Archive for December, 2004

Interested?

Friday, December 31st, 2004

John Derbyshire at NRO, amongst many other things, discusses how 2005 is not an interesting number. He also requests submissions as to why it is, in fact interesting, in order to prove his theorem that there is no such thing as an uninteresting number if only because any uninteresting number could be the lowest uninteresting number in a set of uninteresting numbers, which is an interesting thing indeed. I suspecte that by interesting, he means mathematically interesting, but not being a mathemagician, I don’t know about mathematicallt intersting, but I did send him this intersting tidbit:
“It will be interesting to watch the stock market this year. Since it ends in 5, it is poised to perform well (at least historically speaking: http://www.financialsense.com/metals/speck/121504.html). If John Kerry had won the election, he would be getting all of the credit for a resounding stock market success, but since Bush created it and Bush will be in office, the media is going to have to downplay with all of their might.”

If some of my readers, all of whom are obviously more intelligent than I, judging by the prodigious lack of comments (which indicates that my inane ramblings are unworthy of wasting their vast brains upon), have more reasons that 2005 is an interesting number, mathemagically or otherwise, please let John know, and leave me a note or email cuz I’d like to know too.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year, for those on the Gregorian Calendar, and for those of you on the Julian Calendar, Happy Friday, and for those of you on the Hebraic Calendar, Shabbat Shalom.

Landmark

Thursday, December 30th, 2004

At 2:06 Central Time today, I received my 500th unique visitor. Whoever it was lives in (or at least receives internet connection from) Peoria, IL, so if it wasn’t the Peoria Pundit it was one of his readers, many of whom have wandered this way lately. Welcome! Stick around, leave me a note. Thanks Bill!

If it walks like a duck…

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

Since the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, is it unfair that a fictional portrayal of an FBI Counter-Terrorism Unit would feature a predominately Muslim terrorist enemy?

I don’t believe so, any more than fictional accounts of the mafia feature predominately Italian characters (although the Italian-American groups have long protested those as well). I’m no more offended by the portrayal of the Gangs of New York as Irish hooligans than these people should be since, historically, those gangs were MADE UP OF IRISH HOOLIGANS!

I know that the argument is that such characterizations perpetuate negative stereotypes, but they are NOT stereotypes if they are based in fact. The fact is, a very large number of Muslims around the world wish to destroy us, the Great Satan. They are willing to use any means necessary to do so, including throwing fuel-rich airplanes into shining skyscrapers on an otherwise normal Tuesday morning. Not all Muslims, and certainly few American Muslims, believe this way, but the fact remains that Muhammad Atta and his cohort lived and worked in the United States, living seemingly normal lives until their “sleeper cell” was activated from word on high to commit the greatest atrocity on American soil in modern times.

Therefore, it stands to reason that a screenwriter could credibly create a family-based sleeper cell as an enemy for a fictional television series centered around counter-terrorism. In fact, being an avid watcher of 24, I’m positive that since the family is given as the enemy in the premiere that it will be revealed by week seven that the real enemy is some French anarchist (or better, in Hollywood’s eyes, a disgruntled former American intelligence operator) or something who is using this family’s religious devotion to manipulate them into taking America down a peg and destroy the purveyor of cultural filth and poisonous individualism.

No one can credibly convince another person that all Muslims are terrible horrible people worthy of interment (or obliteration) based on the “evidence” of this fictional television show. On the other hand, people can be convinced of the need to protect American interests by spreading democracy in parts of the world where individual expression is unflinchingly quashed and dissent from received wisdom punishable by death based on the evidence of two falling skyscrapers and a burning office building with a hole punched in it from a speeding jet plane. Reality is reality and let’s let the TV alone.

This does highlight the need, however, of an Al-Martin bin Luther. Where is the reforming Muslim with his 95 Theses to state that (#37)”Every true Muslim, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Allah and the Church; and this is granted him by Allah, even without letters of pardon;” or (#47) 43. “Muslims are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than blowing up Israeli coffee shops?”

Martin Luther did more than rail against the sale of Indulgences, the practice of removing the spiritual pain of a particular sin (after repentence and penance, by doctrine) for a fee. The historical narrative suggests that Luther nailed the theses to the Church door in hopes of reforming the Catholic Church through a bold maneuver. His intent is irrelevent in this case, though, as the result is what matters.

The Protestant Reformation is marked by the spread of the meme that “Man and God can directly communicate, and the relationship between them is a personal one, and that each Christian can interpret the Scripture through his own lens and intellect.” This is tremendously powerful meme and its spread can be traced through the creation of hundreds (thousands?) of Protestant Christian denominations. There are many of them, yet only one Catholic Church (I don’t count the Greek Orthodox as a Catholic Church – with the Schism they become a different church, like the Anglican Split). They are the result of people having a better different view of man’s relationship to God.

The Shiites, Sunni, Baath only differ in the degree to which the believers must be subjugated and propogandized to; there is still no tolerance of a better different idea. Even though an imam supposedly can be anyone who has sufficiently studied the Qu’ran and applied his understanding to it, I haven’t heard of an Imam that is preaching the benefits of treating women as full humans or of reaching in peace to their Abrahamic cousins, the Jews (or the Christians for that matter).

This lack of a Reformation is a key reason the Muslim countries have not and CAN not leave their third-world status behind them. There is no belief in the power of the individual to achieve. If an individual can not achieve grace through his own belief and interpretation of the Holy Scripture, how can he achieve any material success on Earth? The Protestant Reformation led directly to the Industrial Revolution of Adam Smith and the British, American and French Enlightenments (see: Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads to Modernity, reveiwed here on ChicagoBoyz.net). By stressing the ability of the individual to think for himself and reach God through his own reason, Luther ushered in an entire revolution of thought that brought Europe out of the Dark Ages and sowed the seeds of America’s greatness.

The top-down belief-by-fiat structure of the Catholic Church ensured that only the annointed, the priestly hierarchy, could interpret the Word, and therefore, the Will, of God. This discouraged independent thought in one of the most important aspects of an everyday European’s life – religion – which bled over into other areas of life. Work was done much the same as one’s father did his work. There was heavy investment in tradition and “the way things have always been.” Luther’s founding of Lutheranism and the spread of the Gutenberg press encouraged indepedent thought, creativity, invention and, most importantly, reliance on the individual as the engine of success.

Without such distribution of power, the Sheikdoms and Mullocracies of the Middle East are doomed to fail, again and again, causing greater and greater frustration amongst their citizenry because they believe, due to the violent encouragement of it, that their governments are the only vehicle for change and success; that the only reason they can’t change or succeed is because of forces beyond their control. There is no acceptance of fault for lack of improvement in their lives because they can’t believe they have any power over their own lives. Without the meme of a personally founded relationship with Allah, through his prophet Muhammad, as given in the Qu’ran (much as Protestant Christians have a personally founded relationship with God, through his Son Jesus Christ, as given in the New Testament), Muslims can not accept that their lives are unpleasant through their own failure to act. They don’t believe they have the power to act of their own volition and their sense of free will seems stunted. Debate about the interplay between Free Will and God’s Will goes no farther than Inshallah (God willing) as compared with the historied debate in Christianity.

I am hopeful that like Martin Luther, the theses of Afghani and Iraqi democracy will revitalize the spirit of science, technology and modernity shown by the Moors in their time (although they were conquerors, but just about anyone who was anyone was getting in on the conquering game at the time).

[I have qualms about this post, but I'm pushed for time, so I'll clean it later].

New Addition to Blogroll

Wednesday, December 29th, 2004

I added Bill Dennis’ Peoria Pundit to my blog feed. He’s funny, political, a geek and a former journo (a lot like me, except he was a real professional and didn’t give up after two years in the newsroom of his college newspaper and more J-School than he could handle). Plus, he’s from Illinois, which makes him cool, even though he went to the hated Eastern Illinois University rather than the obviously superior Western Illinois University. His sore luck, I’m sure.

Give him a read.

Ecoterrorism

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

I have joined the Truth Laid Bear (N.Z. Bear) Ecosystem. I don’t really know what this means other than my links to other bloggers now are counted for their totals. I am unsure, however, how I feel about being known as an insignificant microbe… especially since I posted it on my blogroll for all the world to see. Ah well, we all start from a single cell, do we not?

Survival of the Sabre-Toothed Fittest

Tuesday, December 28th, 2004

The Diplomad postulates the Sabre-Tooth Tiger Law of Life. Essentially, anyone over the age of forty, especially with any aid at all from Modern Science, Engineering and Medicine (MSEAM) does so on borrowed time and are essentially Intel 286s boosted to run Windows XP.

I have had similar epiphanies about living in the modern world. We evolved to live only so long and the man who lives to 76 should be the great outlier, not the rule. However, modern advances increasingly extend this life expectancy long past our natural construction. In fact, three score and ten is beginning to sound more and more criminally short. Life wasn’t supposed to begin at forty, it should have ended there.

My approach to these ideas, though, were not so much the same as the Diplomad’s; I actually began worrying about how much we have screwed up evolution. Survival of the Fittest almost no longer works. We have so many ways of saving the lives of the “un-fit” that those who would have been eaten first by the Sabre-Tooths (Sabre-Teeth?) now survive well into adulthood and live full rich lives (as is only right). What that also means is that those who would not have lived to propagate their genes because they are slower runners, not as bright, mentally or physically disabled now can and do. And good for them (me included). I have no qualms admitting that I would be Smilodon food (to continue the Diplomad’s metaphor). Although young, I am not fast, strong of body or skilled with weaponry. I am smart so I may have been able to distract the giant feline with logic puzzles, but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of such a maneuver. MSEAM allows me to find meaninful employment to be able to provide for my family in ways Ugg Bixby (my ancient caveman ancestor, of course) never could have imagined. I have propogated my genetic code twice now. I would likely not have survived to do so 5000 years ago.

I wonder then, is the human race better off for having it so easy? In the numbers game, we certainly beat the rest of the mammals. 6 billion of us is an awful lot. We have adapted to the environment so well that we can now adapt the environment to us. So will environments that are the most fit for human habitation now survive and propogate by converting (if possible) un-fit environments to better fits? When it becomes possible, I would say it becomes probable. However, that is a long slog uphill, especially against environmentalists and “indiginous people advocates”. But that’s a digression anyway. Is humanity better off for throwing off the shackles of Natural Selection? Eugenics advocates would say yes and no – no, because now too many un-fits survive and yes because Artificial Selection (as determined by their arbitrary rules, surely) can do more, better and faster. Not being a Eugenics advocate, I disregard such assertions on their face because they instantly devalue certain humans based on stupidly arbitrary criteria (physical or mental measurements which are valued differently from Eugenisist to Eugenisist).

I think though that a shift toward protection of life is in the best interest of the human race. Too many people would have been lost to the tigers who have done valuable services to humanity. Albert Einstein was 36 when he published his definitive paper on the General Theory of Relativity and Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) at 21 when he began stumbling and having difficulty walking. Both of them would most probably have been culled from the human herd (with apologies to Glenn Reynolds). Considering that the research by these two men alone may allow humanity to spread to distant worlds, I suspect that MSEAM is doing the human collective body good.

I still wonder though what genetic mutation we are helping to keep alive, but preventing from widespread dissemination by helping so many humans survive. What this boils down to is, “Where are the superheroes? Where are the X-Men?” Where is Homo Superior? Does the abrogation of Natural Selection prevent “market share” of these super-genes?

Just the rumblings in my brain. There’s no political advocacy here. Move along.

Happy Holidays :)

Friday, December 24th, 2004

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah from a Atheistic Ex-Lutheran with strong interest in religions and Judaism in particular!

Or as a friend of mine just wished me “Merry Wintereenmas!”

Have a safe and fun holiday!

Thank you Mr. Den Beste

Tuesday, December 21st, 2004

While I was off-line last week, Nelson at Europundit speculated about Stephen Den Beste coming back to the blogosphere. I must say that I harbored the same hope. SDB had explained his writing process as something that burst forth from him after percolating in his subconscious for a while. He would then compose, edit and post the resulting brainstorm. He was always a brightspot in black hole of the internet. I would anxiously await a post from him, because I always knew that he would provide some insight, viewpoint or perspective that I either was completely unaware of, believed already but for vague reasons, or was dead against and he at least provided a reasoned argument against it.

It is because of him that words like Jacksonian, mechanist, Transnational Progressivism and Philosophical Idealism (p-idealism) have entered my vocabulary. I spent inordinate amounts of time searching his site for more insight and more information and more of the world as seen through the eyes of a systems engineer. Then, about 6 months after I found his page, he abruptly decided to quit. He had intimated for a long time that the energy required to sift through the trash thrown his way by the ignorant was not worth putting forth anymore and that keeping the blog was just no fun for him. It had been sucked out by those energy vampires. I suspected that given time, his subconscious would not let him rest until he purged the backup of information caused by an extended absence. I was wrong.

In Nelson’s comments, SDB reveals the deeper reason for quitting. He has a deteriorating debilitating disease that he is fighting, but can not cure. In order to make his posts, he was consuming increasingly larger quantities of a medication that had very unpleasant side effects. The scale finally tipped where the pain of the side effects outweighed the pleasure of blogging. I hereby put away my hopes of SDB returning to the blogosphere beyond Chizumatic and relish the archives of the USS Clueless (ever may she fly). I wish Mr. Den Beste all the dignity and quality of life I qould wish for myself.

I don’t have any information beyond what was posted by SDB at Nelson’s site (also archived at Rishon Rishon for posterity). I don’t know if it is a debilitation of the body or the mind, but either is a crime. The disabilities I find most unjust are those which trapped a brilliant mind in a withering body. I find far too many examples of weak or incapable brains in exceptional bodies, I suppose universal balance (were I to believe in such things) would dictate exceptional minds in weak or incapable bodies, but it still frustrates me on their behalf. The most obvious example is Dr. Stephen Hawking, probably our most intelligent fellow human of our age. If such a fate is destined for Mr. Den Beste, then it only proves that any omnipotent deity has too acute a sense of irony or black humor to be worth worshipping.

Mr. Den Beste was highly influential on me as an American, a thinker and as a blogger. I prefer his essay style to the “Here-have-a-link” blogs like LGF or MetaFilter and, in fact, I try for that here as well. I also like to point people to links I find interesting so there will be some of that here, but most of my posts are attempts at nearing SDB’s greatness. I think all blogs out there have a blogfather or blogmother. It’s not the person who introduced you to blogs necessarily, but the person who defined, by example, what a blog and what blogging is. Mr. Den Beste is my blogfather. I owe him thanks for that.

I want to thank him from a grateful nation. His words performed a service desperately needed at the beginning of the War on Terror, although I didn’t discover him until later. His essays resound with the American Spirit throughout and I can think of no greater compliment than to call him a Great American. I found a kindred spirit behind his posts and, although, he’ll never know who I am, or that I even wrote this, I will be forever thankful that he was there.

I know that I might have two or three regular readers, but I would encourage everyone to visit his site, and in the late evening to download his entire library (but not everyone at once, he pays for his own bandwidth).

On the off-chance you read this Mr. Den Beste, thank you and I wish you all the best.

Wonked

Monday, December 20th, 2004

Ana Marie Cox, better known under her Nom de Blog, Wonkette was the subject of the MSNBC Fast Chat interview (3 questions) this week. She talks about the incestuous relationship between bloggers and journalists, calling it a bastardized “Tracy-Hepburn” affair. She also calls blogging a resume builder for wannabe-journalists. Aside from the fact that I find that incredibly unlikely, considering I don’t know of many bloggers on the right (which, in the interest of full disclosure, are almost the only ones I read) who have any desire at all to be “real” journalists excepting Mark Steyn who has made that transition pretty well, all those folks at NRO since they were journalists first and maybe Glenn Reynolds.

What I found most glaring in the interviewlet was this Q&A:

What did you think of the bloggers’ role in the Dan Rather affair?
I think they did a disservice to the debate because they made the debate about the documents and not about the president of the United States. There was another half to that story that had to do with verifiable events of what Bush may have been up to.

So are we going back to fake but accurate? The bloggers made the debate about the documents and not the accusations they were being used to support? How dare they? After all, if an accusation comes from the MSM and/or the Left, especially if it elegantly blends in with their worldview expectations, then it must be true on its face. Any “evidence” only supports the veracity of the allegation, it doesn’t actually determine the veracity. So she is upset (along with Dan Rather) because when the only evidence supporting this accusation that she so wants to be true turns out to be faked, the public casts doubt on these aspersions. She seriously can’t believe that just because Dan Rather said it, on 60 Minutes no less, that people don’t just accept it as the received wisdom that she does.

She doesn’t get it, living in her Washington, DC fishbowl, that Americans pride themselves on not being sheep, especially when other people want us to. I don’t think she’s going to get it any time soon.

Vacation

Saturday, December 18th, 2004

I know that after a busy November full of posts, this December has made it appear that I fell off the face of the Earth. That’s not true, I was just vacationing there. I took my final week of vacation time from work this past week and I have been tremendously enjoying the ample time I have been able to spend with Missus Bixby (not her real name) and the Bixblets (also not their real name). I don’t know if I have mentioned it, but I have two beautiful daughters (aged 3 and 1). I love them both a great deal (as should be expected), but beyond that, I also adore them beyond words. They are the bright spots in my day and are the best cure for a bad day I have ever experienced. Of course, this takes nothing away from my wife. She is the joy that makes all pleasure possible. I don’t intend to ramble about my family in such a manner again, but I felt like it today and it explains my absence from the blogosphere for the last week.

My first daughter, Bixblet the Elder, joined me in my shopping excursion on Wednesday to the Mall of Shopping. While most men I know would recoil at the thought of braving a Christmastime Mall with a three-year-old in tow, I am not most men. I actually found it the quickest path to get into the Christmas spirit. The sole purpose of the expedition was to buy gifts for Missus Bixby for both Christmas and her closely pursuing birthday. This spirit of giving permeated our entire experience, as well as the Missus calling is a Daddy/Daughter Date. I was determined not to spoil any of the good vibes we had going so as we trekked from store to store we sang Christmas Carols and watched for Santa and talked about Christmas and family. This is the first Christmas that Bixblet the Elder has really “gotten in to.” The Missus and I are trying to share the magic of Christmas with as much as possible, watching Christmas movies, singing songs, counting down to Christmas night and planning what kind of cookies to leave for Santa and how much grass and carrots Rudolph (her favorite reindeer by far) might need.

This kind of led to a brief discussion the Missus and I had about how deceitful one must sometimes be as a parent. I think that will be the topic of the next post, this paragraph is really here to remind me to post more on this. I will, now, however, return to my quickly diminishing vacation and will resume posting on Monday or thereabouts.

A pointless post, perhaps, but it allowed me to wish everyone many happy returns to the holiday season and remember to cherish your family because they are the source of your memories. Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Blessed Ramadan, etc.