Saturday, November 29, 2008
After all, reverse engineering from civilian use to military is far easier than developing the technology in the first place.
I’m dedicating the next several Friday Philosophy posts to the Seven Deadly, or mortal, sins. Those are, in no particular order, wrath, greed, pride, lust, gluttony, sloth, and envy. Last week, we covered wrath. This week’s post will discuss greed, the difference between greed and simply earning a living, what places it amongst the mortal sins, and its manifestation in the modern world.
There is a huge difference between greed and simply wanting to have enough to support yourself and your family comfortably and being greedy. That difference is that one type of person wants comfort and security, and the other wants the wealth, and the power that wealth brings, simply for its own sake. The individual who isn’t greedy might acquire wealth anyway, but will usually donate some to charity, will invest in the community, will invest in small businesses, will otherwise act to help create jobs that help others. In other words, money is a means to an end.
For the greedy individual, however, money is an end unto itself. They might invest, but only to make more money, and they’ll look for the investments with the highest short term yields. They don’t donate to charity, they don’t invest in their community, and will often act in ways that hurt others (fraud, theft, etc.)
It’s this acting against others that places greed into the mortal sins territory. Once again, Thomas Aquinas’s idea that what makes a sin a mortal sin comes into play: the individual is turning his back on God in favor of his vice. And this vice leads directly into other sins, just as the other mortal sins do.
The current economic meltdown was directly caused by greed. No, I’m not going to beat up on our free market economy. Capitalism might not be perfect, but it’s the best thing going, and I’m not an anti-capitalist. No, it wasn’t the free market economy causing greed that’s led us into a downward spiral. Instead, it’s the greed of a few individuals that has damaged our economy.
The CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are excellent illustrations of the mortal sin of greed. These two individuals engaged in creative bookkeeping to make it seem that the companies were far more successful than they actually were, and to hide the issues that homeowners were coming to face. These two individuals took advantage of the average American’s desire to have a home to cheat people out of their money—investors in hedge funds and individuals who wanted to own a home but didn’t have the money for the down payment, rich and poor, alike. They did it not because they wanted their companies to grow and provide more jobs but because they wanted to collect bonuses that were more than twice the amount of their multi-million dollar yearly salaries.
And now that their CEOs’ greed-driven dishonesty has been revealed, the companies that support almost half the market and most of the banking industry are imploding, taking much of our economy with them.
This is one of the sins that I just don’t understand. I don’t see the appeal of money for its own sake. I grew up poor enough that, yeah, I’m a little nervous about being able to pay all of my bills, and probably don’t turn loose of money as easily as I should. However. The only thing I’m interested in is the comfort and security that enough can bring. It’s clear from watching our media darlings that too much brings as much discomfort and insecurity as too little. That would be the main reason I don’t understand the appeal of greed to so many. Especially when one considers the consequences of greed-driven actions.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It's good that they feel secure enough to want to take over their own defense and security, their own law enforcement. Policing and defending the world was not what our army was set up to do. In fact, the Founding Fathers would have kittens over the idea that the nation they created kept a standing army in the first place.
Announcing the timetable to all and sundry falls under what is known as a bad idea. All al Qaeda has to do is wait for us to leave. The Iraqi army and police force cannot stand up to them with the training and cultural habits they have.
And as al Qaeda moves back into Iraq, we will face the same dance with the same partner over the same issue as last time. This time, however, I do not doubt that the attacks will be worse, and the damage longer lasting.
That's not saying that I think Iraq would willingly host al Qaeda. No, the people of Iraq would not want that terrorist group using their country for a home base, intimidating the people around them and killing the ones they couldn't intimidate, any more than most of the people of Afghanistan want the Taliban in power. Unfortunately, in that area, as in our own inner cities and other tribal cultures, the ones with the most guns and most willingness to use violence are the ones that hold the power.
Those who hold with the rule of law cannot stand in the face of that kind of ruthlessness here in the United States. It may be different over in the Middle East.
I pray, for the sake of the people over there, that it will be different.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Each year, we as a nation feast and give thanks for the blessings we've received during the previous year, and we as a nation have much to be thankful for. First and foremost, we can be thankful that almost every individual in the entire nation has, at least on this day, plenty to eat. We can be thankful for the traditions of family that this nation was built on. We can be thankful for the relative safety that Americans live and celebrate in.
Individually, my spouse and I are thankful for our family--our parents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins--and for our son. Mostly for our son, though, this year. He came eight weeks early, and spent his first five weeks in the NICU, but is home with us, now. We're thankful for his health, for his growth, and for the fact that he seems to have taken no ill effects (other than being small for his unadjusted age) from deciding to come early. We're thankful for steady jobs, and for having the foresight to have paid off our debt two years ago. We're thankful for the small savings account that will let us pay cash for the deductible for the baby's hospital stay.
Actually, we have so very many things to be thankful for that it's hard to pick some to share. What are you thankful for this year?
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
We've known for a while that they host terrorist training camps and shelter terrorist networks. We've known for a while that they're behind about half of the terrorist attacks in Iraq, and that they sponsor a lot of the terrorists that Israel deals with.
Well, they just denied that the host and shelter terrorists, and that they're interfering in Iraq, just like Sadam Hussein's press secretery denied that American troops were entering Baghdad, despite video showing that our tanks were tearing around the cityscape behind him.
Monday, November 24, 2008
NATO has, of course, rejected the idea.
Makes me wonder if some of those millions the Somali pirates have already made has been funneled into member nations' pockets.
This is more subtle concerning, as it does, the arguments of the rights of the newly-conceived to life, and of the potential benefits of medical research using aborted fetuses.
However well intentioned the research, though, the facts remain: someone lost his or her life to fuel research that, when used, causes cancer 100% of the time. Adult, placental, and umbilical chord blood stem cell research have already yielded cures and have the potential to yield more, without the ethical debate that embryonic stem cell research necessitates.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Thomas Aquinas, one of the main philosophers of the Catholic Church, defined mortal sins as “something said, done or desired contrary to the eternal law, or a thought, word, or deed contrary to the eternal law.” The Catholic Encyclopedia online further clarifies that as “an aversion from God” caused by a “preference given to a mutable good.”
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be dealing with the seven deadly sins, and their applications in the modern world by those who give lip service to being Christian, and those who declare that sin doesn’t exist.
The seven deadly, or serious, sins are wrath, greed, envy, sloth, lust, gluttony, and pride. This week’s sin I plan to discuss is Wrath.
What is wrath? Anger, yes, but is it a sin? The Bible, in whatever edition you choose to read it, details the wrath of God falling upon those who sin against him. Read that way, no, not all anger is a sin. What makes wrath one of the deadly sins, if not all anger is sinful? Once again, we’ll turn to the Catholic Encyclopedia for the answer:
“…if one desire the taking of vengeance in any way whatever contrary to the order of reason, for instance if he desire the punishment of one who has not deserved it, or beyond his deserts, or again contrary to the order prescribed by law, or not for the due end, namely the maintaining of justice and the correction of defaults, then the desire of anger will be sinful, and this is called sinful anger.
Secondly, the order of reason in regard to anger may be considered in relation to the mode of being angry, namely that the movement of anger should not be immoderately fierce…”
In other words, if the person is irrationally angry, and takes vengeance upon those who do not deserve it in ways that are illegal (and, indeed, because the individual willfully refuses to see truth in the matter, and willfully refuses to consider the law of the land sufficient or even as having jurisdiction over the matter), he or she is committing a mortal sin.
The current actions of the gay activist movement in California is sliding from justifiable and commendable anger over a perceived inequality of treatment into the mortal sin of intemperate wrath. How did I get there? “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
What have they done? They’ve vandalized churches, beat up little old ladies, sent hoax anthrax to Mormon temples. They’ve protested loudly and violently, blocking members of the media from interviewing the victims of their violence. They’re demonstrating the hollow nature of their professed dedication to multiculturalism through racist epithets thrown at the 70% of the African-Americans who were Proposition 8 supporters and their complete lack of respect toward all who do not share their opinions.
I will fully admit that wrath is the mortal sin I’m most prone to. It’s hard to fight it—not impossible, just difficult. The difficulty lies in fighting off the lower parts of your own nature. However difficult that fight is, though, it’s worth the struggle. It’s the fight to be better than your nature that separates human from animal.
Some people don’t bother. Some people let their own worse natures dictate their behavior. When that worse nature steps between them and whatever face of God they follow, that’s when righteous anger turns to the deadly sin of wrath.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
And there is no doubt that the Somali pirates are a problem.
Update: Now, that's what I'm talking about!
Not surprising. We're not responding to provocations like we should be. The world is coming to see us as nothing more than a paper tiger, and I doubt the incoming administration will do anything to demonstrate that, like Teddy Roosevelt suggested, we still carry a big stick.
What a stupid thing to do. Who buys Iran's oil? Who controls a good portion of the airspace between Israel and Iran?
In this case, at least, I believe Stratfor's analysis is wrong, despite Friedman's sound reasoning: I think that it is very likely that Israel will launch an air attack against Iran's nuclear sites within the next sixty days, during President Bush's lame duck period, but before Obama comes into office. Were it not that Iran had just finished enriching enough uranium for a bomb, he probably would have been right; however, I think that Israel's caution and fierce desire to continue to exist will drive them to do the impossible successfully.
Seriously, though. The current problems with the market stem from government interference in the mortgage industry (i.e., you will make that loan, or you're racist, and we'll put you out of business). What makes them think they can do better with our 401(k) plans?
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
There is something fundamentally wrong when there are large segments of the so-called adult population screaming "not fair!" Especially when accompanied by temper tantrums worthy of toddlers, and an unspoken assumption that the grownups (i.e., government and judiciary) fix those mean ol' bullies that make things unfair.
Adults know that life is fundamentally unfair, and deal. Children throw fits, screaming, "not fair!" Which do these gay activists strike you as being?
Update: Just because the baby throws a fit doesn't mean the adults (or who the baby sees as the adults) should give in to the demands.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Indeed. History demonstrates that, for the past nearly three decades, almost every president has been tested with attacks. Some had more success than others in handling and deterring subsequent attacks.
Carter had the hostage situation with Iran, though that wasn't early in his single term. Clinton faced several attacks--the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, the downing of a Blackhawk in Somalia, the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in a Yemeni harbor near the end of his second term, to name a few. George W. Bush had the biggest, nastiest, most significant terrorist attack to date happen in the first nine months of his first term.
Let's take a look at potential trouble spots.
The Middle East
Potential areas in the Middle East that could cause difficulties for our POTUS-elect include Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, the Gaza Strip in Israel, and pretty definitely Somalia.
Iran's insistence on developing nuclear capability in the face of oil prices dropping could change Iran's potential trouble status, though. If the current government's insistence continues in the face of economic downturn that could, perhaps, be worse for Iran's single-export economy than others, it could see a revolution. Such could end with the radical Islamofacists taken out of power, and a more reasonable, moderate, and sane government taking its place.
Afghanistan with its tribal cultures and its unsecured border with neighboring, equally tribal Pakistan, will continue to be a trouble spot, requiring US military intervention to prevent the hostile Islamofacist Taliban government from re-taking the country from its citizens. Oh, and of course, the failure to catch Osama bin Laden hasn't helped stabilize the region, either. The upside to that is that he's worried about his security, and thus, less likely to come out of hiding any time soon.
Syria and Iraq are connected in potential trouble. With Iraq's military's difficulty in closing the border with Syria, insurgents continue to sneak into Iraq to attack US and coalition forces, as well as Iraqi military and civilian targets. Recently, Syria has begun to purchase arms from Russia, making them even more dangerous to Israel. Their danger to us is that they host terrorist training camps on their soil, and might be willing to provide terrorists with WMD.
The Gaza Strip in Israel is a problem, obviously for Israel, less so for us. The Gaza Strip also hosts terrorists, both in training camps and simply hiding from capture or elimination.
Somalia will simply offer the same issues and choices the Barbary Coast did to Jefferson. And Obama is no Jefferson. Honestly, none of our current cast of congress critters are.
That's not even taking into consideration the idea that Obama might have once been, or been born into, Islam. I'm not saying that he was, or that he wasn't. It's not important. What is important about the idea--whether it's myth or fact--is how the radical Islamofacists will view dealing with country whose chief executive officer and commander in chief has committed Islam's greatest sin: converting away from the Muslim religion. No doubt this will spark trouble, probably both in diplomacy and increased violence.
Russia, with its current behaviors, would challenge any POTUS. We've been too distracted, although with good reason, for the past eight years to pay attention to the resurgence of the Russian economy, or notice its renewed imperialistic aggression. We're facing another cold war, with the same tactics--proxies, belligerence masked with diplomacy, escalations of incidents that are borderline (do we respond or ignore this? And I'd bet the current POTUS-elect will choose to ignore the incidents) that build each on the one before--with an eye toward replacing the US as a world-dominating superpower.
And Russia would dominate the world, too, were we to allow it. We tend to let peoples and countries go their own way, so long as they don't start fights. Russia, historically, doesn't.
Here at home
I'm deeply saddened to see that blatant, violent racism is alive and well in the United States. Though we're more color-blind than many European nations, and far better than Australia, some of the threats that our new POTUS-elect come from our own psycho nutjobs who would like to see him dead for daring to be the first black man elected to the highest office in the nation. Once again, I say thank God for the skills of the Secret Service in preserving the President's life.
I'm also deeply saddened that said psycho nutjobs, as well as the P.C. Police, have made it difficult for those who aren't racist to express a political opinion without being accused of being racist, and a danger to the POTUS-elect. The old fart who expressed himself on his own property wasn't necessarily being racist so much as he was expressing outrage at the difference in the way the Obama effigy and Palin effigy were treated, both by officials and the media. I believe this because he named a whole bunch of white congress critters along with the new POTUS-elect on the sign in question. Honestly, this could distract the Secret Service from a real threat to Obama's safety.
So yes, I do foresee a whole host of threat possibilities that Obama will have to face. However, I'm certain that McCain, or any of the other primary candidates, would have faced most of the same.
Friday, November 14, 2008
I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it.--Benjamin Franklin
One classic raccoon trap involves drilling a hole in a log, driving nails into the log next to the hole at an angle that brings the points out into the hole, pointing toward the bottom, and putting something shiny at the bottom. Don’t drive the nails in too far, though; you want enough room for the raccoon to reach in and get the piece of shiny, but not pull the shiny out. The nails should catch on a closed paw, not an open one. The raccoon can get loose—all he has to do is let go of the shiny.
This trap works every time. Raccoons don’t let go of the shiny.
Welfare works pretty similarly. There are individuals that, if they were promised a living just for breathing, told that they deserved a certain standard of living no matter how unwilling to work for it they were, would do anything for that piece of shiny: jump through any hoop, reach down into any hole.
The trap doesn’t work every time, just most of the time. And unfortunately, it’s the next generation that gets caught on the nails.
How does that happen? Two ways. First, you have individuals, like those I grew up with, that see their own baby-making equipment as an income source: they have a baby, the government supports them and their child with income, food, and medical insurance (more on that later). Second, you have individuals who either grew up in those homes and don’t fully realize that there is another way of life, or they have no idea how to go about reaching for prosperity. Depending on the neighborhood and/or school district, they may know how to reach for prosperity, but don’t have the tools—social skills or educational. And often, children born to the first type become the second.
The first type of individual who gets caught on the nails of the trap uses her own uterus for income. She gets pregnant, usually without a husband, sometimes without even anything more than just a baby-daddy sperm donor, has a baby, rides the government benefits until her part of the medical insurance runs out. Lather, rinse, repeat. With each child, she gets free medical care and a slowly increasing income. Many times, she spends this entirely on herself. There is a term for this: welfare queen.
This type of individual was criticized as a myth by those opposed to welfare reform. I can attest, from personal experience observing many of my high school acquaintances and their families (often single mothers that, if they did work, worked at truck stops and bars, and neglected their children), that welfare queens do exist. From my time living in a low-income housing district, I can tell you that it's not as rare as opponents to reform would have you believe. Much of the time, the daughter was only following in the mother’s footsteps. She doesn’t necessarily see anything else as a viable option, or if she does, can’t escape because without the guidance she needs, she gets pregnant early, and gets caught on the nails.
The second type of individual is often a child of the first type: children who grow up to depend on the government simply because a) they don’t fully realize that they can get out of the trap, b) they know that there is a way, but don’t know how to find it, or c) they know there is a way out, have a vague idea how to go about it, but don’t have the social or educational tools necessary to bend or break the nails holding them fast.
The worst part of this second type of second generation victims of welfare is that, not only are there very few people telling them that it’s possible to escape, but the majority is telling them that they can’t. They can’t do it. Because of the color of their skin, their sex, their parent’s or parents’ education level, they cannot make it on their own. They must have the assistance of their benevolent government to be able to live.
So, rather than Franklin’s take on how to help those born into or who’ve sunk into poverty, we help them live comfortably in their trap. Glenn Beck says it quite well:
He knew if you made poverty more comfortable, there's a lot of people that would be like, you know what, I'm just going to kick back here. I'm just going to -- you know what I -- I'm going to sit back and, you know, let the state give me a candle, you know…
Instead what happens is we enslave people in poverty because we give people everything, we make it easy for them to live in poverty and at the same time -- it's the combination of the two -- at the same time the leaders will say, "You can't make it, you can't make it." …
Make people comfortable in poverty and then tell them that
they'll never get out and you are going to be the king of the world.
I certainly hope not--if he is the voice of even a small part of this generation, we can look forward to true misogyny coming back with the coming of age and into political power of the generation he claims to speak for. We can look forward to the United States' average citizen becoming more selfish, and more arrogant, but more ignorant, and less able to defend him/herself from a power hungry government, and an envious world.
And heaven help the rest of us.
Update: The man himself proves my point.
While this is terribly sad, it's not really surprising. People have been looking for ways to avoid the consequences of their actions since Adam blamed Eve for handing him the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Parents have been so shitty for the past two decades or so that it's really not surprising that they want rid of the spoiled monsters they themselves created.
The law was not written to allow parents to abandon children that they screwed up. It was written to allow parents who, after a few days, realize that if they attempt to parent the child they created through their irresponsibility (in many cases), they'll screw the child up through indifference and neglect, or outright physical abuse.
As a new parent myself, I can understand the frantic terror that the idea of that kind of responsibility can raise. I also think that the opportunity to see the wonder of the world through the eyes of your child is the most incredible blessing that a person could be given.
I also think that those who abandon children older than a few days or weeks should be neutered.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Friday, November 7, 2008
I understand the sentiment; however, I could not disagree more. I elucidated some of my reasons in my response to that individual on the comments thread, but did not by any means mention every objection I had to that particular individual's wish.
While I will concede that it could be seen as a provocation, we have the ability to take it far past provocation into deterrence. That's what Regan did in the face of the "evil empire." And, thanks to Regan's policies, the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s in the attempt to keep up technologically, using a command economy.
And we need to step up military spending on technology now--Russia's already beginning the game of oneupsmanship, placing missiles to counter the anti-missile shield we're placing in Europe to block irrational Middle Eastern nations' abilities to hit Europe with nuclear weapons. They're also the ones instigating the provocation by playing in our back yard.
We need to respond to these provocations--and we have to be prepared, and be seen to be prepared, to respond with more than words. I do not say we should not negotiate; however, we need to show that we have the ability to back that militarily before Russia will take us seriously.
I'm praying--hard--that our new president sees that necessity.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I have one thing to say:
OH PLEASE, NOT YET!!! THE LAST ONE JUST STOPPED!!!
I need time to recover from the two year long presidential race that just ended. I don't want to ever face another one even that long. Four years is way too long.
And I'm too tired of it to post a friendly FO on the FFOT blog.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Barack Obama has, however, made history simply by being elected. Despite the misunderstood quote about Bill Clinton being the United States' first black president, we actually have now elected one.Celebrations are going on, both in the United States and worldwide.
The only people who aren't happy with the way this race turned out are conservatives who fear for the well-being of their country.
Oh, and the racist idiots that can't see past the color of his skin to the color of his politics (red). There have already been numerous plots to kill him.
While I'd rather not have had him as president, I will be praying that his Secret Service agents are better than the nutjobs gunning for him. I don't want to see him joining the same club of assassinated government officials and presidents as Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
This is why we haven't won, and won't win, in Afghanistan. The entire region is factioned by tribes. What we need to do is set them fighting each other, withdraw, and let what happens, happen--until they start supporting those who attack us again.
Otherwise, we're going to wind up like Kipling's "Young British Soldier":
When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Oh, hell no. No. We've suffered through two years of this crap. No. No more.
I propose a law: campaigning shall not begin for any election until January 1 of the election year. The candidates may not announce publicly until Halloween the previous year, and may not do more than announce before January 1 of the election year.
I DO NOT WANT TO SEE ANY MORE MULTI-YEAR PRESIDENTIAL RACES!!! I'm so sick of this one I could puke.
The Soviet Union--er, Russia--is showing more and more aggressive tendencies toward their neighbors/former satellites. They're also instigating difficulties with us in our own hemisphere with their games with Communist-leaning South American countries, and with arms sales both here and in the Middle East.
The Middle East is cooling off in some places, heating up in others.
To top it all off, the continuing economic problems currently plaguing us are destabilizing economies worldwide, many far worse than what we're facing. And with an unstable economy, conflict becomes far more likely as people get restless, nervous, and unhappy, and more belligerent people elect more belligerent governments.
Lovely. Here are some of my predictions: watch for a catastrophic terrorist attack on our shores after the election. It doesn't matter who's elected--it will happen. Also, watch for some serious deflation to begin making itself known, and for a whole lot of jobs to disappear as it becomes impractical for businesses to continue to employ people in a goods-surplus environment, especially after the minimum wage increase. Also, look for a major shift in parties in power in the next two years as people get sick of it all.
Some predictions--like probable war, terrorist attacks, a worsening economy, and voters deciding to see if the other party can fix the problems--are easy to make. Others, like where the attack will happen, are impossible.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Some of the cases are horrible abuses that demonstrate why a promiscuous lifestyle is more dangerous to children than they are the women involved, like this one, where the mother's boyfriend burned and beat her toddler, a little boy, over the course of two hours. Another case that had my jaw hitting the floor involved a woman throwing her four year old daughter into traffic after beating the little girl.
I had a ... rather bad childhood. A lot of it was, yes, because of an abusive parent; however, the rest was because of government interference in the home of the non-abusive parent. It takes a lot to get me to say that government interference is warranted.
However, in these cases, and in cases like these, government interference is warranted. I think a closer eye should be kept on the homes of single mothers who have never been married. It's those children who are in the most danger of being harmed or killed.
And in the cases where children are harmed or killed in the care of a boyfriend, I think the mother should be prosecuted far more harshly than the perpetrator for placing her child in danger.