Archive for January, 2011


…after you’ve been hit with a survey scam.

I’m blogging this because I’m seeing a few more Facebook friends than usual getting hit with these kind of scams.

Advertisements

Republic vs. Democracy

A simple explanation of the differences between a Monarchy, Oligarchy, Democracy, Republic, and Anarchy. I’m posting this for my own easy reference in the future but I consider it to be required viewing for anyone wanting to at least make an attempt to have an intelligent conversation about government.

Saturday, January 22, was the 38th anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. For anyone following me here or anywhere else online, it’s not news that I’m pro-life. From the perspective of science, it’s nearly impossible to refute that what is conceived is an unique life but I’m not interested in the perspective of science on this issue today. I’m not interested in the opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States. I’m more interested in the opinion of THE Supreme Court.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

That’s probably the quintessential passage in the Bible on the subject of life. But it’s not the only one:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:41-44)

The Greek word here for ‘baby’ is brephos and it is used twice (v.41, 44). At this point, the baby John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb is approximately six months old. Furthermore, Mary is recently pregnant with the baby Jesus and Elizabeth, although she didn’t know this since Mary had only just said ‘hello’, calls her “the mother of my Lord” (v.43). Yeah…that’s pretty much Present tense, not Future tense.

Now let’s jump ahead a chapter.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. (Luke 2:12)

The word for ‘baby’ here is brephos. Yep…same word as in 1:41,44…used to refer to both a baby in the womb (John the Baptist) and a baby outside the womb (Jesus).

Is there anything more that can be found in the Bible? Yep…plenty.

“If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Exodus 21:22-25)

This section is not talking about the penalty for harming the pregnant woman. Such offenses between people (adults) are covered elsewhere. This one covers a special circumstance and is specifically talking about injuries to the baby and the penalty for injuring the baby is up to “life for life”. Oh, and this is also not talking about a miscarriage. The Hebrew phrase here is ‘vayatsav yeledayah’ which means “and the baby falls out of her”. This is literally referring to a baby. In cases of a miscarriage, such as what you find two chapters later…

Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. (Exodus 23:26)

…the word “miscarry” in the Hebrew is ‘mishakolah’, which means “to suffer an abortion” (a natural abortion, not an induced one). So what we have here are different words, different meanings. One thing that we don’t have here is ambiguity.

But let’s take a spin through a few more verses to see if God recognizes the child in the womb as an individual life with his own problems…

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

…his own destiny or future…

The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:22-25)

…his own purpose…

And now the LORD says— he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength— (Isaiah 49:5)

…his own calling from God…

But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. (Galations 1:17)

So, although I’ve heard of and spoken to people who profess a faith in God as explained by the Old and/or New Testament Bible, I’ve never had any of them back up their position with the Scriptures. But I’m willing to entertain anyone’s attempt to do so. That’s what the Comments section is for.

During the Korean War, the northwestern quadrant of North Korea along the southern-most half of the Yalu River was known as MiG Alley to the Air Force pilots that flew during the conflict. It was in this area that most of the encounters between Soviet pilots flying MiGs and U.S. pilots flying F-86s occurred. According to analysts within the Air Force at that time, the MiGs should have come out on top: it could turn quicker, fly higher, and go faster. In reality, it lost 10:1 to the F-86s. By unofficial counts, the score was 792 MiGs shot down compared to 78 F-86s shot down. Many years later, the answer for the unexpected outcomes was provided by an Air Force pilot (Colonel John Richard Boyd) and a civilian mathematician (Thomas Christie) which they called the Energy-Maneuverability (E-M) theory of aerial combat.

The mathematical equation that is the basis for E-M theory is eloquently simple and as follows:

Just to break down the equation for you (because I will be discussing it further in this post), the variables are as follows: Specific Energy (PS), Thrust (T), Drag (D), Weight (W), and Velocity (V).

I was introduced to E-M theory (and other concepts that I may elaborate on at a later date by a long-essay by Daniel Ford that, if I remember correctly, was entitled “Strategic Dimensions of Contemporary Warfare”.1 That essay led me to read a couple other books: Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” and Robert Coram’s “Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War” and a lot of what’s currently bouncing around in my head goes back to these works. But let’s focus on the E-M theory equation for the duration of this post.

What the equation provides is a means to determine the maneuverability characteristics of an aircraft without having to first build and test a prototype or to determine these characteristics for an existing aircraft…such as an enemy aircraft that you may not be able to actually put your hands on. All you have to do is know what the values are for each aircraft, run the equations for different flight conditions (e.g., Drag is affected by altitude due to air density), and then see where the strengths and weaknesses for each aircraft lie.

This explains why the F-86s were so successful against the MiGs during the Korean War. Although the MiG was considered a superior aircraft by the standards of the time, the F-86s characteristics were superior at lower altitudes and slower speeds. (Note: Other factors were involved that are not explained by E-M theory but I may decide to cover those at a later date if I choose to also apply OODA Loops to politics.) One of the strategies successfully leveraged by the F-86 pilots was to lure the MiGs into combat at a lower elevation, use rapid and successive changes in velocity to put the F-86 behind the MiG, and then “hose ’em”. Conversely, it became quickly known to F-86 pilots that high-altitude and high-speed engagements with MiGs were to be avoided. Those that didn’t learn this early didn’t usually survive to learn it later.

So, how does this relate to politics? Simply stated, political organizations are subject to the same variables. Any given organization (and, truly, it doesn’t even need to be a political organization) generates Thrust, works against Drag, has Weight and can move at different Velocities. Putting all of these variables together, a Specific Energy for an organization can be identified and used to explain and predict outcomes for various contests, at various “altitudes”, and utilizing various “maneuvers”.

Within a political engagement between two or more parties, there will be conditions that provide an advantage or disadvantage to one party relative to the other party or parties. Therefore, the key is to know the “maneuverability characteristics” of your party and those of the opposition in order to either coax the opposition to engage you when your advantages are higher than theirs or your disadvantages are lower than theirs. The ideal engagement, naturally, would be when your advantages are highest and the opposition’s disadvantages are highest but ideal engagements are typically going to be rare. Other combinations are also possible, such as engaging when the conditions are disadvantageous for both parties but more disadvantageous for the opposition. But I don’t intend to go into all possible strategic combinations. Instead, I would like to close out this post by going over the variables in the context of politics and then continue in a subsequent post with how they relate to actual and theoretical events within the realm of politics today.

Before I explain the variables involved in this E-M Theory of Politics, please allow me to consolidate terms for the sake of maintaining simplicity and clarity. Rather than having to keep using the terms ‘organizations’, ‘parties’, and ‘politics’, I would like to collectively refer to these as ’causes’ since a ’cause’ is what all of these have in common.

Now, let’s break down the variables so that we can get to the really interesting part of applying the concepts to the world of causes in my next post:

Thrust (T)
Thrust is the force generated to move the cause forward. This force will usually be the people that are positively involved with or inclined toward the cause.

Drag (D)
Drag is the force or resistance opposite to the Thrust that works to slow, stop, or reverse the direction of the cause. Drag can come from just about anywhere but, like Thrust, usually comes from people that, in this case, are negatively involved with or inclined against the cause.

Weight (W)
Weight in terms of an aircraft in flight is the mass of the craft multiplied by the force of gravity and essentially works perpendicular to the direction of motion. For a cause, this comes down to the cost of keeping everyone together in terms of how they are organized and managed.

Velocity (V)
Velocity is the current rate of progress being made toward the objectives of the cause.

Specific Energy (PS)
Specific Energy is a measure of how effective the cause is being at a given moment. In terms of the other variables, it’s the ongoing attainment of objectives based upon positive actions and opinions without being adversely countered by negative ones while maintaining group cohesion.

In my next post (Part Two), we’ll apply this information and see if it can provide both the ability to explain and possibly predict outcomes in the real world of politics.

————————————————————————————————————-

1 Mr. Ford has a subsequent work based on his long-essay called “John Boyd vs. al-Qaeda: how a fighter pilot’s ‘OODA Loop’ can help win the war on terror“ that interested parties may wish to check out.

————————————————————————————————————-

Previous related post: Asymmetric Politics: Applying Military Doctrine to Political Doctrine

The recent bruhaha around ‘violent’ and ‘vitriolic’ rhetoric being blamed for actual violence set me to thinking about how much politics and warfare share in common. In reality, they’re directly related, with warfare being the outcome of an utter failure in political discourse. The American Revolution, for example, came out of an environment in which political discourse between the Colonies and Great Britain was shut down by the government.

It didn’t happen over night. For over thirty years, the Colonies attempted to engage the existing political structure in order to have their grievances addressed. It was Great Britain, jealous and fearful of the economically growing Colonies, that fired the first shots, both politically and militarily. Even then, the Colonies didn’t immediately rush to take up arms. Several attempts by the Colonies to reconcile with Great Britain were made even after first-blood had been shed by British troops. So, after eight hard-fought years to gain independence, it’s not really surprising that the terminology of warfare was incorporated into the political discourse of America. After all, the freedom to participate in a republican form of government was won at great individual cost of life, health, liberty, and possessions and keeping it requires as much fervor and self-sacrifice today as it did then. The use of military terminology within politics is a homage and reminder of what it cost us to attain this freedom in the first place.

So, after re-contemplating the appropriateness of cross-pollination between warfare and politics, it occurred to me that additional and contemporary interchanges of ideas between military doctrine and political doctrine should be beneficial (cross-hairs be damned). For my part, I intend to post here a series of my thoughts of how military doctrine and concepts may be appropriately (i.e., non-violently) applied to the political struggles of today. In particular, I will be focusing on the concept of Asymmetric Politics.

I don’t have a time frame set for myself in which to complete this but much of this is weighing heavily on my mind and I’d like to lighten the mental load as soon as possible. I have a rough idea of what the next three or four posts will be about but I anticipate that some of it may change as I continue to ruminate on how best to express what’s bouncing around in my head. I hope you’ll check in periodically to contemplate my future contributions. Please stay tuned and be on the lookout for additional posts on the topic of Asymmetric Politics.

Next related post: Asymmetric Politics: E-M Theory (Part One): Key Concepts

I’ve gotten tired of hearing from Progressives, Liberals, and Democrats that healthcare is a right.  It’s not and even the Founding Fathers knew this.  To start with, allow me to provide you with what’s probably the most recent example (as of this post) of a U.S. congressman stating this fallacy:

Dem. Rep.: ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ and 14th amendment

This is a good example because, as one sworn to defend the U.S. Constitution, Representative John Lewis should know what’s in it.

First off, the obvious mistake is that ‘pursuit of Happiness’ isn’t in the U.S. Constitution (USC) …it’s in the Declaration of Independence (DoI).  For those who don’t understand the difference, the DoI declared to England why we were forming our own nation.  The USC is how we set up the government of our own nation.  Second, the 14th Amendment of the USC also doesn’t mention ‘pursuit of Happiness’…it mentions ‘life, liberty, or property’.  Maybe Mr. Lewis was referring to some other part of the 14th Amendment but, if he was, the reason escapes me.  (If you know what he was talking about, please post a Comment below.)

But let’s go with Mr. Lewis’ premise that the Founding Fathers intended the government to provide for the Happiness of the People of the United States.  Is this what they actually intended?  The short answer: NO!  Is there evidence that supports the short answer? YES!  Allow me to provide it.

Let’s look at the origin of the following section of the DoI:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The Founding Fathers thoughts about civil government came from John Locke and this portion is almost directly lifted from John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Civil Government”, specifically from Chapter 2, “Of the State of Nature”, Section 6.  Here’s the relevant portion:

“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions: for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker; all the servants of one sovereign master, sent into the world by his order, and about his business; they are his property, whose workmanship they are, made to last during his, not one another’s pleasure: and being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us, that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for our’s.” (emphasis is mine)

You should notice two differences between what Locke wrote and what the Founders put into the DoI.  Where Locke says ‘health’, the Founders omit it.  Where Locke says ‘possessions’, the Founders change it to ‘pursuit of Happiness’.  These changes are not accidental.  The change of ‘possessions’ to ‘pursuit of Happiness’ is easy to understand and well-documented in history: the Founders original intent was to eliminate slavery but were unable to form an union and abolish slavery at the same time so, to prevent from establishing a precedent that would result in perpetually institutionalizing slavery, they used ‘pursuit of Happiness’ instead of ‘possessions’.  The logic is simple: slaves were property and any attempts to free the slaves would have lead to cries that ‘life, liberty, or possessions’ was being infringed upon without due process.  The conscious decision to make this distinction is further emphasized and validated by the 14th Amendment where the subsequent guardians of the USC now use the phrase ‘life, liberty, or property’.  Since the 13th Amendment had, at long last,  put an end to slavery, humans could not be considered to be ‘property’ and so usage of that word could be used.

(But the abolitionist bias of the majority of the Founders is not my topic here.  Maybe I’ll address this at a later date but let me move on for now.)

So why was ‘health’ omitted?  Since the Founders obviously drew upon the work of Locke, it’s omission cannot be an accident.  Locke’s work here is specifically talking about the individual state of man and man’s responsibility to not harm the life, health, liberty, or possessions of another man.  The Founding Fathers, in the DoI, state that the unalienable rights they listed…’life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’…are to be secured by governments “instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”.

Two points here:
First, ‘secured’ is not the same as ‘granted’, ‘given’, or ‘provided’.  It is the carving out of a space in which man can exercise his rights.  Inside of this carved out space of security, the government is not permitted to interfere.

Second, the ‘health’ of an individual is the responsibility of the individual and cannot be delegated to a third party.  Some might argue that ‘pursuit of Happiness’ covers both ‘health’ and ‘possessions’ but they would be making a faulty argument because an individual cannot give his ‘health’ to another.  I can surrender my ‘life’ to someone else.  I can surrender my ‘liberty’ to someone else.  I can even surrender my ‘pursuit of Happiness’ to someone else.  But the one thing I can’t surrender to someone else is my ‘health’.  And even if someone still wants to make the argument that it’s covered by ‘pursuit of Happiness’, allow me to point out that it is the ‘PURSUIT of Happiness’.  As a pursuit, I can strive for Happiness but I will have to individually achieve it and therefore the government cannot be infringed upon to attempt to provide it for me.

In summary, the Founding Fathers understood that our rights were unalienable and could not be taken from us except by force since no man would willingly give them up, except in a possible unretractable instance of self-sacrifice (i.e., the pursuit of Happiness in the form of a sacrifice).  They were aware of Locke’s work and that he understood that health was an intrinsic part of man for which he was individually responsible.  Furthermore, in regard to health being an intrinsic part of man, no man should cause harm to the health of another but simultaneously recognized that an individual’s health was not a right that man could ascribe to government or anyone else because, again, health is intrinsic to the individual.  For these reasons, and many more that I could delve into, health is not a right that can be secured by governments for the individual (i.e., healthcare as a right) .  Therefore, healthcare is not a right and attempts by governments to provide it through regulation and/or mandates is actually an infringement upon individual rights, especially in the form of universal healthcare.

Speak Up or Shut Up

This article from Simon Jenkins (“Free speech can’t exist unchained. US politics needs the tonic of order“) was gnawing at the edges of my psyche most of the day on Sunday.  The article isn’t profound or eloquent.  In a word, it’s “crap”.  But it’s not the ‘quality’ that was gnawing at me, it was that it was so apparently “crap”.  Allow me to destroy it with a simple equation:

Chained speech <> Free speech

That’s it.  That’s all it takes.  Thanks, Simon, for putting the bleeding obvious counter argument to your article in the title.  And, in the event that it was The Guardian that decided on the title, then I give my thanks to you too, Guardian.

Now, let’s get down to what the Guardian article is really about.  Thanks to Andrew Klavan’s latest “Klavan On The Culture”, he’s explained it concisely in the following video so that I don’t have to:

Thanks, Andrew. To everyone else, here’s the take-away: Speak up or shut up. Actually, make that: Speak up or you WILL BE shut up.

The MO Colossus

Not like the brazen machine of Chicago fame,
With conquering laws astride from boundary to boundary;
Here at our river-crossed, westerward gate shall stand
A mighty state with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MO of Ex-IL-es. From her beacon-hand
Glows nation-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The river-bridged land that two cities frame.
“Keep, Progressive lands, your gangster pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your energetic, your wealthy,
Your middle classes yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your oppressive Lakeshore.
Send these, the employers, taxation-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the gateway door!”

(inspired by this article and the original poem “The New Colossus”)

Take a look at this picture and tell me what you see:

Is it something good?  Is it evil?  Neither? What does it mean?

Well, maybe it will help if we take a look at the bigger picture:

Did the bigger picture change your perspective?  If it didn’t, maybe a little more information about that symbol will prove enlightening.  As you’ll see, the mental associations that people ascribe to the symbol has changed through the course of history but, for most of that course, the associated meaning was pretty benign.

So, what is the meaning of the symbol?  That’s up to you..it’s just a symbol.

symbol
–noun

  1. something used for or regarded as representing something else; a material object representing something, often something immaterial; emblem, token, or sign.
  2. a letter, figure, or other character or mark or a combination of letters or the like used to designate something: the algebraic symbol x; the chemical symbol Au.
  3. a word, phrase, image, or the like having a complex of associated meanings and perceived as having inherent value separable from that which is symbolized, as being part of that which is symbolized, and as performing its normal function of standing for or representing that which is symbolized: usually conceived as deriving its meaning chiefly from the structure in which it appears, and generally distinguished from a sign.

Depending on your experience and frame of reference, the meaning you assign to the symbol may be (and probably is) different than someone else’s.  Is one meaning better or worst than another?  Not really…it just depends on how you act upon the meaning that you ascribe to it.  And that’s the key: it’s not the symbol, it’s how a person individually acts upon it.

One of the strengths of the human mind is it’s ability to create and synthesize symbols.  Even if we don’t consciously realize it, most of our thoughts consist of a series of symbols.  Symbology is highly efficient…a mental short-hand of complex thoughts and reasoning that, rather than having to reprocess and combine several complex thoughts in order to make decisions, allow us to take two or more symbols, combine them, and create new, more complex thoughts that may then be mentally retained within another symbol.

But this symbolic nature of the human mind is also a weakness.  Namely, the assigning of an imprecise meaning to a symbol (i.e., a wrong or imperfect conclusion) means that we need to periodically re-examine our conclusions/symbols and improve upon them if necessary.  Unfortunately, most people seldom (if ever) re-examine their symbols and, when precision of their symbol is challenged, can become quite irate.  Just look for the person in a discussion that suddenly jumps off the point, especially if they start making appeals to emotion.  That’s a big tell that the person’s symbol has proven to them to be imprecise…and the more emotionally charged they are about it, the bigger the degree of imprecision you’ve probably exposed.  Conversely, a person who can have their symbols challenged and precisely define their symbols is a person worth listening to.  You may not agree with them but they’re probably further along on the road to self-actualization and should be able to at least hold a decent and civilized conversation (a rare trait, indeed).

So, now, let’s make a jump and apply this information.

What do you think or feel about this symbol?

Is it something good?  Is it evil?  Neither? What does it mean?

I’ll let you decide.  As for me, I think I’ll judge a person who ascribes to it based upon their individual actions.  So far, I’m not liking much of what I see being done under this banner but I don’t blame the symbol.  I don’t condemn the artist that created it.  And I don’t prejudge a person for using it.  It’s just a symbol.

Here come the ghouls

Apparently the Westboro (NOT) Baptist Church intends to picket the funeral of Christina Taylor Greene, the 9-year old victim of the AZ shooter.  To anyone that cares to counter-protest, please do so…PEACEFULLY.  These ghouls are cowards (they’ve shown up in my neck of the woods a few times) and are just after another fix of 15-minutes-of-fame.  It goes without saying but I’m saying it anyway: Respect Christina and the other victims and keep the peace.

Sources:

(h/t Asia “Diesel Lady” Reeves)