Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Different Direction? I'm not sure

It has been several weeks since I've put any information on this site.

Mostly I have been debating on whether I wanted to continue writing here. I don't want to be just another guy rehashing thoughts about the war (even though I despise it and disagree with it with every fiber of my being, and am literally sick every day about the continuing loss of our best and brightest Americans), or posting links, or writing opinion. Frankly, there is too much opinion - most of it shrill and loud (i.e. Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Boortz, Glenn Beck (who is such a no talent hack - clearly he must have nude pictures of some CNN executive doing something REALLY raunchy to someone else - that is my shrill raunchiness), and most of it just wasting bandwidth or air space. In all that there is not enough thinking about solutions.

I truly believe, and have mentioned before that this country is hemorrhaging. I think that very soon we could literally be a second or third world country, and could remain one for a very long time. We think everything is OK because everything LOOKS OK. But, I think it's just like that person who gets cancer. For awhile, they look healthy and hale. Then, the cancer starts to eat them from the outside in, and the inside out. Then, you KNOW they have cancer, and you can SEE that they have cancer.

We don't care about each other anymore. We don't want to listen to each other anymore. We don't like each other anymore. We don't trust each other any more. Most Americans do not really want to learn about what is going on in the world around them. Most Americans don't even know who lives next door to them. They are content to have guys like Hannity give them their "news". With the news comes a healthy dose of fear.

That is one reason that I am a "Recovering Conservative" (there ought to be a 12 step meeting where you can go and get a chip, like you do at AA) is that all the extreme right (and the extreme left) has to offer is fear. Fear of foreigners. Fear of Muslims, Fear of anyone who is not like us (whatever that is).

A few things I learned about a few years back made me challenge every belief I'd ever had. Systems Thinking and Network Theory (two things I learned about), makes you view problems as a whole, not just in pieces. In those modes, there is no black/white/us/them/cause/effect reality. EVERYTHING is complex. Immigration is complex. The war is complex. Our economy is complex. Health Care is complex. Even the reason why gas prices are so high is complex. Nothing is simple. And if someone (like a Glenn Beck, or a Tom Tancredo) tells you it's simple, they are LYING. If it was simple, the problems would all be solved by now.

I know this seems a lot like rambling, and it probably is just more waste of bandwidth. But I want to write about stuff that I care about. Stuff that gives me hope.

The next time I write, I want to do a book review on a book I've recently finished reading called The Violin Maker, Finding a Centuries Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop by John Marchese. It is the best book I've read in awhile. It was so compelling, I read it in a weekend.

I may not actually review it, but I want to.......

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Athiesm vs. God, One guys very rudimentary opinion

There has been a lot of interest in atheism lately. Lots of books have been written. Lots of TV and print time consumed.

I was watching a debate on Nightline with some Atheists debating the existence of God with Kirk Cameron and some other guy. In my opinion, the Atheists appeared better in that particular debate (even though the male debater could not contain his contempt for the two believers, nor could he hide that he felt he was superior to the two - his hatred of the two was plainly evident - there is no such thing as a happy atheist). This one debate does not prove anything or disprove anything as to the existence of God. The interesting thing about these particular atheists is that they have a web site that challenges people to take the "Blasphemy Challenge" (having folks appear on camera and renouncing the Holy Spirit - the ultimate blasphemy). That is all that needs to be said about them. They think they are doing something new, fresh and different, but it's the same tired rhetoric, and long after their web site is unplugged, and they are dead and gone, the church and belief in God will still be there. It is at least worth consideration as to why that is?

Anyway, atheism claims that they are only looking at telling the truth, and looking at God scientifically and rationally. My question is, who died and made science king? Science as G. K. Chesterton says can be a tool or a toy. Science has given us wonderful things - cures for diseases, etc, and that cannot be discounted. But since when is it the ultimate authority for truth or falseness? Where is that written? Some elite scientists in some elite universities and think tanks made those decisions. That is not law.

Atheists want you to conveniently forget everything you know about how the world works. What I mean is, everything we see in the "unnatural" world, paintings, houses, cars, etc. is created. Someone created that stuff. For instance, Van Gogh CREATED the painting Starry, Starry Night. Frank Lloyd Wright CREATED Fallingwater. Werner Von Braun and his team of rocket scientists CREATED the Saturn V rocket that took several astronauts to the moon.

Yet, they want you to believe that systems that are infinitely more complex in the "natural" world than the things mentioned above just "happened" by a series of random, unexplainable chances. The human brain is more complex than any computer. Look at the complexity of the human eye. Or any system in the human body. Is it really plausible to believe that it just happened by chance (or actually chances)?

That, in my opinion takes more of a child like faith to believe than believing in a creator.

The dirty little secret scientists don't want you to know is that there is not a unified theory of evolution. There are as many different theories of how we came to be here as there are Christian denominations. But, they want you to believe that the question is settled and "proven". Evolution is a fact. That is laughable.

I make no claims of understanding how EXACTLY we came to be where we are right now. There is mystery in it, and maybe that is how it should be. If we knew all the answers, we'd be on a level with God. That is in fact where these people want to be. Can you imagine how big our heads would be if we had it all figured out?

The reason a lot of folks don't want to admit there is a God, is because then you have to admit that there is absolute truth. Absolute morality. Absolute right and wrong. Absolute accountability.

After all of that, the point is we are here. One supposed "proof" that God can't exist is all of the harm done by believers (especially Christians) over the years - the usual - Salem Witch Trial, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. But we never talk about THEIR history (atheists). Their history has given us such enlightened loving creatures as Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, just to name a few (and there are a LOT more than that). That is THEIR history. And what was the first thing they normally did? Killed all of the Priests, Nuns, Monks, Rabbis and Ministers of the Gospel? Why? Simple fear, and the knowledge that those folks were absolute threats to their systems of power. THAT is also at least worthy of some consideration.

We need to acknowledge that there are our brothers and sisters around the world starving to death (including here in the good old US of A), without clean water and health care, without shelter, and being oppressed under systems designed wholly to keep them down. We should be thinking a whole lot more about that than debating these seemingly trivial points.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Iraq. Some more ranting.

I was thinking about this exchange a few days ago between the Vice President and Tim Russert in September 2006:

"Asked by “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert whether the United States would have gone ahead with the invasion anyway if the CIA had reported that Saddam did not, in fact, have such weapons, Cheney said yes.

“He’d done it before,” Cheney said. “He had produced chemical weapons before and used them. He had produced biological weapons. He had a robust nuclear program in ’91.”

The U.S. invasion “was the right thing to do, and if we had to do it again, we would do exactly the same thing,” he said."

I remember this comment and exchange, and I remember thinking at the time, this is very significant.

My feeling has always been that Saddam's fate was sealed on 9/12/01. I have believed (no way to ever prove it) that with or without a 9/11, they'd have found a way to make war on Iraq. Most people don't agree with me on this. They think how could they just invade a country for no reason? Isn't that kind of similar to what they did anyway?

We are told all the time that there was "no way we could have known all that was going to happen in Iraq". Really? General Shinseki, General Zinni and others gave a pretty good accounting of what might happen. I think that a lot of Americans discounted those opinions (especially when countered by "logical" opinion from Neoconservative Scholars in Neoconservative Think Tanks) - sort of like the boy who cried wolf - when these things had happened in the past, doom and gloom was predicted (remember there would be thousands killed in the first gulf war), and doom and gloom never occurred. I think most Americans thought it would be that way this time too.

Only this time, it really is as bad as they said it was going to be.

All that talk about "being welcomed as liberators" - just exactly what, in our past dealings with middle eastern Islamic society made Americans think that the outcome would be any different?

It was almost that they wanted to believe it would be different, because George W. Bush SAID it would be different. And hey, why should I think any different? After all, they have all the PhD's, and I'm just a mechanic, or a housewife, or a waitress. What could I possibly know about global events or the context of history. Well, there were some Americans who chose to ignore the voices of fantasy of Secretary Wolfowitz and others, but a lot of others chose not to. I am proud that I have always been one of those. I opposed Iraq not because I'm any smarter than anyone, but because I chose to listen to voices who'd studied war in ALL of it's contexts. Historical, Socioeconomic, Cultural, Religious, etc. When all of it was factored in, most of them knew that it would mean disaster.

We went to Iraq, and now we are seemingly stuck in an intractable war. We have borrowed money from China, and we are going to spend literally trillions of dollars on this war. 3300+ fine young Americans are dead, and upwards of possibly 50,000 are going to be permanently disabled. Our economy is on the ropes. Our military is all but done for.

What angers me the most is that NOBODY really asked the questions (nobody is still asking the questions). How do we get out? What does "victory" look like? How much will it REALLY cost? Is there a post war plan to govern Iraq?

It almost makes you wonder what they really knew, or theorized. If they really believed all they said about being welcomed as liberators, then you have to question their competency. If they knew the result would be otherwise, but went ahead anyway, then you have to contemplate what that means for yourself.

50 to 100 years from now, historians will scratch their heads (and most of them now already are), and say how could they not SEE that this was the event that was going to destroy their economy and their country as they knew it?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Al Qaeda and Army Blogs

There has been a lot of talk about Al Qaeda again lately, and how we are fighting them there (Iraq) so we don't have to fight them here (Richard Clarke called it the lost puppy dog theory of terrorism).

What I'm wondering is what Americans who have totally bought into the idea that the Iraq war is supposed to be making us safer, and we're fighting them there so as not to fight them here will think when the next terrorist attack comes.

Right now, it is a virtual certainty that there is a cell training for an attack in a place OTHER than Iraq or Afghanistan. They are patiently plotting away at their work. Maybe London. Maybe Hamburg. Maybe Buffalo or Miami. Yes, the 9/11 attackers did some of their training in Afghanistan. But where did they learn to fly? Right here, unmolested in the good old US of A. A lot of the logistical work was done in Europe.

The point is, the Administration's assertion that the Iraq war is the "Central Front" on the war on terror is flawed in that it will not stop another Al Qaeda attack on the homeland in any way, shape or form. As we know, the war is actually encouraging more terrorists around the world. And, as a special added bonus, a lot of them are going there and learning how to make car bombs and IED's. Don't be surprised if in the near future one makes an appearance in a city near you.

A lot of Americans who have bought into the Iraq war hook, line and sinker are going to be very shocked when the next attack comes. They are going to scratch their heads, and say, but, but, but, George Bush and Dick Cheney told us we'd be safe now that we took out that bad old Saddam, and that bad old Taliban.

A lot of our leaders know that the words Al Qaeda strike fear into the hearts of a lot of Americans (and, after the horrible day of 9/11, a certain amount of that might be prudent, don't get me wrong).

They count on Americans also being historically ignorant when they say that Al Qaeda is the biggest threat to our freedom in history. This is laughable at best. Yes, Al Qaeda is a threat to freedom only in how many civil liberties we give up after each subsequent attack. They also count on Americans being notorious non-critical thinkers.

Do you really believe Al Qaeda was a greater threat than the times of the civil war when the country was tearing apart and families were fighting families? Do you really believe Al Qaeda is a greater threat than Japan and Germany in world war two? Do you really believe Al Qaeda is a greater threat than the Soviet Union who had enough WMD's to kill every man, woman, child, bird, dog, lizard hundreds of times over (and as a side note do you really believe the Iranians are the biggest threat ever too)?

I'm not saying that Al Qaeda can't still do great harm to our country. I believe they can, and I believe they will. It's been awhile since their last attack here. A lot of that can be attributed to getting a lot of the senior charismatic leadership of Al Qaeda. HOPEFULLY, we've learned as much about them, as they have learned about carrying out terrorist attacks while they were rebuilding their networks - I don't see much evidence of this, but I still hope.

But the real question to be asked is what kind of people are we now? Don't we have any courage? I think about the British during world war two - their cities were bombed by Nazi airplanes virtually every night - these attacks made them more determined to carry on. Will our free economy and free lifestyle live through a few more Al Qaeda bombings?

My magic 8 ball says this is "Doubtful".

On another note, I read today that the Army is crimping down on blogs coming from Iraq due to "security concerns" (I also read that it includes e-mails). My guess is that the real reason is that they probably don't like the opinions coming out of those blogs. Probably "too negative". The senior officers probably feel that honest opinion about the war is too damaging to the morale of the troops. I have no doubt that they can probably produce some blogs where operational security is compromised. But most military folks are pretty cognizant of operational security. They know that if it is found out that they are the ones who told, there will be hell to pay. So most of them will not tell, and most of them are a lot more savvy than their commanders give them credit for. Also the idea that the insurgency will get their information from the blogs is kind of comical. All they need to do is pay some kid or family for all the information they want (or just open their eyes and WATCH). I think this is a dangerous trend (censoring these things) that needs to be watched.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

World Energy Status Report - One guy takes a crack

In my last blog I had mentioned how our economy was based on the premise that energy was cheap, plentiful and would ALWAYS be available. Below is a link to show where we get our oil (at least this is where the US Government says we get our oil).

I said that I believed that this was a faulty premise, and that I believed that the flow of cheap, plentiful energy could end pretty quickly. One or two major cataclysmic events anywhere in the world, and cheap energy could end.

If you look at the link, some of the top oil suppliers are also some of the most dangerous places in the world, and the LEAST friendly to the United States.

For instance, number three on the list is Saudi Arabia. The Saudis recently arrested 172 militants who were training to do damage to the Saudi oil infrastructure. It is great that they caught them, but what if even half of them succeeded and wrecked the whole Saudi oil infrastructure? What if even a handful (15 to 20) succeeded? Do you think these are the last Saudis militants who are going to try something like this?

What about number four, Venezuela? They just nationalized their oil fields. There is no telling what that could lead to, or if they are competent enough to keep their production up. That is not even mentioning the political situation between President Chavez and the United States. I have said for a long time that events in Venezuela could prove to be a previously unknown Achilles heel.

Number seven, surprisingly is Iraq. Do we even need to broach the situation with Iraqi oil and its production?

All through the list African countries are sprinkled - each of these have been in the news for oil infrastructure being attacked and shaky ineffective governments.

Even Mexico, our number two supplier can't be viewed as totally stable.

Iran, while not a supplier on the list, could be problematic for us as well, especially if we actually have a war with them (and I don't believe this is totally out of the question), or there are incidents in the Gulf.

One thing to think about is that we view this as the status of US supplies. The link above represents OUR supplies. What if a few of these sources of oil bottom out - the rising demand in the rest of the world is not going to go away (i.e. China). As supplies get tighter, world wide competition for scarce supplies might get fiercer.

In my last blog, I mentioned our aging infrastructure. One critical part of that is our gasoline refinery system. There has not been a new refinery built in this country since the 70's. And, like our power grid, this system is subject to breakdowns and damage, and will continue to do so the older it gets. The system is running in the high 80 percentile right now - but that is based on the reports of the refinery owners. Can we trust them to give us an accurate report of ACTUAL production?

This situation could easily cascade into massive shortages of food and other energies (especially heating), especially in the bigger city. A lot of people say, well, the government will solve the problem. Hello? New Orleans, post Katrina? That was ONE city, and compared to Washington, Chicago, and LA, not even a particularly big city.

I have never seen myself as an apocalyptic thinker, or a conspiracy theorist. But every time I look at these numbers, I cannot help but think our economy is on thin ice, and it's getting thinner all the time. The time to start weaning ourselves from this "dangerous oil" passed a LONG time ago. We are in a catch up mode now (and we haven't even really started).

The question is, do we have the time to make up the distance we should have been covering since the first oil shock in the 70's, and will we do the right things before it hits critical mass? Based on what I've seen, no.