Monday, January 29, 2007

Cutting the People Out of Politics

I am livid with President Bush for stifling debate on Iraq during this last legislative session. We are a democracy, in a democracy debates have to take place or we implode. The troop surge is a brilliant idea, but for the sake of the nation we have to have debate. We do not need to be in constant debate. January 2007 was a time when we needed to have a serious bipartisan talks about the direction of mideast policy. Democracy involves input from people. We cannot successfully impose a Democracy on Iraq by stifling a debate that was mandated by the people.

The neocons are simply using the same tactics as the progressives. Progressives play the exact same game of cutting the people out an stifling debate. We see this with Robert Redford's Sundance Summit. Just like Bush's troop surge, I think there is a great deal of merit to the issues discussed at the Sundance Summit. The format of the debate, however, cuts the people out of the process. In Sundance, mayors meet with movie stars. The movie stars give the mayors a progressive agenda along with a set of talking points, etc..

One of the talking points of the 2006 meeting (pdf) was for mayors to make links between the War in Iraq and Global Warming. Drum the talking points in, and you radicalize the population!!!!!

At the next summit, the mayors get judged by how well they carried off the set agenda.

I think that getting people together to talk about issues is great. I even agree with the statement that acting locally has a global effect (BTW, the ideas that your individual actions have a profound effect on the world is a center piece of the Christian tradition).

The problem is that this format used by both progressives and neocons end up destroying the debates that need to take place. The troop, green belts, reducing greenhouse gasses are all great ideas with substantial merit. The democratic method of debating issues helps hone the ideas and increases their viability.

Unfortunately, the political power structure is now dominated by people like Robert Redford and George W. Bush who achieve their objectives by cutting the people out of the process. The problem is on both sides.

And the Runner Up Is ... Smog

I know. It's old news. I guess I am behind the times. Anyway it looks like the second leading source of pollution in Los Angeles is [drum roll] Hollywood! Yep, the politically correct world of Hollywood is a leading producer of greenhouse gasses (report). The NBC4 article says that LA is wont to increase regulations on Hollywood. It sounds like they will spend taxpayers dollars to clean up after the stars.

I find it humorous that, as the Hollywood elite are banning together to criticize Americans for their consumption, the movie making industry itself has a spotted environmental history.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Critical Thinking on Critical Thinking

The question arose recently as to why I am such a mean, nasty, hypercritical person.

Rather than answering that question, I think I will tell the story about how my being a mean, nasty, hypercritical person managed to get me kicked out of a department of the University of Utah.

I was in a politically correct department at the University, toiling away on a politically correct degree. My politically correct teachers emphasized that they were employing a method called “critical thinking.” I had studied a ton of mathematics and logic. I had even read that long tedious work called the Principia by mathematics's patron Saint Bertrand Russell. I had also read Hegel, Marx and Chomsky. I knew rhetorical technique of critical thinking. Anyway, in my classes, we would do little exercises where we applied “critical thinking” to Conservative causes. I wrote a wickedly stinging indictment of Ronald Reagan. My teachers wanted me to add some snarl words to make the piece even more hateful (and consequently more effective). The next thing I did was write a really mean and hateful piece about the Catholic Church that my teachers praised and passed among each other as it said mean things in an original way.

So, with two successful pieces of critical thinking under my belt, I was riding pretty. Now, we had to do one more piece of critical thinking. In order to show that I was balanced in my critical thinking, I decided to aim critical thinking at a political correct cause. I did not use snarl words, but the piece cut straight to the core of some logical fallacies that I saw as detrimental to the politically correct cause. My conclusion was essentially that the politically correct issue was full of merit; however care needed to be taken to prevent the core fallacies of the PC effort from undermining itself.

A few days later, I was taken aside by my teachers. They told me that they were the gatekeepers of the department and told me to leave the department. The changed the grades on my first papers from A+s to Ds, and told me that they could guarantee I would flunk the quarter if I did not transfer out of their department. That was the end of several quarters of work at the U. I ended up getting snagged by no fewer than four political litmus tests at the nest of mediocrity called the University of Utah. The hard sciences still have some good departments.

I was totally dedicated to the art of critical thinking. I am a mean hateful person because I end up applying it to both sides of any debate.

It is a little bit strange. When you apply the “critical thinking” methodology taught in schools to traditional American Culture, you end up with the political correct thought that teachers love. When you really know the technique and start applying “critical thinking” to the politically correct world, you end up with a view remarkably similar to the neoconservatives. Rush Limbaugh and Culture Warrior Bill O’Reilly are people who moved to this higher level of thinking.

This is similar to the world’s experience with Marxist Dialectics. When you start with the dialectics, you feel that you are on a bubbly progressive path to Communism. When you start applying the dialectics to the path, you end up with Stalinism or Nazism.

A really bizarre thing happens when you start applying “critical thinking” to the art of critical thinking itself. You end up realizing that, critical thinking on its own completely lacks foundation.

Both progressives and their counterpart--the neocons--end up surrounding themselves with walls of ideology that completely stifle communication. As I mentioned in the last posts, we are currently at a point where we should be engaged in a debate about the next step in Iraq. Progressive, led by a star studded line up of Hollywood actors, march around in their own little fantasy world, while they perfect their counter culture chic hoping that the protest appearance will land them an Oscar winning role in their next film.

The groups, practicing their own patented brands of critical thinking, are not only incapable of communicating; they hold their inability to communicate up as a badge of honor. Bush points at the protesters, and says that it is impossible to communicate with such an incoherent rabble, therefore, we should stick with the Constitution which consolidates power in the executive during times of war. The left is using the inability to communicate in some sort of strange plea to overthrow the executive, to what end I none of us have a clue.

I sit here and watch the circus with my modern education, and realize that my modern education has repeatedly failed me, and the people around me. When you apply critical thinking to the many sides of modern life, you find that all of our fearless leaders are being childish.

There is one side of the debate that I think does quite well. This is the classical liberal side of things. Both the progressives and neocons have fallen into the trap of using "critical thinking" as a rhetorical tool. It is simply a tool you use to criticize your opponents. You may notice that progressives tend to react to critical thinking about their arguments as a personal attack.

The classical liberal uses critical thinking as an analytic tool.

Of course, since I have a modern education, I've never learned how to do decent analysis. Not really knowing how to move beyond critical thinking, I sit here as a mean hateful person who criticizes everything with the hope that maybe people will figure out that our problems are not simply the problem of Bush being a horrible person while ???? is a great leader. Our problems arise because our modern education system has failed the people on both sides of the modern cacophony.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Fourth Option

Last night I crashed the United Nations Association of Utah featuring guest speaker Jeff Laurenti on the important question of the continuing relevancy of the United Nations. Now that the neoconservative stab at unilateral pre-emptive action seems to have bogged down, there is great hope for a renewed United Nations. In my opinion, We need the UN now more than ever!!!! (UN Links).

Unfortunately, Mr. Laurenti's speaking style shows that, while the United Nations is a worthy effort deserving our support, we should also fear it.

How to put this?

If the United Nations sticks to the classical liberal ideals that served as the base of its charters, it can help provide peace. If, however, it continues to be controlled by clowns steeped in new think, then it will end up undermining Democracy, and will rip this world apart.

The United Nations is neither a necessarily good thing, nor is it a necessarily bad thing. The UN will end up being what the people active in the UN make it to be.

I know Mr. Laurenti from only one presentation. The online information I've found on the speaker shows that he has a great deal of influence through organizations like Ted Turner's UN Foundation, The Century Foundation and other extremely powerful organizations.

Mr. Laurenti presentation showed an absolute wealth of knowledge, but at every chance he could get he would pull underhanded dialectical slights of hand to move the argument to the left. I tried counting logical fallacies and tricks he pulled in his talk, but soon ran out of fingers and toes. Instead I will just concentrate on the trick that he pulled during the audience participation part of the speech.

In the audience participation gig, he took a poll. He told us that there were three ways that people can think about the war:

  • You could believe that the Iraq War was right , and we will somehow win.
  • You can believe that the war was right, but we did something wrong that is making it hard to win.
  • or you can believe that the decision to invade Iraq was wrong.

Notice the nasty trick? Anyone who has had elementary math knows that there is actually a fourth option. In standard math 2 squared is 4. It is not 3. By intentionally omitting the fourth option, Laurenti skillfully cut out the views held by a large number of classical liberals.

The fourth view is that invading Iraq was wrong, but that we can still win. By openly violating fundamental logic, Laurenti managed to cut out the classical liberals who probably have the best chance of dealing with Bush's mistake. BTW, Laurenti is guilty of exactly the same type of failed logic that led Bush to make the mistake of invading Iraq. Like Bush, Laurenti wraps his ideology in flawed logic in ways that I doubt even he can see through.

The fourth view is a little complex. The view holds that the conditions at the time an argument is made affects how one should approach the argument. For example, we were right to go to war with Germany in 1945, but we are not right to go to war with Germany today because conditions are different.

I think the US congress was correct when they approved the invasion of Iraq. In 2003, Congress was approving the use of the threat of war in diplomatic effort. They did not mandate war. The decision to invade happened primarily within the executive. Since the diplomatic effort was succeding, Bush's decision to invade was wrong. This decision stands at the top of the worst executive decisions made in the history of the United States.

After Bush made his historic blunder, the state of the world changed. After the invasion, we are in a world where we have to deal with Bush's mistake. The best way to deal with this mistake is to do everything in our power to help the new Iraqi government succeed. The best method for continuing is with open acknowledgement of the mistake, but with a continued commitment to democracy and freedom in Iraq.

Laurenti ignored the fourth option because he has the false premise that since a decision was a bad decision, it must fail. This really is not true. Quite frankly, even if Bush had been successful in squelching the sectarian violence in Baghdad, the decision he made to go to war was wrong. War was too great of a gamble.

History is a long sequence of people trying to recover from the bad decisions of their leaders. My faith has never been with the leaders, it is with the people of good character who muddle through the bad consequences of their leaders' idiocies.

Bush's bad decision has adversely affected the United States is a variety of ways. It's dramatically diminished American influence. It threw South America under the control of Hugo Chavez and what's left of Castro. Tens of thousands of people have been killed by jihadist thugs.

Yes, this is all fallout from one extraordinarily bonehead decision made in a back room by Rumsfeld, Bush and a cadre of neocons. We are now in a deep dark hole.

However, in this deep dark hole, we are finally in a position where we can start rediscovering the ideals that made Americans great. Our challenge is to keep those entities (neocon and progressive) that are still trying to stifle and manipulate the debate from achieving their ends.

The wanks from the right messed up. Flipping the world in the hands of the wanks on the left won't solve the problem because the two extremes of technocrats are the same thing. We need to relearn the process of discourse.

In a previous post, I put forward that the the proposal of a troop surge was a brilliant move on Bush's part (his presenting it as a done deal was a blunder). The proposal temporarily shifted debate from one of how the US should retreat to one about how we can help the Middle East move beyond the violent ideologies that are tearing it apart.

The proposal of a troop surge was a great strategy. I doubt that surging the troops would really do much.

The real challenge for the United States at this moment is getting the debate process back on track. The actual actions we take (short of retreat) is secondary.

Watching both Laurenti and Bush in action, I feel that the parties involved are destroying our ability to engage in discourse. We need fewer slick speakers involved in the process and more people who are good at muddling through in the shadows of bad decisions.

SIDE NOTE ONE: The UN Watch seems to share my opinions of Laurenti's speaking style.

END NOTE: I mentioned at the beginning of this post that there is an organization called the United Nations Association. A UNA is a non-government organization interested in the United Nations. There are UNA groups throughout the world. It is a great organization for people who are interested in world affairs. I have a list of UN and UNA resources on my links site.

This HotAir piece shows people engaged in the process of muddling through.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scary Things and Natalie

This is scary. Natalie R. Collins is being chased by a Missionary raping stalker. I guess some would say it serves her right saying the things she says.

Actually, I like Ms. Collins. I don't think she deserves bad things to happen to her. Natalie writes about the dark side of LDS Culture. My impression from both her blog and books is that she likes people who happen to be LDS. She just doesn't like some of the undercurrents of the culture which end up undermining people's good intents. She uses fiction to help distill idea. From my point of view, Natalie seems authentically interested in finding the best way to proceed in life. She just released a new work called Behind Closed Doors which combines the darker elements of Mormonism in a thriller murder mystery.

As for this post. I think Natalie's stalker incident helps illuminate the contrast between critical thinking and crazed hatred.

Modern education holds "critical thinking" as the highest ideal. Unfortunately, many people who follow this path of hyper-criticism seem drawn into worlds of paranoia and hatred. It seems to me that true "critical thinking" is going to find more than just the faults of a person or group. In the case of Mormonism, I see legions of wonderful people who are trying their very hardest be good human beings. Yet strange things happen at a subliminal level which seems to undermine the community at large.

The type of critical thinking that we need in this world is the type of critical thinking that finds the good and bad in things and lets us accentuate the good and root out the bad.

Most of the progressives I know are authentically good people. They did not just wake up one day saying: "I want to increase the amount of hatred in the world; so I will become a progressive." Most of them came about being progressive by actually wanting to solve the problems of the world. They would go to meetings be told the talking points of the day and come out convinced that the way you go about affecting change is to criticize the hated enemies of the progressives. Of course, this supposedly effective means of progressing society through hypercriticism ends up destroying the ability to engage in discourse, which ends up making things worse. (As you may have guessed, Progressives actually drive me battier than Mormons. Mormons have an excuse. Their bishop made them do it. Since progressives claim to be intellectuals; They should know better.)

Critical thinking that is driven by an authentic desire to make the world better. Otherwise it degenerates into an attack dog style hyper-criticism that leads nowhere.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Judiciary and Foreign Surveillance

I wanted to put up a post on the FISA issue. I actually believe that the intelligence service should operate under third party oversight. However, I also agree with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is set up in ways that will undermine our nation in times of need.

I am writing this in rebuttal to the article Gonzales Warns and Scorns "unqualified" Judiciary on the blog Deseret Spectacle. The Deseret Spectacle article has a few really big problems. It starts with some blatant misunderstanding of judicial history. It says: “The Judicial branch doesn't get to decide what laws are written, determine foreign policy, or conduct military operations.”

This statement really isn’t true. The American legal system is largely a continuation of the common law tradition. The common law tradition looks beyond simple written laws. It balances into the mix the ideals of the day with historical precedence. In European history, you often found courts evolving independently from the governments. Many jurists of the common law tradition, as I understand, held that there was a natural law. They saw their work as the process of uncovering this natural law.

While Americans tend to thinks of courts as centers of reason and balance. Courts have a long history of acting independently, and sometimes going bizarre. The Spanish Inquisition, The Salem Witch Trials, la terreur, and the Stasi all have elements of courts gone wild.

Yes, the legislature passes laws. The courts, however, don’t simply read the letter of the law. When new laws arrive in the court system, they seem to get morphed into the existing system of precedents. The result of this is that there is generally a gap between the way a law is written in Congress and the way that it gets implemented in court. This is probably for the better since a little legislating from the bench helps society focus on the intent of the law while avoiding the consequence of poorly written laws.

In specialty courts like FISA (where there is a not a long history of precedence), you will find that the court starts establishing its own precedents. These precedents essentially become the law. If you establish a court to oversee an entity, that court will end up making the precedents that control the entity. In the case of FISA, the FISA Court essentially writes the law in the form of its precedents.

The problem here is that the precedents set in times of peace will create too rigid of a structure for times of war.

FISA was established in 1978. FISA is suspended for the first year of a war; so it was not in effect during Desert Storm which did not take a full year to complete. Essentially what has happened is that FISA went through 20 years of peace, and seriously broke down during its first challenge.

Hmmm, how to put this in a understandable way: During peace time, FISA might set up a series of precedents to handle standard issues like the surveillance of undocumented immigrants. Imagine that FISA has twenty years of precedents on protecting the rights of undocumented workers.

Now, imagine an army invading Florida. Common sense dictates that, we should try to find out what the invading army is up to and stop it. The FISA court, however, would have a big pile of precedents designed to handle other problems. They would start deliberations on the surveillance of the invading army with the statement: “Okay, a large number of undocumented immigrants landed in Tampa. Do you have probably cause that these undocumented immigrants have committed or intend to commit a crime?”

While the court thrashes on the difference between undocumented immigrants and an invading army, the invaders manage to conquer the state. Not good.

The FISA Court failed on its first real trial. However, the Deseret Spectacle asserts that the United States has had a 200 year history where a legislative, executive and court system worked in harmony during wars and peace. This statement is ludicrous. Paul Revere did not have a warrant to snoop on the British before his famous ride. In every single war, the executive power pretty much fought without excessive interference of either the courts of legislature.

The Deseret Spectacle tries to claim that Bush Administration’s use of foreign intelligence in the War on Terror is somehow unconstitutional.

The Constitution of the United States actually does give the executive a largely open hand in dealing with foreign surveillance. The founders of the US realized that Foreign Affairs is often a matter of political entities making feints and counter feints.

The founders had no intention of creating a completely rigid government. They created a government structure with the ability to bend as political needs dictated. In times of peace, the legislature and courts would have greater sway than in times of war when more influence would move toward the executive. The Bush government is actually behaving the way that the Constitution intended.

(COUNTER NOTE: The Constitution allows for a strong executive in regards to foreign surveillance. However, the document would also allow legislative or court oversight. The Constitution does not require FISA Court overview of foreign surveillance. It does preclude it either.)

The Deseret Spectacle claims that we went 200 years where our foreign policy was this idealized balance of the legislature passing laws, the administration administering the resolve of the legislature and the judicial branch keeping it legal.

The truth is that our little struggling democracy has been protected by an executive that has slugged it out with some of the worst kings, totalitarian ideologies, and dictators in history. It’s done this by matching foreign threats as needed and by staying ahead of the technology curve. The founder’s model was that the three branch government would protect us from our government while the strong executive protected the nation from the world.

The model worked remarkably well up until Richard Nixon snooped on his domestic enemies then tried to claim traditional executive authority to justify his actions. Nixon was a bad boy who got robbing cookies.

In the fallout of the Nixon fiasco, we recognized the need for a third party to monitor surveillance activities of the executive branch. Since the 3 branch system had been working well on the domestic side, it seemed like a good idea to use the same model for the foreign security side of life. The unfortunate problem with this idea is that the standard methodology of a court that tries to derive rules through precedents and high ideals doesn’t really work that well in the messy world of international relations where political entities often have to match or counter underhanded methods of their opponents.

The way I see this issue is that we have a need we want to address. The first method we used to address the need didn’t work. The political and technologic changes that took place between 1978 and 9/11/2001 made the inflexible FISA Court system snap. Traditional jurisprudence is not the right model for this type of overview. The overview mechanism needs to be designed to accommodate rapid changes in the political landscape.

As pointed out in previous posts, this whole “warrantless wiretap” issue is driven by technological and not simply by political concerns.

Back in the analog world of 1978, the world used analog switching technology, and communications was controlled by a monopoly. It was very easy to identify the source and destination of communications. The state of technology worked well in a warrant system. Since we could easily identify calls, it was natural to make a system where the snooper got a court order for specific communications that they wanted to tap.

We went through a long stretch of peace where things worked great.

On 9/11 we woke up to burning skyscrapers and found the whole political and technological landscape changed. Calls were no longer analog. They were digital, packetized and encrypted. There was substantially more data streams coming into the nation.

Suddenly, identifying communications is the challenge.

Not only is it difficult to identify calls, it is easy to piggyback one message on another. A terrorist message can easily piggyback on an innocent call.

The warrantless wiretap issue exists because, if we want to find terrorist communications, we have to sort through a large number of innocent communications.

As one could have predicted in 1978, the FISA Court broke down during its very first real challenge. The fact that the FISA Court is broken should be acknowledged. Instead, we are stuck in the political game where George Bush is trying to use the failure of the system to get rid of the FISA Court and his opponents are trying to portray Bush’s efforts as a usurpation of Constitutional Authority.

I think both sides are behaving childishly.

Alberto Gonzales is 100% correct in noting that the rigid system of the traditional judicial system fails when applied to foreign surveillance. The left is right to point out that our new super intrusive surveillance technology demands third party oversight.

Both sides are right in their arguments but wrong in their methodology of argumentation.

Bush wants to use the failure of the FISA Court to shunt off what he considers to be an encroachment of executive authority. The far left wants to use the issue to create fear and loathing of Republicans. (Let’s face it, the Deseret Spectacle post was really nothing more than an ad hominem attack on Bush and Alberto Gonzales.)

When I look at the issue, I see that modern technology demands a loose system of warrants. This looser system of warrants actually creates a greater need for oversight on how the data gets used.

Personally, I think the solution is to change the oversight function so that its primary concern is not what data gets collected. The oversight function should focus on how the data gets used. For example, the intelligence community should be able to scrub all the inbound into the United States for embedded messages. It may even be wise to scrub for any patterns that might identify calls from hostile entities. The oversight group would have control on determining which calls go on for further processing.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Don't Quit the Day Job

I am making local directories for towns in the Mountain West. What I do is follow links from sites and see where it goes. I've pretty much lost interest in the project. I admit, in the early days of the net, I was really excited to see all the different designs and artistic works that the internet would inspire. Rather than finding inspiring designs, it seems that the net is filled with less than inspiring marketing efforts and a blogosphere of political sites designed to rip our society into warring camps. Although the technology for designing web sites has improved dramatically, I am not seeing the jump in quality that I had been expecting.

Anyway, I decide to work on adding new sites to my directories for the weekend. I found one site that made my stomache sink, and one that gave me a little bit of hope.

Lets start with the crappy site. I came across some internet spittle called Quit Your Day Job. The site has the bad advise that people should stop being usefully employed and become affiliate marketers. For $50 you can buy an ebook on a strategy for doing a thing called keyword squatting.

Keyword squatting is a zero sum game. What you do is check web search stats. You then find keywords that you want to capture. You then designs a nest of web sites, blogs, etc., that feature the keyword prominently. You might do things like spamming guestbooks, directories, etc., to get links with your keyword. If your keyword strategy scores you a high position on Google, you will get traffic that you can funnel to a merchant. Of course, you are competing with thousands of others playing the same game.

Although keyword squatting makes a little money for some people, I contend that it is a zero sum game. All the keyword spammer does is nest themself between Google and a merchant. When a keyword spammer dies, another keyword spammer moves into his place. This industry creates a ton of useless whitenoise.

It might actually be a negative sum game. I've deleted well over 100,000 fake forum posts, fake directory and guestbook entries from people doing the keyword scam thing.

The idea of people leaving worthwhile jobs to waste them time on this sort of crap made me feel sad. This wank taking $50 to steer people in this direction is even more disheartening.


A little later in the day, I find a post on newspapergrl about phil801. This phil guy has been working feverishly to get people to link their blogs together. He's hosted UtahBlogger conferences and what not. Janet's post indicates that this phil guy is working himself into a comma on schemes to fill large data servers with massive stores of keywords and links. She wishes him well in the effort and notes that if anyone can make it at the affiliate game, Phil801 can.

IMHO, Affiliate marketing has turned out to be a crooked, backwards industry. The marketers driving the industry punish people who try to add value and steer them into making spam and white noise.


Here I was hoping that the internet would open open up people's artistic instincts. Instead we we have a big web filled with different mechanisms to generate gigabytes of keywords.


So, I was feeling in the dumps.


I read several political blogs that were trying to spin every word on Fox News this way and that depending on the blogger's agenda.

Political blogging has proven itself as disappointing as affiliate marketing. Political blogging works by people making outlandish posts. If you spew forth with a new and clever way to attack Hillary or Bush, then either Conservative or Liberal bloggers will link to you. The whole linking structure in the political arena simple magnifies partisanship. Political blogs tend to link in ways that favors the most partisan sites. Liberals who see a balanced site will not link to it thinking it conservative. Likewise conservatives would see the same site as liberal.


The political sites made me feel down.


Feeling bad about the affiliate sites and political sites. I decided to visit some real business sites. I ended up landing on the site for Central Valley Machine up in Logan. This company machines parts for the aerospace industry.

My heart lifted. It is in engineering and manufacturing industries that have the really exciting jobs. The advances in material sciences and massive improvement in product quality are amazing. Design technology has reached new levels of sophistication.

While our mass culture is trying to draw people into low end activities like political blogging and affiliate marketing, the really exciting stuff is still going on under the radar. Probably the worst mistake of our country is that we are letting manufacturing and design jobs go abroad while we quit our day jobs and while our time creating white noise with political blogs and internet marketing.

CVM INC has pictures of some of the parts they've machined. In my mind, these things are beautiful. Aerospace has traditionally been the industry that pushes design on all levels. Looking at the parts, you can see that there is a lot more going on with these things than simple workmanship. I suspect that engineers have studied the stress in these pieces to tweak the maximum performance. The Machine Build page has a few pictures of some radical machine tools. The United States used to be the leader in the machine tool biz, but we let it escape. Our public schools teaches us all that we will become sports stars, rock stars or paradise shifting pundits. The real advances of our culture are in hard science and engineering.

The highlight of the Central Valley Machine page is titled Thrill Ride. The intricate aerospace parts get assembled into interesting machines like airplanes and the thrill rides at amusement parks. As amusement parks compete to attract throngs of teens and their parent's dollars, they push the envelope of design.

Quite frankly, this tech stuff is way beyond the internet.


There is a point to this post.

The media is bombarding us with messages that gear people in the wrong direction.

When we come out of school, we all have the illusion that we will become rock stars, sports stars or paradigm shifting pundits.

As we find our dreams falling short, we fall for gimmicks like MLMs and promises that we can quit our day jobs and get rich quick if we buy and ebook for $50. We then run ourselves ragged with short cut schemes to cloud the internet with keyword rich white noise.

No, No, No, No, No.

The real advances in our society come through the slow, meticulous (and rather boring) process of science and engineering. Yes it seems that the rewards seem to go to the shortcut takers. Shortcut taking is always a hit and miss proposition.

I say. Don't quit the day job.

However, as a society, we have to stop this process that is driving so many of the interesting manufacturing and product design day jobs overseas.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


This site is OWN3D. I just hacked into my own site, which was fairly easy since I know the password. The reason I did this was so that I can claim this as my blog in Technorati. In other words ... ignore this post.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Questionably Landless

This story from Venezuela is really sad. The article claims that about 150 people have been murdered as they try to cultivate land as directed by peoples Hero Hugo Chavez. So, they are out in the hot sun cultivating land, and a mercenary army comes up and shoots them. This story is supposed to show that the free market doesn't work and that we need a powerful dictator to save us.

The guy cultivating the land doesn't actually have title to the land. He was just out their bravely cultivating it. Apparently Venezuelan peasants are being encouraged to go out and cultivate fallow land in an effort to elimate poverty; So, people are running around cultivating land. The article says people are finding little pieces of state parks or private land that is fallow and going for it.

The article implies that landlords are doing the killing. Since this sounds like a free for all land grab. I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the peasants themselves are killing people who've grabbed the land that they want to grab. The murderers might even be drug lords or criminal elements who demand protection money for the people out cultivating fields.

The article states the opinion that the existence of undeveloped resources is a market failure. I find that odd, In the developed world, there is often a concerted effort to keep large sections of land undeveloped. People value nature. In a free market where people are able to use their resources as they deem fit, we find a large number of people buying easements and donating land to trusts like The Nature Conservancy. This donating an easement for nature conservancy is one of the sublime exercises of the free market.

It is elitist as all get out...but that elderly couple donating an easement on their land for openspace is, in my elitist opinion, and act of great beauty. On this little warming globe of ours, fallow land should be considered a good thing.

As an elitist prig, I also happen to love small organic farms. Yeah, I am willing to pay an extra 20 cents a pound for apples with spots. I go to the farmers market so taht the evil grocery stores get fewer of my consumer dollars.

I love small organic farms, but it seems to me that for small organic farms to do their magic of preserving the land, the small organic farmer needs to have title to the land. This thing where you cultivate land but don't own it leads to the tragedy of the commons. Since the equity of the land is not part of the equation, the people playing this land grab are less likely to do the things needed for long term sustainability.

It sounds to me like Venezuela has big problems with the distribution of capital. The land is tied up by just a few concerns that were good at grabbing the land in the past. I don't think Venezuela is going to solve its problems of past land grabbing with a new wave of land grabbing. In such systems, the person who is best at killing takes all. I think Hernando de Soto was on a better track with The Mystery of Capital. In this work, de Soto puts forward the thesis that it is in creating a process where people have clear title to land that they thrive.

I feel so bad for Jesus Guerrero who followed his bubbling populist leader's command and went forth to cultivate land. I am even sadder thinking that Senor Guerrero died on land that he did not own, nor would he ever end up owning in the peoples paradise of Venezuela.

Presidential Authority

Two interesting pieces of news. The peoples' number one enemy George W. Bush is being forced to back down from his surveillance program, while the Venezuelan legislature grants progressive hero Hugo Chevaz approval to rule by decree.

Don't worry. The fact that progressives are attacking Bush for wanting to rule by decree during a war, and progressives granting rule by decree to Chavez is not hypocracy. Since progressives have no beliefs beyond the single object of grabbing absolute power, they are incapable of hypocracy. In the material dialectic, words are weapons. Progressives are just using the same weapon in different ways in two different countries at the same time. Unfortunately, since progressives pretty much deny all of the underlying foundations of reason, it is impossible to talk about Chavez. We can, however, talk about Bush.

Quite frankly, I think Bush has completely mishandled the wire tapping issue. For some bizarre reason, Bush wants to relive the Watergate era. After Watergate, Congress demanded that a court be part of any wiretapping or surveylance program. This fits in quite well with the separation of powers mandated by the US Constitution. For some unfathomable reason, Bush has this weird notion that he can use the war in Iraq to cut the courts out of the process. His idea is that wiretapping should be done solely on the executive authority.

Bush is essentially playing a suicidal game of chicken with the courts and hoping to use the war to justify a questionable change in procedure.

On this issue, I have to concede that the stuff the Bush administration is doing is stuff that actually has to be done.

The driving problem behind the wiretapping issue is that changes in technology have made the old wiretapping methods obsolete. The wiretapping laws were established for analog communications in a day when there was a telecommunications monopoly. Analog telecommunications worked by creating a direct connection between two callers. Since it was relatively easy to identify a call, you could have a system where you gave a warrant to listen to a conversation from a particular group, and you could very easily indentify the connection and listen to the call by tapping the wire. (Hence the name wiretapping).

In the digital age, everything is packetized and often encrypted. There are thousands of more switches in play. Steams of data can change from switch to switch.

The other problem is that computers have made it childplay to hide messages inside other messages. For example, I could be varying the spaces between words in this brainfart blogpost to communicate to my terrorist cell to issue my diabolical commands. muuahaha!

Ooops, I didn't mean to mention my plans to take over the world in public.

Because everything is packetized, encrypted and mixed together, you can't just wire tap by tapping a wire. If you tap the fiber optic wire between here and Iran, you won't just get a series of discreet communications separated by frequency. You will get a whole jumble of data packets.

To reassemble the packets, you have to read the headers of every packet on the line. That is just the way that routing works. In many cases you have to look at the content of the packet to figure out what it is.

Since we can't just tap a wire, the best way to handle the problem is to write everything to a massive data warehouse then set down to reassemble communications, so that you can identify the ones that came from the people you have warrants to watch.

The idea of storing the data is somewhat problematic for the original thinking on privacy. Even if the intention is just to reassemble the data streams belonging to people identified in warrants, the method captures data from innocent third parties.

I have less problem with the storing data since technologies like email work by storing then moving data. IMHO, the CIA's effort to grab all data from foreign sources isn't the problem, the problem is on what they choose to listen too. The controls need to be on the process of turning raw data into information.

In my opinion, the way to handle this is to separate the snooping processing into two legal processes and three technical processes. The first legal process would indentify who we want to watch. In the case of war, the brush may be broad. We are intested in any Al Qaeda and Hezbollah communications to the US. The first technical process would simply concern gathering the data. The second technical process would analyze the data to isolate communications for the groups we are watching. This second group would pretty much have free reign on opening files to see what is in them. The second legal process would sit between this analytic team and the snoops to make sure the snoops only get the stuff warranted and that the data analysis team deletes the neutral stuff.

I think Bush is on the wrong track. He wants the folks using the information to have full control over gathering analyzing it with no court supervision.

On the political end, Bush's insistence on rehashing Watergate has been horrible for his party. Since Reagan, the Republican Party has been a mix between classical liberals and conservatives. The privacy issue is very important to the classical liberal. Groups like Cato are in a lather over the privacy issues. Bush and the Neoconservatives have systematically been driving the classical liberals out of the Republican Party, leaving them trapped between two extremes.

Progressives love the wiretapping issue. It is dividing their enemy. When progressives grab power, they will be able to use all of the bad precedences set by Bush to help them establish a Chavez style totalitarian regime in the US.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Disease of Free Thought

This is spiffy: A left leaning professor has just figured out that the people who do not respond in the politically correct fashion to the brainwashing techniques used by the left have a mental disorder. That's right. It is now a scientific fact that conservatism is a disease! examines this exciting new finding.

A Time For Debate

The United States needs to be able to debate the war. The Founders of the United States put the power to declare war in the hands of the legislature (not the president). The founders realized that a legislature cannot conduct war. However, I suspect that they wanted a structure that gave the legislature a great deal of control over the shape of the war.

It seems to me that the best way to structure a war effort that allows debate and input by the legislation with unified control of the executive would be to adopt a strategy similar to the interative design methodology used in agile programming and other computer architectural paradigms. The iterative method goes through cycles. The methodology has very distinct steps. You go through a stage of taking requirements, planning, design and implementation, the evaluation which brings the world back to the planning and design phase.

When you are in a planning and design phase, there would be a great deal of debate and input from the legislature. When in the implementation phase, the legislature needs to shut up and the executive put up. One's behavior in such an environment is driven by the stage of the process.

The founders gave the United States something similar to this iterative design methodology. The general election are a period when the government is going through the evaluation process and takes requirements from the people. The legislative session is a period where the legislature works with the executive on design. We then go through a period of implementation. This happens within the regular election cycle.

The start of this legislative session should have been a time for debate about the directions that we would take with the Mideast crisis over the next two years. I think Bush was brilliant for coming into the session with a proposal for a troop increase. However, since he presented it as a done deal that was beyond debate, he stifled the design process. By stifling the design debate, the Congress was left with no option except partisan bickering and posturing.

In software design, you often see projects failing because people behave inapropriately at the wrong times in the design cycle.

The 2006 elections showed that there was a mandate by the people for a re-evulation and new design for our engagement in Iraq. Bush was brilliant to put a troop surge on the table. However, since he presented the troop surge as a done deal and not as a proposal, he effectively destroyed the mandated and much needed cycle of debate.

If we were having a politically healthy go at our engagement in the middle east, we would be engaged in a healthy debate about how to accomplish the goals of peace, freedom and democracy in the middle east. Instead we have a president taking a last ditch gamble on a troop surge, while his opponents (both at home and abroad) grumble at being left out of the process.

Putting it another way. Context is important. A healthy political system will go through incremental design process. Whether or not a argument is helpful or counter productive depends on where you are in the cycle. When in the evaluation period, there should be wild ideas flying from every quarter. In the planning process you trim down to the ideas that you want to work on (the debate narrows). During implementation people should shut up, until you are ready to enter the evaluation state again.

Eventhough I agree with Bush's actions. The start of the legislative session was a time of debate. The debate mandated by the people was stifled. This is sad because we had good quality ideas coming from unsuspected quarters like Hilary Clinton's criticism that the troop surge was diverting needed resources from Afghanistan, where we are receiving cooperation.

When evaluating arguments, you must consider context. A statement that is constructive in the design phase may be destructive in the implementation phase. Conversely, arguments or actions that are apropriate during implementation are not apropriate during design. A nasty way to destroy discourse is simply to put forward good arguments at the wrong time.

The Deseret Spectacle: NRA Cartoon

This is kind of funny. The Deseret Spectacle still believes that the ACLU goal is to defend civil liberties. The ACLU's goal is to define civil rights within a secular progressive agenda. Libertarians and ACLU goals sometimes mesh up as the Libertarian Party notes, and sometimes diverges.

An interview on Reason finds that the ACLU is for gun control, and only interested in the parts or interpretations of the Constitution that align with its agenda. The ACLU often uses groups that it disagrees with when it argues cases. They have a long history of agreeing with groups that are a tad scary.

The fact that a civil rights group has an agenda isn't really bad; so long as the group is not taken as the group that defines civil rights. There are other civil rights organizations such as the Rutherford Institute that supports the rights of the people outside the ACLU agenda.

Anyway, The Deseret Spectacle thinks it amusing that the NRA is diminishing now that gun control is not a major agenda of the Democratic Party. I am not a fan at all of the NRA (I don't like to associate with unpopular groups). However, the fact that the group is diminishing shows that it NRA is an authentic organization that was interested in defending gun owner's rights and not a hidden agenda. The cartoon shows the NRA as just a bunch of thugs. That is just media bias.

It is a little bit strange that the cartoon shows the NRA as big thugs attacking the poor little Democratic donkey, when it seems to me that gun control legislation was actually the case of a powerful political organization trying to take away the rights of gun owners.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

HRC, and Bayh Comments on Afghanistan

I spend too much time pointing out bad arguments on the net. All the kneejerk articles that labeled Bush's call for increasing troops and "escalation of war" were just propaganda pieces aimed at increasing division.

I saw part of Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments on the issue. Her arguments were very well reasoned. She countered Bush's demands for increasing troops in Iraq with the argument that Afghanistan is at greater risk. These statements follow a fact finding mission to the midest. This is the type of quality discourse that we need if we are ever to untangle the mess that the last years of political division have created.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Utah Centralist: Another DUI tragedy....

In the article Another DUI tragedy.... UtahCentralist slammed "extreme libertarians" for their stance against drunk driving laws with the quote:

There are some out there, mainly extreme libertarians and road warriors who say that drunk driving laws out to be abolished. They say that if someone is driving impaired they should only be ticketed for what they did wrong and that they should not be prosecuted for drunk driving because its in their rights to drink.

Few of the libertarians I know would argue in favor of drunk drivers. Unfortately, there appear to be some wanks like Llewellyn Rockfeller, Jr. who do want to Legalize Drunk Driving. Poor Von Mises must be rolling in his grave.

It appears that Mr. Rockefellers mind fart style argument was written in response to new laws that were forced by the federal government to define intoxication at extremely low blood alcohol levels (0.08 percent). The laws also promised to put up road blocks hither, thither and yon to check people's blood alcohol level. His argument was that the new tough laws were aimed at the wrong issue:

But there's a more fundamental point. What precisely is being criminalized? Not bad driving. Not destruction of property. Not the taking of human life or reckless endangerment. The crime is having the wrong substance in your blood.

The current laws are not addressing the problems of poor driving by distracted drivers. The laws are driven by moral judgments on drinking. Cyclists know that cellphone users are as bad as drunks.

[[ Thump ]]

ooopsie, I think I just hit a bike ... and you were saying ...

As I understand, libertarians do not want to see the road full of drunks. They are questioning the methods to acheive safer roads. They think the best way to clear the road of bad drivers is tough civil lawsuits and criminal punishment for the havoc that such drivers wreak. Rockefeller would want the drunk driver who kills others to be punished for the "murder" and not for a substance in his body. Here is Rockefeller's quote: "it is perverse to punish a murderer not because of his crime but because of some biological consideration."

The first big hole in Rockefeller's argument is that killing a person in an accident is manslaughter and not murder. Murder involves malice aforethought. Drunk driving fatalities are the result negligence and lack of thought. The second is that the damages of the accident generally get picked up by insurance.

The biggest hole in Rockefeller's argument is that the act of neglect associated with drunk driving occurs when the drunk gets behind the wheel with impaired judgment.

Quite frankly, I think most libertarians (at least of the classical liberal variety) agree with the current structure that sees driving as a privilege. DUI is cause to revoke that privilege.

When a person intentionally sits down and plans a night out of drinking (followed by driving), or when people plan an umpteen hour marathon drive, they are being negligent. The police are within their duty to challenge such negligence. Driving a vehicle is a privilege and not a right.

There are, of course, issues about how aggressively the police should pursue DUI. Llewelyn Rockefeller was writing in response to legislation by Clinton which was overriding state laws and forcing us ever closer to a nanny state. It seems to me that the correct context of Rockefeller's argument was to juxtapose one extreme with another.

I agree for the most part with the libertarian sentiment. The nanny state tends to get out of hand. Rather than depending on the state to protect us, we should focus our efforts on promoting individual responsibility.

Speaking of individual responsibility. The drunk driving incident that started UtahCentralist on his rant involved an undocumented alien who did not have a driving license. So that rant was pretty much a moot point. A person with zero respect for immigration law is not going to be all that big on thinking that driving is a privilege.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Merry MLK Day

Ooops, my mind was thinking it was Sunday.

I hope everyone is having and or had a happy Martin Luther King Day.

My mind is running off track because I've been thinking about those things which cause division in our society. In previous posts, I pointed out that you can structure holidays and temples in ways that are divisive. This type of game gets played on both sides of the "culture war". It is even possible for culture warriors to make days that we all love (like Christmas) divisive.

On of the challenges in life is to resist people who want to divide and conquer. King saw the divide and conquer mantiality as a force that leads to chaos, not community.

Martin Luther King played an important role in the debate about division in our society. There were some who had studied revolutionary theory and who wanted to see the civil rights movement be more violent than it was. Some wanted it to be part of larger social revolutions. Martin Luther King resisted the violence and escalation. Instead he focused on the aim of eliminating blatant wrongs within our society.

The social challenges of today really are not as deep as the racial divide that had existed in the deep South (and throughout all America) in the bad-old-days of Jim Crow. I hope people reflecting on MLK realize that real progress gets made when we find ways to solve problems. We only achieve regress when we divide people off into us-v-them encampments.

To conclude this MLK day, I wish everyone well. If there happens be a group you dislike, think positive thoughts about that group. If there is an issue you see that is oppressing people, think of positive ways to remove the oppression, but do not hate the oppressor.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Political Blunder

In the post titled escalation, I countered the rhetoric that the proposed troop surge is an escalation of the Iraq conflict. It may be an escalation. It may also be, as Bush seems to be claiming, an effort to solidfy gains that we had made during the war; so that we can transfer control to Iraqi forces without creating a power. The point of my post is that we do not know at this moment, which is a great frustration.

On listening to Conservative commentators on the troop surge. My gut instinct is telling me that the in-your-face style announcement made by Bush has the military beginning a good strategic move with a big political blunder. Things would be so much better if Bush had spent a week or so during the opening of the political season to build consensus for the troop surge.

Peace is an illusive goal. One of the primary keys to achieving peace is consensus. An announcement that lacks consensus runs the risk of making American troops the target. Yes, a troop surge could help solidify gains to help us ease into a draw down. If, however, the opposition escalates their activity in response to the surge, it will become the divisive escalation that Democrats fear. The timing of the announcement was so off, that our enemies have a better chance of turning a good strategy into a blunder.

Divine Blunder

In my last post, I countered Paul Kurtz's supposition that science has an agenda! Science is a method of inquiry. Scientists may have agendas, science itself does not.

On this note, I thought I would look at a stupidity called Divine Strake. In this program the Defense Threat Reduction Agency will detonate 700 tons of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (equivalent to 593 tons of TNT) in the Nevada Test Range. The purpose of the test is to gather data for computer models on bunker busting technology. This will be a big test to gather data for computer models. I suspect that the experiment will gather some interesting data on the propagation of seismic waves through the earth that could be used for fundamental research.

Opponents to Divine Strake contend that this experiment will kick up all sorts of radioactive and toxic dust left from the nuclear tests of yesteryear. This dust will fall on downwinder locations like Saint George, Utah and Moab.

So, we have a scientific agency that wants to do a big test to gather fundamental data, and a group of downwinders who've been irradiated in the past and found that they did not care for the experience. Add this a political structure divided between secular progressives and right wing kooks.

What does Paul Kurtz's mythical scientific agenda tell us? Should we proceded with the test or nix it?

I reject the idea that science has an agenda. Scientists can show us the risk and rewards of proceding with the experiment. Whether or not we proceed with the experiment is a political one.

Personally, I think DTRA has created for itself a public relations nightmare. Whoever named this thing Divine Strake should be canned. I think the data gleened from this experiment is probably not worth the risk and the political divisions being caused by the experiment.

The Scientific Agenda

I've been in a foul mood of late. The reason is that I've been listening to secular progressive podcasts like LogicallyCritical and Point of Inquiry. In both cases, the wanks in charge of the podcasts systematically undermine the foundations of discourse and reason while repeating the mantra that they are the defenders of reason. For example, Paul Kurtz of Point of Inquiry refers several times to the "Scientific Agenda." While, Bill O'Reilly believes that he is a Sun Tzu general in the cultural war of civilization against secular progressives. Paul Kurtz has a similar delusion that he is a Sun Tzu general in the culture war of the scientific agenda against an evil Christian theocracy.

Science does not have an agenda! The second that you believe that science has an agenda, you've stopped being a scientist.

Science has the ability to tells us whether or not we will achieve our objectives. It does not tell us what our objectives should be.

Science does not have an agenda. Scientists, though, almost always have an agenda. Intentionally confusing the two corrupts science.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Stem Cells and Critical Thinking

One of the mantras on the left is that they apply critical thinking to their positions while the right is absolutist. I was listening to some of the yammering on left about Bush's decision not to spend federal dollars for research on human embryos is based on antiquated absolutists positions.

The absolutist position is that we should not do experiments that destroy human life.

Bush's position is that we should not ban stem cell research. However, we should draw a line on doing experiments on human embryos. Rather than passing a law to prevent experimentation on embryos. He wants to limit funding to programs that do experimentation on human embryos. I think this is a good and effective way of forcing groups engaged in stem cell research to guage the moral dimension of their research.

The accusation is that the fuzzy line drawn around the human embryo is an absolutist position.

It seems to me that the position that embryos are not a form of human life (making them fair game for experimentation) is more of an absolutist position than the traditional view that starts with the observation that embryos develop into people, then, through a process of critical thinking arrives at the conclusion that we cannot tell for certain that the embryo is not a human.

A person with even a casual familiarity with genetics should know that an embryo contains the complete, unique DNA (both cellular and mitochondrial) to make up a human being. Anyone familiar with the reproductive system would know that if an embryo gets implanted in the uterline lining, that it will develop into a person (without intervention). The fact that we have something on the petri dish with the complete genetic make up of a human and that would develop into a human gives rise to speculation that an embryo is an undeveloped human life form.

When applying a process of critical doubt to my actions, I would not be willing to produce the hundreds of thousands of embryo clones needed for experimentation. As a moral animal, I would want to find other ways to answer my questions about the development of life.

As for the debate surrounding stem cell research, this is one of the ugliest debates of the modern era. In typical fashion, progressives have intentionally been muddling terms, and pulling every underhanded trick of rhetoric to sensationalize the debate. For example, they project the absolutism of their views that embryos are not a form of human life onto their opponents who are, for the large part, driven by critically doubt. There is also a constant muddling of terms in the debate. Progressives will use a quote from a conservative about embryotic stem research and apply it to adult stem cell research to make the conservative sound unreasonable.

There is also, of course, the problems of definitions with embryotic stem research. The term stem cell can apply both to the embryo (the zygote is the ultimate stem cell) and to a number of cells which get produced in the early moments of life.

We are seeing the birth of a global industry. This industry will either be producing hundreds of millions of embryos for research and medical products, or it will be one with a strong moral code which tries to regulate and reduce the production of embryos for research.

The overall social debate that we have at the beginning of this research will determine the direction that the industry takes. What I find disgusting in this debate is that people who employ critical thinking and reject the absolutist secular position that an embryo is not human life get shouted down and ridiculed by the powerful, authoritarian science community.

Modern western science has been plagued with a series of missteps because we, as a society, failed to question progressive scientists. Nuclear energy was once the cause celebre of the progressive community. We threw up a large number of firts generation plants that were both unsafe and had no plans for disposing of waste. The dam industry was once the same thing. Dam construction was another cause celebre of the progessive scientific community and dams where thrown on every mountain river and stream with little thought of the consequences.

If we are to be a rational scientific society, we have to be able to discuss the ethical ramifications of our actions. Right now, it appears that Bush Administration is doing a better job of engaging in real debate than the progressives who have launched a massive disinformation campaigned set to ridicule their opponents.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Sending more troops to Iraq is not necessarily an escalation. An escalation of war occurs when you move into a new theater of operation. In this regard, the actions taken by Ethiopia in Somalia would be labeled an escalation. We don't know if Bush is escalating the war until we see what he is doing with the troops. Bush's speech indicates that he wants to shore up the control of areas where we already have limited control. This is not technically an escalation.

If our intention are to draw down troops this year, the best way to go about the task is to precede the draw down with a temporary increase in troops. This would allow us to pass control to the Iraqis. Whereas simply removing troops would create a power vacuum that the militias would try to fill. An increase in troops followed by a draw down provides a better opportunity for the legitimate Iraqi forces to fill the vacuum.

Our really big problem is that Bush seems to have lost his credibility. This is a big problem with the Machiavellian-conservative philosophy advocated by Bill O'Reilly, Harvey Mansfield, and other thinkers. To a Machiavellian thinker, the posture and arguments you put before the American people is just a facade.

In 2003, I actually thought that Bush's war posturing against Iraq was part of a legitimate attempt to get Hussein to draw down his WMD stockpiles. For that matter, I suspect that the many of the Congressmen who approved the War in Iraq thought that the war authorization would only kick in when diplomatic efforts proved a failure. Hussein's tact was to stand on the line, leaving us to forever wonder if Bush intended to invade Iraq regardless of the outcome of the diplomatic effort.

Bush is correct in noting that the wise course of action is to precede a draw down with a temporary increase in troops. In such case, a temporary increase in troops is a shrewd move as it would counter efforts of the insurgents to escalate the war as we transferred control to Iraqi forces.

The actions being taken by Bush is technically not an escalation of the war. Bush may well intend to escalate the war. We do not know. This Machiavellian style of leadership is frustrating because the words of a the leader are always misdirections.

Ted Kennedy and friends have been making grand efforts to call the War in Iraq Bush's Vietnam. An analogy with Vietnam might be apropriate as the power vacuum left in the wake of our clumbsy retreat from Vietnam and Cambodia led to one of the worst genocides of the last century. The actions of Bush might be enough to save the Iraqis a similar fate.

Speaking of actual Iraqis, I see that Michelle Malkin is in Iraq. She has pictures of some of the people who be genocided if we simply retreated and left a power vacuum for Al Quaida or Iran to fill. I really wish Bush success in filling that vacuum with legitimate Iraqi forces before we leave, and I hope that Bush is not foolish enough to escalate the war as Democrats claim.

The Culture Warrior

Get the Culture WarriorI listened to a Book on Tape by Mr. Bill O'Reilly of Fox News called The Culture Warrior. In this book, Mr. O'Reilly gives a short biography of his journalistic career where he saw a concerted effort on the part of the media to give traditional American culture the shaft. Seeing that the news was extremely onesided, Mr. O'Reilly realized correctly that there was a very big need for a balanced approach to news that brought out both conservative and progressive views. Mr. O'Reilly apparently remembered reading The Art of War in school (Both Machiavelli and Sun Tzu are in vogue). Anyway, Mr. O'Reilly took his career one step further. Rather than just filling a need, Mr. O'Reilly has declared himself a General Sun Tzu in the great Culture War. He further invites his readers to become Sun-Tzus in the culture war.

Bill O'Reilly makes some very good points in his work and is doing a world of service in showing how overboard the secular progressive left has become. The problem I find is that by declaring himself a General Sun Tzu, Mr. O'Reilly seems to have forgotten which culture he is fighting for.

Sun Tzu was a warlord from ancient China. His wisdom is a formula for armies to follow in their domination of other armies.

The Sun Tzu warlord model for organizing a society ends up pushing the vast majority of people into a state of subserviance with just a few powerful overlords that dominate.

The real strength of the American system is that we had found ways out of the system of domination and submission that characterizes most socio-economic systems. Conservatives who've become enamored with Machiavelli and Sun Tzu have a tendency to become part of the forces which are undermining the culture they claim to be defending.

How to put it another way?

There is something really wierd with the secular progressive movement.

If you start tracing back the trends of the secular progressive movement, you will find that it went through a similar fascination with alternative philosophies Machiavelli and Sun Tzu.

Both Machiavelli and Sun Tzu said wise things. The problem is that these things are out of sync with the classical liberal tradition. The conservatives who march off to defend traditional Amerrican against the evil secular progressives end up being part of the game that erodes the classical liberal traditions that made the United States great.

BTW, have you noticed that since O'Reilly came out with the Culture Warrior that secular progressives have come out with the same idea of being generals in the culture war.

Now, the theme of the culture war is that modern American society is divided into two warring factions. These are the traditional Americans and the secular progressives.

Again the problem with this type of thinking is that it is out of character with the founders of this nation who were hoping that we could reason through issues and not let the issue carve the deep divides that they do today.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dawkins: Crusader for Intolerance

I am feeling absolutely sick right now.

I just listened to some spittle from that subhuman Richard Dawkins. Dawkins has some form of dialectical materialism on his brain that he has deluded himself into thinking is the only correct form of reasoning. This grade A wank is now on a crusade trying to eliminate everyone who holds to the classical world. The classical world view is the thing that brought us the scientific method, American Democracy, the free market and the thing Dawkin hates with every fiber of his being: Christianity.

Dense as a stone, Dawkins has convinced himself that there is no discernible difference between the Radical Islamic Fundamentalists and mainstream Christianity. The scary thing is the large number of the adherents to the new secular progressive religion have fallen for the same propaganda.

Apparently Dawkins is now on a crusade to rally intellectuals in the cultural war to eliminate Christianity.

It appears that Dawkins basic theory is that anyone who does not hold his warmed over view of dialectical materialism is incapable of reason. Reason, after all, is the exclusive domain of the left.


Since people who admire the classical tradition are incapable of reasoning, Dawkins wants to see them wiped off the planet. Neither Dawkins nor Harris have gone into the details of how they want to carry out this task. I think it safe to assume that they simply want to keep up the genocides that dialectical materialists have helped engineer in the last 100 years.

The hate mongers in Dawkins camp have been extremely successful. As I recall the Black Book of Communism has the toll of their genocide around 300 million for the last decade. The toll in Sudan is getting upward to a million Christians.

Like most secular progressives. Dawkins is too stupid to understand that his clever little ideology of intolerance is exactly the same thing at the base of Communism and Marxism.

Living in Utah, I am confronted with one of the most idiotic cult that the Christian tradition has ever produced. It ain't anywhere near as bad as the idiocies being touted by Dawkins and Harris.

Personally, I wish that people would realize that these culture warriors are the biggest threat to our culture. It is intolerant wanks like Richard Dawkins that lead cultures into darkness.

Minimum Wage Increases Tend to Hurt the Poor

When passing popular legislation like the minimum wage increase, I wish voters and policy makers would take a second to think about the people they hurt with their well meaning actions.

We imagine that the legislation hurts the hated enemies of our community like Walmart, the big box stores and the massive franchises that currently dominate the retail market space.

The truth of the matter is that the negative effects of the minimum wage increase will be felt by the small marginal independent business. Like most retail regulation, the minimum wage increase will give a further competitive edge to the big box store. The big box store has a lower ratio of employees to sales and inventory than the small independent store on the corner. An artificial increase in wages has a direct disproportionate affect on the small stores since employee wages make up a greater portion of the store’s costs.

Small, marginal firms depend on their ability to rapidly adjust to changes in market conditions. In a free market, marginal companies would have the ability to respond to steep drops in the market simply by adjusting their biggest costs (employee wages). Imagine a small restaurant in a resort community. If it were not for wage regulations, they could simply keep their workers on during the slow season when there is no work to be done. Instead, they have to lay them off every year.

I dislike minimum wage legislation as such legislation tends to have a disproportionate affect on the small marginal businesses that add character to the economic landscape.

It also does something else that is extremely nasty.

The minimum wage increase ends up creating obstacles for companies trying to provide goods and services to the poor.

It does not take a degree in higher finance to figure this one out. Guess which income group consistently pays the lowest wages for goods and services?

Yep. Poor people tend to pay less for goods and services than rich people. A really poor person trying to start a company ends up paying lower salaries than rich people who try to start companies. When you have an artificial minimum wage, you pretty much destroy the ability of poor people to start new businesses … which effectively keeps them in poverty.

My estimation is that the minimum wage legislation will have zero financial affect on the ultra-rich Congressmen that pass the legislation. Nancy Pelosi is from a family that is so rich and powerful that they can pay well above minimum wage for their servants. The people most hurt by the minimum wage are the people trying to start a marginal business with dreams of escaping poverty. Congress is slamming the door on this American Dream.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Some Issues Matter, and we have to be able to discuss them

Continuing my streak of mean posts …

The Utah LDS community has been a buzz with the presidential candidacy of Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney. This excitement is tinged with an undercurrent of sentiment that Mitt Romney is under prejudicial scrutiny because he is LDS.

Now, I have been extremely proud of the fact that one’s religious affiliation has not been a major issue in recent presidential campaigns. Unfortunately, it will be in the case of Mitt Romney. In my opinion, this is not due to prejudice against Mormons. It is due to the way that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young organized their religion.

The first reason for my belief is that democratic politics was a primary theme of The Book of Mormon. In this book, the Nephites met their untimely end because a political block rose and grabbed power, turning the kingdom to the dark side of the force. Some years after writing this book, it appears that Joseph Smith decided to use his church as a political block in his bid for high office. Joseph Smith chose the title president for the head of the Church as he was running for president, and wanted people to get used to the name.

The fact that the founder of the LDS Church used his church as a political block in a bid for the presidency makes the issue relevant for subsequent LDS candidates for president.

Brigham Young actually left the United States with the hope of establishing a new Empire of Deseret. The US Army stomped on that idea. However, Brother Brigham was able to use his position of President of the LDS Church to obtain the governorship of the State of Utah.

The history of the LDS Church working as a voting block makes Mitt Romney’s membership in the LDS Church an issue. To the extent that the LDS community behaves as a voting block, it will continue to be an important issue that needs to be debated. The existence of this debate is not prejudice against Mormons. Democracies need to worry about the undo influence of any voting block. Again, this is a primary theme of the Book of Mormon!

Personally, I think the Republican Party needs to worry about coming under the control of a voting block. In a two party system, a party is a temporary union of people of different views. The Reagan victory was largely due to a union between Classical Liberals and the Religious Right. In recent years, the Religious Right has been driving the classical liberals out of the Republican Party. I know several people who were active in Republican Politics in Colorado and California who claim to have been driven out of the Republican party by the religious right. It seems to me that the Republican Party needs to have an internal debate about whether or not they want to keep driving all of the classical liberals out of the party. That means taht there has to be talk in this election about the role religion plays in the Republican party.

Mitt Romney's run for the presidency is forcing a debate that needs to take place. I applaud people who engage in the debate in a civil manner.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Secular Temples

I realize that my last two posts make me sound like a mean, anti-religious bigot type person. While, in my mind at least, I am trying to make the subtle point that, to the extent that a temple is designed to dominate a community, it ends up creating conflict.

In the United States, there has been a concerted effort among religious communities to minimize the domination/submission games that can get started between churches.

Joseph Smith bucked this American ideal by trying to create a church set on politically dominating areas where it existed. Because he was bucking a deep authentic desire of many Americans, he stirred up authentic resistance.

For the most part, I think modern Mormons avoid the excesses of its past. Unfortunately, a little bit of the old thinking pops up again now and then. When it does, it creates divisiveness that the left and right can feed upon to tear our society apart.

It seems to me that people need to point out problems. I don’t know how to do it without feeding the divisions.

The same things I complain about this massive temple building effort undertaken by the LDS Church is true of the various secular temples that we end up building in our communities. When public work projects (like stadiums, dams and even libraries and schools) are designed to dominate a community, they end up creating controversies. Pushing any good idea to the excess ends up creating deep divisions in society and it creates a backlash.

Look at the way the big sports franchises stomp all over our sense of fair play in their efforts to spend tax dollars on massive coliseums! In some circles, anything done for the NBA or NFL team is a righteous cause, justifying the taking of shortcuts with other people’s properties.

In reading different web sites, I’ve found that Presidential Press Secretary Tony Snow has been taking a great deal of heat from the left for criticizing Kwanzaa. Mr. Snow sees this as a holiday that was designed to divide people along racial lines while promoting socialism. I believe that there is some truth to Mr. Snows. To the extent that Kwanzaa was designed to divide people along racial lines and to promote Socialism, it is a bad thing. However, to the extent that it gives an oppressed segment in our communities an outlet to celebrate their culture, it is a good thing. As for Mr. Snow’s article, I think that he a good job making a strong case against Kwanzaa (which is the way debate is supposed to work). Open discourse works by people stating their position clearly. Manipulative discourse takes place when you pull a trick like declaring an intentionally divisive holiday or building a garish temple designed to dominate a community, then label those who oppose you as racists or religious bigots.

The forces of evil in the world do their greatest damage when they mask themselves as the good. Actions that corrupt noble instincts really get my dander up. I am at a complete loss about how to address them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Misbehaving Peacekeepers

Wow! This is exactly the same complaint that the International Community had with Abu Ghraib. The United Nations seems to lack a good structure for punishing U.N. Peacekeepers gone bad.

I think the world of both the United States Military and the United Nations Peacekeeping forces. The problem is that when you have hundreds of thousands of young testosterone loaded soldiers in intense situations; You will have some problems. The disgrace of Abu Greib was not simply that out of control soldiers made Muslims put underwear on their head. The disgrace was that we had inadequate training on what the prison guards could and could not do. Above all, it was disgraceful that, during an invasion that was supposed to help the Iraqis re-establish the rule of law, we did not have a sufficient legal structure in place to try the inevitable crimes committed by the 300,000 armed forces in the area.

After Abu Greib, US politicians and conservative pundits fell into damage control mode. Political damage control only makes matters worse when the damage is caused by a fundamental flaw. The United States was able to able to fix the fundamental flaws that delayed bringing the perpetrators of prisoner abuse to justice. We have a strong military court system in place. Without a working ICC, the United Nations is in a much tougher situation.

Garish Temples

I think the Saint George Temple is an authentic manifestation of the desires of Utah pioneersTo begin this post, I need to point out that I love big churches. I especially love those churches which are an authentic manifestation of the desires of the people who built them. The LDS Temples in Salt Lake City, Logan, Saint George and other pioneer communities fall into this category along with the great Cathedrals of Europe, the grand mosques of the Middle East, and the many pagodas and temples of the orient.

Many of the grand churches stand number among the greatest architectural achievements in the history of mankind. Historically, church and religious temples push both architectural and design barriers. Let’s face it, I were a member of the idle rich, I would have several trips under my belt to see sites such as Brunelleschi’s Dome in Florence, the Vatican and other great churches.

To the extent that churches are an authentic manifestation of the desires of a people, I love ‘em. Unfortunately, there is another unseemly side to the history of Temples. Sadly, religious structures can be used as tools to dominate and control people. For example, in ancient Rome, you would find emperors placing icons of their images and their gods in temples of their conquered subjects to emphasize their dominion.

Anyway since my last post on the speech by Robert Millet, my mind has been stuck on garish temples. Millet’s speech had the following quote:

Brother Brigham is reported to have said that every time we announce the building of a temple, all the bells in Hell begin to ring, and, oh, how I love to hear those bells.

This statement has my mind reeling with Satan celebrating the construction of LDS Temples. Unfortunately, this idea of Satan celebrating means that this post will be mean spirited.

I think of Satan as that force that corrupts the good things in life and makes them divisive. Looking at LDS Temples, we see that aren’t simply a structure among other structures. Historically, LDS Temple design has been to create a structure that dominates everything around it. There is generally very strict zoning codes in the neighborhoods around temples, etc..

Your typical temple is a massive white building larger than the county courthouse, and most state Capitol buildings and generally positioned in ways to dominate the communities around the temples. As the temples cross the line from being an authentic manifestation of the aspirations of a whole community, and become a symbolic gesture of one segment of the community to dominate others, the temples become garish eye sores.

The garishness of temples is an issue in the United States where both the religious and political community were hoping to transcend the sadomasochistic games that European kings and Mideast Empires had played with temples in the past.

Modern construction and financing techniques have made it simple to pound out massive community dominating structures. Look how quickly Walmarts and mega malls appear in our cities!

Much as I love big churches, I greatly appreciate the fact that the American religious communities have restrained themselves from using improved construction technology to undertake church wars. Instead, mainstream religions have chosen to concentrate on the more meaningful questions of what takes place within each church.

The Site has a page on the chronology of Temple construction. This table shows that the LDS Church has pounded out about 100 of these community dominating temples in the last decade. I can see Satan celebrating with glee as his most faithful servants in the LDS Church pervert the authentic desires to build and worship in grand churches into a hate filled competition of on upmanship.

Brigham Young and Robert Millet are both right. Satan dances at the corruption of good. This aggressive temple construction schedule transforms the good and wholesome desire to whorship the Lord into a horrid, wicked game of political domination and submission.