Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

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Alternate Universes that we don’t think of as alternate universes

December 5, 2013

There are many books and short stories having to do with”alternate universes” – timelines similar to our own but in which a single historical even changes, and over time the results of that action have large consequences. There are the Sidewise Awards, given in both long and short form.

I won’t bore you with a history of alternate history. You can google it faster than I can write about it. However, you might want to check out the work of Harry Turtledove and Robert Conroy, at least.  Maybe one of these days I will list some of my favorites.

But here I’m talking about something else, primarily television shows. Almost all political series that take place in the present day could be called alternate history. Take “The West Wing,” which was running when the 9/11 attack took place. There wee references to it, but not much, and it did not profoundly effect the timeline in the show after that – even though it did in our timeline.

But here’s my favorite: “In the universe of “Star Trek,” no “Star Trek” ever aired.” I don’t remember where I first read that, but I’ve pondered it over the years in idle moments. For example, apparently manned space exploration continued in ST timeline more extensively than in ours – it was good enough to loft a sleeper ship in the late 1990s to get rid of Kahn Noonian Singh and his motley crew. There was that pesky nuclear war around that time, or after; and the Genetics War before Kahn was exiled, but even that didn’t keep Zephram Cochrane from building a warp ship from an old Titan missile.

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Some like to say that ST inspires us toward that sort of Utopian vision apparently held by Gene Roddenberry. It’s more complicated than that, but I think it is safe to say that ST didn’t really inspire us to maintain manned exploration of space – the Trekkers couldn’t even get NASA to name a real space shuttle after the Enterprise. (The one they named was a test article used for glide tests.) Perhaps a series taking place in the nearer future would have done so more effectively.

Sherlock Holmes, in all his manifestations – novels, stories, films, plays, radio shows, television – existed in a particular world. Usually, as in the original, it was very close to actual history. Later versions had him fighting Nazis and working in a more steampunk Victorian England. The two contemporary versions – “Sherlock” in the UK and “Elementary in the US – apparently take place in a world in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about other things. Perhaps his medical practice took off faster, or maybe he decided to stay in London rather than moving to Southsea, and became involved in other activities.

Still, every time someone in “Elementary” is introduced to Holmes, their lack of surprise at the name, except for its odd sound, seems very strange to me.

Some interpretations of quantum physics imply that there is a multitude of universes. Maybe in one of them Barak Obama lost the Senate election to Jack Ryan, and he stayed in the Illinois General Assembly…

 

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The SR-72! ?

November 5, 2013

sr-72

According to this information from Lockheed, they have a way to combine a regular jet turbine engine with a ramjet that could power a Mach 6 aircraft. Calling it the SR-72 as a nod to the famed SR-71 reconnaissance plane the Lockheed Skunk Works built in the 1960s, this one is to be unmanned – like pretty much every military plane on the drawing boards.

I just hate it that they announced way before they bent any tin, though. The X-33 disaster of promise-oops- can’t deliver is still too fresh in my mind. (In defense of Lockheed, though, a lot of the problem with getting the X-33 demonstrator flying was political. Interference by Congress has a way of screwing up programs like that. Well, any program, really. ) Saying they may have this operational by 2030 sounds like a long way off, but the F-35 Strike Fighter has been in development really for over 12 years. They are just barely getting production aircraft out to the USAF now, seven years after the first prototype flew.

I really hope this will happen, even if just for the jumpstart hypersonic flight would get. But the generation that built the U-2, the SR-71 and even the stealth fighter are pretty much retired or passed on. (Kelly Johnson, the legendary leader at the Skunk Works, died in 1990.)

If anyone can do it I figure Lockheed will. But why announce it so early?

 

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More new stuff at “Keep Americans Free.”

October 16, 2013

I wrote a couple more new posts over at Keep Americans Free. I invite you to take a look.

And go out, right now, and buy Mark Levin’s “The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.”

MarkLevin_LibertyAmendments_Cover__33917.1373489734.1280.1280

 

No, I mean it. Go buy it. Now. It may have the answer to the only way we can get ourselves out of this Washington mess, once and for all.

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“Keep Americans Free” is updated, finally.

October 14, 2013

I’ve updated my other blog, Keep Americans Free!, a couple of times in the last couple of days. I’m going to really try to keep it more timely in the future. I invite you to check it out.

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Okay, finally: my views on George Zimmerman

July 18, 2013

Everybody and their mothers have weighed in on this case, sometimes with great insight, sometimes with great compassion, and sometimes just plain ignorant. You get to choose if I fall into any of those categories. My thoughts about this case are these:

1. This should never have received national attention. The fact that it did has more to do with the manipulation of public opinion (by a number of folks, not just the Guv’mint and/or Big Media) than with the facts of the case.

2. I guess we should be glad that there is nothing else important going on in the US of A that we all can be so concerned about one self-defense case in Florida. Sort of like hanging on for every little thing the Kardashians do. We have no big issues?

3. I’m tired of those would would like to mold public opinion treating every event as something requiring a “national dialogue.” This is code for “Let me on CNN,” friends, pure and simple. We have to fill a 24-hour news cycle, the talking heads have to talk, and they know that people are bored with discussions of things like trade issues with China, or why nuclear power might actually be safer than other ways of creating electricity. I don’t know if it’s study of the demographics or wishful thinking – probably some of both – but any sitcom on network TV shows you what the TV folks in New York think of your level of intelligence. Why should you expect news to be any different? I suppose it’s a variation on “if it bleeds, it leads,” but this is why I no longer watch local TV news and don’t get a local newspaper – too low a signal-to-noise ratio. Limbaugh calls some folks “low-information voters” and that’s who the networks tend to pander to. They could elevate the level of discussion, and enlighten as well as entertain, but I think that ship sailed during the Vietnam War. That’s when they found they could mold public opinion based on the images they showed us on television.

4. This case was never about racism – except for those people who tried so hard to make it so. It was a case of a person who felt his life was threatened, and within the laws of the State of Florida, was he justified in his response. That’s it. The jury was not supposed to determine if Zimmerman feared all black people, just if he feared for his life, and if his actions were within the limits created by Florida law. Frankly, I see all the racism coming from the folks who have been wringing their hands about the “poor, black child” who was killed. I’m sorry it happened as well, but we have established a black thug culture – it is in the media, the music, in the way folks dress. It comes from gang membership. Whether this young man was in a gang or not – he presented a threatening appearance. I’ve seen it happen in Chicago hundreds of times. Posturing is important in certain cultures. If that was what he did, and then provoked Zimmerman, and then they fought…how many other folks would have had the same response?

5. And while this one case occupied thousands of hours of TV and radio coverage, the continued widespread killing of innocent bystanders in Chicago by gang members goes on unabated. Let’s have a “national dialogue” about that, okay?

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I’m becoming an isolationist after all

June 14, 2013

I was in junior high and high school during the Vietnam War. In fact, I was in the last group that was a part of the draft lottery. My birthday was drawn # 322 – nobody forgets what his was. I remember being very upset when the last mad dash was made out of Saigon. I also remember being extremely disappointed in President Nixon for resigning. I think he had had enough, and even after doing what he could to get us out of that mess, he knew the rest of his second term would be all about the Watergate scandal.

I believed at the time, and I still pretty much believe, that we were right in trying to help the South Vietnamese people defend themselves against the North. Unfortunately, I think many of them came to hate us more than the North Vietnamese, and the political and diplomatic ball was dropped so many times it became impossible to be effective. And China and North Vietnam had seen the stalemate that was Korea, and they knew that, even though we went into World War II to kick ass and get out, if they could wait it out and seed enough discontent, they might win the day.

And they did.

I still believe that we should encourage “liberal democracies” all across the world. (Not as in our liberals, but the true meaning of the term.) I guess I mean that we should encourage people to have the right to personal freedom, the rule of law, and self-determination. If we believe rule by tyrants is not morally acceptable, then we should assist other peoples in removing their tyrants and become self-determining. George W. Bush was quite taken by a little book by Natan Sharansky called The Case for Democracy. Sharansky points out that democracies, particular capitalist democracies, do not make war upon one another. I recall that Condoleeza Rice recommended the book to W, and he became a true believer – and that this helped drive his efforts to remake Iraq into a democratic country.

The jury is still out on that one. Iraq had a particular problem besides Islam, which does not fit well within a liberal democracy. It really should be three countries based on its religious and ethnic groups. Holding those three groups together in one country could be very difficult in the long term. It probably wasn’t the best test case for Sharansky’s theory, but it was what was available at the time.

The greater question is, how much do we do to help a people obtain self-determination? Do we covertly aid rebel groups fighting a tyrannical government? (For example, the Iran-Contra affair.) Do we provide air strikes  and armor and take out the government, forcing “regime change”? (As in Iraq.) Do we just provide intelligence and information? Do we provide covert assassins?

Then, of course, conflicts that begin out of a way to help a group of people who are being oppressed can backfire. (See “Arab Spring.”) Sometimes it is difficult to see one group in a conflict that is more moral, or more democratic-minded, than the other. (See Africa in general, and South and Central America.) The Shah of Iran was considered a pretty tyrannical leader, but can it honestly be said that he was worse than what followed? And we don’t really have control of that, do we. (See Iraq, again.)

Then there is Afghanistan. I confess that as I started to write this piece I realized I wasn’t really sure what our objectives are in Afghanistan. To root out Al Qaeda, sure. But we are leaving the local warlords in place, pretty much, and we have devote ten years and an awful lot of lives and treasure in what seems to be a futile effort. No outside country has ever been able to conquer that rockpile, including the Soviets, who worked pretty hard at it. And the most damaging thing Afghanistan can do to the US is continue to grow opium poppies, so they can ship heroin here, and we don’t destroy those fields because the poor folks there would lose their cash crop. What?

Today’s announcement that The Current Occupant of the White House has decided that a leader can kill over 90,000 of his own people, but he’d better do it conventionally, not by using poison gas. That puts him over the line and we have to step in. But we’re going to step in by what, again? Sending an unspecified number of arms (kinds of arms also unspecified) to a rebel organization, which is itself a shadowy outfit.

Now, I’m no fan of the UN. If I was President one of my top ten things to do on my first day in office would be to kick that bunch of whiners out of New York. But we’er opening ourselves to a lot of criticism for openly arming a rebel organization against a recognized sovereign government.

But we’ve done that before and we’ll probably do it again. And I don’t think it will tip the scales, one way or another. And if it does, and the new government of Syria is of a fundamentalist Islamic nature, I doubt they will be thankful of our help for one minute. (See Libya. See Egypt. Oh, hell, see Bosnia.)

Maybe this time the aid will be limited, and no Americans will set foot there, and we won’t move a carrier group to the eastern Mediterranean to bomb the hell out of anybody. (After all, we have that sequester, which means no tours of the White House and the Sixth Fleet doesn’t burn any gas.)

But don’t count on it. Obama has shown himself to be unpredictable in military matters, and if things get really hairy in the Middle East – even more than they are now – he might be tempted to be the Great Intervener.

I’ve become of a mind that if US interests aren’t threatened, leave these people the hell alone. Afghanistan is NOT someplace we should send our young people to die. Neither is Damascus. US interests are not being served in either place. (Want to do something real about Al Qaeda? Go talk to our “friends,” the Saudis. They have far more to do with that bunch than any two-bit warlord in the mountains of Afghanistan.)

The only real US interest in the Middle East is Israel, and Obama has been running away from them as fast as he can for the past five years. He is unlikely to intervene if Iran decided to really go after Israel, and I have a feeling that if their backs are against the wall, the Israelis can take care of themselves. You can’t live your whole life surrounded by people who want to kill you and not have an end-game plan.

And bet on it, the leadership in Israel is not stupid. These are tough guys who will make the tough decisions when they need to, and they’ve been gaming these scenarios for fifty years.

But they might have to turn Tehran into green glass to do it. They wouldn’t want to, but if it came to “us or them,” I think they wouldn’t hesitate. Like I said, tough guys. Serious tough guys.

So I’m turning more libertarian all the time, I guess. That includes getting out of places in the world where we aren’t wanted and where we are gaining nothing.  Cutting the military? Then pull ’em back and use them for defense, not “power projection.” Let somebody else be the world’s policeman. Let’s see how that works out.

I think if I had a child who was killed while serving in the US military in Afghanistan I would be more than heartbroken, not just for the loss of a child, but that he or she was lost for nothing…a patriotic American lost because of misguided politicians who seem to have little concern for the lives of our military men and women.

I know that makes me sound like one of those anti-war folks during the Vietnam War, but I’m not blaming the soldiers. I would never do that. But they are far too often put in harm’s way for no good reason, and I think it is becoming more evident every day that trying to police the world, and losing blood and treasure to defend the ungrateful is the height of stupidity.

I never thought I would feel this way. But I’ve watched this too many times. I’m tired of hearing of young men and women dying for no reason that can be explained to their families. But I have absolutely no idea how to go about changing this situation.

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Starbuck’s twitter controversy over gun safety

June 11, 2013

Katee-Sackoff-Joins-Female-Expendables

Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck on the great reboot of Battlestar Galactica) recently commented on Twitter, advocating gun safety after a four-year-old accidentally killed his father with a gun. Reports said that she lost half her Twitter followers – about 10,000 – due to a debate that ensued about gun safety versus gun control.

Nothing I read made Katee sound nutty. She just realistically stated that gun control, at least the way it is discussed today, isn’t likely to happen in the US. But as we know, a lot of folks are crazy over gun control, for a variety of reasons.

And apparently Katee actually gained followers – about 10,000 – during the tempest in a Twitter teapot. And that she really has over 100,000.

I didn’t have to post this. I had two points – first, that gun control advocates can be pretty rabid. (If gun advocates were as rabid, they would be shooting things up all over the place.) Second, that Katee Sackhoff is pretty damn cool. (Currently she’s starring in Longmire on A&E.)