wow. Look at all that clear-cutting. And where are the solar panels? I’ll bet that house requires a lot of incandescent light bulbs.

From the content of his speech, I thought perhaps he lived in my America.

And to think I still occasionally see bumper stickers that say, “I’m not rich enough to be a Republican.”


(Photo credit: Don Carrington/Carolina Journal)

I don’t know who thought two guys kissing (not that there’s anything wrong with it) is going to boost sales of Snickers.

All I know is that for a long, long time whenever I see Snickers bars (one of my favorites) I’m going to want to hurl.
02 February 2007

The threat to punish productivity continues.

If you’ve read, or heard the news then you know that oil companies have posted “huge” annual profits ($39.5 billions for Exxon Mobile). Senator Clinton wants “to take those profits” and put them to work on researching alternative fuels.

It doesn’t matter to me what she wants to do with those profits. What matters to me is whether she really knows what ‘profit’ is. Those profits reflect net income, that is ‘revenue’ minus ‘expenses’. ‘Expenses’ includes taxes. That’s what concerns me. After these oil companies pay all their bills, including taxes, Senator Clinton, unsatisfied, wants to take what’s left – the income.

That income belongs to the stock holders. And you’d be surprised to find who some of the stockholders in some of these oil companies are. Many retirement funds own stock in oil companies. TIAA-CREF does.

Here’s a list of some of Exxon Mobiles largest shareholders:

Owner
Percent
Barclays Global Investors 4.0
State Street Global Advisors 3.1
Vanguard Group 2.6
Fidelity Management and Research 1.5
Northern Trust Company 1.4
AllianceBernstein 1.4
JPMorgan Chase 1.3
Wellington Management Company 1.1
Capital Research & Management Company 1.0
Merrill Lynch Investment Management 0.9
Bank of America 0.8
TIAA-CREF Investment Management 0.7
Mellon Financial 0.6
Goldman Sachs 0.6
State Farm Insurance 0.6


Together those dirty thieves own a 21.6 percent stake in those $39.5 billions, or $8.532 billions. Still sounds like a lot, but BGI’s take as a 4 percent shareholder amounts to $1.58 billions, which still sounds like a lot until you start dividing it up among their shareholders. That huge looking pie gets smaller and smaller as it gets divided up among all of those who, through various means, own a piece of it. So it’s not like Senator Clinton’s plan is only going to hurt the dirty, rotten, rich and none of us little people.

Yes, stockholders really only get that money if boards of directors declare a dividend, but stock value is a function of profitability. Exxon Mobile’s profits amount to $6.62 per share. She’s not a major player by any means, but my wife has a stake in that and it puts my knickers in a bunch (H/T: Q!) to think that Senator Clinton would like to help herself to a portion of my wife’s stock value.

It’s easy to why people might cheer the senator’s plan: they are
innumerate. They really don’t know, or care to know what a number like $39.5 billions really means to a company that does business on the scale that Exxon Mobile does. It sounds like a lot of money, but profit is not absolute; it’s relative. In this case that $39.5 billions amounts to a 10.5 percent profit. That’s right: Exxon Mobile’s total revenue for 2006 was $377.6 billions. After Exxon Mobile paid all of their bills – and they have a lot of bills (i.e., $338.1 billions!) – they had 10.5 percent left over. Relative to $377.6 billions, $39.5 billions is far from huge.

To illustrate, imagine yourself in some business. You are one of the owners. In one year your business’s net income (i.e., profit) comes to $1,248,000. That’s a lot of money, right? Perhaps. But is it a lot of money if your business’s revenues were $62,400,000? Sure, if 2 percent strikes you as acceptable.

But remember I said that you are one of the owners. You have 99 partners. Still think $1,248,000 is a lot of money? It won’t be when you split it with your partners. Your share, assuming all of the partners own 1 percent each, comes to $12,480. And remember: that is your profit, your income for the year. You probably wouldn’t object to having to divide $6,552,000, would you? That would leave you with $65,552. If you would like to make that $65,552 then you’re going to have to accept a 10.5 percent profit margin on that aforementioned $62,400,000. Do you object? If not, then why object to Exxon Mobile’s making a paltry 10.5 percent profit?

We have too many people with their hands in our nation’s financial and tax policies who seem not to know a darn thing about business. They seem to have no idea what the word ‘profit’ actually means. These are people who have no idea what numbers as astronomical sounding as $39.5 billions truly signify in comparison with $377.6 billions. Too many people are innumerate and functionally illiterate when it comes to economics. But heck, they’ve been to law school and spent their entire lives in politics, so they must know something, right?

Apparently, they know how to steal and make it look good.
01 February 2007
Now this is rich. If some in Colorado have their way workers will soon have the liberty of not having to decide whether they wish to join a union, or to support financially a union with which they disagree, with the additional liberty of being freed from their jobs if they don't join and support a union.

I read through the Constitution several times a year, so some privision or other will come readily to mind as I read the news or some such thing. What comes to mind just now is from the Preamble, which describes the purposes for which the Constitution was conceived and subsequently ratified. One of those purposes is to “secure…the blessings of liberty.”

Ah, sweet land of liberty; of the I sing!
Heard this read aloud on Hugh Hewitt’s show yesterday. A Staff Sergeant in Afghanistan is tired – of a great many things.

This one is a perrenial favorite among enlisted men: “I am tired of junior and senior officers continually doubting the technical expertise of junior enlisted soldiers who are trained far better to do the jobs they are trained for than these officers believe.”

Officers have a tendency to believe that their education and training makes them the republican equivalent of nobility who, back in ‘the day’, comprised the ranks of commissioned officers. They have that tendency – and I say this as an educated man – which most educated people seem to have, which is to believe that those without the benefits of university education are somehow less intelligent and less knowledgable than those with such benefit. I remember well one platoon leader in my tank company who, seeing me reading a collection of papers written by General Patton (titled, appropriately enough
The Patton Papers), asked, “Sergeant Solís you have an interest in the profession of arms?” (He spoke in the same tone of voice with which one might ask a liberal, “You own a firearm?” or some such thing.) “Sir,” I replied, “I have had an interest in the profession of arms since I was in junior high school. And if I may speak freely, we no longer live in an age in which membership in ‘the profession of arms’ is limited to commissioned officers. I, and many of my fellow sergeants (and quite a few privates), read the same books the battalion commander assigns you officers for professional development.” That was an officer who, like most, believed that only officers populated the ‘profession of arms.’

In short, the officer ranks are populated by a great many snobs. I wouldn’t say that a majority of commissioned officers are snobs; I couldn’t possibly know that. But obviously the number of snobs is still sufficient enough to be bad for morale.

By and large most officers are only more educated than enlisted personnel, not more intelligent. By and large most officers seem not to know the difference and make the mistake of acting like it.

Even so, I bet the Staff Sergeant would agree that the snobbishness of commissioned officers is a lot easier to take than the pretended patriotism of the Lame Stream Media:

“I am tired of CNN claiming that they are showing ‘news,’ with videotape sent to them by terrorists, of my comrades being shot at by snipers, but refusing to show what happens when we build a school, pave a road, hand out food and water to children, or open a water treatment plant.”

The LSM in this regard remind me of a scene in the movie “Cool Runnings”. John Candy has been asked to coach the Jamaican bobsled team, something he isn’t interested in doing. The first thing Candy does when the recruits gather for the first time is show them film footage of bobsledding accidents, clearly an effort to dishearten would-be bobsledders. The effort works. When Candy has finished showing the footage there remain three bobsledder candidates. That’s the LSM, always making sure we see the worst of the war, rarely the best of it; always making sure we see any failures, rarely any successes; always making sure we know how many of ours have died, rarely how many of theirs.

Pop quiz: We know how many thousands of servicemen have died in Iraq since the war there began. How many insurgents or terrorists (choose your own term) have died in Iraq since the war there began?

Maybe we should call them the Irv Blitzer Media. (Irv Blitzer, incidentally, is the name of the character played by John Candy.)

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About Me

James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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