Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

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More prescient than even he would have expected

November 19, 2013

demonhauntedIt is well-known that Dr. Sagan was not religious – he described himself as agnostic, believing he had seen no proof of a supreme being. His 1995 book, The Demon Haunted World, was about using the scientific method and critical thinking instead of superstition and pseudoscience.

Admirable goals, and Carl Sagan was very articulate. His Cosmos series and book (PBS, 1980) probably did more to to help laymen understand the universe than any previous media program. (He also wrote the novel upon which the Jodie Foster film Contact was based.)

But I doubt he would have expected that his description of America in the quote above would have happened so quickly, or that we got there in the way we did. He seemed to believe the “New Age” trends he saw in the 1980s and 90s might grow, and that the much-publicized decrease in our ability to educate our students would result in an overall dumbing down of America. He himself did what he could to keep that from happening. I doubt he thought, though, that only two decades after he wrote those words we would have fallen so far and so willingly.

Hat tip to Scott Lowther and his “Up-Ship” blog for tipping me off to this one.

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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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Eat Mor Chikn

August 2, 2012

On my other blog I did a piece today on why people flocked to Chick-Fil-A yesterday, and how Americans don’t like being told what to do. I invite you to read it.

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Life Imitates Art

May 23, 2012

I just wrote a piece about how the themes in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are being used by liberals, and particularly by the Obama campaign. It can be found at Keep Americans Free! I invite you to read it, and to read Atlas Shrugged.

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The new constitution of the Nation of Hungary, part 1.

March 12, 2012

I recently found out that Hungary enacted a new constitution last year. Apparently it has generated some controversy, inside the country and out. I found the full English text of the constitution at www.presidentialactivism.com and I’ve started to parse it out. There are some interesting things in it.

I remember reading (in a novel, in fact) about the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. The uprising only lasted a couple of weeks before the Soviet Union put the hammer down, but it remains a special event in Hungarian memory – in fact, the date of the beginning of the uprising, October 23, is still a national holiday. We have our Independence Day, but our revolution was successful. The Hungarian people didn’t stand a chance against the Soviet military machine.

The new constitution takes into account two important facts: first, natives of Hungary are scattered throughout eastern Europe, and the constitution protects them as citizens even if they do not reside within its borders. I’m not talking about someone living in the Czech Republic for a year or two, working or attending a university; I’m talking residents of those countries and their descendants who were not born in Hungary. You see, the historical ethnic people of Hungary are the Magyars, and the current nation of Hungary is not the same borders as those of the mostly-Magyar nation prior to 1920, when the Treaty of Trianon broke several areas off. See this article for more.

This is similar to what happened to the Ottoman Empire, when a young Winston Churchill drew the boundaries for what are now many of the countries of the Middle East, without much regard for who lived where – except, apparently, a few ruling families that were on the right side when World War I ended. In this case, not only history, but geography was written by the victors.

So there are several significant ethnic and religious-based groups living within Hungary’s borders who are not, according to the government, “real Hungarians.” That’s my term. The term in the constitution is “nationalities.” Article XXIX states, in part:

(1) Nationalities living in Hungary shall be constituent parts of the State. Every Hungarian citizen belonging to any nationality shall have the right to freely express and preserve his or her identity. Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to use their native languages and to the individual and collective use of names in their own languages, to promote their own cultures, and to be educated in their native languages.

(2) Nationalities living in Hungary shall have the right to establish local and national self-governments.

If this was the US, I think that means (legal) Mexican immigrants can have government schools that teach in Spanish. Back about a hundred years ago, Chicago could have had government-sponsored schools that taught in Polish, and New York in Italian.

However, Article XXIII gives certain voting rights to non-citizens:

1) Every adult Hungarian citizen shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of Members of Parliament, local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(2) Every adult citizen of any other member state of the European Union who is a resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter as well as a candidate in the elections of local representatives and mayors, and of members of the European Parliament.
(3) Every adult person who is recognised as a refugee, immigrant or resident of Hungary shall have the right to be a voter in the elections of local representatives and mayors.

Yep, a non-citizen immigrant has the right to vote at least in local elections. No citizenship required. (I’m not even going to get into the whole European Union bit. The way things are going for the EU lately, it may not even exist by the time you read this.)

I thought that was interesting.

There are some other zingers. Article XXI prohibits pollutants being brought into the country for the purpose of dumping. Article XX outlaws “genetically modified organisms,” so no genmod seeds for Hungarian farmers.

There are four words or phrases that are of particular interest. One is “have the right,” and there are lots more rights in this document than in our Bill of Rights. Or, at least, they are enumerated in greater detail. There is “Hungary shall strive,” which gives them government an out on things like “providing every person with decent housing and access to public services.” (Article XXII.) My favorite is “shall be obliged,” and I don’t know the legal definition. This is used in places like Article XVI, in, “(4) Adult children shall be obliged to look after their parents if they are in need.” Does this mean Gramma and Grampa have to move in with you? Exactly what obligation do you have, and – I have to ask – what business is it of the government?

Turns out a lot is the business of the government. They may take your land (even though you have a right to ownership of property, Article XIII) but they must pay you for it right away. Article XVII says in part that every employee has the right to “annual paid leave.” What? How much?

Free and compulsory education is only through the primary grades. Secondary education must be “free and generally available.” (Article XI)

Here’s one of the things that has many in the EU getting their panties in a bunch: Article II, right away, states “Every human being shall have the right to life and human dignity; embryonic and foetal life shall be subject to protection from the moment of conception.” Yep. No pro-choice here, folks.

If you were waiting for that cloned liver to save you, don’t go to Budapest. Article III prohibits human cloning.

There’s more. As I said, it’s a very interesting document, and the connections between the State and religions is particularly novel, despite stating in Article VII that e”very person shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

I’ll get to that in part 2. Stay tuned…

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About the current Rush Limbaugh flap…

March 5, 2012

He’s an easy target. He makes a living “illustrating the absurd with absurdity.” He is often emotional, and does not suffer fools gladly. He also has the largest audience in talk radio…in fact, one of the largest audiences anywhere in any media. He has coined many phrases used by not only by conservatives, but by people of all political persuasions. (For example, he created “operation chaos” to keep the race between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama going through more primaries…and I’ve heard it used often by others over the last few weeks in referring to the Republican primaries.)

Now, I’m sure I’ve said some things without doing proper research from time to time. I expect all of us have. I have to say, though, that the statements I’ve read and heard from a variety of sources today seem to have been made without having ever heard the argument Rush Limbaugh made the other day.

I’ve been a Rush 24/7 member for years. I suppose that disqualifies me for this discussion. I have heard the whole argument, because I have listened to the audio files from earlier in the week.

As I understood it, Rush was making a couple of points. First, the entire “committee hearing” was a sham. The House Republicans wouldn’t allow “testimony” on the contraceptives/religious freedom issue the Current Occupant of the White House started. That decision was made by Rep. Darrell Issa, who has been critical of the whole issue in the past.

Therefore, Democrats decided to create a sort of a fake hearing to get their points out to the press. I’ve seen it referred to as a “Congressional Panel.” I guess that’s a true statement. There were Congressmen – but only Democrats. They listened to “testimony” from a “Georgetown University law school coed,” whose age was given as 23.

Except…Sandra Fluke is actually 30 and has a long history of promoting feminist causes. In fact, there is some evidence she decided to attend Georgetown specifically because she wanted to make the University’s health care policies an issue. She certainly was not a random female law school student, testifying as to the beliefs and concerns of all her fellow students. She is a woman with a very specific agenda.

So Limbaugh’s first point was that the entire “panel” was set up just to bring this issue to light in the way the Democrats wanted to present it, and the media lapped it up.

His second point was that, assuming Fluke’s testimony could be applied to all female students at the University, two things seemed absurd: if all female students were so concerned about contraception, they must all be having sex or contemplating same; and that they all believed it was the job of the Government to force health care plans to provide means of contraception free of charge. Georgetown, a Catholic Jesuit university, was a perfect target for Obama’s argument that all heath care plans should include contraception, even if they are provided by religious institutions that specifically discourage the use of contraception.

In his “illustration” of the absurdity of these issues – a sham “hearing” and a blatant infringement of religious freedom, not to mention the issue (still to be decided) of the constitutionality of Obamacare – Limbaugh used the absurd. If Ms. Fluke was sexually active – and she must be, or why should she be concerned about contraception? – why should her health care provider be forced to provide it? Granted, Limbaugh did have one break in his logic chain: the price of birth control pills does not increase based on the frequency of sexual activity – although condoms do, of course.

So, if Obamacare distributes the costs for health care across the largest possible group of people, then by extension, we, as contributors to Obamacare, are being forced to pay for her contraception. “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.” Robert Heinlein tried to make that into a pronounceable acronym in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, but TANSTAAFL doesn’t fall right off the tongue. It still is true, though. The bigger issue here is that we are being forced, through taxation, to pay for many, many things that should not be the responsibility of government. Doing so creates more opportunities for control, both in taxation and in rules and regulations.

Limbaugh attempted to show that if the government provides (or forces other agencies to provide) contraceptives for sexually active, unmarried young women, then we – as the providers of the funds used to provide said contraceptives – are, in essence, “paying these young women for having sex.”

Put aside for the moment the fact that a thirty-year-old unmarried law student publicly admitted that she is sexually active. (Even though she did nothing to lead us to believe she is in a committed relationship, even.) You may also put aside the fact that she tried to project her situation to other female students. We may instead stay focused on the issue of the government promoting contraception to the extent of requiring even religious institutions to provide it.

This was the core issue – an issue of religious freedom and public policy. It was not an issue of one law student being sexually promiscuous. Instead, that issue was overpowered by a personal attack.

Limbaugh pushed his logic too far by trying to personalize it and focus it on one person. I’ll agree with that. His apology to Sandra Fluke demonstrated that he realized it as well. You may say that the only reason he apologized was because his advertisers were beginning to bolt, but I don’t think that’s true. I’m sure he got some heat from Premiere Radio Networks, which distributes his show, even though they were quick to support him publicly. Should he have called this woman a slut…no. I don’t think so. But should the President of the United States call this same woman to express his support? No. By giving this incident the focus that can only come from the use of the “bully pulpit” of the Presidency.

The discussion we should be having is why the President is willing to trivialize a constitutional issue. It’s not the first time, of course, and it won’t be the last. Why does he do it? Because it’s his deception tactic – “pay attention to this little thing over here, and you won’t see the great big thing going on over there.”

Okay, Rush Limbaugh said a stupid thing, or at least said a thing stupidly. Is that worse that any one of a number of things Bill Maher has said about other women? Of course not. It was said by Rush Limbaugh, though, which means it’s automatically the most horrible thing ever said by one human being about another.

Let’s get back to the big issues. Rush probably learned a lesson, and maybe we all can, too. Let’s be concerned about how more and more of our freedoms are being taken away, instead.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2011

I’m a little late because I was at our daughter’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, prepared with skill and artistry by my daughter and son-in-law. They are truly getting to be outstanding cooks!

Anyway, I tend to like to leave this link to Rush Limbaugh’s Real Story of the First Thanksgiving. It may open your eyes a bit.

I hope you had a great day! I am thankful for so much I couldn’t list it all here! The Lord knows, and I thank Him for all of his gifts!