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.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Evolution -- That Old Time Religion

Charles Darwin was a scientific dilettante, he was relatively well educated for his time and certainly he was a capable observer. But observing something does not mean you understand it. Nevertheless, Darwin attempted to understand and explain what he observed and to this end he turned to the works of Charles Lyell and his Theory of Uniformitarianism. The result was Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as described in his somewhat misnamed The Origin of the Species”, which doesn’t really address the origin of species, a point generally overlooked by the proponents of Darwinism. Both of these Theories have endured unchanged until relatively recently and have been viewed as possible explanations for unexplained geological observations. But increasingly these theories have begun to crumble under the weight of scientific investigation. Uniformitarianism has been reconciled with Catastrophism but Evolution seems unable to bridge the gap between observed fact and fanatical belief that something other than divine intervention is at work.

It is worth noting that the Theory of Evolution was heavily criticized by the scientific community when Darwin first published it. The Paleontologists at the time maintained that it did not fit the fossil record – which admittedly was less robust than it is today. Consequently the fossil record at the time did not allow for Evolution to be repudiated but neither could it be verified so it lingered on into the twentieth century as a Theory where it languished in the scientific community as an interesting idea, but one never fully accepted by the scientific community. It remained a Theory and as a possible explanation for the observed development of life and then in 1925 John Scopes elected to teach Evolution in his class room. The upshot of this decision was the famous “Scopes Monkey Trial”, which was fought over the right of Scopes to teach Evolution. Scopes lost, much to the amusement of the intellectuals of the day. The snide and patronizing tone of the reporters – H. L. Mencken in particular – reflect the air of intellectual superiority that permeates the media even today. However, this trial did serve to put Evolution on the fast track for acceptance as the cornerstone Dogma for the new religion of Darwinism.

So the Theory of Evolution gradually gained acceptance and became part of the science curriculum in most schools and universities, where it was taught as a “Theory”. Apparently in the interest of brevity, the “Theory of” was dropped although it was generally accepted and understood that it was still a “Theory”. But somewhere along the way it stopped being a theory and became a scientific fact, endorsed by important scientific journals like the New York Times and such eminent scientists as Carl Sagan, of course other eminent scientists like Sir Fred Hoyle (an avowed atheist) and more recently Michael Behe, disputed Evolution as even a rational theory much less a fact. But all objections – even those coming from reputable scientists – were ignored and fortunately for these dissenting scientists heretics are no longer burned at the stake even though the criticisms coming from the true believers in Darwinism indicate that would be a desirable reaction to disbelievers.

Instead of a theory Evolution has developed into Scientific Dogma and is accepted as fact. Challenges are not accepted and challengers are immediately branded as Yahoo’s or “Creationists”. There is no middle ground either you believe in “science” or you are cast into the pit of ignorance, stupidity, and religious zealotry. The similarity of the latter with Darwinism totally escapes the members of this new religion, which has all of the trappings of the Old Time Religion minus the picnics and revival meetings. So what beliefs does this new religion of Darwinism rest on? Actually it is necessary to distinguish between “Adaptation” and “Evolution”. Generally when Evolution is challenged the proofs offered tend to be examples of “adaptation”, which is where a species becomes modified over time becoming larger, smaller, or a different color, but remaining the same, like dogs, which come in many forms but remain canines. That is a dog does not become a fish or a mosquito or a horse. Evolution is where one species changes into another, like a horse becoming a giraffe or an ape becoming a human and this brings us to the very foundation of Evolution.

The Theory of Evolution rests on three fundamental factors that must exist for Evolution to become an accepted scientific reality.

Transformation Fossils: The fossil record should contain fossils that clearly demonstrate the “evolution” of one species into another – e;g; an elephant into a whale. The fossil record which grows more robust every year does not contain any evidence of any transitional forms – not one!! Darwin himself recognized this was a weakness in his theory and stated that these transitional forms must be found in order for his postulation of Evolution to be verified. These transitional forms have not been found and paleontologists today (e.g. Stephen Gould) have stated categorically that they have not been found and that they probably won’t be found in the future because they don’t exist.

Natural Selection: The belief here is that nature will weed out those least able to survive in their environment and through time new species would evolve, through mutation or gradual improvements through genetic inheiritance. This would be demonstrated in the fossil record. New and improved forms would exist in the newest strata with the original and more primitive forms being found in the older strata. The horse was cited as an example of this. Unfortunately and in spite of all the Neo-Darwinists could do or contrive, the fossil record has let them down. The evolution of the horse isn’t as neat as postulated and older forms and newer forms seem to co-exist. The famed “Tree of Life” showing the development of Eohippus into the modern horse is not supported by the fossil record. Even if this weren’t true at best all the horse fossil record could provide would be an example of adaptation of a little horse into a bigger horse.

In order to overcome this fatal flaw Gould et al. postulated “punctuated equilibria” For us mere mortals this semantic alchemy is how magic is transformed into science, because it means that the division of one species into another takes place over thousands of years and not millions so no fossils proving evolution would exist. This neatly eliminates the need for the fossil record to answer one of Darwin’s principal tests for proof of Evolution. Gould’s Theory of course is a great improvement over the long held theory that aliens from the planet Krypton used genetic engineering to create new species, so its acceptance has been immediate.

Random Mutation: This is actually the corollary to Natural Selection because it postulates that new species appear through a series of mutations that gradually change into a new species. Of course initially “mutation” was spelled M A G I C, but to improve its credibility in the scientific community the decision was made to call it “mutation”. How this mutation occurs is never completely explained although mutations do occur in nature so these can be observed. What is ignored is that many mutations are not improvements and in the animal world weird offspring like Michael Moore are frequently abandoned at birth. The reality is no new species has ever been demonstrated as being the result of a mutation although it does allow the requirement for transitional forms to be ignored.

Of these fundamental issues clearly the most difficult one is the actual origin of species. This has never been demonstrated by any empirical evidence and the famous “missing link” has never been found. There are hundreds of thousands of fossils in existence today that span thousands of species and millions of years but no transitional form has ever been found. The theory of “punctuated equilibria” has its proponents but then so does the theory of extra-terrestrial intervention by aliens from Krypton. Actually, it was Sir Fred Hoyle who determined that the mathematical probability that the basic enzymes of life arising from random processes was so great as to be miniscule. Based on this Study Sir Fred determined that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution was absurd. However, Sir Fred couldn’t abandon “science” so he postulated “Pan Spermia” which holds that life began in space and spread to the Earth through infectious agents delivered to Earth by comets. Science triumphs once again!!

A more bothersome problem is the fossil record between the Cambrian and Pre-Cambrian. It has long been believed that the life forms in the Pre-Cambrian were all soft bodied organisms and thus unsuited for fossilization, although some fossils of algae did exist. Then some other and more complex Pre-Cambrian fossils were found. These were simple worms and similar soft bodied life forms so the argument that these soft bodied life forms could not be preserved turned out to be untrue. This has really created a problem for Darwinism because the fossil record of the Cambrian is filled with complex life forms like Star Fish and Trilobites, complete with eyes, shells, and mouths. Worse, these life forms tend to suddenly appear in the fossil record and persist for millions of years unchanged.

“But fossil species remain unchanged throughout most of their history and the (fossil) record fails to contain a single example of a significant transition”.
Professor D. S. Woodruff (UCSD) “Science” Vol 208 1980

So not only do life forms suddenly appear and remain unchanged for millions of years, they disappear and are replaced with completely new ones who appear just as suddenly and have no transitional forms in the fossil record. At this point we can conclude that although Darwinism may persist like an Old Time Religion, it doesn’t hold up as fact and has little credibility as a theory because the fundamental requirements for proof – as defined by Darwin – have not been met. So once again Stephen Gould jumps into the fray – determined to save Darwin and thus save Science itself.

“Transitional Life Forms are generally lacking at the species level but they are abundant between larger groups”
Stephen Gould (Harvard

Although it appears that Gould is actually saying something profound what he is actually saying is that within a group there is evidence that a life form has changed from large to small and that reptiles, birds, and mammals are different and appear in different forms at different times but no evidence exists that shows the transitional life forms between a reptile and a bird. So what Gould is actually saying is there are no transitional life forms showing the creation of a new species but evidence that some species do change through time but remain much like the were and certainly remain the same species.

Outside of the true believers who cannot accept the reality that Evolution is unproven and is growing shakier by the minute many legitimate members of the scientific community are quietly moving away from it or certainly being equivocal in their support. And this brings us to the most recent critic and the one under heavy attack from the Religious Left (Darwinians) – Michael Behe.

Michael Behe is a Biochemist at Lehigh University who studies – not surprisingly – cells. Now Darwin stated that “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” This test of course is very close to the “ do you still beat your wife” test, but then we already know that these transitional life forms do not exist in the fossil record and the punctuated equilibria theory is simple semantics for fairy dust. Faced with no evidence of a transitional form and a very robust fossil record Evolution could only be saved by determining that “transitional life forms” were not necessary. Thus by a liberal (no pun) sprinkling of fairy dust the need for transitional forms is dispensed with and the simultaneous existence of the older and newer forms is explained. This is all explained in the book “Fossils” written by Niles Eldredge who happens to be a protégé` of Stephen Gould and the co-author of -- your guessed it “Punctuated Equilibrium”. Alternative titles could be “Fairy Dust – The Key to Darwin” or “Evolution is True Because I Said So”.

Nevertheless Professor Behe – without intending to – disproved Evolution by meeting Darwin’s test mathematically, by determining there are “irreducible” systems. Or at least to anyone with a rational mind, Behe disproved Evolution via gradual modifications over millenia, but the jury of the New York Times and the NEA is still out. They seem unable to accept facts that run counter to their belief system, besides Professor Behe is a Catholic which by definition makes him a NUT and a Neo-Creationist. But Professor Behe felt his model was either correct or not correct and submitted it for review. So far the attacks have focused Behe’s temerity to question Evolution rather than the actual model. So what prompted the Professor’s heresy? How could this well known and highly respected Scientist have strayed so far from the True Faith?

Professor Behe not unexpectedly was studying the flagellum which is a little bacterial motor that propels bacteria. This flagellum requires the coordinated interaction of about 30-40 complex protein parts and the absence of any one of them would render the flagellum useless. With this as a starting point Behe compared this to a mousetrap, which has only a few parts but requires all of them to function properly and the absence of anyone of them renders the mousetrap useless. From this simple model Professor Behe veered off into Darwinian Apostasy by demonstrating it is a mathematical impossibility for all 30 parts of the flagellum or 200 parts of the similar Cilium to have been brought together by the numerous and successive slight modifications required by natural selection, because no transitional form would function – meaning they would die and not be available for march of mutation on their road to becoming a whale or mosquito. All parts must be present all of the time because the “flagellum is an irreducible form”. Then Professor Behe committed the ultimate sin and declared that life at the molecular level “is a loud, clear, piercing, cry of design”. In a feeble attempt at tact, Professor Behe omitted the word “intelligent”, but it didn’t save him. The true believers grabbed their torches and pitchforks and were in full cry before the ink of this heresy had dried.

What Behe actually did was to postulate the irreducibly complex system:

By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional. An irreducibly complex biological system, if there is such a thing, would be a powerful challenge to Darwinian evolution.

Behe illustrated his irreducible system by using a simple mouse trap as a model. A mouse trap has a platform, a lever, a spring, and the staple or killing device. Each one must be present and the removal of any one renders the trap unusable.

H. Allen Orr a Biologist wrote a lengthy and scathing review of Behe’s work but without actually demonstrating that Behe was wrong. Orr presents a critique of the Mouse Trap model showing how useless parts could be added without actually causing the Mouse Trap to malfunction. Of course it might not function as well but Orr skips that part. Orr then concludes that genetic changes could occur over millions of years and ultimately result in a new life form. Of course this is the very basis of Darwin’s view of Evolution. What Professor Orr ignores is that if the number of mutations occurs over millions of years it would result in transitional life forms which other scientists have already accepted don’t exist. Perhaps Professor Orr needs to review the scientific material already available.

Although the scientific community was clearly uncomfortable with having to admit it, they did concede that Behe had a point because they had no real data that could be used to refute him. So they danced all around the point but my very favorite, which really sets the tone for true believers comes from Jerry Coyne at the University of Chicago who stated

“...We may never be unable to envisage the proto-pathways. Or it could take hundreds of billions of years! But by then, maybe we’ll have evolved into a species that doesn’t exhibit anti-religious hysteria whenever anyone questions the theory of evolution.”

Of course the translation of this statement is “Don’t dare attack my religious beliefs by using science.” Coyne knows God is dead and there is no God but Darwin.

Another favorite rebuttal to Behe comes from Keith Robison of Harvard who attacks Behe’s Mouse Trap Analogy. Robison maintains he can simplify the mousetrap and eliminate parts, specifically the platform by nailing the parts to the floor. Remember Robison is a Harvard Professor so he not unexpectedly is light on abstract thinking because he cannot see any similarity between the floor and the platform. But then he is striving to salvage his pride and religious belief in the infallibility of Darwin and Evolution, so he glosses over the flaw in his rebuttal and presumes no one will question him because he is defending the faith..

Coyne asserted that it was possible for irreducibly complex systems to arise from natural selection even though there is no evidence or demonstrable proof of this. The reality is that AT BEST Evolution remains a shaky theory based on the tests postulated by Darwin himself, and at worst it fails the test and is in fact false.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Just The Facts Please

I have known for a long time that Democrats generally don’t think very clearly and that your typical Liberal is actually incapable of thought and relies, exclusively on feelings. Actually from my observation when a Liberal is confronted with a FACT, they roll their eyes, foam at the mouth, and curl into a fetal position, waiting to be comforted by some completely contrived refutation in that bastion of truth and probity – the New York Times. If I ever had any doubt about these conclusions they have been erased by the recent explanations found in all of the best Liberal outlets, explaining how the current economic growth is completely unrelated to any action(s) taken by the current administration. The greatly increased tax revenues and declining deficit is variously described as a “windfall”, an “anomaly”, or simply and unexplained economic aberration. The fact that historically – from the Roman Empire until today – tax reductions can be tied directly to economic growth and increased employment cannot be accepted by any Liberal because “facts” make them uncomfortable and in excess render them unconscious.

Just consider the many attacks on President Bush, Conservatives, Christians, and anyone else who the Liberal establishment feels is a threat to their feelings of entitlement and self-righteousness. The operative word there is “feels” because we already know that a Liberal can’t think and that all they do is “feel”, so we are treated to one outrageous attack after another none of which are supported by any facts. Of course the most egregious is “Bush lied” – but lied about what? Well WMD’s of course !! Oh – but Saddam gassed 30,000 Kurds and at least that many Iranians – aren’t those WMD’s ? Yes BUT – Saddam got rid of them so Bush lied about them. But they havn't they actually found artillery shells and other evidence of chemical weapons, plus documented evidence of ties to Al Qaeda? All forgeries according to the Liberal mantra that Bush lied and everyone knows it. But these realities are ignored by the Liberal establishment because they never deal in facts and they feel Bush lied, so it must be true. They also feel there is a huge conspiracy between the Administration and Halliburton so it must be true -- feelings don't lie -- at least not like Bush. However, my point here isn’t to defend the Administration but to examine how the Liberal mind works --- assuming of course they are capable of distinguishing something beyond light and dark.

I have observed that Liberals almost always talk in terms of groups, such as; the poor, the rich, the handicapped, the illiterate, the innocent, and the list is virtually endless, but what they don’t talk about are individuals. In fact your typical Liberal is all for higher taxes and demand that the Rich pay “their fair share”. Of course have you EVER heard a Liberal or even a Democrat for that matter – ever define what constitutes “rich” or who is “poor” or what a “fair Share”is? Of course you haven’t because in the eyes of a Liberal anyone who is gainfully employed is rich and the poor are all of their constituents who are sucking off of the rich. At this point it is necessary to distinguish between a Democrat and Liberal. Now both of these groups believe in Robin Hood economics – that is rob the rich and give to the poor but the difference is the Democrat is willing to leave the clothes on your back while the Liberal wants to take everything you have, including your underwear. This is the difference between the Democratic goal of income redistribution and the Liberal goal of total government control. To the Liberal this form of government control by them is is called “Democratic" to the rest of us it is called “Marxism” – which of course is a synonym for stupidity --- or is it Liberal – I forget.

Another favorite topic that gets the Liberals and the ACLU all in a snit are “rights”. In their eyes you have a right to a job – not just any job but a job that pays a “living wage”. But wait – what is a “living wage”? I casually observed earlier that this is a term that the Liberal never actually defines but apparently it is tied to many of your other “rights”. After all you have a right to an education, healthcare, and a place to live in addition to that fine job that pays the living wage. Apparently all of these rights are defined in the Constitution and must be provided by the government, but then unlike most Liberals (who feel rather than read), I have actually READ the Constitution of the United States of America and I couldn’t find any of these rights spelled out – even obliquely. But then I am speaking of “facts” once again and Liberals “feel” the Constitution defines these rights and if it doesn’t it should and that amounts to the same thing.

Thus the Liberal who talks about rights is actually saying that the government (them) is entitled – nay OBLIGATED – to force some entrepreneur (never use the word “capitalist” in the presence of a Liberal because they lose their focus, begin to pant, and finally faint) – to employ you and to pay you handsomely even though you are incapable of constructing an English sentence or even reading one. Relative to Healthcare every Liberal knows -- well feels -- certainly feels -- that doctors are simply greedy. Therefore, it is an obligation of the state to force these doctors to render their services and apply their hard earned knowledge to any Urban Outdoorsman (Homeless person to most Conservatives) free of charge. For a Liberal this “free” Healthcare is a right and the concept is lifted directly from Karl Marx, who in the eyes of a Liberal is the guiding light of economic reason and the future of mankind. The fact ---( oops there’s that four letter word again) – that Socialism is failing in Canada and Marxism has failed everywhere it has been tried is ignored. Liberals “feel” it is the right thing to do so it must be OK and no uncomfortable facts are allowed to intrude on their fantasy economics. Liberals essentially feel the government has the right to do whatever they feel is good for the group, which means that the Liberals believe that the state (them) has the right to take your property and turn it into a refuge for the Spotted Owl, to stamp out Christmas, kill off Santa Claus, convert everyone to atheism, and stamp out the Easter Bunny. Hopefully, the Tooth Fairy will lead a counter insurgency!! For the Liberal group rights ALWAYS trump individual rights, unless of course the group in question is a group they disapprove of -- say for instance the Catholic Church or the Boy Scouts. Liberals never speak in terms of individuals unless of course the individual is black, Hispanic, homeless, a convicted criminal, or gay. A Liberal would rather have their Peace Symbol Tattoo ripped off of their plump little rosy bottoms with burning tongs than to admit an individual (you) has a right to his private property. Supreme Court Justice David Souter has codified this belief in his decision to allow the state to take an individual's property and give it to a developer so the world can be enriched with another Tanning Booth, Wine Bar, and French Restaurant.

Of course the very favorite group of the Liberal is the Government. Liberals believe in government – lots of it—but not a representative government like we have today but a government controlled completely by them. The government we have today cannot possibly be a viewed as a representative government because it supports President Bush, has failed to indict Karl Rove, insists on lowering taxes, and has treated acts of war and war criminals with frightening hostility and HORRORS – taken action without UN approval. Because the Liberal is opposed to all of these things it is clear the Government has been infiltrated by NeoCon’s (where is Senator McCarthy when you need him? ) who are dismantling all of the Liberal gains since the Warren Court. Their only recourse is to attack, oppose, and obstruct everything these NeoCon’s undertake. I am reminded of a Bugs Bunny Cartoon with the Tasmanian Devil, where Bugs – as played by George Bush stands in place quietly munching his carrot while the Devil – aptly played by Howard (Mad Dog) Dean dashes about aimlessly attacking and destroying everything he can without actually accomplishing anything other than meaningless destruction. You doubt this picture—have you actually watched Mad Dog? He foams at the mouth and never says anything resembling a coherent thought – think about it --- he might actually be the Tasmanian Devil in disguise.

In the Liberal World (aka Fantasy Land) the Government not only creates jobs and assures the non-productive they can lead the good life at some one else’s expense, they believe they have the right to take property from greedy homeowners and convert it into needed strip malls and sanctuaries for the Furbish Lousewort. For the Liberal the Government is like a never ending money pump – after all the Government owns the Mint and can print all of the money necessary. I know, I know – that isn’t really how it works but no one ever accused a Liberal of having a strong grip on reality. I have actually come to the conclusion that if you want to become a certified liberal like Michael (the Whale) Moore you can’t think or even feel but you must BELIEVE – HALLELUJAH BROTHER!!. You cannot rationalize or reflect but you must believe that anyone who thinks that there is such a thing as individual rights or that George Bush is actually human is an evil NEOCON!! . You must believe that Karl Rove does not have an office with a computer but lives in cave with a cauldron, where he casts spells on unsuspecting voters using the eyes of Newts and sucking out the brains of people who would otherwise be voting for Liberals rather than that idiot in the White House. They sincerely believe that if you need proof of the evil machinations of Karl Rove you need only look at the Fox News Channel – they must have been hexed because they don’t regard Cindy Sheehan as the modern equivalent of Joan of Arc. Indeed the Great Satan IS Karl Rove –although he seems a little pudgy to me to be all that scary, but then your typical Liberal is terrified of being FAT, which is why they are on this Crusade to reduce fat in all food, bankrupt McDonalds, Coca Cola, and take as much taste out of food as they can. Unfortunately in their drive to rid the world of FAT they overlooked FAT HEADEDNESS which they seem to have more than their share. They really need more fiber in their diet.

In their drive to establish their Utopian egalitarian society the Liberal establishment is especially concerned about criminal justice. Of course in the eyes of a true dyed in the wool Liberal like John Kerry or Teddy Kennedy criminal justice means justice for the criminal not his victims. Criminals are entitled to a free college education, free medical treatment, cable TV, and privacy. Prisons should be made as comfortable as possible. Because to a Liberal prisoners should not be punished but should be rehabilitated and released as soon as possible back into society, where the majority will only murder every now and then. And of course these prisoners are entitled to conjugal visits- assuring the enduring existence of the criminal class, and their re-election.

When you or I see a prisoner at the bar, we see a person accused of a crime – some one who may or may not be innocent. The Liberal looks at the prisoner at the bar and sees a Black (Hispanic, Gay, Latvian, Vegetarian, etc.) who has been accused of a crime through the prejudice and misconduct of the police or the white establishment. The fact that the prisoner was caught red handed standing over the body of 90 year old woman who he has raped and stabbed 104 times cannot be admitted in court because the Police didn’t read him his rights in his native Ebonics. Your typical Liberal KNOWS that this prisoner at the bar wouldn’t have assaulted this poor widow if he hadn’t suffered at the hands of the White Establishment who have oppressed him. He is suffering from post-traumatic stress brought on by the cultural damage wrought by slavery, poverty, or lack of education. Liberals are long on beliefs and feelings but very short on facts and commonsense. Did I forget to mention the Liberal’s take on victims of crime? Let me check my notes here --- Hmmm – well yes I think I did – and here it is. Liberals think victims of crime should have taken more precautions and that about sums up their concern for victims.

So there it is – a description of the Liberal establishment -- a group seemingly devoid of honor, intelligence, or rational thought. A group personified by Mad Dog and the Whale. Another election is coming up – hopefully the electorate will have been purged of enough of the illegal aliens to allow the citizens to elect a representative government once again.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Collateral Damage In The Global Economy

There is no doubt but that we are competing in an increasingly competitive global market, but this is a market environment that has its dark side. The United States is the largest consumer market in the world with Europe a close second but these consumer markets rest on a foundation of wealth which in turn rests on wages. But wages are increasingly under competitive pressures from abroad where highly trained people plus thousands of unskilled workers are available for a fraction of the cost in either America or Europe.

At the turn of the 20th Century more than half of the population was engaged in agriculture with a relatively small percentage engaged in manufacturing. By 1950 the number of people engaged in agriculture had dropped to a small percentage and 50% of the working population was engaged in manufacturing. During the first half of the 20th Century the union movement was instrumental in creating high paying jobs and curtailing the exploitation of the worker. The union movement reached its apogee in the 1950’s and has been declining ever since – primarily because manufacturing jobs have declined to the point where less than 10% of the working population is engaged in manufacturing. Today most manufacturing is done overseas using cheaper labor but the actual unemployment level in the US is approximately 5% which is about where it runs historically. The unemployment rate in Europe is over 10% and rising primarily due to their attempts to maintain employment levels through government control and tariffs. The US has not followed this path but nevertheless this shift from unskilled manufacturing has resulted in some collateral damage to the working class.

As the US moves away from manufacturing and into the service economy it is creating some displacement. The government and various pundits are pushing education as a solution and pointing out that there are plenty of jobs for those who have an education and skills that are not readily available overseas. While this is a logical solution for many people there are those in society who do not fit in a scholastic environment and these are increasingly becoming collateral damage. The service economy certainly includes all of those trained and educated workers but it also includes skilled workers such as; carpenters, plumbers, painters, small business owners, various healthcare workers, and a variety of similar jobs. For the most part these people are employed and make a living wage but there are many workers who are being displaced by machines and by jobs moving overseas who do not have these skills or training. These workers have few options other than retraining and if they cannot succeed in an academic environment then their options are severely limited.

There is increasing pressure for the government to do something and this cry is usually accompanied by the idea that the government should “create jobs”. But the reality is that the government cannot create jobs unless those jobs are government jobs. The government does not produce anything and certainly nothing that even resembles profits so the salaries for all government workers must come from tax revenues. This means that for every job created the government must either increase taxes or reduce spending on existing programs but as everyone knows neither option is attractive to a politician so nothing gets done. Besides, creating government jobs has been the European and UAW solution for years and the result has been catastrophic for both. European countries are staggering under the weight of their welfare states and the UAW is not only hemorrhaging members it is eliminating jobs as well.

As much as the liberal establishment may dislike it, jobs are created by capitalists – that is entrepreneurs and those individuals willing to invest their capital in the profit making enterprise. The less money that is taken from the capitalists the more money is available for investment. The sad reality is that those who advocate big government and government created jobs seem to think that the capitalists are those wealthy individuals with high incomes. This common liberal viewpoint demonstrates an appalling ignorance not only of capitalism but how a capitalist economy works. The money that is invested comes from capitalists alright but these are those individuals who are prudent enough to have saved money, which they have put into the bank, into stocks, or into mutual funds. This is the money that fuels our economy and generates tax revenues for the government, profits (dividends) for the investor (saver), and jobs for others. It is this growth in employment that generates increased tax revenues so as taxes are lowered more money becomes available for investment and paradoxically everybody benefits and the economy grows. As taxes are increased the capital shrinks, jobs evaporate, and tax revenues decline so taxes must be increased in order to sustain the government benefit programs, which starts a cycle of decline. This is a lesson that the big government liberal establishment seems to be incapable of grasping. Therefore, to blame businesses for moving jobs offshore is simply an example of how the Unions and Liberal establishment either cannot or will not accept the realities of a capitalist economy. In socialism the objective is employment in capitalism the objective is profit.

Although the issue is focused by the Unions and Liberal Politicians to the movement of jobs offshore, in reality there are many sectors of the economy that are booming and show positive rates of employment -- but not all. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that production jobs have declined 6% since 1996 but manufacturing jobs have declined 17% and Production manufacturing has declined 42%. The sad reality is that these unskilled jobs are competing with cheap labor offshore and in order to remain competitive manufacturers must lower the cost of production. What seems to be ignored by the unions and the politicians is that even though the management costs, transportation costs, and tariffs are added to the total the overall cost is still lower than the cost of production is in the US. This should be a wake-up call that the status quo cannot be sustained.

But skilled labor seems to be doing well. The construction industry shows a growth of 31% since 1996 and as does Professional and Business Services. The High School Drop-out or those individuals who expect to join the union and get a “good paying job” are in for a disappointment because those are the jobs that are moving overseas. This doesn’t mean that everyone must have a college degree but it does mean that those “good paying jobs” will require some skill. However, for those willing and able to increase their skills through professional education, there are many opportunities and not all of these require an engineering degree, for example Home Healthcare Services shows a 537,100 forecasted growth in employment with a projected annual growth of 5.4%. Even the Entertainment Industry shows a modest growth in job opportunities and even though these jobs may not require a high level of education they do require a level of skill.

Clearly the impact of the Global Economy is reverberating throughout the industrialized world. The Socialist Economies of Europe are being hard hit because employment has always been one of their objectives. Ironically these countries have high unemployment rates and are struggling to retain the jobs they have. The situation in Europe is an example of what happens when the government attempts to “create jobs”. The government does not produce anything so there are few options available. They can hire people directly and increase taxes, which is never an attractive option to politicians – unless of course they are taxing the rich (meaning employed to most liberal politicians). They can increase corporate taxes, which is always a popular choice but even the densest politician knows that this not only slows the economy it usually increases unemployment. But then there is always the Socialist Solution – the one so frequently used by South Americans and Europeans – and that is to seize private businesses and nationalize them. This guarantees employment but it never provides efficiency or profits and in the extreme you have the Soviet Union and we all know how well that worked.

The Global Economy is having a huge impact worldwide as the labor force undergoes realignment and this will result in some collateral damage in the form of individuals who reject the idea of retraining or career changes. The reality is that there are many new jobs being created by industry but only for those flexible enough to change.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

A Lesson In Corporate Knife Fighting

Periodically we see in the news papers or a trade journal that some executive has elected to retire or is leaving his cushy job to “pursue other interests” or to “spend more time with his family”. Of course most other executives know these are simply code words for identifying the loser in some sort of corporate power struggle and the other interests and time spent with the family are simply euphemisms for “seeking other employment”. What people outside of the executive ranks rarely see or understand is that life in the executive suite is frequently brutal and everyday is like a fight in an alley way. The following is a sample of how these things go and is based on an actual situation.

The Executive Vice President had five Industry Groups reporting to him, each headed by a Divisional Vice President. Of these five one was ready for retirement, two were asleep at the switch, and the remaining two were predators, and each was intent on becoming President of the company some day. The Predators realized that the only competition they had came from each other so they were very competitive with each other and largely ignored the others. Without any warning the Executive Vice President left the company and the President appointed the near-to-retirement (NTR),Vice President to replace him. This was a stunning turn of events to the Predators since neither of them was chosen. However, it was clear the appointment of the NTR Vice President was simply a place holder, pending the selection of permanent replacement, so all was not yet lost.

The Predators formed a peace pact and began to work together to divide the spoils and the power. The plan was to convince the new VP to divide his Industry Group between the two Predators and thus not replace himself. The plan worked like a charm. The spoils were divided, their power base expanded, and then the bomb dropped. The NTR VP announced that he was planning on completely reorganizing the divisions and would be bringing in a new executive to help in the organization. The Predators immediately closed ranks and launched an attack on this totally dumb idea. It was a dumb idea because it immediately provided them with a logical competitor for the EVP slot when the NTR VP retired. They used every argument and rationale they could to prevent bringing in an outsider. However, they were caught off-guard and so were unable to mount an effective opposition before the new executive was hired.

Of course the new executive had no idea regarding who any of the players were. The President and the NTR VP had recruited him from the outside to assist in a reorganization effort. Beyond that he knew nothing and certainly was not warned about the competitive nature of his colleagues.

The Predators welcomed him with open arms, each vying with the other to be the most cooperative. They provided him with documentation (by the box), had key individuals brief him (by the hour), submitted recommendations and suggestions almost daily. Of course the documentation was randomly boxed, the briefings tangential to the objective, and the suggestions and recommendations conflicting. Meanwhile the Predators were complaining to the President that the reorganization plan was dragging them down, the new executive was working too slowly, and things were really better like they were and the reorganization was unnecessary. The new executive was unaware of this background action and continued to try to sort out the current situation while trying to put together a new organizational plan.

To some extent the rearguard action was successful because the NTR VP announced that the reorganization plan was going slower than expected so in the interim he was going to re-establish the old organization. This meant pulling the units that formerly reported to him out of the Predators Divisions and re-creating the Industry Group that he formerly led. The new executive would be the Divisional Vice President responsible for the reconstituted Industry Group. This was an unexpected turn of events, but the Predators knew how to handle a situation like this. They simply sorted the employees by contribution, established the bottom performers, and transferred them to the new executive, swearing of course that he was taking their very best people. The new Industry Group floundered about while the new executive attempted to get it organized. The Predators continued their attack except it was now on two fronts. The reorganization plan was dragging on forever, and the new Industry Group was dragging all of the other Divisions down.

The new executive was the new kid on the block but he came from a tough neighborhood. He realized what was going on and launched a counterattack. First he hired some managers from outside, people whom he knew and trusted. These replaced the deadwood that the Predators so generously gave him. He then went to the two Divisional Vice Presidents who were asleep at the switch. As the new executive suspected they were really not asleep, just lacking a leader. He enlisted their support, got them to agree to give him some experienced people and to quietly help him with the reorganization. Within a very short time, the new Industry Group was showing real progress and the reorganization was secretly submitted to the President, which he accepted.

The NTR VP retired and was replaced by the new executive who was promoted to Executive Vice President on the basis of his demonstrated leadership and performance. He had rebuilt the Industry Group, reorganized the Industry Divisions, and established himself as a leader. The new organization called for the two Divisional Vice Presidents who had been asleep at the switch to absorb the Industry Groups formerly led by the Predators. The Predators were fired.

Obviously this scenario was fraught with risks for all of the players as well as the company, but it was the arrogance of the Predators that brought them down. They were blinded by their own belief that they were the only ones qualified to succeed to the position of Executive Vice President. When the NTR VP was initially appointed they failed to see that they had been evaluated and found wanting. Instead they chose to believe the appointment of the NTR VP was ceremonial pending his retirement and that one of them would takeover when that happened. This smugness led to a series of risk decisions that ultimately led to their downfall. First they assumed their two colleagues were either unaware of their competitive games or were not competitors themselves. This was a risk decision that they made and chose incorrectly. Next they made a risk decision in badgering the NTR VP to consolidate his division into theirs. There was a reason that Division existed to begin with and its consolidation would certainly raise questions.

The fatal turn of events for the Predators occurred when they failed to correctly assess the sudden decision to hire an outside executive to reorganize the Industry Groups. If this decision had solely been the NTR VP's, then why would he have consolidated the divisions in the first place? Why wouldn't he have reorganized at that point? The next risk assessment failure was not questioning the decision to bring in an outside executive to conduct the reorganization. At that point the Predators should have understood that there was a force behind these events beyond the NTR VP, instead of accepting the fact that their stars had set, they took their attack to the President. Obviously they assumed he either did not know what was going on or would accept their assessment that he had hired a turkey. That is a message very few Presidents want to receive. And finally, they underestimated the quality and skill of the new executive. They risked everything on their ability to bring him down. They did not even consider that the President might have hired him, as their new boss. Rather than attempt to ingratiate themselves they attacked him thinking that he had little support. So there you have it, a whole series of conscious and unconscious risk decisions that ultimately brought two high flyers to the ground. Candid self-appraisal is as important as a candid assessment to the risks surrounding a decision.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Jock Itch

Am I the only person who is sick and tired of pampered spoiled athletes? You know the ones who treat us to the spectacles like the one that recently transpired in Detroit where the mighty pampered one left the court and sprawled on the timekeepers table. Some disgruntled fan apparently threw water on him and the fight was on. This turned into a brawl with the athletes fighting the fans and the fans pelting the pampered ones with chairs, bottles, cups, and anything they could lay their hands on. Apparently the solution offered by the NBA was to protect the players from the fans by building some sort of a barricade – presumably like the hockey rinks have. However, to my jaundiced and uneducated eye, it seems the fans need to be protected from the players. But no one it seems is willing to suggest that maybe – just maybe – this overpaid and pampered ignoramus was actually personally responsible. In fact, the county prosecutor in Detroit actually prosecuted the fans and sent one to jail. The athletes defended by the players union (these guys NEED a union?) is appealed the suspension of the athlete who instigated the whole thing and the Prosecutor essentially gave the jocks a slap on the wrist. As bad as this is – it is really just symptomatic of a much greater malaise.

Almost on a daily basis we are treated to some ignorant, semi-literate barbarian mouthing off on the TV about how he is being treated, underpaid, not on drugs, or explaining his most recent arrest for drugs or drunkenness. Even when these overpaid dumbbells are conducting themselves in a more or less civilized manner, they still display appalling conduct. It isn’t just the brawling but it is those cute little dances in the end zone when they score. It isn’t enough to score—each touchdown must be accompanied by some sort of pubescent victory display --the sort of thing that used to mark one as a poor sport. Then we have the strutting, chest bumping, and weird hand wringing (apparently in lieu of a handshake) and gang gestures, all of which are viewed as normal behavior rather than what it is which is setting a low standard of conduct. This is alleged to be all in good fun and well it might be, but it also is a vivid example of how acceptable conduct has declined in civility, courtesy, and standards of conduct., not to mention sportsmanship.

However, it isn’t just basketball or football but virtually all sports have been contaminated with this sense of entitlement by the athletes that leads them to believe they are special and thus outside of the rules of society. Every year we are treated to the spectacle of some athlete being arrested for drug possession, drunkenness, assault, or rape. If these are student athletes they are slapped on the wrist and excused, which reinforces their sense of being outside of the law. Once these jocks ascend into the ranks of the highly overpaid, they lose all control. They are then free to use steroids to enhance their performance, they are entitled to take drugs because it is the thing to do and they can afford it. Gone is any semblance of propriety or responsibility to those who actually pay to see them play. These athletes for the most part are low class over paid trash, who are terrible role models.

That is a little cynical I admit, but the fact is that sportsmanship, self-respect, and courtesy seems to be completely lacking in the sports scene. Not just with the athletes who have appalling conduct but the fans as well. We see riots at soccer matches that result in major property damage plus fatalities. We see fans using language that turns the air blue without regard or consideration for those around them. The athletes no longer set an example unless you wish to cite them as bad examples. What is worse is that most of them cannot construct a simple English sentence and express themselves in understandable English. Are these really the people that we want to think of as role models? I for one am sick and tired of these people and their sense of being outside of the law. I think it is past time that they are held to account for their actions.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Ninth Crusade

The most surprising thing about events in the last fifty or so years is the almost total lack of Western Society to realize they are in the midst of a global war and appear to be losing it. This war is a war between Christendom and Islam, which is probably the reason most of the Western Powers have failed to recognize that it is in progress. From the perspective of the Muslims this is another crusade – the Ninth – and they repeatedly refer to the Western forces as “Crusaders”. This reference is fully recognized thoroughout Islam but is viewed as either quaint or nonsensical by the West. This is a grave mistake and this failure to recognize the current worldwide terrorism as a manifestation of this religious struggle between Islam and Christendom weakens the West strategically.

Christendom is composed of many nation states, cultures, and even religions and the West perceives the entire world as composed of these nation states, without regard to the fact that many of these nation states were created by the Western Powers as they carved up the Ottoman Empire at the end of WW I. Hence the West sees Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, etc. as independent countries. The reality is that France and Britain in their usual arrogant and self-serving manner – created these countries as mandates and client states without regard to history or the people and certainly with little to no understanding of Islam. The leaders of these countries never had the support of the people and the countries were never totally stable and certainly never democratic. Of course Kemal Ataturk – a Turkish general over threw the last Ottoman dominated government in Turkey and established a secular government which still exists today, but this is a rarity in the Islamic world.

To some extent these European defined countries do exist but what is not recognized is that Islam is the unifying force, not national pride or patriotism. The unifying force throughout the Middle East is Islam and Islam is at war with Christendom and has been at war with Christendom since the death of Mohammed in the seventh century. The periods of peace between the Middle East and the West are viewed as periods of regrouping by Islam because they have never, and will never, abandon their objective of World Domination because they believe Islam was ordained by God and it is their duty to convert the world to Islam and kill all unbelievers.

Most Westerners view this objective of world domination by Islam as anachronistic, unrealistic, and perhaps even silly, but this attitude actually reflects the almost total ignorance the West has about Islam, its history, and their conflicts with Christendom. One of the most deceptive things being offered by the Muslims living in the West is their description of the term “Jihad”. These Muslims point out that Jihad means struggle and that within the Qur’an this can mean warfare or a moral struggle, so Muslims can be “Jihadists” and not be a threat to their host countries. While their definition of Jihad is correct what they fail to explain is that the use of this term outside of the Qur’an has always – even during Mohammed’s lifetime – meant warfare against infidels and apostates. Mohammed spread Islam by the sword and that has continued as the Islamic practice down to today. With this understanding, the following quote provides some insight into Islam and Jihad[1]

“In this as in so many other matters, the guidance of the Qur’an is amplified and elaborated in the hadi`ths, that is to say, traditions concerning the actions and utterances of the Prophet. Many of these deal with holy war. The following are a few samples.
· Jihad is you duty under any ruler, be he godly or wicked
· A day and night of fighting on the frontier is better than a month of fasting and prayer
· The nip of an ant hurts the martyr more than the thrust of a weapon, for these are more welcome to him than sweet, cold water on a hot summer day.
· He who dies without having taken part in a campaign dies in a kind of unbelief.
· God marvels at people (those to whom Islam is brought by conquest) who are dragged to Paradise in chains.
· Learn to shoot, for the space between the mark and the archer is one of the gardens of Paradise
· Paradise is in the shadow of swords."

Jihad is embedded in Islam from its outset and continues down to today. It is a religious duty for every Muslim, so is it any wonder why Muslims publicly condemn the worldwide slaughter of innocents but do little to stop it? Within Iraq we see Muslims killing Muslims by the hundreds or even thousands but little support is offered to the troops attempting to protect them. To support or ‘collaborate” with the Crusaders would be anti-Islamic. The fundamental point here is that within the world of Islam, the loyalty of the individual is first to Islam and not to a nation because nations are relatively new concepts in Islam. The same is true of governments. Westerners separate religion and government. This wasn’t always so but certainly since the 1600’s there has been a separation of church and state. While Christendom has nations and laws, these transcend the religious considerations but this isn’t the case within Islam. Islam overshadows and may override any government and this Islamic influence can be seen in the new Iraqi constitution where no law can be established that is non-Islamic. This falls short of establishing Shar’ia Law but it leaves open what is non-Islamic.

At the core of the current upheaval, which we call the War on Terror, is a form of religious reformation within Islam and the attacks on the Western Crusaders is part of that reforming activity but not its central thrust. Our reference to these Islamic reformers as “fundamentalists” is not really accurate because this is a Western term that carries subtle meanings that don’t apply. There really isn’t any dispute within the Muslim community over Islam itself, so no one is attempting to change or reform Islam. The dispute is that some Muslims like Osama bin Laden and the Muslim Brotherhood believe that many within the Islamic Community are turning away from the true faith and are becoming “apostate”. They blame this turning away on the West and Western Culture as epitomized by America – hence the reference to America as the Great Satan. More importantly, this view that Westernized Muslims are apostates permits Bin Laden and his supporters to kill other Muslims because the Qur’an specifically allows this and even directs that it be done.

For the West the ramifications of this Islamic reformation are significant for many reasons. Perhaps the first thing is that the West must realize the significance of the terms “the Great Satan” and “Crusaders” because this shows that what we are fighting a religious war and that this war is three sided with us in the middle. The Muslims are struggling internally over what is true Islam but the West represents the common enemy. We must also realize that dealing with national governments in Muslim countries does not have the same significance that we associate with nation states within Christendom. In the West there is a division between the political and the religious but this division does not exist in these Muslim countries. Islam makes no distinction between religion and government and more often than not the heads of state that we deal with are frequently viewed as Western Puppets. We see these as legitimately elected governments but within Islam elected representatives have little meaning and their authority frequently is legitimized only through the ulema (~ clergy).

Islam has – since its founding – been bent on world domination and the conversion of the world to Islam and Shar’ia (law). There has been a dispersion of Muslim across the Western World driven primarily by the oppression of their governments. The result is that within Europe and America there are large and growing Muslim populations. This drive within Islam to re-establish the “true Islam” may not affect all Muslims in the West but it need only affect a small percentage to have an enormous impact. This problem has already manifested itself in France and England and we have had hints of it in the US. We already know that many the Imams in many Mosques within the US preach hatred of the West and the Crusaders. We know that the Muslim community collects large sums for Hamas and Hezbollah. We have a strong belief in freedom of religion so we do not monitor or interfere with these Imams and they use this against us. They view our freedoms as weaknesses and examples of our moral corruption because we permit free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. They are opposed to all of these things but we fail to recognize this as a threat to us. The lack of action and condemnation within the Muslim community is a silent warning which we are ignoring. We need to recognize the threat to our internal safety and begin to take action against these Imams. The British have already started but they may have waited to long, we should not make their mistake. We are in the midst of the Ninth Crusade and it is time we recognized it.

[1] Lewis, Bernard, The Crisis of Islam, New York, Modern Library, 2003