Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Predicting the Future: Fun for the Whole Family

Where Are We Going?

I think one of the reasons I love Science Fiction so much is that it transports me out of this world where everything is seemingly going to hell in a hand basket. I know this is not really true when in fact everything is actually getting better all the time. The fact that the global economy is more diverse and free than at any time in history - and in the process human poverty and starvation is actually declining - is totally lost on the consumers of the nightly news cycle.

The doom and gloom and constant hand wringing coming from that TV drives me crazy. The hardest thing for modern man to overcome is our own cynicism. Hell, I am a natural complainer myself. I have been known to be a negative Nelly, no really, as hard as it is to believe it's true.

Are we There Yet?

I'll bet that right before the world was plunged into darkness that we called World War II back in the late 1930's few people would have predicted just how well civilization would be doing in the year 2000. What Western Civilization has built (or rebuilt) after the fall of the Nazis and the imperialists in Japan is simply remarkable. If the past is the predictor of the future then, my God, the future looks bright.

Most futurists look at the present situation and apply a formula that simply extrapolates a future based on incremental advancements. This makes perfect sense. Moore's Law on computing power has proven to be remarkable accurate. Even when we reach the physical material limits of the current semi-conductors some advancement comes along that will allow another barrier to be breached. This is true with most things - not the least of which is agricultural yields. Abundant food alone is responsible for the rising fortunes of humanity!

The pace of human advancement follows an exponential curve. This means change will come faster and the achievements will be even greater. I for one look forward to the day when we as the human race find that magical solution to our energy woes. I am confident it will happen in my lifetime. A brilliant solution to harness the power of the Sun in a safe, efficient manner is forth coming. If not, then, we will find a way that makes the energy solutions we already have insanely more efficient than they are today. The bottom line is that the key to our future is more energy use.

Like I said earlier, the future is an extrapolation of the past and if one thing is made clear by now our energy needs are ever increasing. This, I contend, is a good thing. I want the future to be bigger, better and come faster. I want to be an optimist! We have every right to believe the future will deliver us into a better world.

However, there are more than a few flies in the ointment...

The Big Three:
Global Warming hysteria
GM food hysteria
Islamic fascism

All three of these have one goal which is clearly evident to those who actually take the time to truly examine them: The End of Capitalism

This comes at just the time capitalism has proven itself vastly superior to the other "isms" at delivering the promise of a better future. Why is it what seems so clear to me is lost on most people. Well, most people, who derive their very fortunes from the dynamic world capitalism has created, are too brainwashed by the overbearing foghorn that is the mainstream media.

This is not say that the environment in the case of Global Warming is not important. Satisfying our need to protect the planet from environmental degradation will not be served by destroying capitalism. It seems obvious that the 70 year experiment with communism was the worst environmental disaster the world has ever seen. China is an environmental disaster waiting to happen not because it has embraced capitalism but because it took so long to do so.

So too, the world's embrace of GM (genetically modified) foods should be done with all the care and caution that is required, but in the end it is doing with science what man has done with hybridization for thousands of years. It should be celebrated as a marvelous human achievement not feared and banned.

The real threat to a better future for all of us is Islamic fundamentalism. Those of you who read this blog regularly might think this is a broken record - but don't fool yourselves into thinking I am alone. I have to ask why the mainstream media doesn't even try to sound this warning siren with the same conviction they scream about "HailiBushHilterBurton" stealing your money, killing your sons and daughters and taking away your constitutional rights. Fear, my friends. They don't fear "HailiBushHilterBurton" but they fear Islam, they fear insulting Islam and they fear their multicultural politically correct peers.

Western Civilization is in peril because we are so apathetic and unconvinced of our own greatness that we would rather yawn and proceed clicking the channels than to stand up and defend what we have.

Victor Davis Hanson writes so eloquently on this subject in the Wall Street Journal. His piece "Losing The Enlightenment" he states:

"The hard-won effort of the Western Enlightenment of some 2,500 years that, along with Judeo-Christian benevolence, is the foundation of our material progress, common decency, and scientific excellence, is at risk in this new millennium.

"But our newest foes of Reason are not the enraged Athenian democrats who tried and executed Socrates. And they are not the Christian zealots of the medieval church who persecuted philosophers of heliocentricity. Nor are they Nazis who burned books and turned Western science against its own to murder millions en masse.

No, the culprits are now more often us. In the most affluent, and leisured age in the history of Western civilization--never more powerful in its military reach, never more prosperous in our material bounty--we have become complacent, and then scared of the most recent face of barbarism from the primordial extremists of the Middle East."

Michael Novak sums it all up in his excellent piece "What the Islamists Have Learned" citing the new creed of the militant Islamists:

"Maxim # 2: Take heart, then, my terrorist brothers! Bin Laden is even more correct than we knew before the last two years. The West does not have the will to resist. Those elites among them who do have the stomach to fight back, inexorably, day after day, are being undermined by their own media.

Now and in the future, the media will do our work. All we need are martyrs sufficient in number to keep a steady stream of orange flames and black smoke before their cameras, and to dump before them bodies that are stone-cold dead, and bear all over them the unmistakable blue marks of power drills and other disfigurements.

Of such martyrs, we need each day only a handful. In 365 successive days, we need fewer than one thousand.

This small band of brothers can defeat the most powerful army in human history. The path, my brothers, is to come to dominate the minds of their public, which they must suppose is supporting them, and in reality turns quite quickly into our best ally.

This is not so huge a task, my brothers! In the long run of glorious history, the time required is like the blinking of an eye."

Mark Steyn from "America Alone":

“In the fourteenth century, the Black Death wiped out a third of the Continent’s population; in the twenty-first, a larger proportion will disappear — in effect, by choice. We are living through a rare moment: the self-extinction of the civilization which, for good or ill, shaped the age we live in. One can cite examples of remote backward tribes who expire upon contact with the modern world, but for the modern world to expire in favor of the backward tribes is a turn of events future anthropologists will ponder, as we do the fall of Rome.”

Mona Charin:

"The lone exception to this downward spiral in the West is the United States. Our birthrate plus immigration means that our population is growing, not shrinking. (Actually, our growth is due to red state birth rates. If it were up to the blues, we’d be in Europe’s fix.) But most American liberals are as weak-minded as the Europeans when it comes to the matter of will. They do not feel the urge to preserve Western civilization as strongly as the desire to apologize for it — and that may be the death of us."

And last but not least the uncommonly positive and enthusiastic futurist and technologist Ray Kurzweil after telling us all about the wonders of our technologically advanced future world lays down this warning:

"One trick we'll have to master is staying ahead of the game. Kurzweil warns that terrorists could, obviously, use this same technology against us. For example, they could build and spread a bioengineered biological virus that's highly powerful and stealthy."

The future is bright if we care enough to see it through. If we blink and allow the socialists, the Luddites and the Islamic swarm to destroy capitalism, more precisely the United States then I say pass me the government-distributed candle so I can read my Koran.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fear and Hate, Disgust and Distrust

We often hate what we fear. Most of the time fear and hate are irrational and arise out of simple ignorance. I claim no exception from both of these emotions but I do marvel at the general knee jerk nature of those among us for whom ignorance is a badge of honor when it comes to understanding those they both fear and hate.

We almost always distrust those we fear. We often hate those that disgust us. Sometimes these feelings have a basis in reality and sometimes once again they are a result of ignorance. Sorting this out and assigning rational fear and distrust to those who can actually harm us or our society is the function of study and an open mind.

Take religious folk and secular folk in the good 'ol United States for instance. Those who make a boogieman out of Christians and more particularly the Christian Right assign way too much distrust and disgust in my opinion. What is mainly a backlash against what they see as a societal breakdown of decency and manners and a hateful degradation of benign Christian traditions by the secularization of America, Christians are regarded as an enemy of the constitution. The popular notion has become that Christianity is irrelevant to all that has made this a great country.

In truth the secular and religious traditions and institutions have combined to make this country a great success story. It is balancing act that teeters back and forth self correcting as we go along. I fear that with the real and rightful corrections to laws that were blatant religious constructs (such as the Blue Laws) we are ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.

In my opinion all the so-called "crimes" of the religious right pale in comparison to the rhetoric spewed by a hateful secular left. It is unbalanced and the country now teeters on the verge of tearing itself apart. A good friend of mine and I were discussing this very topic recently. I told him I thought that the constant horn blowing against religion in this country was very detrimental because such fear mongering was way out of proportion. He sort of agreed - but said he didn't think the Christian Right should have so much influence on elections and public life. I looked at him quizzically and said "don't you think the secular mainstream media has too much influence on elections and public life." What could he say to that?

Does the public display of religious content pose anywhere near the threat to our country that an "anything goes" popular culture does? Does promoting abstinence, adoption and pro-life messages pose anywhere near the harm that unplanned pregnancies, abortion and "free love" does? You can say that a ten thousand year tradition in nearly every society on earth of marriage between one man and one woman is obsolete but the vast majority of our society doesn't agree based on the result of dozens of state-wide referendums and constitutional amendments that have passed.

Finally, I guess what bothers me most is that Christians and Christian belief systems are constantly ridiculed (sometimes rightly and oftentimes wrongly), feared and compared to ideologies that are truly dangerous and horrendous. Islam is just such an ideology/religion and does not even come close to Christianity for the scorn, distrust and outright hatred it engenders in the world of the secular left. This bothers me. Islam has a stated goal of ruling the world and now has the wealth and is soon to have the weapons to accomplish this goal - if we let it. The worst part of this is that we are handing them the wealth and the weapons with which they will conquer and actually impose their beliefs on the rest of us - Christian and secular alike. Oil is obviously the wealth creator but their biggest weapon against us is not going to be nuclear weapons but our own self-hatred and apathy. We are systematically dismantling the blend of secular and Christian values that have helped create our power and our wealth, a power and wealth that has saved the world from Nazism, imperialism and Soviet communism.

Whatever you choose to believe I can say confidently it is not Christian fundamentalism that threatens America and the west.

Author David Aikman speaking to a Chinese official when researching for his book "Jesus in Beijing" got this quote which I think we should all take to heart before we dismantle our society:

"At first, we thought [the power of the West] was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity."


Saturday, November 18, 2006

If I Were Half as Smart as I Thought I Was...

I have used this blogspot space as somewhat of an electronic editorial page rather than a true stream of conscientiousness weblog. Since my local newspaper has not seen fit to give me a shot as guest columnist I feel the public is being deprived of my brilliance (initiate laugh track here). They run a contest of sorts, or they used to (since I no longer subscribe and have no idea what the are up to these days) to give members of the community a shot at writing about six opinion columns during the course of the year. There have been a couple of these guys who continued on and have become "paid" columnists - and they deserved it.

I had been rather good at getting my letters to editor published over the years in both my local paper and the one from the big city across the river. While I didn't like that they edited my work to the point of cutting or altering the very meaning of my words I was always thrilled to see my work in newsprint. In short I thought I had a uniquely incandescent view of the world that simply must be shared.

Well, ladies and gents what I have learned is that mine is puny intellect. Sure, I like to think I am far more well informed and frankly more intelligent on the subjects that interest me than the average Joe - and this is probably true - but it seems everyday I find the more I think I know the less I actually know. If I was half as smart as I thought I was.

It doesn't matter what subject I tackle or how "expert" I think I am there are a thousand average Joe's out here on the Internet that just put me to shame. It can be depressing if you let it get to you. So, I try and learn what I can and I continue to hone and even change my own opinions as the facts dictate. Basic core beliefs are harder to reform and that's how it ought to be. I could no more throw away my distrust and revulsion of Socialism, for example, on a whim than I could suddenly stop being attracted to the opposite sex.

There's a term that was coined years ago after the Jonestown incident called "drinking the Koolaid". It means you are so brainwashed by the gurus you admire that anything they ask you to do you do! Political, religious and social ideologies are hotbeds for these Koolaid drinkers. Even I have been seduced from time to time to take a sip...

The bottom line is we need to question our own beliefs and behaviors from time to time and adjust our opinions and even sometimes our core beliefs. The recent election in America gave me pause to think about which "path" our nation should be following. Does the other side have anything to offer? Does the full on charge of capitalism offer the most for the most as I have come to believe over the years? Do I need to reevaluate what I presume to be true about world as it is?

It only took about a week after the election to have my views on Socialism reaffirmed. I firmly believe that America MUST follow a course that rejects socialism with every fiber of our being. If we follow the path Europe has mapped out we will be living in the world George Orwell described in his classic novel "1984". I believe Orwell was socialist himself, or he was anti-capitalist, and saw the right-wingers bringing about the world Winston Smith found himself in. Truly after reading this article and hearing the rationale behind Britain's "parenting workforce" I have come to believe all my fears of socialism running amok are true. The first couple of paragraphs are simply chilling:

Parents could be forced to go to special classes to learn to sing their children nursery rhymes, a minister said.

Those who fail to read stories or sing to their youngsters threaten their children's future and the state must put them right, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes said.

Their children's well-being is at risk 'unless we act', she declared.

And Mrs Hughes said the state would train a new 'parenting workforce' to ensure parents who fail to do their duty with nursery rhymes are found and 'supported'.

(found and 'supported' - look at this language and tell me it doesn't frighten you!)

Please, I ask you, the American people, reject this bullshit with every fiber of your being!


Friday, November 10, 2006

The Black Swan

My latest painting I decided to entitle with the Latin name Cygnus Atratus when I learned that the term Black Swan had another meaning. A black swan is a unpredictable event that defies prediction: its very unexpectedness helps create the conditions for it to occur. Since I finished it on election day I felt that through power of the karmic transcendental universe I had unwittingly caused the thumping we took that fateful day. But, then again, the results were really not that unpredictable were they? By definition Nov 7th 2006 was not a black swan.

I hope you enjoy this painting. It is from a photo I personally took when visiting the Duluth Zoo in the summer of 2006.

Please, if you haven't already taken a peek at my art gallery, visit: Thanks!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Say Hello To Higher Taxes

The one that is perfectly clear in the aftermath of this electoral wipe out - our taxes are going up. When the smoke clears and the victors go to work on the "bad" economy, global warming, stem cell research and Bush's "adventure" in Iraq we will all see if sound bite governing will actually work.

The problem for us is that they will still have Bush to beat up for 2 more years. Now, if history holds true and the tax increases, environmental roadblocks and handouts this Congress will surely accomplish do not produce any real effects until 2009 then Bush will have left us with a vibrant and growing economy. The Democrats will continue to blame Bush for years to come but when the American people "feel the pain" they will blame the party in power. I will then experience what the Germans call schadenfreude.

scha den freu de
- noun
satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else's misfortune.

Today the Democrats are experiencing it. I hope they enjoy it while it lasts.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

All My Cars

All The Gas Guzzling , CO2 Spewing Internal Combustion Monsters I have Known and Loved!

As I was filing some photos the other day I came across a bunch of pictures of cars I have owned. It is amazing how many cars one ends up owning in the course of a twenty-five year driving career. The fact that for 10 years during that time I did not personally own a car because I had a succession of company cars amazes me even further. Take a look... Some of these photos were not my car but are pictures off the Internet.

1969 Plymouth Barracuda
w/225 slant six
My first car. I loved this car, enough said.

1970 Volkswagen Beetle
Easily the biggest piece of crap I've ever owned. Other than the fabulous clutch and the huge trunk there was nothing to like about this hunk of "German engineering".

1969 Chevy Van (mine was Orange)
I traded the Volkswagen for this thing. It was a danger to me and any one who ever got near it. I ended up painting like a hippy van - huge mistake - neither the cops nor my girlfriend's dad liked it very much. Neither did I.

1970 Dodge Dart (mine was tan)
I hardly remember this car. I didn't have it for too long and don't recall what happened to it.

1980 Plymouth Horizon TC3 (mine was dark blue)
Easily the second biggest piece of junk I ever owned. It had - yes, you guessed it - a Volkswagen engine. There was almost nothing to like about this car... If I think hard enough... No, nothing.

1986 Chrysler Lebaron GTS (mine was a non-turbo)
This was the first and only NEW car I ever bought. My wife and I loved this car and took exquisite care of it. At precisely 100,000 miles it blew a head gasket and it never ran right again after that. We sold it with a heavy heart and vowed never to own a Chrysler again.

1986 Mercury Sable Wagon
This was purchased in haste to replace the Chrysler. It was a comfortable, capable car with lots of extras. It also had lots of extra costs too. Every repair required the equivalent of the entire GDP of a small nation. Talk about nickle and diming you to death... When the heater core went and we were told it would $550 to replace it we waited for spring and sold it!

1988 Chevrolet Celebrity Wagon
This was my first GM car. It was a retired taxi that had had the odometer tampered with. By the time I donated it to Camp Courage it was a rust bucket without a muffler, but it started and ran as smoothly as the day I bought it. The odometer said 209,000 - no telling how many miles it actually had. It was by far the most plain-jane generic car I had ever owned but it was the best, most reliable transportation I ever had.

1992 Pontiac Grand Prix LE (mine was light blue/gray)
Another car that I really loved. It gave me little trouble and the repair costs where reasonable. Except for poorly engineered rear disk brakes it was a very decently made car. I gave it to my daughter and at 14 tears old it is still used everyday.

1995 Pontiac Transport SE
We bought this one to pull around our little pop-up camper and to haul around kids and groceries. It served it's purpose. It was not as mechanically sound as it should have been considering it was the top of the line mini-van of its era. It sucked to drive, like driving a barn down the road except that a barn would have handled better. When the power windows started to fail and it needed a host of other repairs it was time to go. I donated to a school that trained mechanics and gave the vehicles to the poor.

2001 Toyota RAV4
My wife currently drives this little SUV. It is the first foreign car we have ever bought. (I have wiped the Volkswagen Beetle from my memory) What can I say - it is a great vehicle. It is a bit under powered for my tastes and the little 2 liter four banger is noisy and buzzy but it runs and drives great. Other than a water pump that the mechanic (who was replacing the belt) said was showing signs that it just might one day spring a leak it has been defect free to 71,000 miles. Face it, Toyota's and Honda's are great cars...

2001 Pontiac Grand Prix SE
This my current ride. I've had it just under a year so jury is still out on it. It has been defect free so far. It rides a little rough for my tastes but it handles great and I am surprised by the snort this small V6 engine has. The heat and A/C and the stereo are first rate. And just look at it - it is gorgeous car!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Moron the Economy

...err, I Mean - More On the Economy

This weekend I was watching CSPAN and they had a Democratic pollster going through the list of things that voters are "concerned" about this year. Once again he went off on this so-called bad economy. Voters perceive that despite low interest rates, low unemployment, a strong stock market and solid corporate balance sheets that the economy is poor. Rising prices at the grocery store and stagnant wages are the supposed cause of this perception. In truth it is about prices at the pump more than anything else, but that's a subject for a different day.

So, I ask this: if stagnant wages and higher prices are putting the squeeze on the middle class what do they think higher taxes are going to do? Are higher taxes going to put more money in our wallets? Of course not. Higher taxes are what we are going to get if the Democrats get control of the House and Senate. Oh, but you say the Democrats are for targeted tax cuts for the middle class. In reality they will give tax cuts to those who act the way they want them to act. The beauty of the Bush tax cuts is that they were across the board - if you paid taxes you got a tax cut, period. If the Democrats (and the Republicans, for that matter) do not extend the Bush tax cuts then many people on the lowest rung of the economic ladder will be hit with tax increases because they had fallen off the charts under the Bush plan.

If I was asked what is number one reason I support Republicans - it certainly isn't the social conservative issues and Bible thumping - it isn't their courageous stand on illegal immigration - it isn't flag burning bans or flag waving stunts - it is taxes. The Republicans are 100 times more likely to lower taxes or at least not raise them. When all is said and done the reason this country continues to economically outperform all other countries is lower taxes.

But, but, but, what about healthcare and what about the environment and what about education??? Don't even try to tell me we don't spend enough on that rat-hole called public education. The environment is getting cleaner even as we increase in population and economic output. As for healthcare, yes it is a problem, but we have yet to see a socialist system of state-run healthcare that is really worth a damn.

Democrats will raise our taxes as a feel good measure and the only real beneficiaries will be in Washington DC. Eveyone else will suffer because of it. Is that what you want?