Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Last Lion

I have completed both volumes of the two volume biography Winston Churchill titled “The Last Lion”. Overall this work confirms the old adage that within every fat book there is a thin book struggling to get out. While this is a very complete and detailed biography it is filled with minutiae and asides that are not all that interesting, contribute little to the forward motion of the book, and generally break the flow of the story. Nevertheless, for all of its flaws this is an excellent book and one well worth reading, because it reveals the man as he must have truly been, brilliant but flawed.

There is no doubt and this book confirms the assessment that Churchill was a brilliant and gifted man. However, it also shows his flaws and they were many. He was a man with one foot solidly planted in the 19th Century and one in the 20th Century but clearly he was never comfortable in the 20th. Ironically, he was one of the few – and maybe only – British leaders who actually looked into the future, while most of them couldn’t come to terms with what was obviously the future. Yet Churchill himself maintained many of the same values that characterized his colleagues and 19th Century Britain – the Britain of Empire, pomp, glory, and most of all power.

Churchill was an aristocrat and personified everything that most Americans find distasteful with the aristocracy. He lived his entire life with servants, other aristocrats, and the royal family. He was a “gentleman” and felt that only other ‘gentlemen” were suited to lead. By gentlemen he of course meant other aristocrats or the upper classes, but he didn’t equate upper class to money (he himself always struggled for money) but to birth – either you were born a gentleman or you weren’t and if you weren’t you could never become one. He pulled every string and used every connection to further his own ambitions which were generally to benefit the country but always seemed to benefit him as well. He was soundly disliked by almost everyone who came into contact with him. Some – like General Lord Kitchener—came to respect and admire his abilities and to tolerate him but could not be construed as friends.

Perhaps the most revealing thing about Churchill was the way he conducted himself as a junior officer. He was a subaltern – equivalent to a 2nd Lieutenant – but he regularly went off on his own, ignoring orders from superior officers, pulling strings in London to get different assignments, and simply moving on to other countries and conflicts as it suited him. Had any other junior officer attempted this they would have been court-martialed or at least called on the carpet. He simply had his mother see the King or one of her many connections and got his way. This was the root of the dislike Lord Kitchener had of Churchill. Furthermore, all of his life – including his tenure in the service – he traveled with an entourage. He always had servants and baggage – mountains of baggage that included fine wines and foods – even in the service. Unior officers do not – as a rule – have an entourage and certainly do not travel with mountains of baggage filled with luxuries. So there is no wonder in that he was heartily disliked by virtually all of his superior officers and most of his colleagues.

He was always for the country and could never really accept the loss of empire. He almost single handedly prolonged the First World War by insulting the Turks. When the Turks who were clinging to the tottering Ottoman Empire contacted him to establish an alliance prior to the war—he rejected them because they ‘weren’t gentlemen”. He then added insult to injury by confiscating three battleships built by Britain for the Turks without even offering to pay for them. He needed them – Britain needed them – the Turks were not British and therefore inferior so they had no right to them. This arrogance characterized him his entire life.

He never considered anyone except himself and what he wanted was important and necessary and what anyone else wanted or needed was unreasonable, irrelevant, or unnecessary. Opinions and needs of those not of the aristocracy or ruling class were simply ignored unless he was running for office and in that case he was willing to address their collective needs and desires – as long as it suited him.

His arrogance was monumental and was the root cause of almost all of his problems. His colleagues in Parliament detested him and conspired to keep him out of office. While this was understandable – given his personality – it cost Britain and the world dearly because he had the best grasp on the world situation and a private intelligence network that was probably superior to the governments. The result was he was a voice crying in the wilderness – ignored and vilified until the incompetence of the administration and the inevitability of war became obvious. Of course the result was he was name Prime Minister and led Britain throughout WW II. However, at the conclusion of that conflict he was turned out of office and remained for the rest of his life a man admired but not liked.

Overall – a brilliant man who foresaw most of the woes of the 20th Century but could do little to stop them primarily because of his lack of tact, sensitivity, and overall arrogance based on class.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Evolution and Science

The latest claim by the Darwinists is that evolution has just been demonstrated as having occurred – not over millions of years but over a very short span of years. The basis of this claim lies in an experiment done with lizards with no natural predators and confined to a small group of islands. On some of the islands these ground hugging lizards were left alone as a control while a predator lizard was introduced on other islands. The forecast was that the prey lizards would either adapt by moving to the trees or die out. Within a short span of years the population of the prey lizards had been dramatically reduced but the surviving lizards had developed longer legs (as predicted) and had moved into the trees. This is now hailed as dramatic proof that evolution can occur over short periods of time and presumably demonstrating that “punctuated equilibrium” is real.

Of course the flaw in this argument is that this does not illustrate evolution at all because the lizards – while changed – remain lizards and that all this does is demonstrate “adaptation”. Adaptation within a species has never been seriously challenged and has been repeatedly demonstrated. Had these lizards actually changed into a separate and distinct species, one that could not interbreed, then THAT would have been proof of evolution, but alas they did not, they simply remained a long legged version of the same species. This is another – and typical – example of how scientists are desperately clinging to their faith in evolution when it seems everywhere they turn there is growing evidence that the Theory of Evolution is either dead wrong or seriously flawed.

There are several other examples that are quoted in text books and generally cited as “evidence” that evolution has occurred. Perhaps the most common and frequently cited example is that of the horse. Museums and textbooks frequently show Eohippus, (now known as Hyracotherium), Mesoshippus, Merychippus, Pliohippus, and Equus. For this majestic march of evolution to be true would require that these animals would be found in a chronological sequence with the oldest in the lower strata and the earliest in the higher strata. Unfortunately this isn’t the case and in some cases the oldest forms are found above the newest forms and commonly these animals are found to coexist in the strata. To make this example even shakier no full set of bones exist and the examples they do have show that these animals gained ribs and then lost them only to regain them later, so even the anatomy of these animals is fails to meet even the minimum standard for evolution.

The usual descriptions and supporting evidence for evolution almost always cites examples of adaptation, for example the Trilobite. The Trilobite made it’s first appearance in the Cambrian and existed through millions of years, spanning the Ordovician, Devonian, and Silurian periods and eventually becoming extinct. These Trilobites are cited as examples of evolution because they are distinctly different in each epoch and demonstrate evolutionary changes – unfortunately they never became anything other than Trilobites so while they adapted to their changing environments they never became fish, or crabs, or donkeys – just different trilobites. What the scientists who look to the Trilobite for evidence of evolution fail to address the origin of the first Trilobite. In fact, the Pre-Cambrian fossil record is very sparse and consists exclusively of algae, mosses, and some simple worm like creatures. However, at the beginning of the Cambrian the fossil record bursts with evidence of Trilobites and other complex organisms complete with eyes, bodies, digestive tracts, and limbs. So the origin of the Trilobite is not explained, just that once the Trilobite came onto the scene it adapted to the environment and existed for millions of years – as a Trilobite.

It is important to understand that a species “is a group of naturally occurring populations that can interbreed and produce offspring that can interbreed.” This is an important fact because Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” doesn’t address how one species turns into another because different species cannot interbreed. The popular position today is to look to “mutation” as the explanation of how one species changes into another. Alas mutations occur in individuals and are not mass events. So even if a spontaneous mutation were to occur it would affect one individual and not groups. Even if that individual were to reproduce there is no evidence that a whole new species would result, even over extended periods of time. If this were the case then the fossil record would show some evidence of transitional life forms but – unfortunately – it does not and most paleontologists think these transitional fossils will never be found because they don’t exist. This failure of the fossil record to support evolution beyond adaptation, has resulted in a new theory called “punctuated equilibrium” meaning that one species will “evolve” into another species over very short periods of time – perhaps thousands of years rather than millions. This new theory is intended to get around the obvious flaws and failures of evolution as taught by the true believers in the scientific community.

Unfortunately the historic record goes back thousands of years and the alleged ancestors of man go back a million years but once again there is no evidence of any species turning into another. Canines have remained canines, fishes have remained fishes, and apes have remained apes. To circumvent this linear view – called orthogenesis – the newer view is called “branching phylogeny”. In this view animals change (evolve) in fits and starts while some die out and others prosper eventually becoming something quite different from where they started. In this view a simple organism can – through time – become a worm, a fish, an amphibian, a mammal, and a man. To demonstrate this, the horse is once again held up as an example because the fossil record shows that various forms of horses at various levels of sophistication existed simultaneously. Even if this strained view of evolution were accepted as true, there is still no fossil evidence that explains the sudden appearance of sophisticated animals in the Cambrian or evidence that one species actually became another.

The reality is that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is in fact just that – a theory – and one that is increasingly on shaky ground.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Wealth of Nations

For some people the purpose of government is to redistribute the wealth so that all can share equally. This of course was the foundation of that cornerstone of Marxism “From each according to his abilities, and to each according to his needs.” Of course this didn’t work well in practice because very quickly those with ability stopped producing and joined the ranks of those in need. The result was the grinding poverty, hunger, and alcoholism that characterized the Soviet Union. However the failure of Marxism has not deterred those “progressives” who feel it is their moral duty to take the earned wealth of the few and distribute it to the poor. These programs were first introduced by Robin Hood in the 12th Century and not unexpectedly were hugely popular with poor but less popular with those who were being robbed. Since that time the Robin Hoods have abandoned their weapons and become politicians who now use the power of government to legally take the wealth of the industrious and distribute it to the “needy”.

Those individuals who have resisted this governmental robbery have been labeled “filthy capitalists” who exploit the poor for profit. Of course “poor” is a relative term, much like “rich” but those who feel they must provide for the “poor” never actually want to define precisely who is “poor” and who is “rich”. So precisely who is “rich?” In a shocking study conducted by the Helsinki based World Institute for Development Economics Research of United Nations, it was discovered that the world’s wealth is more unequal than the world distribution of income. In this study wealth was viewed as “assets minus debts”. On this basis, assets of $2.200 per adult was enough to place a household in the top half of world wealth and assets of $61,000 would place the household in the top 10%. For those with assets of $500,000 or more, they are in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people, which equates to approximately 37 million people, not exactly an exclusive club.

What is missing from this study is any correlation between the government and the wealth of individuals. The collective wealth of those countries with Socialist Governments amounts to 23%:

Germany == 4%
Italy ==4%
France == 5%
Britain == 6%
Netherlands == 2%
Canada == 2%
Spain == 1%
Switzerland == 1%

However, those countries with a capitalist economy account for 65% of the top 1% of the wealthy:

United States == 37%
Japan == 27%
Taiwan == 1%

It is worth noting that both Japan and Taiwan are small countries with relatively small populations, yet these countries account for more individual wealth than France, Germany, Italy, and Britain combined. Of course the socialists tax profits at confiscatory rates and in general consider it the responsibility of government to redistribute the wealth and to assure all citizens are comfortable. This comfort also translates into lower productivity because the attitude of these socialists is that work is the means to pleasure. The United States and Japan have the highest productivity in the world and control 64% of the total 1% of world wealth and the prevailing attitude is that work is pleasure, yet both countries have considerable tax requirements.

Naturally this opens the argument regarding the “quality” of life. The Europeans are more relaxed, have more fun, and don’t work as hard as the Americans and Japanese. But is that really true? Do Americans work for money like the Europeans or do they work for pleasure? If they work for pleasure then they are having as much fun as the Europeans and are living considerably better. Americans have greater material wealth in the form of assets – which equates to single family homes unlike Europeans who generally live in apartments. The list of course is virtually endless but the end result is that the Europeans have fewer possessions but more vacations. They have high unemployment but the government subsidizes the poor through the high tax burden, which penalizes the industrious and leaves them little money to invest or save – if they are to enjoy their vacations.

It seems that the lesson here is that the capitalist countries have higher productivity, greater wealth, lower unemployment, and a better life in general than those socialist countries who hold themselves up as superior but in reality have considerably less other than vacations.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Is McDonald's an Imperial Power

Classic imperialism is defined as a policy of extending control or authority over foreign entities or countries as a means of acquisition and maintenance of empires. Usually this applied to the direct territorial conquest of these entities or countries. This form of imperialism describes the Roman and Persian Empires as well as the European Empires of the 19th Century. These empires were essentially the expansionist adventures by stronger nations over weaker ones primarily for the purpose of monetary gain via taxes or enslavement. None of these empires proved stable or enduring although to some extent they did have a residual cultural influence.

The term “Imperialism” was actually coined in the mid-1800’s to reflect the expansionist policies of the European countries – primarily France and England. It was argued by Lenin as well as other anti-capitalists that capitalism induced imperialism because these capitalist countries had to find new markets for their goods and new sources for the needed raw materials. However, this argument rings hollow because no demonstration is offered showing that capitalism is the root cause of expansionist policies. Even if these countries had not been capitalist but instead socialist, communist, or even some other alternative, could they have grown and prospered without looking externally for resources and markets? The historical fact is that the greatest of the Communist Regimes, founded by Lenin was imperialistic and became the USSR, so the logical conclusion is that capitalism is not the driver of imperialism or expansionist policies.

More recently it has been argued by Marxist scholars who are unwilling or incapable of abandoning their view that capitalism is the root of all evil, that capitalistic international trade and banking is the driver of Imperialism. This argument seems to be mounted in order to forgive the USSR its demonstrated imperialism. Unfortunately it seems the USSR fragmented but prospered once it abandoned the Marxist policies of central planning and government control and introduced capitalism. Now it can be argued that it is capitalism that drives political freedom as well as economic vitality. This has been illustrated more recently as the Peoples Republic of China moves increasingly to a capital orientation. In fact the current PRC more closely resembles the old Imperial China than it does the People’s Paradise that the Marxist apologists would have you believe.

Furthermore, if international trade is an indicator of imperialism then the most imperialistic nation on the planet is the PRC. They manufacture and export more goods than they import and they dominate the world markets. This view of international market expansion is true of other nations as well so international trade per se does not seem to be a good indicator of either imperialism or expansionism. So this brings us to the issue of the World Trade Organization and the impact open markets have on the international community. Products are financed by country A, manufactured in country B, and sold in countries C and D, by country A. The implication is that country A is exploiting the workers in country B by paying wages lower than they would have paid in Country A and that by selling their products in countries C and D they are denying work to the people in those countries. Obviously the inference is that had not country A sold their products in these countries someone would have produced the same product locally. Unfortunately this isn’t quite how it works. Work is being generated in all of these countries because people must organize and distribute these products. The focus is on the manufacturing rather than on the selling, distribution, or the law of supply and demand. It is also worth noting that the greatest beneficiary of these trade policies has been the PRC and third world countries whose revenues have increased while the trade deficit of the most capitalist country in the world has increased. And this brings us to the nub of the problem and that is the growing Americanization of the world. Those who feel that America is to blame for the world’s ills, have now coined a new version of imperialism and that is “Cultural Imperialism”

This form of imperialism is associated with America primarily although both Russia and China have not only practiced classic imperialism but have also forced their culture onto other countries who they have occupied. However, even though these countries have received some condemnation for these actions, they have largely been ignored by the international community while the United States is viewed as the epitome of an imperialistic nation. France in particular has adopted strong measures against “Americanization” and much of the Islamic violence is being justified on the basis of resisting the erosion of Islamic values by America’s cultural imperialism.

Clearly the US is not a classic imperialist nation and this is evidenced by the withdrawal of American forces from every country they have had to liberate from invaders and this includes France as well as Haiti and it can be argued that the Haitians would be a great deal better off under American control. Instead this charge against the US rests on the spread of American culture through the internet, Television, Cinema, and of course food, with McDonalds being the visible manifestation of American domination. American English has become the lingua franca of the world. Virtually everyone in the world speaks English and protesters write their signs of protest in English so when their protests are broadcast via satellite television everyone will be able to read them. After all not many people can read Chinese, Swahili, or Urdu, but virtually everyone can read English. Because American television and movies are seen worldwide, American customs and styles are in great demand. Hence you see people in some very remote places wearing sweatshirts and T-shirts carrying the names of American Universities and wearing baseball caps. Usually these products are not manufactured in the United States and may not even be sold by an American company, but they represent America and the desire by others to be “American”, which is actually a state-of-mind”.

Then of course we have McDonalds and Coca Cola who represent the physical imperialism of America. These products are in great demand and the largest McDonalds in the world is in Russia. Obviously the local people want these products or these companies would simply close up shop and leave, but these companies are growing and expanding everywhere. What is not noted is that they also create jobs in the host country and generate revenues via taxes. Since these companies as well as Burger King, Starbucks, Microsoft, and others are in great demand and expanding with demand we can conclude that the people do not view America as either evil or imperialistic, so who does? Certainly the French government sees America as imperialist and is fighting a losing battle against the “Americanization” of the French Language. American English – like America itself is a polyglot – where words from virtually every language in the world are simply adopted and used which has made English the most subtle and expressive language in the world. The French government wants to keep French “pure” but that is impossible because they cannot compete with the sheer volume of new words. But the French are rather silly and don’t really represent any serious threat to the US.

The greatest threat to America comes from Islam and it is the spread of American culture and ideals which drive their violence toward America. America is called the “Great Satan” which is a term generally misunderstood by the West. Satan is the tempter – the evil one who corrupts and leads souls astray and in this context it is easy to see how America can be viewed as the Great Satan. We have freedoms unheard of in other parts of the world and these are viewed and demonstrated in television and movies everyday. We have great wealth and this is demonstrated as well and it is these things that motivate others who covet a better life. Virtually everything – good and bad – is available in America and it is freedom to pursue individual happiness that sets America apart and drives the man-in-the-street to be more “American”. So it isn’t the average citizen who sees America as Imperialistic but rather it is the power elite and the religious leaders who oppose America and who accuse America of being imperialistic. The people want what they see America has and it is this demand that drives the demand for American culture, not some deliberate effort by America to obliterate the local culture. In fact, this resistance to Americanization is simply an example of Cultural Fascism where the local governments are using force both directly and indirectly to thwart the desires of their people.

So while Russia and China practiced forced cultural imperialism, America’s cultural domination is not via any government policy of the United States but is the result of the desires of the local populace to have the freedoms and wealth they see in the US. So is Ronald McDonald an imperialist? It seems a better question is “can imperialism be self-induced”? If people are voluntarily seeking to adopt American products and culture that hardly qualifies as imperialistic while the active resistance of their governments to their desire to be more American is cultural fascism.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Reflections on Life

My father passed away recently and this has caused me to reflect not only on his life but my life and how does anyone evaluate a life. How do you determine what constitutes a successful person or fulfilled life? How do you know that you have been successful? In fact what should you be successful at in order to be viewed as a success. My wife has pointed out that everyone is given roles to play in their life. They are called upon to be son or daughter, friend, aunt or uncle, husband or wife niece or nephew, father or mother, grandparent, student, teacher, wage earner, and the list is virtually endless. Everyone has roles they are offered to play and some are taken and some are not. Of those roles taken some are performed well, some not so well, and others may be total failures. For example it is possible to a brilliant executive but poor husband, and failure as a parent or conversely a person can be a great parent but a failure in business or marriage.

We see statues of great men astride their horses and in heroic poses but is greatness or heroism a sign of success? Should we emulate these men? Should we teach our children to be like them? All of these questions lead to the same point and that is the definition of success and how do you evaluate a life. If you equate success to material possessions, heroic deeds, public acclaim, fame, awards, or similar public acknowledgements then only a small percentage of people in the world are successful. Therefore, these cannot be the marks of a successful life but if not then what can be viewed as the basis for a success?

First, I think most people are not capable of evaluating themselves because many people would see themselves as failures even though those about them would view them as wildly successful. Therefore, the evaluation must be done by others and the very basis of the evaluation must be the level of love and respect a person has from those around him. Has the person been committed to another person for a long period of time? Anyone who has been married for any period knows that every relationship has its ups and downs and that it requires commitment and work to maintain. Therefore, anyone who has been able to enter into a marriage and keep it intact for any length of time can be viewed as being successful in marriage. Of course this opens the door to the question regarding same sex “marriages”, which are legally disallowed. Well it seems to me that if any two people establish a long term relationship then they can be viewed as having been successful in a committed relationship.

What about those people who elect to never enter into a marriage or committed relationship – are they automatically failures? Suppose they have some defect, either physical or psychological that prevents them from entering into a committed relationship – does that automatically disqualify them from being recognized as a respected and loving individual? Are they automatically deemed failures in life? I think not, so the fact that an individual can point to a committed relationship over a long period does not automatically deem this person to have had a successful life or worthy of any more or less respect than some one who has not had this kind of a life.

Certainly respect must be earned but is it by itself enough to qualify a person as having had a successful life? I think this might be the least important criteria for evaluating a life because there are many people who have earned great respect but have failed as parents or spouses. I think Albert Einstein falls into this category as does Winston Churchill, but I suspect many business executives and community leaders might fall into this category as well. And this brings us back to the original point – how can you evaluate a life lived? I don’t have an answer to this question and I don’t think anyone else does either. I believe that no one can evaluate a life and conclude that it has been successful or unsuccessful. Of course at this point some will point out that Hitler could not possibly be viewed as having led a successful life, but then that is that person’s opinion and it might be shared by many but it certainly may not have been Hitler’s opinion of himself. There is no doubt that history renders a judgment on some of the prominent, but even there the evaluation of history ultimately is an opinion. Julius Caesar is one of those historical figures about whom history has shown a great deal of ambivalence. Napoleon is probably another who is viewed as monster by some and hero by others.

I think that it is only those people who have been closely associated with another person are qualified to evaluate that person’s life. Certainly, for some of the prominent and famous history may judge them to have been successful or not, but that is an outsider’s opinion and may not be the opinion shared by their families or even those who knew them well. So each of us, in the final analysis, can only be judged by those closest to us. It is our friends and family that ultimately determine if we have been successful. Are your children happy, successful, and independent? Do others speak of you with love and respect? Do others see you as a positive role model or as a negative one?

In reference to my father, I can only say that when I was married I felt that being a husband and father would be easy, all I had to do was to do the opposite of my father. Very quickly I found myself in situations where I thought well I will do what my dad did but I will simply do it better. This turned out to be a good plan but it wasn’t very long before I found myself struggling to do the things my dad did as well as he did them. Finally, I found myself hoping to attain his standard of conduct and falling short. So did my dad have a successful life – in my opinion he did and not only that, he provided a role model for conduct that few can attain and I certainly haven’t, although I try. I think my father was a very successful man and someone who had the love and respect of all who knew him. In the final analysis success is very elusive and may only be determined by the echo’s left behind.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How The World Turns

I am not a political analyst nor am I a military strategist, but I do read a great deal of history in terms of both subjects. Therefore, as I observe global events over the past several years I am beginning to wonder how much most Americans understand what is behind these events and their headlines. It seems to me that most Americans, like most Westerners, tend to think in terms of their culture and experience rather than historical perspectives, so I thought some insight might be in order.

Africa is a mess and it has always been a mess. The African Natives are tribal, they have always been tribal and continue as tribes even today. When a Westerner looks at Africa he sees a continent made up of various countries, but these countries are creations of the European Imperial Powers and bear no relationship whatsoever to the historical tribal boundaries. The result has been off and on again conflict between tribes and countries dominated by various tribal strongmen. It is also worthwhile noting that while the Europeans capitalized on the slave trade, the reality is that trade was going on between various African Tribes and the Arab Muslims to the East before the Europeans came on to the scene. Furthermore this trade continued up until the 1960’s when it was “officially” banned by the Saudi Government but there is every reason to believe it continues even today.

The countries across North Africa, with the exception of Egypt and possibly Ethiopia are creations of the Imperial Powers. Most of these countries as well as those of the Middle East didn’t exist until France and England carved up the Ottoman Empire. It is worth noting that the Ottomans controlled all of what is now known as the Middle East, all of North Africa, Spain, (until the 15th Century), much of the Balkans, Turkey, and Persia. This Empire was larger than the Roman Empire and was Muslim, although Christians and Jews were permitted to live within the Empire. Although the Ottoman Empire was viewed as a political entity by the West, in reality it was a Theocracy dominated by various Emirs, Aga’s, and other Religious leaders, it was never a political organization as experienced in the West.

Then we have the problems associated with the Pacific Rim. China is technically a “communist” nation but in reality it is simply following the historical pattern of a strong central government. It used to be an Imperial Nation but the strength of the central government has always ebbed and flowed dominated now by warlords and then by a strongman. The difference between the old imperial system and the current “communist” system is virtually invisible. The same is true of India, which has historically been fragmented into small states until the British came. Since that time they have more or less been forged into a nation but they continue to teeter on the brink of re-fragmentation. The more interesting point here is that both China and Japan have considered Korea to be source of slaves, to be exploited by first one then the other. Koreans are looked down upon by both the Chinese and Japanese. Until the 1950’s Korea was an insignificant backwater and the incursion of the Chinese Communists have left us with North Korea, which is led by a central figure Kim Il Jong, who is bent and determined to establish himself as a major political figure. All of these are historical perspectives that seem to be lost on the public at large.

In this context Christendom includes Christians, Jews, Atheists, and all others who are not Muslim. Christendom is characterized by a series of nation states, some democratic and some not, but all easily distinguished by borders and some sense of national identity. With some minor exceptions these nation states fight each other over various issues, usually regarding territory or economics, but rarely over religion. While it is true that when the West was emerging from the dark ages religion and religious wars were fought,but these largely disappeared by the 1600”s. The result is that today the West is comprised of nation states whose governments have authority and can be relied upon to act with authority.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the flaw in how the West is approaching the war on terror. For the typical Westerner, wars are fought between nation states over territory, economics, or resources, but never over an abstraction like freedom or religion. Because of this ingrained idea, the West continues to perceive Iraq, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Syria, and virtually all of the “nations” of the Middle East and Africa as “nations” run by a central government. They attempt to negotiate with these entities and to sign treaties without recognizing that these governments are inherently weak and are not viewed by the Muslim population as being independent of Islam or speaking for them.

The reality is that the Muslims have been dedicated to erasing all people and religions and are not interested in establishing any government other than an Islamic one based on Shar’ia Law. They are not interested in educating their people other than in Islam so they have no interest in technology, economics, education, or any culture other than Islamic. They do not believe in freedom of any kind and are dedicated to enforcing their view of the world. Most recently Israel gave up land to the Palestinians in a futile effort to buy peace and left behind green houses, buildings, and infrastructure. The Muslims came in and promptly destroyed all of it and continued to use the land to attack Israel. The strategy of “Land for Peace” failed and it will continue to fail because the Muslims do not want to create a modern state but want to destroy everything that is not Islamic. They want to return to the seventh century and “pure Islam”.

It is widely recognized that Iran is behind most – if not all – of the terrorism today, but rather than taking the battle to the Iranians, the West continues to focus on the offending “countries” as if the government of these “countries” had any authority over the people.

Iraq has historically been the seat of the Caliphate and thus the heart of Islam. It has been the seat of Muslim art and culture and has historically had a highly educated population. However, Muslims in general are not a highly educated people but that seems to be more of a symptom than a root cause of the anger and instability that characterizes Islam today. In fact there are two sides to the Islamic issue. On the external side there is the anger aimed at the West that is being channeled through religious activism. On the surface this appears to be the continuing effort by Islam to convert the world and stamp out all other religions. But to a large extent, this is really a ploy being used by Islamic leaders to distract their people from the gross mismanagement of their only revenue source which is oil. In the classic strategy of demagogues these religious leaders are using the West and Christendom as scapegoats for the appalling conditions that exist in most Muslim countries and this represents the internal conflict that is raging throughout Islam.

Islam is actually divided into the Sunni and the Shi’ia and this schism goes back to the 8th Century and rests on the dispute over who was (is) the true successor to Mohammed. Throughout history the Sunni’s have been the minority, but also the dominant sect who have exploited and abused the Shi’ia. With the overthrow of Shah the Shi’ia became the dominant sect in Iran. Iraq was a Sunni nation and Hussein attacked Iran for many reasons, but certainly one was to re-establish the Sunni dominance. When Saddam was overthrown that unleashed the Shi’ia who are out for revenge. But beyond this mundane seeking of revenge, behind the scenes is a power struggle that is raging over the leadership of Islam – the Caliphate. Osama bin Laden was well on the way to becoming the Caliph but when he was forced into hiding his power began to wane and others are attempting to establish their right to the Caliphate by attacking the West and indirectly the Sunni’s or the Shi’ia depending on which sect they belong to. The West is caught in the middle of this power struggle and until that is resolved it is unlikely the Muslims will stablize.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


  • I continue to be amazed how various pundits, politicians, reporters, and other military amateurs continue their relentless criticism of Secretary Rumsfeld and his conduct of the War on Terror. These people are no more qualified to critique the actions of the SecDef than I am and in fact being a student of military history, I might actually be more qualified. The latest attack(s) have been launched by the left through a number of Generals including Wesley Clark and Colin Powell. It is worth noting that both of these Generals are actually Pentagon Generals with little experience in Battle. Frontline Generals in the mode of Field Marshal Rommel and General Patton are hard to find today. In fairness General Powell did support and assist General Schwarzkopf in conducting the Gulf War. However, that was a classic war in the sense it was a war between nation states and conducted in the grand manner. We saw movements of air and sea forces, feints, flanking maneuvers, and everything conducted at the Division and Corps level. It was truly marvelous and perhaps the last war of this type ever to be fought. The War on Terror is much more intimate and the battles – such as they are – tend to be fought at the platoon or company level and sometimes at the Battalion level but for the most part the battles are intimate affairs. The generals who are being paraded about as experts are in reality not experts at all. They might be experts in classic warfare and capable of integrating air and sea with ground forces across a theater but that really isn’t what is going on today. We are being subjected to this avalanche of criticism by a group of arm chair wannabe generals and a gaggle of real generals who want to fight the only war they know how to fight, which unfortunately isn’t the current one. I offer some relevant quotes.

    I feel that retired generals should never miss an opportunity to remain silent concerning matters for which they are no longer responsible.
    General Norman Schwartzkopf

    Dead battles and dead generals are traps for the military mind

    If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.
    General Ulysses S. Grant

    So what we are being subjected to is a gaggle of people who do not have any responsibility for the conduct of or the outcome of, the current conflict. On the one hand we have civilians who choose to view those captured on the battle field, not as prisoners of war but as some sort of oppressed person alleged to have committed a crime. These people are being held illegally and in violation of the American Constitution. How the American Constitution applies to people who are not citizens is unclear to me but apparently not unclear to others. What crime should these people be charged with? What kind of evidence can be supplied? The illogic of this position seems lost because it would virtually guarantee that most if not all of those being held would have to be relesed for lack of evidence. Under this contorted thinking all of the soldiers captured in WW II, Korea, and Viet Nam would have been released and sent back to their units.

    But these people were soldiers and under the rules of war they could be held without charges until the end of hostilities, but those people being held by the US today are not soldiers. If they aren’t soldiers what are they? Some describe them as “insurgents”, “militants”, and “freedom fighters”, but these are not soldiers because they don’t wear uniforms. Under the rules of war people engaged in actions against one of the combatants who are captured without a uniform can be treated as spies or saboteurs and summarily executed. So the reality is that the United States is treating these people more humanely than they deserve under the rules of war.

    As serious as this problem is and as much as it acts as a distraction to the military, the more serious problem is the constant criticism of how the war is being conducted. The reality is there are actually two wars under way and perhaps more depending on your view point. There is the War of Terror, which is really a misnomer for a general conflict between radical Muslims and the West. This is actually a global conflict being waged by Muslims against Christendom. This war was declared by Osama bin Laden and its objective is world domination by Islam and the installation of Shar’ia Law world wide. This is a war against all infidels and no quarter is asked or given. The result of this policy is attacks of civilians and the torture and murder of any captives. This war is being confused with the Iraqi War and the War in Afghanistan.

    These Wars are actually theaters in the War on Terror. There objective is to focus the conflict into a more controllable situation. The War in Afghanistan was intended to deny Islam a permanent base of operations and a training ground for their military who do not wear uniforms and who are trained to use the civilian population as shields. Operations in this theater are continuing with mixed success due to the tribal nature of the natives and the inability of the government to establish control. Unfortunately, the Islamic world is primarily composed of tribes and clans who give only limited notice to any central government. Their primary loyalty is to Islam and this makes establishing any kind of permanent government in Afghanistan problematic. The near term objective appears to be to deny the militant Muslims a base of operations and this appears to be successful, but the fighting goes on. It is worth noting that the Afghans historically fight each other and only band together to fight an outsider.

    The reality is that even if Afghanistan was totally pacified and a stable government in place, it is unsuitable militarily as a base of operations for the larger global conflict. Strategically Iraq is much more desirable because it has access to the sea, a large educated population, and most importantly it provides a buffer between Iran and Syria, the primary bases for the radical terrorists. Iraq has historically acted as the very heart of Islam and Baghdad has historically been the capital of the Caliphate. Iraq has a strong military and once this is restored it will keep Iran and Syria off balance, but that brings us to the other war which is being viewed as the Iraqi Civil War.

    Whether or not this is truly a civil war is not quite clear, but regardless of what it is it certainly represents a strategic problem if not a failure. Although the Iraqi’s generally are better educated than most of the Islamic World there is still a large population of less educated people, who are under the sway of the various religious leaders. These leaders have their own militias which are bad enough but these leaders are themselves divided into Sunni and Shi’ia. This division has split Islam since the 7th Century and although the Sunni’s represent the minority they have historically dominated the Shi’ia.

    Although this fact is well known it appears that the depth of this division was misjudged so with the fall of Hussein, the Sunni’s lost control and the Shi’ia are out for revenge. So the Americans are caught in the middle and the result is a three way battle. The Sunni’s and Shi’ites are merrily killing each other along with any “Crusaders” they find. While the majority of the Iraqi population are not really committed to any of these conflicts they remain in the background for fear of reprisals. The result is what appears to be a Civil War where the Americans are attempting to keep the combatants apart. The result is that there are calls for more troops and criticisms about the conduct of the conflicts. This situation cannot be won with more troops, because the best that could be achieved would be a cessation of the murder and mayhem only until the Americans withdraw which would be the signal for a real civil war that would be won by Iran.

    Clearly the strategic objective of a stable and secular Iraq is not beyond our grasp but the success of that strategy rests squarely on our ability to train a RELIABLE army composed of troops loyal to the government and not the Islamic Leaders. This does not require more troops but it does require commitment to see it through.

    The time has long past for the West in general and the American public in particular to wake up to the fact that we are engaged in a global conflict, not of our making and not of our choice, but it real and we are involved. We need to step back and view this with a broader view and stop carping about individual issues and second guessing those people trying to fight it.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Pope and Islam

Recently the Pope quoted an earlier Pope and has created a firestorm within the “we have the right to never be offended” Islamic Community. Even the “moderate” Muslims (is this an oxymoron?) are offended but condemn the violence that the Pole caused. I noticed almost immediately that these moderate Muslims attributed the violence to the Pope rather than to the Muslims who are bombing churches, murdering Christians, and calling for the assassination of the Pope. Apparently within the very weird world of Islam if you kill, murder, or maim in reaction to something that you feel offended your religion, then you are justified and your victim is at fault.

So what triggered this latest outbreak of violence by these practitioners of the religion of peace? This was the quote which is taken out of context:

"Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Pope did in fact state that this was not his opinion and his speech did indeed condemn all violence in the name of religion, but as usual the Mullahs have a right to not be offended and took this quote out of context and used it to stir up (manipulate) the illiterati that comprises most of the Islamic world. Since this firestorm broke several Muslims have been interviewed on television and have stated that the Pope called Mohammed evil. Of course that is not what the Pope said, but it is what these ignoramuses are being told. But really isn’t that beside the point? Isn’t the real point is the statement – even out of context – accurate? Is Islam truly the religion of peace or is it filled with evil and inhumanity? Naturally the Islamic Community is denying this and insisting that Islam and the Qur’an are peaceful. So let’s look at the Qur’an and determine precisely how “peaceful” Islam is.

Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight and persecute you, but commit no aggression

I guess this leaves open the question of precisely who is the aggressor, but it seems to my uneducated eye that it was the Muslims who attacked Israel and it was the Muslims who attacked America.

Let those who would prefer the Hereafter to the present life, fight in the cause of Allah. And whoso fights in the cause of Allah and is killed or conquers, We shall soon grant him a great reward.

Presumably if you are an ignorant person who has no future because you are segregated from the opposite sex, you have no education other than religious, you have no future because your masters have rejected all modernity and the West, then perhaps suicide is an option. Certainly this one passage alone could be used to manipulate the ignorant into killing themselves and others in the name of Allah. After all killing infidels is not murder but a religious obligation..

The only recompense of those who make war against Allah and his Messenger and who strive hard to create disorder in the land is that they be executed or crucified to death, or that their hands and feet be cut off on account of their movement in the land be banned.

This would appear to excuse the Muslims from the Geneva Convention and justify their inhuman treatment of prisoners. But isn’t that what the Pope said – evil and inhuman? This is but one example of many passages similar to this one in the Qur’an.

O you who believe! Do not take these Jews and the Christians for allies. They are the allies of one to another and whoso amongst you takes them for allies, is indeed one of them.

This statement stands alone but it does indicate that any peace between Islam and anyone else is not because any rapprochement between Islam and the West is specifically forbidden. This accounts for the tepid condemnations we hear from the “moderate” Islamic community because they are forbidden to display any friendship or alliance with non-Muslims.

It should be remembered that Hitler was quite open about his plans and outlined his basic plan and objectives in “Mein Kampf”, which can be translated as “My Struggle” and in Arabic “jihad” can be translated as “struggle”. Is anyone connecting the dots? Osama bin Laden has declared war on America and he along with other Islamic leaders have declared their objective is to destroy the West. Furthermore, Osama bin Laden has declared that there are no non-combatants or civilians and that everyone is a legitimate target. Of course most of the West dismisses these statements as rhetoric from a lunatic and insists that diplomacy and discussion can correct or redress any wrongs these Islamic leaders have.

The reality is the Pope told the truth and in his way he is sounding the alarm – an alarm that no one wants to hear because it offends the Muslims. But is it the truth? Are we so politically correct that no one can speak the truth? Have we become so diverse and multi-cultural that we no longer can discern good from evil or humanity from inhumanity? When some one looks us straight in the eye and says he intends to kill us are we so craven and concerned about his perceived wrongs to ignore his threat? Are we expected to lay down our arms and lower our defenses in the belief that if we pose no threat that we will be left in peace? This is the Ostrich Strategy that allowed Hitler to rise to power. Mussolini once said that “I would rather have 50,000 rifles than 50,000 votes”. Was that not a harbinger of things to come? When Osama bin Laden declares war on America is that not a harbinger of things to come? Is anyone listening?

If Paul Revere were to ride today would anyone respond to the alarm or would he be met with darkened windows and laughter at his alarmist message? I close with these quotes:

‘Television brought the brutality of war into the comfort of the living room. Viet Nam was lost in the living room of America – not on the battlefields of Vietnam.”
--Marshal McLuhan

“There is no avoiding war, it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.”
--Niccolo Machiavelli

“Victory belongs to the most perserving”
--Napoleon Bonaparte

Think about it – are winning or losing this Ninth Crusade?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Union Destruction

The unions are at it again. The UAW has nearly killed the big three auto companies but fails to connect their actions to the decline in union jobs, decline in profits, and slow deaths of the companies they are bleeding dry. Through their lobbying on congress the UAW managed to get some protective tariffs in place but rather than making the foreign manufacturers less competitive they simply began manufacturing their products in the US in non-UAW plants. The UAW maintains that without their pressure these plants would not be paying the high wages that they do. Certainly there is some truth to this allegation but the UAW tries to ignore the fact that these foreign manufacturers are not burdened with a seniority system or debilitating retirement programs, or onerous healthcare obligations. These are all “benefits” that the UAW has won over the years for their members. The result is an aging workforce, exorbitant healthcare costs, a generous pension program that cost more each year, excessive numbers of employees, and an uncompetitive salary structure.

The UAW is now trapped in their own rhetoric and any retreat from these “benefits” is almost impossible. Their membership continues to decline as the companies they have unionized continue to sink into irrelevancy with ever declining market share. Of course, the management of these auto manufacturers shares some of the blame as well. After all they surrendered to the union blackmail year after year and kept feeding that tiger until now the tiger threatens to consume them. At least some of this problem lies with the incestuous relationship within the auto industry. Auto executives simply move from company A to company B then to Company C and then back to company A. No company would even consider hiring a senior executive who wasn’t a “car guy”. This attitude has ensured that no fresh thinking would be introduced to challenge the status quo. Recently Ford has hired an executive outside of the auto industry and this is a first. However, it may be too late because Ford like all of the big three auto companies is bloated and virtually paralyzed by the UAW. The challenge for the non-car guy will be to find a way to escape the clutches of the UAW and undo years and years of management thinking that has pitted labor against management.

However, the auto industry isn’t the only industry that is dominated by unions that are gradually destroying their industry and the teacher’s union is a prime example. This is a group who are heavily unionized, have no quality metric, and protected by tenure. This is not a problem in and of itself, but when high schools are graduating students who can’t read or spell and who have limited mathematical skills, then that is a problem. At the same time these teachers are complaining that they are under paid and over worked. The underpaid argument rings very hollow when you examine their pay on an hourly or per diem basis. When teachers are measured on their actual scheduled work days, their pay is equivalent to that of computer programmers and engineers. The reality is that these teachers only work nine months of the year and of those 270 days they actually work less than 180 days. Of course the teachers like to point out that they are required to constantly educate themselves and frequently work long hours. Naturally they seem to not realize that ALL professionals require constant education and the 40 hour work week is only a baseline and most professionals work well over the 40 hour baseline.

Another factor that the teachers fail to recognize is that unlike virtually all other professionals they have no metric. They produce educated students but they resist all attempts to measure the quality of the education of these students. Even when standardized tests are forced upon them, there is no punishment for those teachers whose students fail the tests. They mumble and grumble and blame everyone but themselves. The incompetent and the competent are treated alike unlike normal business where the incompetent are weeded out. In the education community they are given tenure and protected by their union. The result is the continued erosion of the public school system and the continued decline of their reputation as professionals.

What about universities and their professors? This is a very good question and it appears that as the quality of education has declined the tuition for a substandard education has increased. This is especially true for the highly prestigious universities where the tuition commonly runs in the tens of thousands. These highly vaunted bastions of education are rated on reputation which is based on the number of PhD’s they have and the professional stature of those PhD’s. Of course the undergraduate student may never actually see his professor and the greater the prestige of the university the more probable that is true. The student enrolls for a class taught by Professor Doe only to discover that the actual class is conducted by a teaching assistant. In any other business this would be called fraud but at the university level this is called standard practice.

As bad as this is, the worst is that these bastions of learning have become so politically correct and so concerned about creating an egalitarian society that they no longer fail students and the letter grades have become so eroded that any student who has less than a 3.0 average must be brain dead. In fact the grade erosion at Harvard has gotten so bad that almost half of the graduates are Cum Laude. Some examples of university level work are:

Europe was disrupted by the fast paste of change
Thomas Jefferson was president, founder of the University of Virginia, and author of the Decoration of Independence.
Germany’s William II had a chimp on his shoulder.

These gaffes can be attributed to misspellings due to haste rather than a poor understanding of the subject or an inability to spell. But these are not the only things they come from college graduates. All too often when questioned college students and college graduates show an appalling lack of knowledge of such things as geography; for example:

The first example of modification was in small cities such as Connecticut.
Northern Africa is the region which lies just north of Africa and is therefore not part of Africa.
The five European grade powers were France, Germany, England, Russia, and Australia-Mongolia.

These are products of our current university system, young people who have paid a considerable sum of money for their “education”. You can rest assured that the professors who have produced this shoddy product are either unionized or protected by tenure or both. The time has long past when teachers and professors should be called to account. Also students should not be given a passing grade when they clearly don’t deserve it. Unions are killing industry but it seems to me that the greater threat is to our students.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another View From The Couch

As I watch the world flash in front of my eyes via television I continue to be astonished by virtually everything that I see. From my perch I am beginning to grasp why the world is in such poor shape, because what I see is a vast throng of people who seem unable to think for themselves but instead are being led about by their nose – or should I say nose rings. Mostly these are the youth of America who are determined to express themselves and demonstrate their uniqueness by being like everyone else trying to be unique. You see these folks every where, with the obligatory tattoo(s), body piercing(s), or my very favorite – black nail polish. Wow – Gee Whiz – how original. But these are mostly kids or immature young adults and so I guess this is somewhat understandable but what about all of those unshaven guys that are popping up everywhere? Are these guys expressing themselves and if so how? It looks like a simple case of laziness translated into poor personal hygiene and an inability to think or act independently.

However, it isn’t just the sameness and lack of independence that I see presented to me, but the truly alarming shallowness of what I see. In fact just last night I heard the announcer selling a new TV show describe it as being “extraordinarily and deeply superficial”. I gave him stars for honesty but I somehow doubt his target audience reacted negatively to this announcement, not because they were repelled by it but because they didn’t know the meaning of superficial. You doubt this? Have you recently read anything written by a high school or college graduate? Let me provide you some examples of responses offered by college students.

The Industrial revolution was slow at first due to the lack of factories. European nations had the raw materials to start and(sic) industrial revolution, but they did not have the knowledge to start a revolution and thus were retarded. – I’m sure this response made some high school teacher race to his/her union steward and demand to know what is wrong with this answer. How about this one:

The Russian Revolution of 1905 began about 1907. Unfortunately the Czar was easily influenced by flutterers. The Triple Alliance faced NATO. This too was produced by Bismarck who worked for Caesar at the time. Certainly this student seems to be a victim of poor spelling at the very least and totally confused chronologically at worst, but who is responsible for this the student for failing to learn? The teacher for failing to teach? Or the school administration for allowing this student to graduate from high school and then enter college. Who is minding the store? You must wonder what is being taught in school these days or more importantly is anything being taught. If I hear some idiot say “I seen it” one more time I may throw a brick through my TV or even assault the person. I can see the headline now – “Student violently assaulted by insane grammarian”. At the very least we can conclude that verb conjugation isn’t currently being taught.

While flipping through the channels I came across an series of interviews with young skinheads. These were mostly young men between the ages of 16 and 21 with the obligatory shaved heads, tattoos, and attitudes who were being led by young men in their 30’s who were certainly old enough to know better. These boys could be described as disaffected or life’s losers but listening to them you quickly realize they have virtually no real understanding of the world, their environment, or what is happening. They explain that they are victims of “affirmative action” because all jobs go to minorities and besides the entire economy is moving into a service economy. These glib answers roll off of their tongue like rote responses but clearly they have no idea as what a service economy is or what globalization is, or what is happening to all of those factory jobs that they thought they should have. They blame “affirmative action” without actually being able to connect that to their plight. They fail to grasp that there is a very low demand for unskilled labor and that jobs go those with skills. Instead of an education they got tattoos and seem unable to connect the dots between their decisions and their current situation. It is easier to blame some external force or group than to look in the mirror.

The morning news brought the stunning revelation that unions might actually be a drag on the Michigan economy. This little gem of logic was offered with a sense of surprise and discovery, which is not surprising since Michigan is not only heavily unionized but it is virtually a neo-socialist state. Between the teachers union, the UAW, and the gaggle of other unions, there is a sense of entitlement that is pervasive. These unions were intended to protect the worker from exploitation but have resulted in oppressing the employer. Unions can no longer control the supply of unskilled labor because that type of labor is now available on a global scale. The unions set uncompetitive labor rates and the result is fewer jobs. This connection between their unrealistic expectations and the globalization of the labor market seem to be beyond their comprehension. They appear on TV and in the newspapers blaming the Republicans, the politicians, executives, illegal aliens, and for all I know aliens from outer space for their plight. They believe they have a “right” to a high paying job that expects them to screw two parts together. More than that, even those that are still employed are aghast at the prospect of actually having to pay some portion of their healthcare. They feel they have a “right” to free healthcare and benefits. They seem unable to grasp that nothing in life is free and that if they aren’t paying for their benefits someone somewhere is paying.

Of course television isn’t a complete wasteland, from time to time something pops up that you won’t see anywhere else. It seems that the accepted scientific fact that a meteor killed off the dinosaurs has come into question. Naturally the entire scientific community is up in arms over this but unfortunately some very awkward fossils have turned up. Adding to the problem is the realization that the fossil record for the Cretaceous shows a steady decline in dinosaurs over several million years. The conclusion is that the lush vegetation needed by the dinosaurs was disappearing and the dinosaurs were dying out naturally. The meteor(s) did not kill off the Dinosaurs but may have been the final nail. Even without the meteor(s) the dinosaurs would have gone extinct. Of course this will probably not cause any changes to the true believers in science who still believe in Evolution and other scientific dogmas.

So the couch is a wonderful perch from which to view the world. Right now I am off to buy some of those marvelous drugs that have what seem like some very challenging side-effects.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A View From The Couch

Like many American’s I spend a lot of time observing life and the world from my living room couch and the view isn’t pretty either. That is the observations aren’t pretty, not viewing me laying on the couch like some great beached whale – well -- maybe a Walrus – would you accept a svelte Otter? In any event, I am struck by the commercials and how depressing they have become. At one time we were treated every evening to peppy commercials attempting to convince of us to buy soap (Tide’s In – Dirt’s Out), after shave, tooth paste (You’ll wonder where the yellow went), and a host of other fun products. Now the commercials seem to focus on the most negative aspects of our society, even though they use sexy models to draw our attention. And what are the products these people are trying to sell us?

Certainly the one I find most intriguing is the Bow Flex commercials. You know – the ones that show a young man with rippling ab’s and muscular thighs assuring us that he got this way in only 6 weeks. This is followed up by a young woman with rippling ab’s and muscular thighs assuring us that we could look like this in only six weeks. I’m not sure I want to know a woman with more muscles than me and somehow I suspect that young man got that way by spending six months in the gym and only the last six weeks on the Bow Flex. Besides, why would you want to look like that unless you were planning a vacation at the Sunny Farms Nudist Camp.

But then we have all of the pharmaceutical commercials who are pushing drugs, pills, and potions for everything from hair loss to hair removal. The toothpaste commercials are gone and in their place we have beautiful people selling teeth whiteners. These people have obviously never been to a dentist who would assure them that human teeth are not naturally white, they may appear that way but they are actually yellow. Of course that’s human teeth but these people could be Stepford automatons for all we know because once they smile their teeth are so white you could see your reflection in their teeth when they smile. They might actually glow in the dark – very natural for automatons but not very realistic for actual people.

But these are only the tip of the iceberg, because you also have those commercials that assure you that their product will solve your problem. The tag on these commercials is a half screen of fine print which could be written in Latin for all I know because the print is so small and on the screen for such a short time it is impossible to read what this product MIGHT do. The real kicker is the voice over that assures you that the side effects of this wonder drug might include, dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, erectile dysfunction, and in some cases fatal side-effects might occur. This sounds to me like the cure is worse than the disease, but my absolute favorite is the commercial that ends by warning you that if you have an erection lasting more than four hours, you should call for medical assistance. If this happened to me I would be calling the Guinness book of world records, not 911.

My point was that all of these modern commercials are for negative things like insurance, health, and medicine rather than fun things like soap and tobacco. I miss the old cigarette commercials where they assured you that 9 out of 10 doctors preferred Camel Cigarettes over any other brand. Where are those doctors now? Have they given up cigarettes in favor of bottled water and Yogurt? In any case those were the good old days, but commercials aren’t the only things that I have observed from my vantage point on the sofa. I have observed that all people in the United States are somewhere between 18 and 30 years old, in perfect health, with perfect (and brilliantly white) teeth, tanned, and apparently unemployed since none of them ever seem to have jobs. I am beginning to get uneasy about this because I am starting to wonder what happens to all of the people over 30 or 40 or – gasp – 50. They don’t seem to exist in the perfect world of Television Land but I’m beginning to suspect that they are used as guinea pigs for all of those drugs with the unusual side-effects.

Perhaps the more interesting point is the huge number of people willing to degrade themselves and be publicly humiliated just to be on some reality show. Of course none of these shows have anything to do with reality, unless of course you live on some deserted island and regularly eat disgusting things. But to be fair there is an astonishing number of people who feel that America is waiting to be entertained by their unique ability to ride a unicycle and juggle six tennis balls, while playing The Rhapsody in Blue” with a harmonica dangling from a rhinestone Tiara. But then you also have those who are totally devoid of any talent past breathing in and out but appear on TV for the sole purpose of being publicly humiliated in some bogus talent search. Apparently it has never occurred to anyone that the auditions alone have determined who has talent, who doesn’t, and who will likely be selected. There is more competition displayed by the folks trying to get to the bathroom after a long sermon.

Still television isn’t all reality shows and depressing commercials, some are actually educational, or at least seem to be. Foremost among these is the History Channel which is also known as “Hitlervision” but to be fair, they seem to have exhausted WW II and have moved on to things like Archeological digs. Sifting sand looking for pottery shards can be riveting and is almost as stimulating as watching the endless parade of sharks and fish on the Animal Planet. However, the Animal Planet does provide some alternative programming that includes lions, tigers, bears, and snakes in various stages of hunting or consuming prey. I thought one of the most educational things I saw on Animal Planet was the dead man whose head was stuck inside of the mouth of his “pet” Burmese Python. I presume the Python was piqued by the inadequate supply of rabbits and tried to make a point with his master, who unfortunately died in the process. Apparently many of these animals don’t fully understand that they are PETS and should behave accordingly and not react like their brethren in the wild.

But I love TV and have learned so much from it. I think the most important thing I have learned is that watching TV in association with diet and exercise will cause you to lose weight – really -- just listen closely because every weight loss program rests on diet and exercise. So I’m off to my exercise program which consists to pillow fluffing, rummaging to find the clicker, and eating my non-fried, low fat, low carb, potato chips.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Decline and Fall of Reason

The State of Michigan is declining in virtually every way and certainly a great many more people are moving out than moving in. The auto industry – as represented by Ford, GM, and Chrysler – is sinking as well. The quality of the schools in appalling and the scores on standardized tests are poor and got even worse after the difficulty of the test was reduced. The state is strongly Democratic, highly taxed, and heavily unionized, but no one seems to connect the dots between these facts and the state of decline. The Reign of Reason seems to be in jeopardy – at least in Michigan, but I suspect it is throughout the US – if Howard (Mad Dog) Dean and Senator John Kerry are any example of what passes for rational thought.

The UAW has virtually built a socialist society with the auto industry so the workers absolutely believe that they are entitled to free healthcare, high salaries, full employment, low skill requirements, and of course as little work as possible. This socialist attitude has been brought into the population as a whole and is propagated by the teachers who are fully unionized. These unionized teachers are highly paid – among some of the highest paid in the country but are demanding more money. Of course they like to compare their salaries on a per annum basis rather than the per diem basis which permits a more realistic comparison. On a per diem basis teachers in Michigan are being paid wages equivalent to Computer Programmers and Engineers. But salary is only part of the problem because these unionized teachers are also strongly oriented to socialism and regularly indoctrinate their students about the virtues of socialism and the evils of capitalism. Not only that they resist any effort to measure their productivity or quality of output. Within the European socialist governments the objective is employment not productivity and this attitude seems to have infected the UAW and the other Unions in the US.

The reality is that Socialism – like Marxism – does not work. It drains the economy, stifles creativity, and certainly curtails capital investment. Europe, especially France, is dominated by Socialist governments, which are staggering under the weight of their welfare programs. In most of these countries there is a large and growing population of the unemployed, some of whom would like to work but a great many more find that they can live well on the government dole. This is a class of parasites that --like all parasites -- is slowly killing the host. These welfare programs have forced the EU to continuously reduce its defense spending to the point that their military capability is seriously impaired. Although they are strongly Anti-American they are totally dependent on the US for their defense. The fact that they can’t connect the dots between their anti-American actions and their own security is simply another illustration of the decline of reason.

But the evidence that not only is critical thinking disappearing but even the decline in rational thought is all about us. Consider science, which from where I sit is not only in decline it is virtually disappearing. The culprit is “Epidemiology” which is literally the study of epidemics, how they spread and their impact on large groups of people. Of course Epidemiology itself is merely the application of statistical analysis of a data sample, which is then projected to the larger group. However, for anyone who has actually used statistics or analyzed data for any purpose the accuracy of any analysis is suspect. When the analysis is based on an a priori assumption any reliability the analysis might have had is now dramatically reduced because only the data that supports the a priori position is considered. This is the basis for the conclusion that everything from Alar to charcoal to tobacco causes cancer. There is absolutely no science behind any of these conclusions, yet the media reports them as fact and the great majority of people accepts the conclusions as true and acts accordingly. Where is the critical thinking or rational thought?

The famous scientist Carl Sagan was accepted by PBS and thus by the public as a true scientist, when in actual fact he was a shameless self-promoter who hounded those with whom he disagreed, especially Immanuel Velikovsky who postulated several theories that were plausible but counter to the popular ideas of the time. Velikovsky has not been proven right or wrong but then neither have the theories supported by Sagan. The fact is that the popular science crowd has stated things as fact when in reality much of what they have said is open to speculation or even downright wrong. The dinosaurs were killed off by a huge meteor that changed the Earths climate was something that Sagan stated as fact when it was a theory -- certainly a plausible theory but a theory nonetheless and not the fact as reported. There is growing evidence that the Earth has indeed been struck by massive meteors but the connection between that event and the disappearance of the dinosaurs is speculative and does not address the issue that every geological epoch has ended with catastrophic mountain building, including the Cretaceous, which spelled the end of the dinosaurs .

Then we have the debacle over DDT, which has been banned from production on the basis of a book written by Rachel Carson titled “Silent Spring”. The fact that Carson was dying of cancer and was personally convinced that pesticides were responsible was never questioned at the time. Instead the usual gaggle of environmentalists – acting on nothing but emotion – succeeded in having DDT banned worldwide. Since that time all of Carson’s assumptions have been disproven but the damage has been done, malaria has once again become the scourge of Africa. . No critical thinking was employed and certainly no empirical evidence was ever offered to support her claims. The reality is that NO ONE knows precisely what causes cancer, but we DO know what causes malaria, which is carried by mosquitoes that are very effectively killed by DDT. The thinking among the environmentalists seems to be that a bird is more precious than a human life. But no one seems willing to question this, which seems to be another illustration that critical thinking and rational thought is in retreat.

Of course the most outrageous position taken by the popular science crowd and academia in general is Evolution. Evolution is a THEORY and with the advance of paleontology, not a very sturdy one. None of the tests stated by Darwin as necessary for proof have been met and current paleontologists think they will never be met. The reality is that the very foundation for Evolution is crumbling and the evidence is piling up that it is probably partially wrong if not totally wrong. In fact Darwin’s book “The Origin of Species” is still taught without any critical examination even though ironically the book doesn’t describe or address the origin of species. No transitional life forms have ever been found and several eminent paleontologists (e.g. Stephen Gould) have stated that none will ever be found. Even the vaunted example of the Eohippus has turned out to be false and the fossil record incorrect. Nevertheless, many scientists, the media, and certainly academia continue to state Evolution as fact, not as a theory, and worse – these people won’t even consider any alternative – more evidence of the death of science and the decline of reason.

Recently the United States has undergone a virtual epidemic of Diabetes. The media and the medical community are all in a dither over this and the usual Nannies are calling for all sorts of government intervention or action to correct this “threat to public health”. The Pharmaceutical companies are cranking out pills by the zillion in order to meet this threat. The reality is that the National Institute of Health lowered the threshold for Diabetes from 200 to 100, which overnight plunged the country into this “health crisis”. Of course the drug companies are cleaning up and no one in the media or in the medical community seems concerned enough to criticize or even investigate the situation. Even if you don't think science and critical thinking are in retreat at the very least you must admit that dot connection is certainly in decline.

Of course this brings us to the issue of Cholesterol and heart disease. The average untreated cholesterol for white males has historically been between 220 and 240 and it continues at that level today. Gradually the National Institute of Health has lowered the bar – first to 180 and now to some where around 100. The only correlation between heart disease and cholesterol has been statistical and no empirical connection has been established. If anything the body may self-regulate cholesterol, but that isn’t the point. The point is that once again as the desired level of Cholesterol drops the number of people taking the cholesterol lowering drugs increases as does the profits of the drug companies. That statistical correlation seems to go unreported and critical thinking doesn’t seem to apply to these health issues. Of course the proponents of these drugs point out that the life span of the average American continues to grow. I suppose the ultimate goal is to prevent cancer and heart disease, the two leading causes of death. Once that is accomplished I guess we will all have to resort to suicide or simply euthanize the old.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Educational Television

Television is indeed a wonderful medium, it teaches so much and then it sometimes shows you others in the learning process. But you are never quite sure who is learning -- the viewer, the writer, or those talking heads who the viewer is assured are really intelligent. I have learned so much from television that I feel I wasted years in reading and listening to all of those lectures. For instance I have learned the Bermuda Triangle should be avoided, I know that diet and exercise in association with virtually anything – like Chocolate Pudding for example – will cause you to lose weight. I have learned that smoking causes hang nails, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and dental decay, plus reducing your mental competence to the point to where you vote Republican. I now know that Americans – all Americans are obese primarily from eating super-sized hamburgers and drinking Cokes. Television is truly an amazing medium and I learn constantly from it.

Television has assured me that in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary Evolution is a fact and not a theory and that we have actually descended from apes. Nevertheless I believe in freedom of religion so I continue to support Evolution as a belief system. I am totally aware that at any minute a huge meteor will strike the Earth and wipe out all of mankind. Television has taught me that Al Gore and Global Warming are real and we are in imminent danger of being roasted alive – or is it freeze to death due to the coming ice age that is the result of global warming? It is all so confusing. . I have learned that if your career has tanked the solution is to immediately announce that you have a drug or alcohol problem and you are bound for rehab. Of course what is to be rehabilitated is the career not the habit, but then who notices. But these are the global issues that everyone has learned from Television, but there are many other lessons lurking in the background – if you only watch. For example in television land – men are essentially stupid, women make the best rocket scientists, that weepy men are attractive to real babe’s, and women are truly the master race.

Alas, while I don’t totally agree with all of the wonderful feminists who assure me that as a male I am doomed to the life of serfdom and ignorance I see on television, I do find some (slim) facts that indicate they might be right. I think this understanding of the male role begins with marriage and that you need only to examine recently married men, you know the men who think that marriage really didn’t change anything other than the laundry service. Of course all of those men who have been married for longer than the average age of a fruit fly know that once you have uttered those fateful words “I DO” nothing is ever the same. Life as you know it has ended and your lifetime of adjusting to the weird world of women has begun. This adjustment requires a lifetime and the reality is most men never reach any true level of understanding the female mind, they simply adapt to the conditions. Women are simply different and this difference is much greater than the simple physical differences. The very foundation of these differences begins with what is important and what is not. For example for women there are approximately ten to the 27th power of things that are important but for the average male there are simply ten and after food and sex (in that order) he must be reminded of the other eight.

Almost immediately after that fateful day that is enshrined in the female mind as “the Anniversary”, the male comes to understand that all of those things that he enjoyed are “tacky” and that his wardrobe falls somewhere between pathetic and embarrassing. But this isn’t really where the learning and adjustment begins. Believe it or not it begins with women’s sizes and underwear --- errrr – ah yes – lingerie (pronounced “lawn – jer –ray’ – NOT “ling-grrr -eee). Most men don’t put a great deal of thought into their own clothes and even less into women’s other than ease of removal. Clothes for men come in small, medium, or large and extra-large and men generally fall into one of these categories unless of course we are talking about jock straps and in that case everyone wears a large (extra-large is pure ego and generally would not be believed). Now I have been married for many years and I still have not grasped women’s sizes. They come in petite, juniors (but no seniors) plus sizes (which no one seems to actually wear so why stores stock them I have no idea), and a whole bunch of other sizes, which all seem purely arbitrary. The numerical sizes do not follow any logical system because a size 6 and a size 7 are only sold to anorexics and seem to bear no relationship to each other.

But the real difference between the sexes lies in their underwear. For guys underwear is really pretty simple. You have briefs for guys who like comfort, or boxers for guys who like the wedgie feel, or for those guys who can’t decide whether to be cool or comfortable you have the boxer brief, and that’s it!!. For women there are entire stores devoted exclusively to their underwear and none seem oriented toward comfort – the merchandise not the store. The sizes are as mysterious as the Periodic Table of Elements. Bra’s seem to range in size from skimpy little band-aid type things to cupful, handful, and up to “Big Bertha”. The panties range in size from little pieces of lace that require a bikini wax to the “Thigh Master” and there the name says it all.

But it isn’t just the clothes that distinguish the sexes, we also have differences that the typical male can never seem to comprehend. For instance take the toilet paper, which as any man knows can be found on the toilet paper holder. How it gets there is largely unknown and it is generally believed by most men that there is some sort of a toilet paper fairy – who based on television is apparently known as “Charmin”. Charmin is both squeezable and efficient and replaces the toilet paper as required – I think. But this is actually an example of how truly simple men are because the female of the species has distinct preferences regarding the placement of the toilet paper on the holder. Once married the male quickly discovers that toilet paper must feed either over the top or from under the role. There really isn’t any correct way but every woman has a preference and if the husband intends to continue his conjugal relationship he should master this art of toilet paper replacement.

But the toilet paper adjustment is only the tip of the iceberg in marital adjustment. Most men never really realized how primitively they were living prior to marriage or learned how to deal with the problems that they never realized were problems. One of these is the “noise”. At some time shortly after marriage there will be a noise in the night. This noise was initially heard by Eve in the garden while poor Adam slept. She went to investigate and as we say the rest is history. However, since that time, women do not go to investigate mysterious noises – that is the man’s job. This noise always occurs shortly after the husband has dropped off to sleep. Of course the husband after a long day of toil could sleep through the San Francisco Earthquake, but women’s hearing is genetically different. A woman can hear cotton rubbing on silk from a distance of approximately a quarter mile and immediately conclude that this noise is due to a drug crazed burglar intent on stealing the --- well it really doesn’t matter what they were planning on stealing because it is the husband’s duty to frighten him away before that event occurs.

Now any man who has been through this knows that pretending to be asleep is fruitless because the dear wife will continue punching him in the back until he gets up and searches high and low for the source of the “noise”. The newly married man will commonly pretend to be asleep but this simply demonstrates his naiveté because it won’t work. The woman will continue beating on his back until blunt force trauma becomes a real possibility. The next male strategy employed by the newly married is to explain the noise as “nothing”, but this won’t work either. Women KNOW that something dangerous has occurred and the noise must be identified or there will be no sleep. Sleep can only be achieved by the husband getting out of bed, prowling throughout the house in his underwear, and then returning to bed and announcing – it’s nothing – go to sleep. Now the man who has been married long enough to have been through this drill a few times, simply gets up goes the refrigerator, gets something to munch on, opens the door, closes it, turns on a couple of lights, and then returns to the dear wife and announces it was nothing. The wife is now free to go to sleep knowing that the home has been protected, the noise identified (it was nothing), and she is secure in knowing that her man has once again saved the day. But I digress – let’s return to the topic of Television as a medium.

Television is certainly a source of entertainment as well as education. Not only do we learn about men and women, we also learn about medicine, nutrition, and exercise. From television I have learned that if you join the Bow Flex generation you will look like a superhero in just a few short weeks. Clearly Bow Flex sweat has regenerative powers because they all look so young and healthy. But that’s when I discovered that if you only eat Oatmeal your cholesterol will drop to astonishing levels. This has been demonstrated clinically using horses and not one had high cholesterol, although some people who have eaten oatmeal for extended periods did come to resemble a Quaker. I think it was the hat.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Reflections on Sexual Identity and Same Sex Marriage

There is a possibility that this entry may offend some people. I hope not and I do apologize up front but nevertheless this is a subject that continues to be a topic of political divisiveness. I ran across an article describing testimony given to the State Senate in Massachusetts, which I deemed to be an example of poor science and personal agenda masquerading as an informed and valid opinion. I didn't think it was either.

Like many Americans I am conflicted on the issue of Homosexuality, Gender Identity, and Marriage. My conflict stems from my innate American sense of fairness and equality versus my Christian cultural sense of morality. These are sharply conflicting and divisive to me but I think I am increasingly in the minority as everyone seems to be choosing up sides. Unfortunately, I am not Christian enough to come down foursquare on the side of morality but I am not sympathetic enough to the homosexual lifestyle to come down firmly on the side of gay rights – whatever those are. To cloud the issue even further I had the opportunity to read the testimony of Dr. Jeffrey Satinover to the State Senate of Massachusetts, which summarizes the arguments of those opposed to “same sex” marriage. Although this testimony by a well credentialed psychologist was intended to clarify the issue, it served to make it even murkier for me. Therefore, I will address some of Dr Satinover’s points in order to illustrate the basis for some of my uncertainty.

In opposing same-sex marriage, Dr. Satinover discussed the following claims of homosexual activists, and offered a rebuttal to each of them. The claims he challenged were--
That homosexuality has been repeatedly demonstrated to be--and is in fact--an innate, genetically-determined condition.
That homosexuality is an immutable state.
That the only disadvantages of homosexuality are those caused by social disapproval and discrimination.
That a society composed of same-sex couples raising children in family-like units will differ in no undesirable ways from a society composed of traditional family units.
The first claim Dr Satinover rejects on the basis that even though Dr. Hamer stated that he was 95.5% sure that he found a “gay gene” he later repudiated that claim on the basis he could find no Mendelian inheritance. This conclusion was later supported by two separate studies. This is now cited as being empirical proof that homosexuality is not genetic. Unfortunately these studies were not actual scientific studies but epidemiological studies, meaning they were statistical and had no basis in science unless you consider statistics a “science”. I will return to this point in a moment. Thus because no Mendelian pattern was found the conclusion is homosexuality is not genetic. However, it is also common knowledge that not all homosexuals are declared and thus any interview might not divulge whether or not a specific individual was homosexual and in fact declared heterosexuals might actually be homosexual and not willing to admit that to the interviewer, thus the Mendelian Pattern may not be observed even though it might actually be present. But there is another dimension to this issue as well.

The same techniques used to conclude there is a “gay gene” were also used to conclude that there is an “alcoholism” or “addiction” gene. The finding of this gene is not disputed and it is now generally accepted that certain people have a predisposition to addictions like alcohol even if they are not nor have ever been addicts. Thus it is POSSIBLE that some people may have a predisposition to homosexuality (and carry the gene) but are in fact not homosexual. Therefore, I submit that in spite of the conclusions by the learned doctors they have not proven their case. I then submit my anecdotal evidence supporting the genetic influence. Through the years I have been friends with several homosexuals and currently have several friends who are openly gay. In every case these people have told me that they were born that way. All of them have stated that they were always that way and never had any doubts about their sexuality even before they declared their sexuality. Furthermore, there are many married men who have had homosexual experiences but still consider themselves to be heterosexual or bi-sexual. The statistical surveys which are interview based would not always capture these people since they would have a personal interest in remaining silent – even if the survey was anonymous. Therefore, it is my personal belief that certain people have a predisposition to homosexuality but may not be actively homosexual. However, there does seem to be some evidence that if this gene is present then environmental factors come into play, just as they do with addiction. This means that if the gene is present and the person is exposed to gender bending situations they might become active homosexuals. Of course this has broad ramifications regarding adoptions, education, and acceptance, but then so does alcoholism or drug addictions. Acceptance and toleration does not mean endorsement and this is a point that seems to be lost in all of the rhetoric. The unasked question is that if environmental factors influence sexual orientation then why is the educational community so determined to expose elementary school children to alternative sexual situations? Is this exposure a recruiting exercise as suspected by those opposed to the same-sex lifestyle or an exercise in understanding as stated by those in favor of equal treatment? Like so many aspects of this issue there appears to be merit on both sides.

The second point made by Dr Satinover is perhaps the most controversial of all and that has to do with homosexuality as a mental disorder rather than a genetic (and unfixable) state. Dr. Satinover cites studies that show that there is a documented “cure” rate of between 30% and 70% of cases. Of course the qualifier to the study is that the cases studied were of “unwanted” sexual attraction, meaning that these people were motivated to change their sexual orientation. However, substitute alcoholism for homosexuality and you might come to a slightly different conclusion regarding “cure”. It is again common knowledge that an alcoholic or a drug addict who is motivated to change can be sobered up and become a functioning member of society. However, it is equally well known that the desire never goes away and any backsliding can return the individual to their former compulsions. The only “cure” is total abstinence. Therefore, I think that these “cure” rates are distorted because the person is not actually cured in the sense that they become heterosexual even if they marry and lead “normal” lives. They simply become non-functioning homosexuals just like alcoholics. The idea that these people are “cured” is – in my opinion at least – specious.

However, Dr Satinover goes further and states that 10% of all men have had a male sexual partner but the majority of these were under the age of 18 and that beyond that age the majority never again have a male sexual partner and that the percentage of adult homosexuals is roughly 2.8%. The 10% number is a rough estimate and the real number is probably unknown and virtually unknowable because the studies rely on surveys and interviews and the individuals may have personal reasons for not being candid. Furthermore this issue is clouded by the definition of “homosexual practice” and who is included in the 2.8%. Does this number include men who lead a heterosexual life but are in fact “secret” homosexuals? Also Dr. Satinover states that the environment can change the brain to the point where homosexuality is an acquired trait rather than a genetic one and therefore, the brain can be re-wired, but he offers no empirical evidence supporting this position in relation to homosexual attraction. In fact virtually all of his scientific support is statistical and no confounding factors are cited so the accuracy is suspect from the outset.

Of course there is another side of this issue and that is the desire to change. The statistics cited by Dr. Satinover are for those individuals who were motivated to change or at least abandon their homosexual lifestyle. However, the percentage of homosexuals with this motivation was not referenced but intuitively I think the percentage is small. Certainly not all homosexuals are overjoyed about being outside of the mainstream of society but that doesn’t mean they are either terribly unhappy or desire to become heterosexual. I think this is analogous to individuals having some other defect or handicap, life goes on and you compensate. So even if a real cure were available I suspect many homosexuals would not take advantage of it because they are quite happy as they are.

In claim four Dr. Satinover states that the typical “young” homosexual is at greater risk of having psychological and physical (i.e. AIDS) problems than a heterosexual man of similar age. But once again no reference is made to those homosexuals who are not public nor is there any indication that the psychological problems in this group might be caused by their prejudicial treatment. Also no comparison is offered regarding the incidence of sexually transmitted AIDS among homosexuals versus AIDS incidence among drug addicted heterosexuals. I suspect these are roughly equivalent and possibly the drug addicts might have a higher incidence. Plus there is no distinction made between promiscuous homosexuals and monogamous homosexuals, which I think accounts for the study being conducted among “young” men. Nevertheless, I think it is widely accepted that homosexuals in general have a higher incidence of alcoholism, drug addiction and psychological problems than the general population. What I think is missing from this study is the actual basis for this. I suspect that much of this can be traced directly to the rejection and societal pressures these individuals face throughout their lives. It is these pressures – beginning in grade school – that cause many homosexuals to adopt a heterosexual life style even though they are homosexual. I don’t see that any of these studies address this issue and it is unlikely that any of these inactive homosexuals were included in any of the studies since it is unlikely they would have acknowledged their homosexual predisposition. Therefore, I do not think Dr Satinover’s conclusions are valid because I think his sample was flawed from the outset.

The final point raised by Dr Satinover in his testimony dealt with children in same sex family situations. On this point I agree with Dr. Satinover. Certainly a child is better off being raised in a family with a mother and a father, but unfortunately Dr Satinover doesn’t go far enough. A child is infinitely better off being raised in a family composed of his biological parents. When that bond is broken through divorce and the child is raised with a step-parent, it isn’t as healthy for the child but better than being raised in a single parent home. Dr. Satinover would have you believe that a child is better off in an orphanage or a foster home than in a same-sex family environment. I simply don’t think this is true. Dr. Satinover offers no statistics or studies showing these comparisons and I would suspect that a child is better off in a loving same-sex situation than he would be in an orphanage or foster care. I absolutely agree that a child is better off in a home with his biological parents and a situation with a step-parent may be a good alternative – but not necessarily. Evil step-parents abound and it is quite possible that a child would be better served in a same-sex family situation than living with an evil step-parent. – And this brings us to the real point of Dr Satinover’s testimony, which is same-sex marriage.

This subject is where the emotion and conflict enter and where reasoning seems to exit stage right. On the one hand we have the Constitution and the innate American belief in equality. Specifically the state must treat all citizens equally, but we all recognize that the state also has the right to enforce certain restrictions. Consequently, the state is not compelled to issue driver’s licenses to everyone but they are compelled to state the conditions under which the license will be issued and then enforce those conditions equally. However, these conditions cannot be capricious or based on ethnicity, religion, political belief, etc. and the courts have struck down laws denying marriage licenses to mixed race couples. So now the question before us is can the state deny a marriage license between individuals of the same sex?

The people arguing against same sex marriage base their argument on moral grounds that a marriage is sanctioned by God and is the “natural” state for man and woman. Furthermore, sanctioning same-sex marriage would undermine the whole institution of marriage and be detrimental to society as a whole. Marriage in every culture has historically been between heterosexual couples and there is no precedent for same sex marriage in any culture or religion. But it is this last point that really represents the sticking point – religion.

Marriage is a religious rite and is sanctioned by God and thus “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and things that are God’s unto God” is the basis for resistance. Essentially the state cannot impose its laws because God’s laws supercede those of the state. This argument was the crux of the battle between St. Thomas Becket and Henry II of England, over whose laws prevail – God’s or the State’s. This debate has raged for centuries and is the basis for the separation of church and state in the American Constitution. So this raises the question of marriage and marriage licenses.

If marriage is a religious rite then can (or should) it be regulated by the state? Should the state be involved in determining who can participate in what is acknowledged as a religious rite? Those in favor of same sex marriage say no and those opposed say yes. However, it seems to me that the entire argument is actually over one word – marriage – not the legal act of uniting but in the religious rite of marrying. Therefore, I submit that the state has the authority to issue licenses for civil unions that would legally join two individuals of any sex. This license would enable them to conduct a civil (and secular) ceremony presided over by a state authority like a Judge. This license would also enable a religious authority to preside over a religious ceremony. The end result of either of these ceremonies would be a civil union giving the participants equal rights under the law. Obviously rights under Canon Law would vary and an example would be that while the state recognizes divorce the Catholic Church does not. To the state a divorced person can remarry but to the Catholic Church they cannot. So the separation of church and state is preserved. So I am conflicted on this issue and find myself on both sides. I seem to support civil unions but am opposed to gay marriage.

To return to my earlier point, I wish to address the growing use of statistics as an alternative to science. Dr Satinover’s testimony was based almost entirely on statistics rather than empirical science, but Dr. Satinover isn’t alone in this use of statistics, it is widespread and in my opinion it is beginning to discredit science. Several years ago I did a research project for a major auto manufacturer regarding forecasting and statistical analysis. I read numerous research papers written by a gaggle of PhD’s and had personal interviews with two of the leading academics in statistics, one at Penn State Wharton School of Business and the other at Dartmouth – Amos Tuck School of Business. What struck me at the time was that all (100%) of the papers dealt with improving the accuracy but not one (0%) covered any verification of the forecasts they had already made. There was not one follow-up or any evidence that any of the studies had ever been verified in any way, yet all of the effort was devoted to improving the accuracy – over what?

I raised this question in my personal interviews and was astonished to have both Professors tell me to their knowledge there had never been any verification of any statistical study. As a person trained in mathematics and having earned my living throughout most of my professional career by manipulating numbers I know that numbers can be twisted to say anything. The point here is that much of Dr Satinover’s “evidence” opposing homosexuality and same-sex marriage is statistical and thus subject to distortion and manipulation. This can be seen in the omission of facts, confounding factors, or selective reporting. While Dr Satinover’s testimony may have been interesting it is neither compelling nor totally factual. In my opinion he did not make his case.