Sunday, December 30, 2007
In the year of Our Lord 2007 the preeminent work of Ayn Rand turns 50 years old. "Atlas Shrugged" is as relevant today as it was in 1957. Nearly every libertarian and a large portion of us fiscal conservatives have been profoundly affected by this book. "Who is John Galt?" was the question that was answered by this 1,000 page philosophical statement that masqueraded as a novel. It was Rand's masterpiece.
To this day the names Dagney Taggart and Hank Rearden still play in mind. The terms looters and prima movers have been etched permanently into my subconscious. It is a deep, richly layered look at the people pulling the wagon that is our modern world - and those hanging on for the ride while actively tearing the wagon apart. Atlas Shrugged asks the question: What if the Prima Movers go on strike?
So who is John Galt? He is every liberty loving, hard working entrepreneur and businessman, every self-made man and woman who is the part of the machine of our modern life that actually gets things done. John Galt is a doer, a mover, a shaker, inventor, architect, entertainer, carpenter, tradesman, artist, builder, engineer... You get the picture. You know who these people are, you may be one of them. As well, you know the ones who hang on, the ones who don't do much except complain.
Ayn Rand was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1905. She came to America and 1926 and never looked back. Years later when she was asked to describe the essence of her personal philosophy she made these four points:
1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism
Metaphysics in Rand's case is a philosophy that is concerned with the fundamental nature of reality and being. There is no room for God or religion or any supernatural nonsense in Rand's philosophy. In her youth she studied Aristotle, Victor Hugo and Nietzsche. Hugo was well known in his later life as being very hostile toward the Roman Catholic Church and one need not describe Nietzsche's view of religiosity. It is really no surprise that Rand herself became an atheist.
It was her love for individualism and capitalism that drew her to America and America to her. These very attributes are a complete anathema to leftists and socialists. However, many leftists and socialists are also atheists. Atheism has always been the great divide between objectivists/libertarians and conservatives/Republicans. Fiscal conservatives have more in common with objectivists than any socialist ever had, yet there has been an antagonism between conservatives and Randians for decades.
With the recent spate of anti-God bestsellers in the nation's bookstores the Randians detect a sea change in America. They long for the day when America becomes post-Christian just like Europe. I find this extremely short sighted and ultimately destructive to the cause of liberty, individualism and capitalism. Be careful what you wish for.
Atheism is the ONLY thing that hard-core leftists and objectivists share. Objectivists are reality based, rational thinkers. Leftists operate on pure emotion and irrationality. I personally think that the world without Christ will be a far less hospitable place for objectivists, libertarians and all freedom loving people.
Much of Rand's ideology is laudable. I too believe in the power of self-interest and individualism on the grounds that we are human beings and not bees or ants. We don't work for the good of the collective - we work for ourselves and our own families. I don't find that at all at odds with Christianity. My work-a-day life is separate from my spiritual life. One may inform the other but I don't spread it out so that it is one and the same. Jesus himself said render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and render unto God that which is God's. Essentially a directive to keep your earthly concerns of citizenship separate from your spiritual yearning for your Heavenly citizenship.
I don't think the objectivist movement, which needs all the friends it can get, should cozy up to leftist atheists in some odd desire to see religion disintegrate in the greatest bastion of economic liberty and individual freedom the world has every known. On the flip side conservatives should seek out this natural ally by trying to get religion out of the machinations of politics and public policy.
Friday, December 28, 2007
Her physical body had barely reached room temperature before the mud slinging began. Since I knew next to nothing about her other than she had been run out of the country and sent into exile on charges of massive corruption many, many years ago - I can't really offer anything one way or the other.
Ralph Peters in his New York Post column takes off the gloves early and often:
THE BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: NOT WHAT SHE SEEMED TO BE
By RALPH PETERS
December 28, 2007 -- FOR the next several days, you're going to read and hear a great deal of pious nonsense in the wake of the assassination of Pakistan's former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto.
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after her death than she did in life.
We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.
She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and "hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.
In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency.
Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious schools.
During her years as prime minister, Pakistan went backward, not forward. Her husband looted shamelessly and ended up fleeing the country, pursued by the courts. The Islamist threat - which she artfully played both ways - spread like cancer.
But she always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how to package himself.
Jeez, was the devil herself? Peters needs to speak his mind and stop beating around the bush.
Doing a little more digging around looking for a counterpoint I found a piece by Mansoor Ijaz, someone who actually knew her.
His piece in the Christian Science Monitor was titled:
The Benazir Bhutto I knew
Mansoor, I suspected, would come to her defense and offer a balance to the biting commentary Ralph Peters dished up. I was wrong:
During her two terms in office as prime minister, Ms. Bhutto earned a reputation among many as an imperious, venal, and corrupt politician, bringing Pakistan to the brink of financial ruin on more than one occasion.
Ijaz continues: I knew Benazir well. I am often blamed by her supporters for having helped bring her government down in 1996 by exposing her hypocrisy and corruption in two Wall Street Journal Op-Ed pieces. We remained in touch over the years after she went into exile, even developing a begrudging respect for each other over time. She struck me as a terribly conflicted person who deep in her heart wanted to save Pakistan from its evils, but was unable to put her personal lifestyle choices aside in doing so.
He concludes on a hopeful note: Benazir Bhutto was a brave woman. She was the face of modernity that Pakistan needed to salvage its descent into a sea of Islamist darkness. She should be remembered as a guardian of Pakistan's identity as a modern Islamic nation. Her death need not be the beginning of Pakistan's end.
Obviously Benazir Bhutto was a complicated woman and like all people in positions of power, men and women, corruption is the sea they swim in. The question is did she leave her country better/safer than it was before she came to power? Most serious commentators say no. If Mansoor Ijaz is any kind of prophet maybe this time she will.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Turns out that sunspot cycle 23 has ended. Can cycle 24 be far behind? It has been known for a long time that temperatures on Earth are affected by sunspot activity. When sunspot activity is low so are our temperatures. Apparently as of right now there are no sunspots at all.
Here is the Solar Update from solarcycle24.com:
12/19/2007 by VE3EN at 22:20
The solar wind has dipped below 600 km/s and the sun is now blank of any sunspots. It also looks like the northern reverse magnetic region continues to decay. Things should remain quiet.
We have not heard much about it up here in the north but the southern hemisphere has just come off one of the coldest winters in memory. A co-worker of mine spent several months in his native country of Australia and reported that he doesn't ever remember it being that cold.
South America had one of its coldest winters on record. Winter in the northern hemisphere starts officially in a few days, but I can assure you it's already here. I think this just adds to the supposition that the Sun has so much more to do with the warming and cooling of the Earth than SUV's and coal burning. Somehow, someway no matter how cold it gets or how long it stays cold the doomsayers will continue to rant on about "global warming deniers". As this winter drags on (and possible many more before sunspot cycle 24 peaks sometime during the next 11 years) with these sub freezing nights from Oklahoma to Maine the hysterics will begin to fall on deaf ears.
Here is a chart showing sunspot activity over the past 14 years. Note that this cycle nearly matches the precipitous rise in Global Warming hysterics... Interesting, huh?
Over at NASA the Solar Climate Physic Community is very excited as signs point to the beginning of sunspot cycle 24 just around the corner
It may not look like much, but "this patch of magnetism could be a sign of the next solar cycle," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
For more than a year, the sun has been experiencing a lull in activity, marking the end of Solar Cycle 23, which peaked with many furious storms in 2000--2003. "Solar minimum is upon us," he says.
The big question now is, when will the next solar cycle begin?
It could be starting now.
"New solar cycles always begin with a high-latitude, reversed polarity sunspot," explains Hathaway. "Reversed polarity " means a sunspot with opposite magnetic polarity compared to sunspots from the previous solar cycle.
I think the next few years will make or break the veracity of the CAGW theory. The problem is that the politicians and policy makers from the international level all the way down to local community councils are already crafting rules that will both cost (waste) billions and lower the standard of living we have all worked so hard for. We need to put the brakes on these people...
Friday, December 14, 2007
The two largest atheist societies are rather recent anomalies and both were forced. The Soviet Union enforced an oppressive secular society on populations that were (at the time) profoundly religious. China continues to violently suppress religious activity, particularly in Tibet and, of course, the new Christians. Neither society can be considered truly successful. China is making great strides economically, coincidently enough, just as Christianity is on the rise there.
But throughout recorded history and even deep into pre-history the evidence of God/spiritual worship is overwhelming. One could ask why these cultures of antiquity no longer exist and isn't that evidence that God centered cultures are also failures? Most, if not all, of these so-called extinct or failed cultures were supplanted by a more successful or more aggressive religiously based cultures. For instance, it is widely believed that Christianity helped deconstruct the mighty Roman Empire.
Humans cling to the God/spirit concept for a variety of reasons and comfort in a cold, hard, cruel world is not the least of it. Until about a hundred and fifty years ago daily life was so hard and uncertain that getting on ones knees and begging for mercy and grace helped make it bearable. Religious traditions helped develop the rhythm of societies throughout history. Fear of God, fear of being shamed and fear eternal damnation also helped civilize wild and violent men. It's easy to see that religion and belief in God was absolutely necessary to get us where we are today.
Many brilliant men have pondered the meaning of God over the centuries. Some of the greatest thinkers and writers have weighed in on the subject. C.S.Lewis and G.K. Chesterton instantly come to mind. Immanuel Kant engaged in many debates under the heading “philosophy of religion.” He authored numerous arguments for the existence of God, the immortality of the soul, the problem of evil, and the relationship of moral principles to religious belief and practice.
On the other side of the coin were men like Marx and Nietzsche. Marx, of course, had a profound influence on the world, and not necessarily a positive one. He was clearly a brilliant man but produced a severely defective philosophy that when practiced was destructive and, of course, devoid of God. Friedrich Nietzsche's view that "God is dead" was the basis for much of the secular sentiment that developed throughout the 20th century. Nietzsche referred to himself as an immoralist and was critical of the prominent moral schemes in the 19th century: Judaism, Christianity, and Kantianism.
Contemporary philosophers and theologians with the far reaching impact of modern media suffer in the din of "StaticNoise" that will ultimately cause them to fail to have the impact of the earlier heavyweights mentioned above.
Simply put, as our modern world frees us from having to scratch out our existence from the hard ground, and as our "nanny state" governments care for us from cradle to grave, we find less and less need to turn to God. When the news on the television displays carnage and war day after day we become more convinced that no merciful God could possibly exist. Many people feel empty inside and don't know why. Eventually "things" won't make then happy anymore. Money doesn't make them happy. Sex doesn't make them happy. In their boredom they turn to comfort food or worse, drugs and alcohol.
Some people do just fine without a closeness to God. Somewhere inside them an inner strength buoys them (maybe the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit has taken root in them???) and carries them through life. Intellectually gifted people often have this strength. Fact and logic are the only guidance they need. They don't often wonder about "meaning" - they know what they know and the rest is unimportant. The rest of us can take clues from them on coping in this crazy, modern world. If their is a God He smiles down on these people too, they are some of his best work.
As reluctant as the intellectually gifted are to admit it they know that modern society needs God now more than ever. The evidence for the need of a broad religious underpinning for modern society is astounding. In a post-Christian Europe and Russia, in techno-savvy Japan the modern secular society has left entire populations so disappointed and depressed they have embarked on the path of self extinction. People without faith in a hereafter bathed in the presence of God don't care enough about the future to have children. Without children there is no future.
Facts and logic are hard things.
People who live only for the here and now, for their own self gratification leaving nothing for the future are dooming their societies to extinction.
Yes, indeed, where are all the successful atheist cultures?
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
President Bush, who had vetoed bills that allow for federal funding of controversial embryonic stem-cell research, was described as "very pleased." The President had taken the slings and arrows from what seemed the entire Hollywood establishment and now stands vindicated.
"The president believes medical problems can be solved without compromising either the high aims of science or the sanctity of human life," his press secretary said.Charles Krauthammer writing for RealClearPolitics.com declares:
the "embryonic stem cell debate over". He continues: The verdict is clear: Rarely has a president -- so vilified for a moral stance -- been so thoroughly vindicated.
Why? Precisely because he took a moral stance. Precisely because, as (James A. )Thomson puts it, Bush was made "a little bit uncomfortable" by the implications of embryonic experimentation. Precisely because he therefore decided that some moral line had to be drawn.This is a good point that can't be emphasized enough. Sure, one can make the case that most of these embryos probably faced destruction whether or not they are used for research. It's that it represents the slippery slope that uses any argument necessary to justify ethically questionable practices. Isn't the President now under fire for his administration's "ethically challenged" view of torture? Waterboarding enemy combatants under the guise that the information devulged has averted attacks and saved innocent lives. It so easy to judge something when it's your Ox being gored...
Lost in all debate and self righteous rhetoric from all the President's detractors is the fact nothing useful had come from embryonic stem cell research. Not one therapy or treatment was ever applied to a dying child. However, real treatments and therapies developed out of Adult Stem Cell research were relegated to page A11 in the newspapers. With each of these stories in the main stream media we were treated to regular diatribes against the President when the story had nothing to do with embryonic stem cells. The imprecise language conveniently let the reader believe that Bush had banned stem cell research altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I doubt that the debate is really over. Ultimately my gut tells me that this breakthrough is so revolutionary that the money will follow this path and cloning guys and the embryo guys will fade quietly away.
Still, don't expect anyone in the main stream press to to tip their hat toward the President anytime soon...
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
30" x 40"
Saturday, December 01, 2007
It was quietly announced that the American and Iraqi governments will start negotiations early in 2008 to bring about an end to the allied occupation. This will in essence bring to a formal conclusion the U.N. Chapter 7 Security Council involvement in the occupation and administration of Iraq.
Lieutenant General Douglas Lute told reporters in the White House: "The basic message here should be clear. Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own. That's very good news. But it won't have to stand alone."
The number of American troops in country will drop to something like 50,000 troops. Out of sight, out of mind - the remaining troops will be permanently stationed at bases outside of the large cities. This is similar to the way it has been done in Japan, Germany and Korea. Having a large well armed troop presence should discourage internal or external forces from threatening the fragile government there.
Thankfully this should remove the Iraq war as a major issue from the upcoming presidential election.
How history will judge this war and the President's decision remains to be seen. If Iraq becomes the successful model for the rest of the region as Bush and his advisor's claimed it would be then history will be kind. The fact that South Korea became a powerful economic force in the modern world took the sting out of an unpopular conclusion to an unpopular war and left Harry Truman well regarded in history's bloodshot eyes.
The Butcher of Baghdad is dead and so are his sadistic sons. The Iraqi government will never gas the Kurds again. The Shiites in the south are free from Saddam's boot. These are all good things. Thousands have died on all sides, this is regrettable. That there will be no more mass graves filled with the bodies of the innocent means at least in some way none died in vain.
As for America's so-called imperialistic designs the fact that we actually can't wait to turn over sovereignty to the locals should put to rest any comparison to the Roman or British Empires of old. Surely America is imperialistic in our desire to make the world safe for business and trade. How horrible.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I don't know about you, but like many folks on the left who suffer from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) we folks of the center-right run the risk of developing SOGA(Sick Of Gore Affliction). I'll ask you... Had enough of Saint Albert yet? I have. He will, if he hasn't already, single handedly destroy the environmental movement. Despite what you may think I personally think that's a very bad thing.
What Rachel Carson unwittingly let loose in the 1960's with her book "Silent Spring" has had both very good and very bad effects. We - meaning America and the rest of the industrialized world - absolutely needed an ecological awakening. While Carson's book was the catalyst for the greening of America it ultimately led to one of the worst human disasters in the environmental movement's spotted history. The story of DDT and third world malaria is simply tragic and has gone largely untold.
The strides that America and the West have made in cleaning up the air, the water and in developing safer agricultural methods along with (some) successful recycling programs is something to be thankful for. It is awareness that is the biggest success story coming out of the environmental movement. While many people and industries had to be dragged kicking and screaming the often maligned do-gooders did good! But just like a kid who hasn't matured enough to know his limits the hard core greens are trying to take it too far.
Read this fine piece "The Lowdown on Doomsday" from today's Wall Street Journal written by Jonathan Alder. Mr. Alder re-introduces us to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger authors of the now famous essay "The Death of Environmentalism". Unlike Gore who is jetting around the world preaching environmental apocalypse messrs. Nordhaus and Shellenberger want to replace the Western man is destroying the planet paradigm with a truly progressive one.
FROM Alder's piece:
(they) contend that the environmental movement must throw out its "unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts, and exhausted strategies" in favor of something "imaginative, aspirational, and future-oriented."
...Nordhaus and Shellenberger are anything but nature-scoffing know-nothings. They have worked for environmental organizations for years. Thus there is a certain poignancy to their view that "doomsday discourse" has made the green movement just another liberal interest group. They want environmentalism to have a broader appeal--enough to address major ecological concerns, including global warming. But no one, they contend, is going to demand draconian emission limits--the kind that would actually slow the warming trend--if they bring down the standard of living and interrupt the progress of the economy.
(today's environmentalists) make normal, productive human activity the enemy of nature, as environmentalists implicitly do, is to adopt policies that "constrain human ambition, aspiration and power" instead of finding ways to "unleash and direct them."
Nordhaus and Shellenberger want "an explicitly pro-growth agenda," on the theory that investment, innovation and imagination may ultimately do more to improve the environment than punitive regulation and finger-wagging rhetoric. To stabilize atmospheric carbon levels will take more--much more--than regulation; it will require "unleashing human power, creating a new economy."
Therein lies the key, it is going to be new technology and the power of the human imagination that will push environmentalism forward. To bring us to the end of the fossil fuel age - while addressing the fact that humanity will need to create and use more energy not less - is just not going to happen if Saint Albert gets his way.
I think these two guys and folks like Bjorn Lomborg, who truly have a better environment (with mankind in it) as their prime motivator, are the future of an important movement. The UN, the IPCC and Al Gore have an economically destructive and senseless prescription for what ails us
Saturday, November 24, 2007
First let me say this about what I believe this film portends for the future of this kind of movie making. Beowulf is, in my mind, a breakthrough film. Computer generated films have been around for some time now with Pixar and DreamWorks putting out some of the most popular animated films of all time. Up until Beowulf the effect has been, well, animated. With Beowulf one can start to see what they are going to be able to do with the "actors" themselves and not just the supporting background as was done in with King Kong and the Lord of the Ring movies.
The main characters in this film looked a bit plastic and stiff but the animators are really closing in on the natural fluidity of human movement. Facial expression is still a little robotic but has come a long way since "Final Fantasy" of just a few years ago.
The movie itself was pretty exciting and enjoyable in its non-stop action. There are some adult themes and nudity that would not be appropriate for very young children. The story is very, very loosely based on the famous Beowulf and the Grendel poems of classic literature. I must say the final battle between Beowulf, the braggart hero, and the dragon (the spawn of Grendelmom and Beowulf) was just spectacular.
The real downer of the whole experience was the blatant and unnecessary anti-Christian sentiment laced throughout the story. If there was supposed to be some theme or thrust to the portrayal of the weak, sniveling, cowardly and abusive Christian character Unferth it was lost on me. Why Zemeckis wove this thread into this picture can only be known to him and his writers. It only served to sour me on what otherwise was a raucously fun afternoon movie experience with my son.
A few years ago I had a notion that someday in the not too distant future there is going to be software developed that would be able to take a book - your favorite book perhaps - and render it into a movie. With this film I can see the future coming sooner rather than later.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The Salvation Army, arguably the finest charitable organization in America, has a rule that says if you want to work here you need to learn English. They give new employees a year to learn the common language of America. I think that is rather decent. Nancy Pelosi and the Hispanic Caucus in the House of Representatives doesn't - claiming it's racist and bigoted.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Sen. Lamar Alexander, a moderate Republican from Tennessee, is dumbstruck that legislation he views as simple common sense would be blocked. He noted that the full Senate passed his amendment to shield the Salvation Army by 75-19 last month, and the House followed suit with a 218-186 vote just this month. "I cannot imagine that the framers of the 1964 Civil Rights Act intended to say that it's discrimination for a shoe shop owner to say to his or her employee, 'I want you to be able to speak America's common language on the job,' " he told the Senate last Thursday.
Where has common sense gone?!Pelosi was pressured by members of the Hispanic Caucus to strip Alexander's language from joint house/senate committee version of the amendment which will in turn allow The EEOC to continue its witch-hunt against small businesses with strict English language rules.
Alexander hits the nail on the head:
this battle is about far more than what language is spoken on a shop floor. "The EEOC actions turn diversity, our greatest strength, against the interests of our common future as Americans."
It would be a shame if the media allow illegal immigration and all other aspects of the invasion from the south to languish is this all important election cycle. This issue may be the one thing that can unite liberals and conservatives in this country.
The goddess of tolerance and diversity has overstayed her welcome. I say throw the whole thing back in the melting pot and turn up the heat.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Writing in a an earlier post I declared that I once had high hopes for the future of humanity. When the Soviet Union collapsed I was convinced that we were at the precipice of a grand new era for mankind. How wrong I was. In fact, according to many scholars and respected pundits we are in for a long hard ride in this, the 21st century.
On the one hand we have entered into this this thing we have dubbed "the information age" which is a direct offspring of the industrial age the West has now essentially pushed out to the developing nations. On the other hand we have the 1-2 punch of neo-luddites in the radical environmental movement ready to pull the technological rug out from under us and the radical Islamic movement ready to turn the civilizational clock back to the seventh century.
Six years after the Islamo-fascists smacked the West upside the head with the hard to ignore attacks of September the 11th it is still not clear whether we are even going to fight for our lives. While half of us are busy navel gazing repeating to ourselves "Why do they hate us???" the other half waits breathlessly for the next chapter in the Brittney, Lindsay and Paris saga. While we modern-day Neros fiddle the radical Islamists are busy training they many, many children to hate us even more.
Those who do read something other than Us Weekly for their news are divided into two camps. There are those suffering from BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome) and won't think clearly again until January 2009, and those like me suffering from BCS (Bush Confusion Syndrome) a condition that needs no further explanation.
As for the environmental movement there are those true-believers who see humanity as a cancer inflicting our Earth Mother, Gaia, and those like, Al Gore and any number of "green" businesses, who see crying wolf as a way to make gobs of money while simultaneously looking like modern day saints. I mean, who believes in pollution and wastefulness as virtues? Of course lying and misleading aren't virtues either.
American and European children (our future) are growing up in a largely prosperous, largely free societies where the biggest problems are obesity and boredom. Judged against the whole of humanity currently living or not our kids have no idea how fortunate they are. You can almost hear them say, "What's so great about Western Civilization anyway?"
Asian Times blogger Spengler in his review of Fergus Kerr's "Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians" comments -
Radical Islam threatens the West only because secular Europe, including the sad remnants of the former Soviet Union, is so desiccated by secular anomie that it no longer cares enough about its future to produce children. Muslims may form a majority in Russia by mid-century, and may dominate Western Europe 100 years hence. Without the demographic decay associated with the decline of religion, radical Islam would be a minor annoyance to the West rather than a deadly adversary.
Americans are a little more hopeful about the future, it's in our nature, but with the Global Warming hysteria, the hordes invading from south of the border and the ongoing saga of Brittany, Lindsay and Paris can we be far behind?
Kerr suggests in his book:
The West is not fighting individual criminals, as the left insists; it is not fighting a Soviet-style state, as the Iraqi disaster makes clear; nor is it fighting a political movement. It is fighting a religion, specifically a religion that arose in enraged reaction to the West.
Bush and Blair will not say it, Sarkozy of France and Merkel of Germany will not say it. Howard of Australia comes close to actually saying it. None of these leaders will come right out and say that we are at war against a religion, but we are. So far only one "world" leader has come out and said it. Quite amazingly Islam took notice and has just recently began talks of reform and reconciliation...
Again Spengler points out:
None of the political leaders of the West, and few of the West's opinion leaders, comprehend this. We are left with the anomaly that the only effective leader of the West is a man wholly averse to war, a pope who took his name from the Benedict who interceded for peace during World War I. Benedict XVI, alone among the leaders of the Christian world, challenges Islam as a religion, as he did in his September 2006 Regensburg address. Who is Joseph Ratzinger, this decisive figure of our times, and what led the Catholic Church to elect him? Fr Kerr has opened the coulisses of Catholic debate such that outsiders can understand the changes in Church thinking that made possible Benedict's papacy. Because Benedict is the leader not only of the Catholics but - by default - of the West, all concerned with the West's future should read his book. (Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians)
Benedict XVI has also addressed the decline of post-Christian Europe and the demographic cliff native Europeans are jumping off as we speak. Like his immediate predecessor, John Paul II, Benedict XVI has not shrunk in the face of the enemy, Soviet communism before and Irrational Islam now.
Since America hasn't been "attacked" on our home soil since 9/11 it plays right in the hands of those who claim we are overreacting to the terrorist threat. This allows the news media to attack and undermine Bush while creating a saint out of Al Gore and his phony crisis of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming. Still, since 9/11 Britain, Spain, Indonesia(Australians), Israel, India, Russia, Lebanon and Morocco have all been brutally attacked by Islamic terrorists either directly or loosely associated with al Qaeda or Iran.
We ignore the 800 pound gorilla at our own peril. In a Washington Times piece published on November 18, 2007 called "Know your enemy" Arnaud de Borchgrave clearly warns of the coming storm as Pakistan melts down and the Iranians play a dangerous game of nuclear poker. Borchgrave cites the very same Spengler post as I have... When Radical Islam has control of nuclear weapons the ticking time bomb will be engaged.
The Islamists believe in the future, a future without Western Civilization. What do we believe in?
What About the Future?
Will the West snap out of it and begin to believe in itself? As Spengler asks, how we account for the self-extinction of so many depressed and disappointed peoples today? What happened to "natural law", namely, those instincts and emotions common to man and the lower animals, such as the instinct of self-preservation and love of offspring? Earlier theologians rejected this notion of natural law while pushing their version of Thomism. Kerr suggests: St Thomas in fact believed, (as) de Lubac contended, is that "human beings were destined by nature to enjoy by divine grace everlasting bliss with God" This concept of "natural law" explains why peoples who repudiate grace tend towards self-destruction. This radical way of thinking made de Lubac a marginal figure in the Church of the 1930s, but a mentor to Wojtila(John Paul II) and Ratzinger (Benedict XVI).
I worry even about my own children producing enough offspring to replace themselves... My mother had eighteen grandchildren, one would guess that she will surely have even more great grandchildren. I'm afraid I don't see it that way.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
18 X 24
Be sure to click on the picture to see a larger image. Also, please visit my online art gallery to see more of my art. Click here http://www.static-art.blogspot.com/
Thursday, November 08, 2007
What the %$#@ is this?
This, this... Peace Center, whatever that is, currently under construction is going up in my neighborhood. Naturally, being a peaceful guy my interest was piqued. Just so you didn't think I was making it up I stopped and took this picture...
I figured that something as important as world peace would have numerous websites and press releases. Well, you can imagine my surprise when I found NOTHING whatsoever (here's the Google search). Literally, I am not kidding, I found next to nothing about this project.
Since the contractor Vivienda USA posted its name on the sign I reckoned their website might be able to shed some light on this for us.
As you can see from the company description it is as clear as a ringing bell. Read on:
Vivienda USA is a general contractor and construction management company based in New Windsor, New York. The company was established to service the construction management needs of a group of affiliated not-for-profit organizations. Vivienda USA specializes in the construction of facilities designed according to Maharishi Sthapatya Veda, a comprehensive system of natural architecture.
That clears it up for me, how about you? At least they posted a picture of what natural architecture looks like. Not bad. Click here to see a 3D animation of the building. However, there was nothing on the Vivienda's website that explained what the hell this thing is.
Curiously enough there was nothing on the City of St. Paul's own website either.
It would seem to me that there is an air of mystery around this, this St Paul Peace Center.
If anyone knows anything about this, by all means, fill us in.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
I personally have always been fascinated by Russia. Maybe it was because growing up in the 60's and 70's the truth of the mysterious "enemy" rarely eked out beyond the mutual propaganda machines. What we knew of the Russians was that they excelled at Olympic sports and nuclear missiles.
In my idealistic youth I remember thinking that both society's were engaged in a wasteful and pointless arms race that brought no value to the world. (I still believe that to some degree). I mean, if only Nixon and Brezhnev could have gotten together and just smoked a little weed like me and my friends surely they could have found a way to stop all that silly talk of mutually assured destruction, right?
We all knew the Russian's produced as brilliant and talented people as the West did. It was a shame that there was no Russian equivalent of Hollywood or Harvard, baseball or Bell Labs. So much wasted human potential languished in the gulags and the tenements. The world may never know the wonders that might have been born to Mother Russia...
The lucky ones escaped over the wall and contributed to the eventual victory of the West. When the Wall came down I remember thinking that a period of greatness would soon be upon humanity. Indeed, many of the former Soviet satellite states have done very well. Hope is still lives in those places where Moscow's long shadow once darkened the sky. Unfortunately they are all looking over their shoulders with trepidation these days as Vlad The Consolidator turns back the clock.
Vladimir Putin is said to have a 80% approval rating at home so obviously the Russian people feel comfortable that Vlad won't be bringing back the firing squads. Putin, a former senior KGB officer, knows all about deception and perception so he sees the necessity of acknowledging the repression of the Soviet era even as he reapplies the totalitarian yoke.
In a recent speech said Putin of the dissidents his own KGB put to death: "these were people who were not afraid to speak their mind. They were the most capable people. They were the pride of the nation. And, of course, over many years we still remember this tragedy. We need to do a great deal to ensure that this is never forgotten."
Vlad was clearly trying to assure the people that nothing like this could happen in his Russia... Mikhail Khordokovsky, the former oil tycoon might differ with Putin on that subject. He is currently breaking rocks at a remote Siberian penal colony after being found guilty of politically motivated fraud charges.
Is the notion that Russia under Putin could return to the worst excesses of Stalin way off base? Probably... If for no other reason than mass communications would make it impossible to keep it hidden now. Unfortunately the last sixteen years have not been good for the average Russian. The gap between the rich and the poor in Russia renders anything John Edwards has to say about the Two Americas a riotous joke. Much of this can be put at the feet of Boris Yeltsin who failed to act boldly and decisively while the iron was hot. Russian history had failed to prepare the average person for a life of personal liberty much like it is in the Islamic world. Basic societal foundations like banking, commerce and business processes just didn't exist and a thriving black market was already operating in that space. Corruption still rules the day. Dictators thrive in a corrupt and dysfunctional society.
Putin is tapping in to the one sense of pride Russians felt about their country during the Soviet era. Having a military machine that the West feared and respected was all they could ever claim put Russia on equal footing with the modern world.
Flush with oil wealth he has stolen for the government Putin will now have the funds to rebuild and reassert the pride of Mother Russia. This is not a good thing. As if we needed another reason to hasten the end of the oil age.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Since the 1970's we have been burdened with securing the oil. It certainly hasn't been the French or even the Brits who have ensured that Middle East oil made it to market all around the globe. Oddly, as counterintuitive as it may seem the U.S. doesn't even get that much of its oil from the Middle East. We get our imported oil primarily from sources in the western hemisphere - from Mexico, Canada and Venezuela. Then why are we shedding American blood in Iraq, in Afghanistan and why do we patrol Persian Gulf shipping lanes for the Saudis with multi-billion dollar navy vessels, and why do we give billions in aid to Middle Eastern countries?
The easy answer is - someone has to. We are, for better or worse, like it or not, the world's police force.
One has to understand that oil is a global market. It doesn't matter that we don't get all that much oil from Saudi Arabia. If something happens to Saudi Arabia's ability to get oil to market the shock would be felt around the world in a big way.
Japan and China, India, Europe and Australia need Middle East oil. Their economies depend on it, and our economy, in turn, depends on theirs. It is an intertwined world and nothing you may wish to be true has any bearing on that.
Foreign policy scholar Walter Russel Mead pointed out on a recent forum aired on CSPAN that if it weren't for America securing Japan's thirst for Middle Eastern oil it would be assumed that Japan would build a big navy to do it for itself. What would a heavily armed Japan mean? It would lead to a heavily armed China. Two ancient enemies armed to the hilt is NOT a good thing for peace and prosperity.
Likewise, if America didn't guarantee free flowing oil to Europe, the possibility of a new European war machine would once again threaten the peace on that historically war torn continent. In short, our own national security and our prosperity depend on oil getting from the oil wells to the cities and factories that drive our intermeshed global economy.
Pretending that we can transform our reliance on oil by growing corn for ethanol or building windmills is childish. The world is still quite a long way away from the end of the oil age. It needs to end, yes, and someday it will, but we will NEED oil for quite a while.
The war in Iraq and in Afghanistan is really part of a massive geo-political chess match. On one side is Anglo-American team having owned the the board the better part of 300 years. The key players on the other side of the board are the Chinese, the Islamic world - with the Iranians, and particularly the Russians making the bold moves recently. The U.S. has boxed in Iran from all sides including nuclear-armed attack subs submerged just offshore. Is it any wonder that President Putin has reached out to Iran just as mother Russia is reasserting its air force and navy in international waters. Bluffs?
As much as our friends and foes alike complain, as much as they like to call America an arrogant and aggressive nation, they rely on the stability our power and our political will provides.
In any game, in this case a deadly serious game, mistakes are made. Simple black and white solutions in parts of the world that have camels that are older than our republic was clearly naive. Democracy as the end all, be all solution to dysfunctional tribalism is a fool's game. The President and his "players" are intuitively right, the solution is to be found in a reformation of the most economically dysfunctional and dangerous region of the world. Yes, mistakes have been made... But...
Not to play the game is immoral. For the U.S. to step back and allow the anarchy that would surely erupt and destroy the global economy is far more immoral than blood for oil.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The words Mom and Dad appear nowhere in the bill. The town criers prattle on something like this: "With this decision, Gov. Schwarzenegger has told parents that their values are irrelevant. Many parents will have no choice but to pull their children out of the public schools that have now become sexualized indoctrination centers."
It is fear mongering that is not without merit but I think the hand wringing goes too far. Fear mongering has been perfected by the liberals with all this George W Bush is Hitler talk claiming he is shredding the constitution and personally torturing Arab babies. Neither are true by the way. You have to take all hysterical rhetoric with a grain of salt. The opponents of the bill SB 777 have had a long fight. Gov. Schwarzenegger refused to sign it a year ago, but as you can see much of the original language was stricken.
The fear is that phrases like Mom and Dad, husband and wife are too exclusive for non-traditional lifestyles and will therefore be shunned in lessons and text books. This may well happen. I doubt children will ever stop using the terms Mom or Dad no matter what the Governor says, but that's not really the point. Could we be forcing schools and school children into the courts with threats of prosecution over bruised sensibilities of gay and lesbians? I think so. More importantly it's another step toward labeling average (dare I say normal) people as the freaks. They have already accomplished this with Christians.
A lot of this is regular everyday folks who have become sick and tired of PC (political correctness) making victims out of everyone. One blogger on the other side, who apparently can't make a point without resorting to foul language, tries to call the backlash against PC a right-wing propaganda campaign. Well, as I said in a previous post Mr. Kettle, meet Mr Pot. But I think his minor concession as he wraps it up goes right to the heart of the fear:
"bill #SB777 adds "sexual orientation" to the state anti-discrimination statutes. There is also a clause that the minuscule amount of transgender students be allowed to use restrooms of their chosen gender..."
Eeeewwww. Enough said.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Schmidt hits the nail on the head here:
Government activism is at the heart of contemporary liberalism, and it is that activism that has proved wanting over the past four decades. As to a social safety net for citizens unable to care for themselves, conservatives concurred long ago with that idea. Where liberals would be wise to recapture their past is in the foreign and defense policies of Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy. But that would require a rediscovery of American Exceptionalism and a renewed belief that America is a force for good in the world.
It would take a moral foundation that rejects the Left's excuses and rationalizations for the evil perpetrated by our enemies, and that rejects the sophistry of leftist intellectuals and opinion leaders who seek to assign at least some of the blame for those evil acts to ourselves. With the exception of a Joe Lieberman, where are the liberals who see with such moral clarity?
Liberalism is a spent force today, not only because of a philosophical undoing, but because it has been tried, tested and failed in critical ways and at critical times over four decades in social, economic and national security matters.
Having moved politically right of center in the early 90's as my income rose while my taxes rose higher yet I was really excited with the power shift in 1994. For the first time in my life Congress was not "controlled" by liberal democrats. My excitement was short lived. Instead of taking on big, fundamental issues the Republicans started with flag burning and prayer in schools. How they lasted in power as long as they did is still a mystery to me.
To be fair, they did slow the pace of socialism and did help (somewhat) with important tax cuts and, of course, successful welfare reform. By the time they lost it all in 2006 the Republicans lost all semblance as the party of fiscal conservatism. The pork barreling, now called earmarking, was sickening. So now you have a party of moralizing hypocrites, gee, that's appealing.
None of that makes the Socialist - err I mean Democratic party look any better, but it does create a vacuum for those who like the idea of limited government and lower taxes without all the moralizing and hypocrisy.
So, where do we go from here? I can't vote for socialists, which is all the Democrats offer these days. Greens? No way. The Libertarians just aren't a serious party. Voting for two faced, spineless Republicans is less than appealing.
Like I said, Mr. Kettle meet Mr. Pot.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
The other day I was watching Bill Moyers Journal on PBS and his topic was the evangelical view of the end times and how it relates to Israel and the United States. Now, I don't particularly like Mr. Moyers, frankly, I find his reflexive disdain and dismissive attitude for any thing right of center severely off-putting. That's just the way most hardcore leftists are, and this guy is perhaps the worst, but it never hurts to listen to people you profoundly disagree with. Having a mirror, albeit a distorted one, held in front of you still allows you to see some accurate views of yourself - the good and the bad.
What caught my attention was the notion posited by Moyers and his guests that the current world view held by many Americans and especially evangelicals is understandable but it is wrong. Moyers and his guests, Dr. Timothy Weber and Rabbi Michael Lerner seemed bemused by the evangelical narrative, reverent at times and disgusted at others. Me, I am not an evangelical, I wouldn't know how to be. As what I call a born again Catholic I feel a certain kinship with parts of the evangelical doctrine, but honestly, biblical literalists are way off the mark in my estimation. I do, however, join them in an enduring support for Israel.
Quite Simple: Blame America, for everything
When the discussion turned to the direction things are going in the world at large I knew America and particularly the "right wing" were squarely in their sights. They talked of a world-wide psychological depression, a hopeless malaise people everywhere are sinking into. They claim that there is a desperate search by people all over the world for something better than the coming globalization of world capitalism driven by the West and primarily the United States.
And so it is... We hear that people the world over are rejecting the "American" way and are finally pushing back. This is why we see the rise of radical Islam and leftist movements in Latin America. The return to a totalitarian Russian state under Putin is touted as evidence that American-style freedom and free market systems are unwelcome. More and more people are convinced that it is multinational corporations, spawn of the West, who rule - and ruin - the world. The multinationals, they claim, cynically push mankind into a corner where it becomes a brutal game of every man for himself. In this brutish world view it's "I've got mine, to hell with you!" There is, I admit, some truth in that.
According to Moyers and company we need a new world view, a loving world view instead of this confrontational, apocalyptic world view so many hold.
A Loving World View?
What is this Loving World View? What must change in America to move people away from this confrontational " me first" world view we are immersed in now? Is individualism to blame? Is personal liberty a canard? Is wanting to keep the fruits of your own labor selfishness? Are consumer consumption and the profit motive corrupt ideals?
The answer to all of these questions is no.
Is it too much to expect for ordinary men to rule their own lives? Are we incapable of determining what is best for ourselves. Do we need to be "taken care of" by a benevolent government? No! No! No!
To pull people out of this so-called depression over the future of the world and foster this grand ideal of a "loving world view" we need to start by not resorting to self-hatred and self flagellation. When people see the inequities of life they want to lash out at those who have what they don't. This is basic human nature. What they often refuse to see is that with the exception of inherited wealth most of the "haves" attained their station in life with self discipline and hard work. This is something to be admired not disdained. We have to reject the idea that the rich man got his by crawling over the poor, this is almost always untrue. Envy and jealously are also basic human traits but the are unproductive and destructive. Until both the the real inequities and the cancer of envy and jealousy are excised, peace, love and understanding will continue to be a pipe dream.
A World View Starts with A Political View
The political left continually demonizes capitalism and by extension globalization even though it is clear that it has lifted millions upon millions out of devastating poverty over the last 100 years. It's seems all they want to see are capitalism's warts. Amazingly, even while enjoying the benefits of the truly remarkable things capitalism has fostered, they proceed to poison the horse they rode in on.
America's detractors inside and out point to our consumption based economic model as being the root cause of world conflict and the environmental destruction of the planet. This is despite the fact that as globalization plays out the global economy is expanding and people all over the world are living better than at any time in history. Poverty and human suffering are actually decreasing. The places where poverty and suffering are expanding are the places where economic freedom is being repressed.
Africa is perhaps the most abused place on Earth. Many leftists, claiming to want to protect Africans from globalization and environmental destruction, actively work to deny the poor and suffering a better life through the promise of economic opportunity. Why should Africa be left out of the benefits of the integrated world economy? Africans aren't necessarily pleased about it. The repression of thoughtful economic development is actually causing environmental damage as the poor cut down the forests for fuel and grazing land, they have so few options to do otherwise. So much for a loving worldview...
Regardless of the socialist utopian fairytale most leftists pine for, free market based economies offer the most for the most. This is where it must start. But first, before we can dare to dream about a beautiful and peaceful loving world view we need to deal with the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
The 800 Pound Gorilla
While the elitists in Europe and in America - you know, university professors, fabulously wealthy authors, celebrities and media pundits - fall all over themselves citing America as the root cause of conflict in the world today, they refuse to acknowledge what most of the rest of us can see with our very own eyes. Islamism - the rapid and sometimes violent expansion of Islam pushing out from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan - is the cause of nearly all the current armed conflicts in the world. This is an indisputable fact. Because radical Muslims have successfully framed the conflict as a struggle with America and Israel, the two nations most hated by leftists and socialists, the elitists use some perverse logic that excuses Islamism.
The Palestinian conflict is the banner under which the elitists make their case against the U.S. and Israel and yet it seems to me that President Bush, the man they love to hate, was the first American president to call for a two state solution. Israel agrees. Yet the conflict continues - because they don't want it to end there. They have a bigger fish to fry than Israel.
Corporatism, Worse Than all the Other Ism's?
For all those who despise the United States and the West it all comes down to a fear of soulless corporations blindly driven by the profit motive wreaking havoc on ordinary people and the environment.
This is as rational a fear as it is to fear the spread of radical Islam.
The common thread between the two is that both lay it all out in the open. Islam declares its goal to have dominion over the world. Multinational corporations are clear, they are in it for profit. Neither Corporatism or Islamism have any need for borders or national allegiances. Neither Corporatism or Islamism have any qualms about using any means necessary to achieve their goals. Corporatism seeks to "buy" government off and Islam seeks to "be" the government. Corporations and the governments they support, employ economic hit men whose job is to cut deals for natural resources and human labor with almost no regard for the damage it can cause. Radical Islam recruits and trains terrorists to seek out and destroy vital parts of their enemies with no regard for the innocent.
There is a big difference between soulless corporatism and violent Islamism. Value. There is value in the goods and services offered by corporations. Islam offers death, a glorious death, mind you.
Putting the insanity of radical Islam aside for purposes of discussion, ask the question: can a loving world view be reconciled with corporatism? Well, here is where Moyers, Weber and Lerner got it right. We need leadership, bold and unafraid...
Where Are the Leaders?
Where are the leaders? Has the world become too complicated, are vested interests so entrenched that a mere political leader will never make a difference? Is the current just carrying us along for a ride and all anyone can really do is nudge the rudder a little this way and then a little that way? If we believe that then we ought to just give up now.
So, where are the leaders? Is there anyone on the horizon who can rise above the din? Is there anyone out there who is not a serial liar like the last president, or anyone who can string 2 sentences together and actually convey a better idea, unlike our current president? I don't see anyone.
Where are the leaders that are going reform our tax structure so that it will encourage corporations to keep their domestic enterprises instead of driving them out. Where are the leaders who will reign in the beast that is "government" and force it to streamline its outdated operations, demanding it be made to run efficiently? Where are the leaders who will do the right thing - even if it means stepping on the toes of the special interests that paid their way to Washington DC. It seems there are always only two choices for democratic citizens - we turn over political power to those who will do the bidding for corporations (feathering their own nests in the process) or turn over the power to megalomaniacs who will consolidate political power in their own government institutions while they collect protection money from those very same corporations. So, I ask again, where are the leaders?
So(ros) Goes It
Honestly, I am far more worried about the future if Hillary Clinton and her ideas are unleashed on the land of the free than I ever have been of George W Bush. Bush may have been corporatism's best friend, but Hillary will do the bidding for George Soros. And for those of you who don't know who George Soros is, all I can say is his one goal in life is to destroy capitalism. He intends to replace capitalism with something called "The Open Society" and he needs a democrat in the White House to do it. If he is successful it will be the end of Western Civilization. And when Western Civilization crumbles into dust just what do you suppose will move in to fill the vacuum?
But then how would you know about George Soros and his anti-American designs when the mainstream media is so totally obsessed with hating George W. Bush on one hand and with Brittney, Lindsay and Paris on the other.
We Report, We Decide
There is a poison that is killing America and West, it showed up in the 60's and has become more potent over the years. How long can we watch NBC Nightly News (or CBS, CNN etc etc) only to hear how terrible America is? Even the rare occasion when they highlight something positive and uplifting it is usually something that addresses a shortcoming in our rotten, racist society. How can we ever possibly believe in ourselves or our way of life if everyday we are constantly told how terrible this country is?
Every story in the mainstream media about our president, the current one and to a lesser degree the last one, is laced with disdain and mistrust. This is the old Soviet tactic of maligning the American president, making not only the Russian people but also the American people fear and loathe him.
The mainstream media is actively dumbing down our society politically just as our schools are dumbing down our children intellectually. Standards are set lower and lower everyday. Those of us who partake in what technology has opened up for us can circumvent what the media spoon feeds society at large. Still, by and large the big media conglomerates effectively own the distribution of news and information. In the process we have been conditioned to believe that everything is bad and getting worse in this country, but, strangely polls show we are quite happy about our own individual prospects.
We are not well served by the major news media outfits because they are agenda driven while they pretend to be objective. Internet websites, talk radio and some cable TV channels that do not claim objectivity are often a far more reliable a witness to any particular story - they wear their personal agendas on their sleeves where we can see them and judge them.
Humble, Not Humbled
This elusive loving world view Bill Moyers talked about can never come about if we hate ourselves and our country. A humble America may indeed be good for the world, but a weak and dispirited America is not. The America haters have figured out that if they can dumb down and poison the young mind with porn and filth and junk culture, while pushing pseudo self-esteem instead of self-achievement they can destroy America from within. It makes the job of parenting that much harder. It is amazing to me that so many kids turn out as well as they do - good parents trump negative societal reinforcement. Still, I fear it may already be too late if we don't begin to reverse these assaults on our culture and our power.
The people who believe in the inevitable rise of World Government through the process of globalization are engaged in an elaborate dance that needs America. There is yet to be any nation or movement including Islam that can rival the U.S. The Soviet Union was fundamentally not up to the task. The goal is to get America to empower its own executioner. It is easier with each passing generation as American children are deprived of an adequate education that includes American history. They won't know what they are giving up. The slow drain of our educational, technological and industrial might to China and other low wage states will one day come back to haunt us.
This is not one world. I am sorry to say, a loving world view is a fantasy.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I don't usually do this but I am going to recopy an article here because this is just too juicy... Credit where credit is due - Found on clubs.ccsu.edu on a page called the The Recorder Online dated March 7, 2007...
Prius Outdoes Hummer in Environmental Damage
By Chris Demorro
The Toyota Prius has become the flagship car for those in our society so environmentally conscious that they are willing to spend a premium to show the world how much they care. Unfortunately for them, their ultimate ‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.
Before we delve into the seedy underworld of hybrids, you must first understand how a hybrid works. For this, we will use the most popular hybrid on the market, the Toyota Prius.
The Prius is powered by not one, but two engines: a standard 76 horsepower, 1.5-liter gas engine found in most cars today and a battery- powered engine that deals out 67 horsepower and a whooping 295ft/lbs of torque, below 2000 revolutions per minute. Essentially, the Toyota Synergy Drive system, as it is so called, propels the car from a dead stop to up to 30mph. This is where the largest percent of gas is consumed. As any physics major can tell you, it takes more energy to get an object moving than to keep it moving. The battery is recharged through the braking system, as well as when the gasoline engine takes over anywhere north of 30mph. It seems like a great energy efficient and environmentally sound car, right?
You would be right if you went by the old government EPA estimates, which netted the Prius an incredible 60 miles per gallon in the city and 51 miles per gallon on the highway. Unfortunately for Toyota, the government realized how unrealistic their EPA tests were, which consisted of highway speeds limited to 55mph and acceleration of only 3.3 mph per second. The new tests which affect all 2008 models give a much more realistic rating with highway speeds of 80mph and acceleration of 8mph per second. This has dropped the Prius’s EPA down by 25 percent to an average of 45mpg. This now puts the Toyota within spitting distance of cars like the Chevy Aveo, which costs less then half what the Prius costs.
However, if that was the only issue with the Prius, I wouldn’t be writing this article. It gets much worse.
Building a Toyota Prius causes more environmental damage than a Hummer that is on the road for three times longer than a Prius. As already noted, the Prius is partly driven by a battery which contains nickel. The nickel is mined and smelted at a plant in Sudbury, Ontario. This plant has caused so much environmental damage to the surrounding environment that NASA has used the ‘dead zone’ around the plant to test moon rovers. The area around the plant is devoid of any life for miles.
The plant is the source of all the nickel found in a Prius’ battery and Toyota purchases 1,000 tons annually. Dubbed the Superstack, the plague-factory has spread sulfur dioxide across northern Ontario, becoming every environmentalist’s nightmare.
“The acid rain around Sudbury was so bad it destroyed all the plants and the soil slid down off the hillside,” said Canadian Greenpeace energy-coordinator David Martin during an interview with Mail, a British-based newspaper.
All of this would be bad enough in and of itself; however, the journey to make a hybrid doesn’t end there. The nickel produced by this disastrous plant is shipped via massive container ship to the largest nickel refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel hops over to China to produce ‘nickel foam.’ From there, it goes to Japan. Finally, the completed batteries are shipped to the United States, finalizing the around-the-world trip required to produce a single Prius battery. Are these not sounding less and less like environmentally sound cars and more like a farce?
Wait, I haven’t even got to the best part yet.
When you pool together all the combined energy it takes to drive and build a Toyota Prius, the flagship car of energy fanatics, it takes almost 50 percent more energy than a Hummer - the Prius’s arch nemesis.
Through a study by CNW Marketing called “Dust to Dust,” the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles - the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.
The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it. So, if you are really an environmentalist - ditch the Prius. Instead, buy one of the most economical cars available - a Toyota Scion xB. The Scion only costs a paltry $0.48 per mile to put on the road. If you are still obsessed over gas mileage - buy a Chevy Aveo and fix that lead foot.
One last fun fact for you: it takes five years to offset the premium price of a Prius. Meaning, you have to wait 60 months to save any money over a non-hybrid car because of lower gas expenses.
Now how do you like them apples? I just knew those trendy little devils driving their cute hybrids with that air of superiority toward us Pontiac owners were fooling themselves. Well they weren't fooling me. No siree. Imagine that - it takes 5 years before they realize one red cent in savings by using less gas. And if it isn't about saving money and more about saving the planet these things are far harder on old Gaia than my Pontiac is.
Listen, I am all for electric cars and saving gas and so on, as long as it makes sense and it isn't just a "feel good" exercise in futility. Maybe the technology isn't quite there yet. I am pulling for it, I really am. Until then, don't feel bad about the car you drive.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Never fear, this is something to be celebrated as right and good. It is one of the reasons America, the ideal and the practice, has been so revolutionary in world history. The individual was first and foremost in our founding as a nation and a culture. The term rugged individualism is often derided as macho jingoism, but it is a badge of honor to those who truly understand the implications of the alternative.
Individualism is described as a moral, political, or social belief that puts human independence and personal liberty above any single societal group. Individualism is not egoism, and does not argue that selfishness is inherently good. That being said individuals are not duty-bound to any socially-imposed morality, instead individuals are free to choose to be selfish or not. To be and individualist is reserve and preserve choice.
Individualism rejects the notion that any tradition, any one religion, or any other morality play should limit an individual's choice. We, as individuals "choose" to part of a group as opposed to societally forced pigeon-holing. Individualism is, therefore, antithetical to socialism. We have heard the term "no man is an island" or "it takes a village..." and these are profoundly true observations but they are predicated on the certainty that we are groups of individuals. We all have our very own thoughts and opinions regardless of the what the "village" thinks. Perversely it is when humans act with a herd mentality that we often get into deep trouble.
Paul Johnson examines the glory that is bestowed on herd animals and hive insects by philosophers and socialist thinkers in this piece on jewishworldreview.com. He correctly points out the basic flaws in such "collectivist" thinking:
What is the difference that makes ants and bees engage in endless repetition, remaining static, while humanity relentlessly changes and advances? The difference is summed up in one quality that the culture of the hive and the nest so conspicuously and necessarily lacks: individualism. There is no such creature as an individualist bee or ant. They are not identical; each has a life to live and lose. But none thinks for itself. All accept the burdens and conformity, the monotony and changelessness of communal society. In this instinctual acceptance lies the secret to their successful survival, as well as their failure to advance. Now, human beings have never mindlessly accepted society as they find it or the methods of doing things as handed down by their forebears. The earliest of archaeological traces reveal novelty, be it only in the chipping out of a flint tool or the assembly of a crude necklace of pebbles.
If you look at the history of civilization, where mankind has come together to live and work toward the great things that can only be accomplished by acts of cooperation, you will inevitably find a few remarkable individuals behind all things.
Most great ideas, scientific advancements, artwork, music composition, inventions and any number of breakthroughs almost always leads to one man or one woman standing alone behind the curtain. That's just the way it is. One man can't be an orchestra or single handedly build a cathedral but without the composer or without the architect nothing will be heard and nothing will be built. When the light bulb goes on it illuminates only one mind - eureka moments don't happen in unison.
It is dangerous to elevate the group above the individual. For this reason socialism and collectivism are the wrong ideals to strive for. We are led to believe that some groups such as laborers need societal protection of their human rights. What are human rights if not individual rights? It allows the state to take from one group, in this case business owners, and distribute benefits whether it is deserved or not. What about the rights of those being taken from?
When society puts one group above the others we end up with nightmare scenarios like Germany's WWII final solution, or in contemporary times the scourge of dhimmitude as practiced in some Muslim cultures. Dhimmitude is the comprehensive legal system established by the Muslim conquerors to rule the native non-Muslim populations subdued by jihad wars. It relegates a non-Muslim to second and third class citizenship and forces submission and extra taxation on "non-believers". In other words some individuals have more "human rights" than others.
Lumping individuals into groups based on gender, race, religion or occupation then painting their wants, desires and experiences with broad brush strokes is the sheer opposite of honoring human rights. We are individuals, people, human beings. I am a person and I am to judged on my own merits.
The reason we seek to connect to each other, one on one, individual to individual is because we are not meant to be alone. We need companionship and ultimately we need love. We flock to each other because being alone, stuck in this one body, in this one mind severely limits us. We are as a society greater than the sum of our parts. But in the end parts is parts...