Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Armistice (Veteran's) Day

On this day to remember those who served: all I ask from my leaders is that they consider before they commit troops to battle whether the cause is important enough, not just to sacrifice the lives of the warriors themselves, but to take a little girl's daddy away forever. I would ask President-elect Obama to look at his own precious daughters and ask himself that question as he takes office. As a man who had to leave his daughter behind to go to war, I will confess that that was by far the toughest part. Everyone else in my life would eventually be fine without me, but I feared for that little girl more than anything else. As I contemplate future possible deployments that is really the only thing that causes trepidation.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election day - who did I vote for?

I voted for Sen. Obama twice, once in the primaries and once in the general election (I cast my vote by mail a month ago.) I am an independent who has voted for Republicans far more than I have for Democrats, but I voted for Obama for conservative reasons. I concede the point that experience counts, but it is not the only consideration. Judgment counts. Temperament counts. Intelligence counts. Intellectual curiosity counts.

As for all the guilt-by-association accusations of Obama, they do not seem very relevant to me because hobnobbing with undesirables is just the way things get done in politics. Obama wanted to be a successful politician in the southside of Chicago, so associating with Wright, Rezko, Ayers, Pfleger, etc. was part and parcel of that desire. What noone has ever demonstrated is how exactly he was influenced by these people. Basically, it seems like he used these people for their local prestige and pull, and then cast them off when no longer useful. While ruthless, this is exactly the kind of thing a President needs to be able to do. Machiavelli would approve.

One key to Obama is that he is an intellectual, so you need to look at what he reads. In his books and many interviews, he has talked about some of the books and authors he considered important in his formative years at Columbia: Herman Melville, Toni Morrison, E.L. Doctorow, Shakespeare, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, Friedrich Nietsche, etc. He noted Reinhold Neibuhr as his favorite philosopher. He recently positively reveiwed Doris Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Politcal Genius of Abraham Lincoln." A fairly conventional list, to the left, but mainstream.

If you want to know who is influencing his ideas, look at his actual advisers, not people he shook hands with to make political deals. He is known to consult with a wide variety of people on the big issues, (none of whom are noted by the McCain campaign in their constant guilt by association campaign.) As for his actual policy advisers, apart from the big names like Warren Buffett, Colin Powell, Zbigniew Brzezinski, etc., on a daily basis he surrounds himself with a team of slightly leftist but mostly non-ideological pragmatists. It is very different from the team of big idea guys that Pres. Clinton surrounded himself with.

Here is a rather long article that notes what I have seen in many places: his very pragmatic approach to issues.
Money quote: "...As opposed to the ideological Clintonites, the Obama wonks tend to be inductive--working piecemeal from a series of real-world observations. One typical Goolsbee [Obama economics adviser] brainchild is something called an automatic tax return. The idea is that, if you had no tax deductions or freelance income the previous year, the IRS would send you a tax return that was already filled out. As long as you accepted the government's accounting, you could just sign it and mail it back. Goolsbee estimates this small innovation could save hundreds of millions of man-hours spent filling out tax forms, and billions of dollars in tax-preparation fees.... Think of the contrast here as the difference between science-fiction writers and engineers. Reich and Galston [Clinton's advisers] are the kinds of people who'd sketch out the idea for time travel in a moment of inspiration. Goolsbee et al. could rig up the DeLorean that would actually get you back to 1955."

And: "The Clintonites were moderates, but they were also ideological. They explicitly rejected the liberalism of the 1970s and '80s. The Obamanauts are decidedly non-ideological. They occasionally reach out to progressive think tanks like the Economic Policy Institute, but they also come from a world-- academic economics--whose inhabitants generally lean right. (And economists at the University of Chicago lean righter than most.) As a result, they tend to be just as comfortable with ideological diversity as the candidate they advise."

Everything that I have read from serious sources indicates Obama's deep pragmatism and light take on ideology. Here is a quote from his second book, The Audacity of Hope: ""I think my party can be smug, detached and dogmatic at times. I believe in the free market, competition and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don't work as advertised ... I think America has more often been a force for good than for ill in the world; I carry few illusions about our enemies, and revere the courage and competence of our military. I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or victimhood generally. I think much of what ails the inner city involves a breakdown in culture that will not be cured by money alone, and that our values and spiritual life matter at least as much as our GDP." - It is a very pragmatic, even conservative approach (in the Burkean sense.) To me, he appears to be a fairly moderate liberal, but a liberal who has taken on board the intellectual critique of 60's liberalism by the conservative movement.

In contrast to that is a man who served his country well as a Naval Officer. As a Marine combat veteran I appreciate that, but I also know that it doesn't necessarily mean that he should be in elective office. He's a hero, fine. But he freely admits that he doesn't know much about economics. He, in fact, has never been regarded as a particularly strong intellectual force in his party in the way that Dick Armey, Newt Gingrich, or Orrin Hatch were.

He consistently reacts viscerally to events. He consistently seeks to understand issues, all issues, in terms of white and black. He only wants to know who the villains are, so he can "fight" them. His only reactions during the banking crisis were to seek out who to blame so he could seek to have them punished. His very simplistic call for "victory" in Iraq is another example, as if any of us know what "victory" is there. I fought there for a year and I certainly don't know. But he does. Just ask him.

No, I have had enough of this unthinking reactionism that only seeks enemies to lash out against and can't understand a world of grey subtlety and complexity. McCain's very irresponsible choosing of Gov Palin, who is obviously unready to perform at the national level, is just one more example of McCain's gut decisions, and a perfect demonstration of how they can so easily go wrong. I voted against John McCain as much as I voted for Barack Obama.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Carlton Pearson leaves rigid doctrine behind

I am a late comer to this news. I did not realize that Bishop Pearson had formally left the fold. He still believes in God, but not hell. And even his idea of God is pliable and humanity affirming.
At the end of the article are comments from the fold; one has to revisit the religious nutjob universe every now and then to remember the insanity. One Bea K. writes, "I’d... be quite upset, more than you realize, if I’d have done everything possible to help mankind (my creation, if I was God that is), and they turned on me by literally spitting in my face and choosing another ‘religion’ over mine. In other words, “I’ve given you everything you could have ever wanted, but I really don’t need you God”. How humiliating is that?"
My response to Bea:

I am so glad to see Carlton Pearson make this journey. He was always such a jovial person, it is nice to have him as company. As one who was brought up steeped in the illusions of the Christian religion, I am heartened to see others freed from its false fears and lies.To all of you who are still in your religious cocoon, this is why someone like Carlton Pearson, or me, would leave. Bishop Pearson could not reconcile the idea of eternal hellfire for the great majority of mankind simply because they did not embrace one, particular conception of faith, millions of whom had never even heard of it. To any one who thinks clearly about it, it just is not fair. In fact, it goes to the central question of suffering that is the singular failure of the Christian religion (and most others, for that matter.)

I left the idea of a just and loving God behind because it did not square with the world I saw as I traveled through more than sixty countries. I saw the teeming millions in India, China, and Africa. Millions born into misery, living miserable, painful lives, and dying miserably, never knowing hope or cheer. It is the sad reality of most humans who are born today. They are born with no hope. For those in the rich west this is a hard concept to grasp.Bea K., you have it exactly wrong. In what sense did God “do everything possible to help mankind?” That contention would be a great surprise to more than 3/4 of the world’s population, who are born into lives of misery with no clue about where they came from or for what purpose they are here. They are simply cast adrift into a tooth and claw creation, with little to guide them on their way. In fact, the opposite of what you say is true. There is such pain and suffering, in so many lives, not even to mention your horrific idea of eternal damnation, that it is God himself who stands accused. How could he have created such a vicious, merciless world?

I have been to two wars and several disaster operations and have witnessed the most wrenching and ferocious mutilations of the bodies of men, women, and children. If there were a God responsible for setting a world in motion that resulted in such unending sorrow, he would, infact, deserve to be hammered to a cross every single day it spins its rounds through the cold expanse of this universe. So, now we come to the brass tax. I suggest to you, Bea, that your only real concern is your own safety, because you fear hell. The likelihood is that you are in fact a coward, too afraid to face the all too apparent conclusion, that there is no God to indict. I think that most Christians are only Christians because they fear the logic of Pascal’s wager - that one has nothing to lose by believing, but risks hell by not believing. But this is the logic of cowardice. The best response to Pascal is Thomas Jefferson’s advice to his nephew as he searched for a religion, “Fix reason firmly upon her seat. Bring to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question boldly even the existence of God, for if there be one, he surely must more approve the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I have been purged.

If you have reservations about Sarah Palin, you have been purged by Robert Stacy McCain :

If you are one of the purgees, don't be surprised. This is really not unprecedented. National Review, in the '60s, used to haul itself up as the judge of all "true" conservatives. They made sure to loudly denounce Birchers on the one hand and Randites (Objectivists) on the other. They were quite the opposite of the big tent. So, I suppose it is fitting that the son of the great purger himself (WFB) finds himself purged. And for what better reason than a completely arbitrary one? Notice, it is not about principle, not about small government, or the free market, or protection of private property...nope, it just comes down to whether you can swallow hard and vote for a clearly unprepared candidate. That's it. That's the new shibboleth.

So, I hope Republicans and Conservatives, now that you have purged me and all other libertarian leaning voters from the GOP, that you have great fun by yourselves in the loser's column, because that is where you have consigned yourselves for the foreseeable future.Still, 'tis a strange standard to raise, this Sarah Palin test.

I remember seeing the women of the right in the '80s, when I came to the movement, women like Margaret Thatcher and Jeane Kirkpatrick and Peggy Noonan. These women were full of substance and presence. They were not vapid cheerleaders who could mouth a bunch of rightist platitudes with a smile and a wink. They didn't wail against the media and cry about being misportrayed as lightweight. They didn't need "fair treatment." They went into the fray and gave better than they got. Who here thinks that Jeane Kirkpatrick could be set on her heels by Katie Couric? This is what we have been reduced to, defending a third stringer who has no business at the national level. I am not waiting to be purged. I'm out. Will the last libertarian turn off the lights, please?

Why the guilt-by-association sideshows about Obama don't matter.

Ove the last few weeks, the guilt by association machine has been run on overdrive by the McCain campaign and their allies. Ayers, Wright, Rezko, Khalidi, etc. As we go into this election, we should all remember what's at stake, and what is really important.
I have served this country in two wars. I have traveled to more than sixty countries, been on every continent other than Antarctica, and worked with several foreign govts and companies on behalf of American interests. So, I will humbly suggest that I have learned a few things about the world.
I admit that I have voted Republican most of my life, but in this election, I agree with Colin Powell. Obama has the temperament, the vision, and the decisionmaking skills needed in this moment. McCain is too reflexively violent, blunt, and self righteous. He believes that war solves things. And it does, sometimes, but more often it does not.

All of these sideshow stories about who associates with whom really don't matter and I'll tell you why, especially for those of you who live in your partisan or ideological bubbles and don't understand the way the world works. When you want to get something done in the real world of space, time, and history, you saddle up to the people who can help you do it. Sometimes it means making associations with people who are not perfect, or even admirable, but a pragmatist has to deal with the world as it is, not as one might wish it were. Ayers, Wright, and the rest of these people were those who could get things in done in the political landscape of Chicago poltics that Obama was entering. That's simply what politicians do. But McCain's reflexive self righteousness leads him to deny this reality (even while he hypocritically does the same thing, such as chumming up to Falwell when everyone knows McCain despised him.)

This is why McCain's support of Bush's current stance toward Iran is a tell tale sign of his unsuitability for the Presidency. Especially now, with Iran on the verge of becoming a nuclear power while simultaneously exploiting the U.S. intervention in Iraq to exponentially increase their power and status in the region. Bush's (and McCain's) approach states that we won't even initiate diplomatic talks at any meaningful level until they capitulate to a long list of demands, half of which are completely impossible for Iran to do given the current state of their internal politics. This lack of understanding and subtlety just won't wash in these times. So, partisan bubble dwellers, have all the sideshows you want, but please stay home on election day and let the adults decide this one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Was Hiroshima terrorism?

My new comment on Ta-Nehisi Coates' blog:
re: " I've never understood why Hiroshima (necessary as it may well have been) wasn't an act of terrorism." and "There's no civilized way to make war." and "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
This is a subject I had to confront as Marine. I served in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2005-6), as well as Haiti (2004) and more than sixty other countries across the globe. I am writing this from Japan, where the US military has been since we conquered the place. Think of the word, conquer. We didn't conquer this country by being nice or civil, we brutalized them terrorized them, caused the most severe hardship and pain, before they surrendered. That is simply what war is. The subject of war and how to wage it is more than a preoccupation with me, it is my profession.

First, I have learned that is always easy in hindsight to second guess the actions of those who served in combat years before. So some perspective is necessary.
My grandfather was in the battle of Okinawa along with his brother (who left his right leg on the island). Afterward, he was set to invade mainland Japan where he would most certainly die, when the bomb was dropped. He credited the bomb with saving his life. My mother vividly remembers, as a six year old, saying goodbye to her Dad with the certain knowledge that he would never return. That was the world as they knew it.

I have walked the battlefields of Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and Saipan and studied the events there closely. We should all remember the ever escalating brutality with which the war was waged. Certainly Americans had racist vews of the Japanese, but the opposite was also true. Almost certainly, the need to dehumanize the other side is neceassary to generate the will to kill in the human animal. Believe it or not, there is generally found in humans a natural reluctance to commit violence on other human beings. That's why it is very often done in a ritualized or a severe social context.

In WW II specifically, as one side committed atrocities against the other, the viciousness increased all around. On Tarawa, U.S. platoon positions were marked by stakes with Japanese heads stuck on them. But also, Americans captured by the Japanese were mutilated and tortured all night before they died. Just thirty or forty feet away, their fellow Marines had to listen as the captives' genitals were cut off, and they were skinned, and disemboweled, slowly. There is no mercy after enduring such a thing. This is the nature of war. As the famed military historian and theorist, John Keegan, notes, whatever the initial reasons for war, once begun they take on a logic and momentum of their own that often become completely disconnected from the original reasons for the war. This is why they should be entered to with great trepidation.

So, having said that, let's remember what war is, one side seeks to bend the other to its will. There are alot of fancy definitions but they all come down to simply that - a battle of wills. In a total war, such as World War II, where entire civilizations are battling for supremacy and even survival, one can expect the battle of wills to extend to every aspect of life.

Of course Hiroshima was an act of terrorism, because it was intended to cause terror in the other side's population, causing them to lose the will to fight. That is what war is all about, producing terror and causing the other side to exhaust themselves, to give up, to decide that the horror can be endured no longer. So, that is a long post to say that all those quotes are true. War is terror. Freedom fighters are terrorists. It only depends on your perspective.

Think of the examples from history, our founding fathers were terrorists to the British King. People like Yizhak Rabin and the other founders of Israel were hunted as terrorists by the British before they were ever accepted as diplomats. Leaders of the IRA now sit in chambers of democracy in Europe. And, yes, Ahmadinejad, who stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, is now the President of Iran. It is all a matter of perspective.
Semper Fi,PTR
Link here: http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/about_that_john_brown_analogy.php#comments

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Remember: how rulers rule

As we move into high gear in the election season of 2008, as we listen to the moving life stories, the lilting oratory, the accumulating promises, let us all remember Machiavelli's observation from Discourses on Livy, Book II, Chapter 13: "All rulers rule by force or fraud, more often fraud." He goes on to explain why ruling by fraud is actually better than by force; because fraud kills fewer people.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hard-easy: a lifestyle program

In his review of Play as if Your Life Depends on It, by Frank Forencich, Clarence Bass writes:
This hard-easy activity pattern is built into our genes. “[It] must have been repeated with variation millions of times throughout our history,” Forencich writes. It’s what we’re born to do. And it’s a proven formula for athletic success.
“An essential part of being a good animal is establishing a cycle of activity and rest that is appropriate for your species, your age and the conditions you live in,” Forencich writes. “From a coach’s point of view, the Paleolithic hunters and gatherers were following an ideal pattern for athletic excellence as well as general health.” When you train, train hard—and then take a few days off for rest and recovery.

As the fittest 70 year-old on the planet, Clarence's recommendations are worthy of attention by anyone interested in living long and well.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Walk the Line: Johnny Cash and the tie that binds...

I recently saw the movie, Walk the Line. I realize that I am late to this party, but, hey, I have young kids. before I saw the movie, I was aware of complaints from some religious viewers that the religious side of Johnny Cash was largely left out of the biopic. I must agree, but not with a qualification.

I knew that Johnny Cash was religious, and I also knew that he was a hell-raiser. This dichotomy is not too rare in the South. I didn't miss the religious element very much because the movie covered part of his life when Johnny was not very religiously inclined.

Right at the end, though, the movie did make it seem that June Carter and the Carter family were mostly to credit for his turnaround. In fact, there was a long, montagious shot where he is at the depths of despair that could have easily concluded at the Nickajack cave (which happened in late '67, just before the end of the period the movie covers.)

I googled Johnny Cash after the movie was over because I assumed that at some point he had a moment of embrace of religion. That's when I read about the Nickajack cave episode where Johnny went as his (first) marriage was dissolving and he intended to commit suicide by wandering into
the cave and getting irretrievably lost. In the cave, Cash says he had a vision of light and heard the voice of God say that He wasn't through with Cash yet. And then the way out of the cave was made clear to Cash by a light and wiff of air. He addressed this episode in detail in his autobiography. He wasn't a perfect religious man after this incident, but he clearly points to it as transformative. It would have fit easily into the movie. It seems to have been left out on purpose by the filmmakers to avoid the uncomfortable inclusion of religion.

That is unfortunate. To be honest, revelatory religions, such as Christianity, generally infuriate me. So I am no disgruntled Christianist, but it is pretty clear what Johnny Cash thought was important in his life, and his story is not complete without Nickajack Cave. The filmmakers were cowards, and probably not very good business men either, given The Passion of the Christ's billion dollar box office take. Again, unfortunate.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Obama by voice, McCain by phenotype

During a recent review of literature on nonverbal behavior, I ran across some interesting factoids that have implications for the presidential race.

Voters tend to prefer candidates that fall into the mesomorph phenotype. During the past fifty years, every time an ectomorph (tall, thin) has run against a mesomorph (proportional - not fat or thin) the mesomorph has won. Think John Kerry (ecto) against George Bush (meso). Researchers in numerous studies have improved upon Prof. Sheldon's initial work on phenotypes in the 1940's, and shown that while personality types do not necessarily match body types as he claimed, often people's perceptions of others are based on the other person's shape. Endos (fat, round) are perceived as jolly and contented, ectos are perceived as intellectual and aloof, while mesos are perceived as attractive, confident leaders.

This disadvantages Sen. Obama, who is clearly an ectomorph, while Sen. John McCain is a very proportional mesomorph. In fact, a lot of the recent criticism of Obama is in line with the common perceptions researchers have found people have about endomorphs: they are detached, aloof, reflective, cautious, sensitive, withdrawn. Many people are not connecting to Obama, and I'll bet they can't quite tell you why exactly, just a feeling that he is a bit of an intellectual snob. Of course some of this is racism, sure, and some of it is identity politics, but the subconscious assessment of body type and how it shapes people's perceptions should not be disregarded.

That said, however, Obama has a clear advantage in voice quality. It appears that in every matchup of the last forty years, the candidate who had the most resonant, deeper and more expressive voice, won. In 2002, researchers Gregory and Gallagher from Kent State University conducted audio-spectral analysis of 19 presidential debates including Kennedy/Nixon, Carter/Ford, Reagan/Carter, Reagan/Mondale, Bush/Dukakis, Clinton/Bush, Clinton/Dole, and Bush/Gore. They found that the candidate who registered a more dominant fundamental voice frequency in the debates won the popular vote (this means Gore in 2000). Since voters favor voices that convey power and leadership, this clearly favors Sen. Obama, whose voice is unparalleled in modern politics.

Also, there is another characteristic in Obama's favor. Research indicates there is statistically significant discrimination against persons of short stature. This bodes ill for John McCain. If he wins the Presidency, at 5' 7", he will be the shortest President in over a hundred years, since William McKinley. Barack Obama, at 6'1" is actually just a little taller than the average height for twentieth century presidents, 6' and 1/2".

McCain seems to have the biggest hurdles in the nonverbal perception arena. While Obama could conceivably start a weight program and eat more to fill out a bit, McCain can't hope to change his height or his voice.

The implications for campaign strategies are clear. If Obama's people are smart, they will try to place him right next to McCain as often as they can. Also, they could manipulate the video on his ads to widen him a bit and project a mesomorph image. McCain's staff will likely add resonance in the vocal channel on his ads and show him standing above people as often as possible. Look for these and other subtle nonverbal approaches to building these candidates images as we progress toward the election.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Darwinian conservative, with a small "c"

On the Darwinian Conservative blog, a rather astute commenter, Les Brunswick remarks Link here that scientists "have determined that human nature is not as bad as these people [religionists] claim," but also not as good as "utopian leftists" claim captures the fascinating implications of recent developments in understanding the brain and human nature. I find it interesting that many scientists, like Steven Pinker and E.O. Wilson, are politically left, while I read their works as confirming my traditionally conservative, "tragic" view of human nature. In other words, we are not blank slates, not perfectable, and subject to some 10-20 strong inherent drives that impel much of our behavior, with some modifications possible. This idea has implications across the fields of public policy that are only beginning to dawn on those who have stakes in the old party lines. Wait for the assault from both sides on these scientists, I am certain it is imminent.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Crisis of Responsibility

From frivolous lawsuits to an increase in laws designed to protect us from ourselves, few desire to take any responsibility for anything anymore.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is the cries for a bail out of those with mortgages in default. As someone with a young family, I would like to see house prices continue to fall so that I might be able to afford one. I have long considered these prices to be unreasonably inflated. Anyone who decries the inaction of government in this regard and considers those involved as victims should consider the real causes of this "crisis."

A higher degree in economics is not required to understand this. Many people simply bought houses they could not afford. Often, they purchased the houses not to live in, but as investments. According to statistics from Bloomberg.com, possibly as many as one-third of all homes purchased since 2000 were bought by speculators hoping for a quick profit. Many speculators were buying homes from other speculators, and even worse, construction companies built homes based on that false demand. There was never a market of people who actually wanted to live in these houses. To make these bad developments worse, lenders were granting loans to people who should never have qualified for them. The end result of all this is similar to the end of any common pyramid scheme: a few make big profits by selling out early and everyone else is left with nothing, or in debt.

The fact that people engage in this kind of reckless behavior should surprise no serious student of human nature. But, sadly, this appears to me to be just one more aspect of a larger trend that may be unavoidable.

As free, liberal societies have matured and enlarged, a crisis of responsibility has emerged within their people. Somehow the cornerstone of freedom, individual responsibility, is discarded as a weight too burdensome, replaced by a culture of blame and victimhood. He who most successfully ascribes his failings to another is the victor in this paradigm. How one arrests such a depressing trend in fellow citizens is a mystery.

The renowned psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Victor Frankl, suggested erecting a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast of the United States as a counterbalance to the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast. He taught that these concepts were dependant on each other and a public acknowledgement of this truth was appropriate.

A link to the wikipedia article about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Responsibility

A link to the Statue of Responsibility website here: http://www.sorfoundation.org/

Sadly, the effort to build the statue appears to be as stalled as the desire of free people to assume responsibility for their lives.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Nation birthed by the Enlightenment - not Judeo-Christian, whatever that means exactly

Whenever I hear that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation, I try to refer the speaker to our first documents. Read Federalist No. 10, read the writings of the founders, hell, read the Constitution. Nowhere is this stated. These documents conspicuously do not refer to any religion as their source.
In fact, here is a great quote dug up by Andrew Sullivan from The Conservative Soul:

In 1797, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the "Treaty of Tripoli," an attempt to deal with Muslim piracy and terrorism in the Mediterranean. One of its clauses read:
"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
It is hard to think of a leading contemporary Republican insisting that American government "is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." In the early republic, not a single senator dissented.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Support Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I recently finished Ms. Ali's autobiography, Infidel. It is a somber and moving account of a girl born in third-world hopelessness who makes a daring dash for individual freedom when she sees a chance. I found it to be a powerful indictment of Islamic cultures that keep their women oppressed as virtual slaves.
Because she spoke out against these Islamists, she is hounded to this day. A Fatwa calling for her death was found stuck to the murdered body of Theo Van Gogh with a butcher's knife. The Dutch government no longer pays for her security as it did when she served in their parliament.
In my opinion she is a heroine and ally of all who support individual rights.
You can support her here:

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fitness for females

Here is a fantastic link for all you ladies who want to get in shape.
He blasts through all the crap you think you know about getting fit and gives the bottom line info.

Haiku - Death Poem

I periodically attempt a death poem - traditionally a haiku written by samurais who were anticipating death. The experience focuses one's creativity to answer the question: What is the statement with which I want to leave the world? What is my final observation on this life?

I have written maybe four in the past years. Remember Haiku calls for a three line poem with the syllable set of 5-7-5. The rules are quite complicated (see the wikipedia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haiku ) but I don't hold strictly to all of them.

Here is my latest effort:

Winds caress a child,
Yet, they are the same winds that
Wing flies to a corpse.

Feel free to post yours.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Response to Embargo, Shmembargo, It's All Greek to Me


This article comparing Cyprus to Cuba belies the author's ignorance of both situations. One government came into being as the result of armed insurrection, the other is the puppet state of an armed invader. There is a difference, in history and in view of international law.
First, my full disclosure: My wife is half-Greek Cypriot. My father-in-law spent a year and a half in a Turkish prison camp upon capture in the 1974 Turkish invasion. So, if you want to discount the following remarks, be my guest. However, I was posted to the US Embassy in Cyprus for two years, I have roamed every area of the island, and have found friends and admirable people on both sides of the divide. Suffice to say I am intimately familiar with the argument on both sides.
Indeed, in the midst of such contentiousness, it is surprising how many folks on both sides have substituted rage for resignation, and even acceptance. Even my father-in-law is surprisingly understanding of the Turkish Cypriot cause. And, ultimately, the realist in me understands that Greek Cypriots begged their fate by dancing with the ENOSIS devil and preparing insufficiently for Turkish military action.
Key lesson: if you are going to oppress an ethnic minority in your country, first make sure they don't have cousins forty miles away with a ferocious military. Or arm yourself appropriately. The Greek Cypriots did neither and suffered the fate of those who ignore the great axioms at their peril.
This does not, however, completely excuse the Turks' actions, during the invasion or, especially, since. Simply put, they deprived tens of thousands of private citizens of their property rights without compensation. They have not even attempted compensation, and they have redistributed the property with abandon while the Greek side has held every last bit of property owned by a Turkish Cypriot in readiness for their return.
The contention that if a "enough people, in a credible area, want independence enough to grab it, I reckon it's reasonable to agree, like the result or not" would condone the ethnic cleansing of the entire northern half of the island and permanently deprive residents on the south of their property and their options to "buy and sell, to borrow or lend, where they choose." If the Greek Cypriot refugees were allowed to return and vote, the TRNC would be dissolved with certainty.
Do you wonder why Greek Cypriots gave the "two-fingered salute" to the Annan Plan? Perhaps you can put yourself in their shoes. My wife's family owned six houses, three businesses, and a few hundred acres of land near Kyrenia. The Turkish government stripped them of this land and property. Everything was gone, including family photos and heirlooms. The Annan plan would have given those from the Kyrenia area no compensation and no right to even purchase their own land back. These facts do not preclude increased economic engagement of the TRNC, to include steps to diplomatic recognition, but they should not be dismissed out of hand as simple obstinance and a "two-fingered" salute. TRNC should be accepted and integrated in a way that will bolster the rule of law, not enrich a corrupt thugocracy.

A link to my posts at Slate's The Fray

A glimpse at part of my journey across the web. I post in all sorts of forums as PatricktheRogue. Here is a link to the Fray at Slate.com:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Rogue's Entry

This post marks my entry into the world of weblogs. Welcome to the log of a rogue's journey through the world of space, time, and history. Welcome one and all.