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.