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Saturday, December 27, 2003

A Boy and His Dog
Learning how to post pictures using iBlog. Left to right, Dad, Oggie the Doggie, My Nephew Joseph, Me, Brother Steve, his wife Diane.

Okay, I'm learning how to put images into iBlog.
So this is how to import a picture into an iBlog entry. What a pain! I can't just drag a picture, it has to be in iPhoto which requires a whole new paradigm for how I organize my photos.

Dad, his Boston Terrier, Me showing an early military mode, brother Steve.

Thanks to my friend Gottfried Hogh for cleaning this image up. The original was very faded and yellowed with age. I am shocked at how good it looks now, but I'm disappointed that I learn that I am wearing fuzzy bunny slippers in this picture. I think I owned these for a period of one month of my life but they have been captured in this one picture I decide to post. In the original, the quality of the image was such that I assumed I was wearing sneakers, but now my dad and mom tell me that I am probably sick and still in my pajamas while dad takes everyone else to church.

So the lesson to be learned is that re-examining your childhood is fun, but sometimes you learn too much, like how you once wore fuzzy bunny slippers.

Does Anyone Else Think it Ironic that Iraqis have More Freedoms than most Americans?
The Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq allows every home in Iraq to own an AK-47, an automatic/semi-automatic rifle, and a 30 round magazine. They don't control or track sales of these weapons. Would that our government allowed the same for us.

Of course, we don't have foreign troops knocking on our doors and searching at will without a warrant or even a judicial system. We're also much more prosperous. I don't want to imply that the Iraqis are better off than we are, which would be absurd. I'm only pointing out that in a nation where there is little effective law or civilization that no one thinks it too harsh to not restrict weapons ownership. Yet in the United States weapons sales are tracked and documented, in some states owning weapons is severely limited to the point of being illegal.

Maybe we'll figure this out soon, and maybe the NRA will actually work to restore our gun rights rather than continuously beg for money so that they can do things like support the Brady Bill (which they now use to scare people into giving them more money) and the National Instant Check System which any fool knew would be used to create gun ownership rosters, like it was.

Let's hope that when the Iraqis become civilized again they will remember how important gun ownership is.

(Don't bother clicking on the "drivel button, there ain't no more on today's rant.)
I told you there was nothing more, but you didn't believe me and just had to look, didn't you?

Thursday, December 25, 2003

No, Virginia, There is No Santa Claus
My niece and nephew (4 and 6) don't believe in Santa Claus because their parents have decided that deceiving children has no value.

I can't speak for my brother and his bride, but here are the reasons I think their Santa Claus policy is wise. Or is it?
I remember as a child, as most children do, that I always wondered how the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus could be everywhere in one day. Even at a very young age and not really understanding how big the Earth is, I knew that it was impossible for a human to go to everyone's house in a few hours. But I was taught that he was real by my parents and everyone else I knew so he had to be real.

I had some difficulty understanding how Santa fit in with all the things I had learned about Jesus and god, so my mind struggled like everyone else's did to discover how he could be real and I concluded that magic was involved.

During the time when a child is conceptualizing the world, that is when he is transforming his percepts into concepts, our culture teaches him to ignore obvious and verifiable evidence and instead believe blindly in what cannot be true. Children don't know how Santa can be possible, but they are taught that he is real despite the evidence. Being young and not having fully developed minds or even narrow life experiences, they believe what they are taught by those whom they trust.

So my only question I would like to pose now is, once a child learns that Santa isn't real, does he then conclude that all is right with the world and the conflict of a Christian god and Santa Claus is resolved, strengthening his belief in magic? Or does he learn to unlearn what he has learned and reject magical gods as being another story he was told?

No matter. They will believe what they believe because of their own minds and neither I had I wanted to nor even their parents will decide for them. Hopefully the conclusion they reach will be the best one.

In the meantime, if anyone out there is reading this drivel, I wish you a merry Christmas, the second greatest American holiday we have, after Independence Day. It the most sacred celebration of our prosperity that we have. Three cheers for materialism, consumerism, and sharing our wealth with our loved ones. These are the best things in life.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

I Hate Spam, But . . .
Spam is an annoying intrusion in my life. I seem to spend a lot of time and energy deleting it, screening it, and avoiding it. I wish spammers would all rot in hell. But getting spam is worse than the alternative.

I've predicted since 1996 that the internet, far from being the tool for enabling freedom throughout the world like it currently is, will soon be used as a tool to oppress the whole world universally. It's inevitable if we're not careful. But the bogeyman of spam and other perceived ills of the internet are being used as excuses to regulate and control us and our new freedom.
The Instapundit has an article discussing this, and I'm relieved that such a reputable man is starting to hint at our danger. The danger of the internet is that it will foster a uniform, international standard for internet behavior, and that this standard will likely not reflect the freedoms that we now take for granted in the United States and currently enjoy on the internet.

There are entrenched powers in this world, centered on nations, the media, and corporations. As Thucydides wrote, "Of men we know and of the gods we suspect that they will rule wherever they can." This is as true today as it was 2430 years ago. Now the internet is freeing us from relying on the media from supplying us with their monopolistic and regulated source of information. Now the internet is allowing us to do business with each other across borders and across the country without regard for big businesses or government taxing authority. Businesses are threatened because the more complete the form of capitalism and freedom, the more small businesses thrive. Big business, big media and big government are threatened by our freedom and the internet.

So like the gods that rule wherever they can, big business, big media, and big government will do whatever it takes to retain their power and they're using any bugaboo they can think of to scare us into losing our newfound freedom. The bugaboo of the day is spam.

Now, spam is no different from those unwanted pieces of mail that the post office gives you everyday. I get lots of it and it's all unwanted, but I can't stop it from coming. The sender paid the post office to deliver it, and deliver it they will. That's the beauty of the postal system, you get a mailbox so that anonymous people can correspond with you even if they don't know you. It's a wonderful service, and you can send mail to businesses and others too.

So why is it suddenly so different with email as opposed to real, or snail mail? There are two differences: There is no postal fee, and the subject matter can often be quite obscene and vulgar. This is unfortunate, and like most, I wish there were a way to shield myself from these rude intrusions. There are ways, they take time and effort and money to keep ahead of the game, but in general I'd much rather deal with spam than not get email.

And that's the trick to having freedom. You have to take the responsibility of dealing with the bad along with the advantages of the good.

But many people don't see it that way. They see an annoyance and they want it gone, they don't care how.

Enter the villian. Or villians. Those losing their power and some who simply want power are using this annoyance to convince us to give up our freedom, and their success at this argument is amazingly successful despite its absurdity.

There are two directions the internet can go in now. Either they can expand our freedom so that everyone's computer is autonomous or they can make it so that no one's is.

Let me explain that in a bit more detail. Right now when you access the internet, unless you are a professional, you go through someone else's server. They control your access for what is usually a nominal fee. These servers are generally privately owned, so this is a good solution. But with these gateways there is a means to control us yet. Using these gateways the internet can be structured to identify us, to tax us, and control us. Why do we have these gateways? Because it has required careful application of skilled technology to safely connect to the backbone of the internet. Most don't have these skills, so they pay their internet service provider to simplify it for them.

Alternatively, as computer technology improves it is reasonable to predict that these skills won't be as necessary anymore. There will be fewer and fewer reasons to need to use other people's servers and we should be able to make our personal computers behave like the servers we rely on today. Frankly it's always been easily possible, but we've just not been trusted to do it.

And why weren't we trusted? For several reasons, not the least of which is that most people use microsoft operating systems which are notoriously leaky, ill-behaved, and difficult to work with. Microsoft operating systems use Intel and x86 processors.

And who is pushing the new controls that will rob us of internet freedom? Government who wants better control over taxing us. Businesses who are tired of spam and viruses (which are largely the result of bad microsoft software), and Microsoft, Intel, and AMD who make the processors and the software that use them.

Read Glenn Reynolds article for details of this cabal of power seekers. For now, just concentrate on the small excuse being used to justify what could end up being the dismantling of our newfound freedom: Spam. How petty. It's an annoyance and nothing more. Yet for the hope, and an unrealizable hope it is, of getting rid of spam we just might be allowing Microsoft, Intel and AMD to put an equivalent of V-chips on our computers. These chips won't just hope to get rid of spam (and at that it will fail), they will allow our governments to tax us more efficiently and more widely. They will allow foreign governments to track us and our stifle our voices. They will allow businesses to track our purchases and target us for advertisements, which of course won't be called spam.

The internet, after spurring a brief flowering of freedom throughout the world, will end up enslaving us. I'm fighting like heck to avoid using a Lord of the Rings analogy, but I can't resist. The internet will become like the one ring to rule us all. Once they put controls on our computers and thus limit our access, we will have lost any hope of escaping from the entrenched powers. Instead of empowering us, it will ensure that we are more thoroughly controlled and enslaved than anyone could have predicted in any Orwellian vision.

Let's hope that the internet has already freed us enough to voice our objections loudly enough. Let's hope that our voices can be heard and this danger be understood. The word will not come through if we rely on the traditional media and the government to inform us. We must use the internet to defeat those who wish to destroy our newfound freedom.

I'm doing my part. I hope others jump in too.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Who? The Who, that's who. But who cares?
I was driving to College Station today to watch my friends drive on the track, when a song came on the radio. It was a common song, one I've heard innumerable times. I don't even remember which one it was, but it was a typical song from the seventies about youthful rebellion and seeking freedom.

After witnessing the events of this past year, I was struck by how petty this song's cry for freedom is in comparison to the freedom being sought by the Iraqis. They are celebrating the end of torture. The Who were whining about . . . well, it's not even clear what they were whining about.

Ayn Rand survived the onset of Communism in Russia before escaping to the United States and her opinion on this topic is worth reviewing.
Ayn Rand expressed nothing but disdain for the 60's anti-war demonstrators when they talked of how wonderful our country is because of the music we could listen to. Even in the worst times of the Soviet Union, she claimed, people listened to whatever style of music they wished. The communists could and did control many things, but this wasn't on their list. Equating musical style choices with freedom is intellectual abandonment.

So while I was thinking about the potential that Iraq now has, the end of their terror, tortures and the destruction of the Ba'ath party and fascism, I hear a mod rock band whining about how hard they have it in modern society and it sounded so trivial, so moronic.

Since the end of the Second World War, western civilization has been on an economic and technological rocket. I was talking with my mother and her friend over Thanksgiving and learned that they grew up with one bath tub at the neighbor's house. I grew up with the luxury of having a second bathroom for the four of us kids. I don't know many families that don't have several cars and several bathrooms. Heck, I live by myself and I have two bathrooms! We live very good lives in the United States now. We have almost nothing to complain about, so our music and our art are reduced to triteness.

But the people of Iraq aren't so fortunate. I expect they aren't singing about mods versus punks. They don't complain about their parents grounding them. They're more concerned with whether psychopathic dictators are going to send goons to knock on their doors in the middle of the night and stand them up against a wall.

The more we get involved in Iraq, and the more we witness their struggle to be free, the more our culture of our youth, especially from the sixties and seventies, seems pathetically narcissistic.

I guess if being narcissistic is the price of having decades of freedom, then it's worth paying. It's just a shame that what our culture learned in the 40's from witnessing German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish fascism has been so thoroughly forgotten. I wonder if The Who can watch what's happening in Iraq and make some music reminding us of how wonderful our freedom is.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Return of the King
The only word that can adequately describe this movie is UNBELIEVABLE!!!

It's 3:30am and I just got back from the theater, it was the earliest I could get to see this film.

I didn't realize until a few minutes afterwards, but during the Rohan cavalry charge I was gasping and crying out loud "God Damn!" It was the best vision I've ever seen of battle scenes, and it didn't stint on the theme of bravery. Each character faced the danger, knowing it was dangerous and fought like hell. I was on the edge of my seat and fighting my instinct to jump to my feet!

I have very few things to complain about, and as people who know me might expect, my opinion is probably different from others.
I think Elijah Wood needs to get an Oscar for his acting. He fits the role of Frodo better than anyone I can imagine. In fact, I can't imagine anyone else possibly playing this role after seeing him in it. This goes for every actor in this film with two exceptions.

I hated Vigo Mortensen as Aragorn. And Sean Aston did okay as Samwise Gamgee, but my god, if he cried in one more scene I was going to scream. That's bad enough, but he's such a terrible cryer.

Vigo is the worst portrayal of Aragorn I can imagine being seriously proposed. First, he has terrible posture. He's always bowing his head. He walks into a room and his head is down, with the camera highlighting the way he raises his head. But his head comes up while the rest of him slouches. He gives a pre-battle pep speech and his head is down. He's supposed to be a king, he should enter with his head already up.

Add to that his thin, high pitched voice and he completely loses the image of a hero. A much better example of the hero is the actor who played Theoden of Rohan. Even Faramir was better portrayed by the actor even if they emasculated his character in the script.

Vigo is just not imposing. And what's with his total lack of grooming? A ranger is probably rough and ready, but he most likely combs his hair and trims his beard once in a while.

There are many differences between the book and the film, which is to be expected. It's a lot to pack in and the film is already three and a half hours long. Many people have complained about the scouring of the Shire being excised, but honestly folks, that would take way too long to include.

This was the most brilliant movie I can remember, and except for Vigo's lack of bearing and Aston's constant cornball crying, I can't fault it one bit. The theme of standing up and fighting for good, even in the face of nearly certain death, was portrayed better than I've ever seen it done, and the battle scenes were the most stirring I have ever seen.

Thank you, Peter Jackson, for making this film.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The Losing Team Can Have Good Players, Too.
There's a dentist named Zeyad who lives in Baghdad. A month or two ago he started a blog about what his experiences were like from the point of view of an Iraqi. He has close relatives that were colonels in the Iraqi army, and he admits that his family was among those who benefitted from being Sunni and somewhat favored by the Ba'athists. He himself was a member of the party, but only so that he could get into dental school. Despite all this, and despite some disagreement with others in his family, he has been consistent in denouncing Saddam Hussein and welcoming the US to help the Iraqis institute a democratic regime. He's a very interesting man, but what I most admire about him is his frankness in expressing what he thinks and feels. Upon hearing of Saddam's capture and seeing him on the television, he felt sadness and shame.
He claims that he doesn't know why he has this reaction, but I would like to hazard a speculative guess. The monster that murdered so many of them, that had teams of torturers. a network of informers, and a reign of fear, turned out to be nothing more than an old man lacking the vigor to even struggle with ordinary US soldiers. I'm sure Zeyad felt shame because it is now clear that it only took a few soldiers to arrest him.

That is the whole key to how tyrants retain power. The good people always outnumber the psychopaths who would kill and torture others, and if the good people could just act even mildly in concert, there is no way that the goons can retain their reign. The truth is that the people deserve the government that they have, no matter how despotic or murderous.

A good analogy is the plane that was hijacked and crashed in Pennsylvania. For decades Americans have been taught that they should behave like mice in the face of terrorists and hijackers. Failing to resist caused three planes to be taken over by hijackers, and while their passengers passively waited for some hostage negotiation to take place, they flew into buildings and became the instruments of death and destruction. The fourth plane, through good chance, contained passengers that learned of the others' fate and the passengers assaulted the hijackers, ending their lives, but saving others on the ground, perhaps some important building.

If the people of Iraq had lifted their heads up out of their situation, there was never a time that they couldn't have taken control of their own government again and saved themselves from 35 years of torture, or better yet they could have prevented it from ever starting.

Why didn't they? Just like the passengers of the first three 9/11 airplanes, they had been taught to not resist, they had been taught to accept bad treatment, they had been taught that resisting would be impossible. It could happen anywhere, to any people, but it requires a culture that accepts that others can have power over the individual, that the individual is expected to submit to the will of the leader.

But, while Zeyad should rightly feel shame for his country and its culture and its failure to act on its own behalf, this is a crime of a culture, not of individuals. The people of his country are no different than those in any other country because people are people. They have the same potential for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as any other people. It's not the individual team members that win the game, it's the ability of the people on the team to work together in their common interest.

The individuals of Iraq should feel no shame as individuals. They have great potential to improve their plight if only they jettison the culture that led them to such self-destructive, suicidal misery.

The team that comes in last place is a bad team, but even a bad team usually has some good players. The people of Iraq have those good players. They need to rally around the good ones and work to make their country a place that encourages the success of the good.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

It's All Greek to Me
I wanted to write a rant about the subjects we learn in school and the ideology of educators. I've always resented not learning Greek and Latin in my younger days, and I feel like I've been robbed of a truly good education because of it. Every once in a while I pore through a Greek primer but I lack the youthful drive and the discipline provided by an academic environment to really be effective at understanding the language.

And this is tragic, not just for me, but for our society and the future of our freedom. It's not coincidental that the people who formed this nation, and not just the ones in Philadelphia at the Continental Congress, but all educated Americans had a good understanding of Greek and its culture and philosophers. If you glance at a map of the mid Atlantic states and immediately west of them, you will see towns named Athens, Sparta, Smyrna, Corinth, Marathon, etc. Greek architecture dominates public buildings, and our political structure is a reflection of the knowlege gained from studying Thucydides, Plato, and Aristotle among many others. Before the founding of our nation, the Greeks were the only prominent culture that was democratic, and we learned a lot from them when forming our own democracy.

But our educators today have lost that connection. They have forgotten that to keep our freedom, we must be well taught in how freedom is protected, how it is formed and why it is important. There has been very little since the Greeks to compare to their experience, and precious few have had the insight and intelligence that their culture has left us. The Age of Enlightenment, with Rousseau, Paine, Jefferson, and Mason was only possible because these men read the ideas of the Greeks from a millenia and a half before them.

But American educators have been trying to squash these ideas for the past 120 years. I pulled out a book, Diane Ravitch's "Left Back," to dig up some background for this rant and was stunned by the quotes I found in just the first 100 pages.
In the 1880's and 1890's a movement began in the United States. There were many voices with as many opinions, but one of the persistent arguments was that the education establishment wasn't preparing students well for the world they were to face. One of the main themes was to copy the Europeans by earmarking students very early in life as to their future profession. The student who would become a ditch digger should learn different things than the student who would be a lawyer or doctor.

So let's get this right. Public schools were first justified as a way to ensure that the demos, to use the Greek word for "the people," were able to take on the responsibility of self-governing. If the people were not intelligently educated, it was feared that our representative republic would devolve into mob rule like most democracies tend to do. But the education reformers wanted to stop teaching all the students to be educated and they wanted to teach vocations instead. Ravitch says, "The goal of many educational reformers was not to make the academic curriculum accessible to more students but to devise a practical curriculum for those who would soon be in the workforce, especially students who were poor, foreign born, and nonwhite."

The leader of this school of thought was the Teachers College of Columbia, where Earl Russell wrote in 1906, "How can a nation endure that deliberately seeks to rouse ambitions and aspirations in the on-coming generations which in the nature of events cannot possibly be fulfilled? If the chief object of government be to promote civic order and social stability, how can we justify our practice in schooling the masses in precisely the same manner as we do those who are to be our leaders?"

Even worse was John Dewey, who is best known for creating the Dewey Decimal System. He championed the idea that students should be only taught, just simply taught. The subject was irrelevant, it was only important that they be taught something. To him it was the process of learning that was important, the actual content of the learning was of no consequence, and for better learning the content should be as interesting to the student as possible. But his well-meaning idiocy was misused by his acolytes. "Dewey wanted the schools not to make students into cooks, seamstresses, or carpenters but to use the occupations to provide insight into how society evolved and how it functioned. In the public schools, however, many of those who promulgated the 'new education' simply wanted the schools to train better cooks, seamstresses, and carpenters."

These reformers became very powerful and influential with catastrophic results. Booker T. Washington, representing the sentiments of the poorest in our nation, believed that studying and understanding the classics is what created our freedom, and that this is the best tool to ensure its continuance. He wrote, "the two chief desires of the colored youth during all the reconstruction period were to hold office and to study Latin." Yet G. Stanley Hall, one of the reformers wrote in 1902 that it was his own "lifework for [Booker T. Washington's] race has been directed against these two evils." Hall knew better what was good for the "colored youth" than their own parents did.

It's classic socialist central planning, what we would now label "liberalism," to insist that some politician or academician knows what's good for people better than they do themselves. But these educators saw themselves not as protecting our democratic society, but as "makers of society." This is just another betrayal of their original purpose. Even Teddy Roosevelt got into the act in 1907 by saying, "Our school system is gravely defective in so far as it puts a premium upon mere literary training and tends therefore to train the boy away from the farm and the workshop. Nothing is more needed than the best type of industrial school, the school for mechanical industries in the city, the school for practically teaching agriculture in the country." This sounds nice if you don't try to think about what he's saying. What he's saying is that we no longer need citizens who can think and can support "government by the people." Instead, the government needs to pay for industry to get its workers trained. Industry has training needs, but rather than pay for this training themselves, they make the tax payers pay for their training program. This is an early form of industrial socialism, and is a strong hint at why politicians and industrialists supported this twisted type of anti-intellectual educational reform. It's also a feature of industrial feudalism and factory serfs.

In 1916 David Snedden accepted a chair at Teachers College of Columbia, which sadly is still influential in educational theory. Snedden thought that "the idea of learning for its own sake was a luxury, which had no place in the public schools." He also "opposed the chronological teaching of history, as he opposed the logical organization of any subject matter, and insisted that the only history worth teaching was about present social institutions. Any history that was not related to the present, he asserted, was simply 'the cold storage' theory of education, nothing more than facts packed away into students' mental storehouse for possible future use."

Have we any doubt why our high schools aren't teaching students anymore? A high school education has become nearly valueless, not because of some recent mistake, but because of relentless ideological attacks for over a hundred years against the very concept of learning and teaching.

A primary facet of the reformers' philosophy was to distinguish which students are to learn which subjects at as early an age as possible. I remember in my own high school career that we were all divided into Remedial, Average, and Superior students. The idea that the teachers, who are notoriously the worst educated college graduates in the country, are intelligent enough to make wise divisions of the students is ludicrous. I was initially put into Average English, and only through my own and my parents' vigorous objections was I allowed to be relocated to the Superior class, where I spent the next four years trying to live down the stigma of having initally been misplaced as Average. As an Average English student, I would have been condemned to never getting into a first rate college. I recently met an old high school friend who wasn't so fortunate, and she told me that when she got to college, she was surprised at how easy algebra was, and was perplexed as to why she was prevented from learning it in high school based on her arbitrary assignment to a lower tier of math classes.

And that highlights a main feature of these divisions. They imply to the student that these subjects are too difficult for them to learn, and that's why they are excluded from learning them. But the truth is much more sinister. Another denizen of Teachers College, Ellwood P. Cubberly, wrote in 1911,

From a national point of view it is always dangerous to educate a boy, and to a certain extent also a girl, with no reference to vocational ends, and we may well pause and reflect when we see great numbers of our brighter young people saturating themselves today with a mass of knowledge that can have little application for the lives which most of them must inevitably lead. Disappointment and discontent are almost sure to be the result, and disappointment and discontent among its educated classes are not good for any nation.

If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what else can.

That these people have succeeded, despite the protests of parents in every generation can be attributed to only one reason: The government controls schools. As government increased its controls, more and more radical ideas were tested and implemented. The goal has been to create docile citizens, not responsible, well-educated ones. Private schools would never inflict this ideology on its customers against their will.

A society that doesn't study the greatest sources of democratic cultural knowledge cannot seriously expect to maintain its democratic culture. The Greeks weren't perfect, but they stand alone in presenting a long term example of how democracies exist, thrive, and at times oppress and fail. Our own experiment in democracy is too brief to really understand its tendencies. We have robbed ourselves of another tool to help us succeed by ignoring the works of the most brilliant men to ever live and write about democratic governments.

The quote I cited from Russell hints at how things went wrong. He claimed that the goal of public education was to promote civil order and social stability, when the goal should have been to promote understanding of how a free people govern themselves. Civil order and social stability are most easily promoted with jackbooted governments and docile citizens, but that is hardly the result we should be aiming for. The only way to promote freedom and responsible democracy is to have all people, no matter what their work is, educated in how to think about philosophy, logic, and history. The brick layer may not need to understand politics to be a brick layer, but brick layers have a responsibility to think in order to continue our form of government.

This rant was a long time in coming, but was inspired finally by my reading a reference to the phrase "Thalatta! Thalatta!" on the internet today. It took me a bit to understand where it came from. I did a search and found some other references to it, mostly poetry, before I realized it came from a cry made by the ten thousand hoplites as they finally reached the sea and safety. It is the cry "The sea! The sea!" made by the battle weary soldiers as they finally reached the safety of the sea after fighting for thousands of miles out of Persia to the Hellespont. I have read Xenophon's Anabasis a few times in English translation, and thrilled to read this scene but I didn't know the Greek phrase. I feel robbed, and as though I have a deficient education. The most common school boy in this country 200 years ago read the Anabasis in its original Greek, yet I and all my peers and neighbors are robbed of the rich literary, intellectual, philosophical, and political legacy that was used to create this great nation because of the anti-intellectual educational philosophy that has been foisted on us against our wills this past century.

If more people read the Anabasis, we would have a lot fewer people arguing against our war against terror. We'd be too educated to suffer these fools. We would know and understand that freedom is only possible if we are strong and actively protect ourselves.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Who is John Galt? Could it be George Bush?
John Galt, the hero of Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" stopped the motor of the world. The basic plot of the book is that John Galt was an engineer who invented a type of engine for the railroad that provided cheap power that would transform the world. When his employer made it clear that he was expected to share his invention without being paid for it, he destroyed it and then recruited all the people who actually made things happen to stop making things happen. Throughout most of the first half of the book, the question keeps getting posed, "Who is John Galt?" in response to any evidence that things are getting bad. Galt and many of his like-minded compatriots escape to a hidden valley, while others remain and sabotage the wealth that they have accumulated.

Essentially, Rand's view was that there are productive, inventive people on whom the rest of the world relies to make their lives possible. Without anyone to think for them, the leaches such as politicians, socialists, etc., would soon devolve into a panicky morass of fear and the entire civilization would collapse.

I'm starting to think that this is the only thing that explains the behavior of George Bush.
His domestic agenda, even more than his father's, is seemingly self-destructive. He has increased spending especially on blatantly frivolous pork. He has enacted the Patriot Act, a totally unnecessary intrusion of our civil rights. He has enacted tarriffs damaging steel consumers. He has expanded Medicare beyond what even the democrats wanted. And now he wants to increase Social Security spending so that illegal immigrants can collect social security from the US after they return to Mexico.

I can't think of a better way to destroy socialism than to give so much money away. Could it be that George Bush is playing the part of John Galt by running the socialist state into the ground? Could that be his plan? It's about the only thing that makes sense.

Except that history has shown us that when government programs fail, the usual response is to throw more money at it rather than end it. The usual response when more money can't be thrown at a government program is not to end it, but to enact totalitarian laws to allow the program to continue. History has shown that politicians are rarely willing to put the very lives of its citizens ahead of bureaucracy or programs that keep them in power.

Ayn Rand's story is a good one for putting forward philosophical ideas, but the scenario she presents is not one that can realistically happen. When the society falls apart, the men who make the engine of the world run won't be allowed to step up and take charge. They're the first ones to be executed by the goons. Just look at Cambodia, China, Viet Nam, Cuba, etc., for proof.

George Bush, if you're really trying to be John Galt, give it up. Fight the fight directly, society can rarely handle nuance.

But I fear that this is not George's goal. Naked ambition and cynical political power is his agenda. It's good to keep the socialist/communist people in the Democratic party out of office, but not at the price of being more socialist than even they are.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Supremes are Out of Control
There is no longer any pretense that the Supreme Court has any regard for law or reason. They have now followed the lead of both houses of criminals, er congress, and the domestically deficient executive branch and have outlawed political speech.

This is the most outrageous act perpetrated by our government since Lincoln robbed us of our right to self-determination. The government has now made it illegal for us to criticize it and it's clear that there is no longer anything we can do about it. Our masters will keep us in our place.
Let's say that we did manage to oust enough members of congress to repeal this law. It can't happen since we can't criticize them, but let's just pretend. If we did vote the bums out, why would the new congressmen then vote out the law? They'd have no incentive to do so, because now they would be the entrenched power, and history has shown that the public can only stay outraged for a limited time. After a while their anger would subside.

Besides, it seems that enough people think this gagging of lady liberty is a good thing. But the whole point of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is to protect us from the majority. Without any protection, we will perpetually be at the mercy of whatever popular idea comes into the minds of our masters, the majority. By gagging us, they have the abilty to retain their overlordship.

Now, let's imagine that somehow, someway, we enact an amendment to the Constitution that says, "The people have the right to unfettered political speech, and this time we mean it." What makes anyone think that the Supreme Court would notice? They no longer consider themselves bound by the law or the Constitution. They have somehow decided that their whims are the law of the land, regardless of the written word, or clearly intended meaning that they at one time were imagined to safeguard.

If somehow an Amendment to the Constitution were created, voted in by congress and 3/4 of the states that the Supreme Court didn't like, I would not doubt for one minute that they would declare the Amendment to be unconstitutional. Theoretically, since it IS the Constitution, this shouldn't be possible. Yet, they now refer to laws of other countries to justify their decisions, they make things up, and ignore words written very plainly that contradict their whims.

Antonin Scalia mocked his integrity challenged peers by asking how they see fit to permit virtual child pornography yet not political speech. Pornography should be protected I suppose, but it is of very little consequence in the larger scope of things. Political speech, however, is the heart and soul of our freedom and safety. Souter and O'Connor along with Breyer, Stevens, and Ginsburg should be impeached and thrown out of their office. Their actions are unconscionable and they have now proven without doubt that they are enemies of our freedom.

Al Qaeda can only blow things up and there is no chance that they will have much long term impact on our safety. We must fight them and kill them wherever their hideous ideas and culture prosper, but there is no doubt that they will in the end be destroyed.

I wouldn't put these traitors on our Supreme Court on the level of Al Qaeda. They are far worse. It appears to be their intent to destroy everything that makes our freedom possible. They pander to foreign governments and laws, ignoring our own, and they seek to gag us from speaking freely, even truthfully, about our other enemies in Congress. At the most important time for us to speak prior to the time when we are able to decide on their fates, our masters have decided that we are no longer free, we are subordinate to the continuance of their reign.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Anyone Not For Us is Against Us.
It's a common thing in human relations to insist that one must agree with your ideas in toto, and if the conclusions differ to then assign the most malevolent reason for it. I admit that at times I do the same, it's only human nature, but some political discussions are public enough and widespread enough that I would think that more nuanced arguments are understood. Instead, the more contentious the issue, the more likely we are to insist that it's our way or else.

No, I'm not talking about the war. In that case, it's a matter of survival and we must insist that people work publicly and fully to stop terrorism. What I'm referring to is one of the taboo topics: Homosexuality. It's become fashionable to hold only certain opinions on the topic, and any dissent is instantly labeled as ignorant and bigotted.

But I don't care. My opinion is valid even if it is different.
Here's the gist of the popular argument: Homosexuality is not a choice, it is something that cannot be cured, nor is a cure even appropriate since it is perfectly normal. Disagreeing with this opinion means that you are some religious fundamentalist bigot that wants all homosexuals to burn in hell.

But let's examine this.

Homosexuality is not a choice. Perhaps, perhaps not. I think that this is too simple a claim. Surely there is more than one cause of homosexuality. Some causes may involve choice, some may not. Some result in an exclusively homosexual orientation, some don't. Is there a genetic predisposition? We've seen that most aspects of a personality are heavily influenced by genetics, why wouldn't homosexuality be in that category? Is it a result of enviornment? Certainly this is part of it too. But what makes it impossible for it to be considered as a choice for some people? Or at the very least a result of other choices made in one's life? Just posing these points will surely cause an outrage of hate-spewed blasts at the one making them.

Homosexuality is normal. Clearly this is wrong, on its very face. That homosexuality is common doesn't mean it's normal. Small Pox was once common, too. It's also common for people to be fat but being common doesn't imply that it is normal or correct. Clearly we are mammals and we procreate heterosexually. It is normal for humans to be heterosexual, that's what we are. So the issue is really only whether being homosexual is worthy of note, or of blame. It's clearly not the correct orientation. But this statement of obviousness will create paroxysms of hate.

Homosexuality cannot be cured. Well, this is a crazy statement. Why not? Since there are many causes of this condition, there are probably some people who can be changed, and probably people who cannot be changed. And there are people who choose not to change even were they able. Since investigating the causes is topic non grata, we can't very intelligently discuss whether some or all can be corrected, or whether they should be even if they want to be. Again, the vitriol surrounding this topic makes it impossible to even publicly discuss this topic, let alone understand it.

Questioning the homosexual paradigm is bigotry. This is the dangerous part of the topic. We cannot discuss the issue at all because people will not do so rationally. Discussing these points will label you a bigot or homophobe or some kind of religious whacko.

I submit that I am not religious. Not in the least. So that argument is out.

I do not hate homosexuals anymore than I hate someone with the measles or anymore than I hate fat people. There are fat people I like, and there are people that I dislike because they have attitudes in life that are reflected in their lack of concern for their health or appearance. Likewise, there are homosexuals that I like and those whom I don't like because they have personalities that I suspect incidentally influence why they are homosexuals. But liking or disliking people is not the same as being bigoted against the state of being homosexual. I treat most people politely despite their being overweight or being homosexual. I may not be each of their friends, but a lot of people aren't my friends.

The term homophobe is an especially vile word. It's a sort of passive-aggressive attack on those who disagree with the paradigm. Using this appellation marks its target as not disagreeing, but with being afraid. Thus all arguments are rendered void since they originate from irrational fear. But I'm not afraid of homosexuals per se. I'm sure that there are a few that are pretty big and violent and fearsome, but in general that's coincidental.

Perhaps all my points about the normality of homosexuality are wrong. Perhaps. But opinions are so strong that rational discussion is impossible.

For fear of pushing things too far, let's address the topic of marriage between homosexuals. It's becoming the de facto policy of our country to allow homosexuals to marry. But let's argue against it now. I submit that homosexuals should not be married, or at least that the government should have no part in recognizing a homosexual "marriage." I'm sure howls of protest are about to be hurled at me. But let's examine what marriage is and why homosexuals shouldn't be married in the government's eyes.

The argument is very simple. It's none of the government's business. Marriage only has one legitimate social purpose that concerns the government, and that is to identify who children's parents are. Even that is a poor tool since children are born out of wedlock, men are cuckolded, etc. The only other purpose of marriage is for religious reasons or other personal desires to publicly declare a union between two or more people. You don't need, nor should it be allowed, for the government to get in the business of "love."

The argument can be made that government should encourage the morality associated with traditional families. I agree that stable families are important to society, but I submit that if you need government to create or foster a stable society then it's already too late. People should rely on their churches, their clubs, their neighbors, or their own personal integrity. If you have to favor good decisions with tax breaks or other benefits, then the culture is already dying. When the strongest reason for good behavior is government largesse, then you corrupt the reason for desiring good behavior and it becomes instead of being good, it just becomes socially proper.

Identifying the parents of children is important, and it is perfectly legitimate for the government to recognize who the mother and father of a child are. There is no need to have a marriage to do this.

So if you want to start a church and call yourself married in that church, go for it. Who cares? If you're happy and no one gets hurt then why should anyone stop it? Nobody legitimately cares about bigamists or philanderers either. Ain't nobody's business.

But instead, the homosexual political lobby is attacking the rest of us. They aren't satisfied with identifying someone as their partner/spouse/whatever, they want to make the rest of us care about it. They want the government to bless their conjoining whether we care or not.

Clearly, this is all another example of less government being better. The whole issue was created by the government stepping in and telling us that homosexuality was impermissable. Sure, it's wrong by definition, but so is being a cripple and we don't make laws against that, do we? The busybodies made a law that puts the government in places it clearly shouldn't be, and the resultant political argument for homosexual restraint laws is falling under its own weight. It caused political discussion that wouldn't exist otherwise, and the result is not the abolition of these laws, but the drive to use more laws to inflict a political agenda from the other direction. It appears that two wrongs are trying to be made right.

But discussing this isn't allowed. Discussing this means you're a bigot.