September 30, 2011
September 29, 2011
September 28, 2011
It seems we may have a chance to consider that question more concretely in the near future. CNN reports:
Iran plans to send ships near the Atlantic coast of the United States, state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday, quoting a commander.Perhaps more interesting is the reason offered for this military move.
"The Navy of the Iranian Army will have a powerful presence near the United States borders," read the headline of the story, in Farsi.This struck me as a powerful example of the consequences of our foreign policy, even if this does not occur. Iran is making a point with this statement.
"Commander of the Navy of the Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran broke the news about the plans for the presence of this force in the Atlantic Ocean and said that the same way that the world arrogant power is present near our marine borders, we, with the help of our sailors who follow the concept of the supreme jurisprudence, shall also establish a powerful presence near the marine borders of the United States," the story said. The reference to the "world arrogant power" was presumably intended to refer to the United States. (emphasis added)
September 27, 2011
(HT2: Tom Woods' Facebook page)
This is an interesting lecture, questioning the necessity of public funding for science. That the State should fund the scientific enterprise seems to be as nearly universally accepted as the public funding of education is. Consider the outcry that defunding NASA brought. People saw this as further proof that President Obama was less patriotic than he should be. The idea that NASA and probably many other scientific pursuits are public goods and an essential function of the State is one of those functions that is almost taken as true on the surface without considering it.
The video prompted me to remember Francis Collins' book, The Language of God. While it was certainly not the focus of the book, Collins, the head of the human genome project, describes the lengthy process it took to "decode" the DNA sequence. Collins first worked at a university doing research, but eventually, he became a federal employee when he was chosen as the head of the human genome project. The process was long and arduous, but as the usefulness of the project became known, a private company, Celera, took up the task, under the head of a man named, Craig Venter. Collins finds this unacceptable.
The idea that the human-genome sequence might become private property was deeply distressing. Even more of concern, questions began to be raised in the Congress about whether it made sense to continue to spend taxpayers' money on a project that might better be carried out in the private sector--though no actual data from the Clera team was available, and the scientific strategy that Venter aimed to pursue was unlikely to yield a truly finished and highly accurate sequence. (p. 120)It is interesting, though, how he describes his work on the project once the competition comes in. He writes:
No effort could now be spared by our team. Our twenty public genome centers in six countries ran around the clock. In the space of just eighteen months, after generating a thousand base pairs a second, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, a draft covering 90 percent of the human genome sequence was in hand. All of the data continued to be released every twenty-four hours. For their part, Celera also generated large amounts of data, but it remained out of view in their private database....(p. 121)When I read this several years ago, I couldn't help but wonder if the competition sped up the process. Collins gives his team a good deal of credit, and gives (at least, I can't find) no credit for contributions made by their private competitors. Interestingly, though, the announcement made at the completion of the project was done jointly with Celera, not singularly done by the publically-funded Collins' lab.
The attention to "the race" was becoming unseemly, and threatened to diminish the importance of the goal. In late April 2000, with both Celera and the public project poised to announce that a draft had been achieved, I approached a mutual friend of Venter and myself..., and asked him to set up a secret meeting. Over beer and pizza..., Venter and I worked out a plan for a simultaneous announcement. (pp. 121-122)Was this a generous gesture by Collins to give undue credit to others for one of the world's biggest discoveries of all time? If so, that's amazing.
Collins' concern over a private company's control of data that has public use certainly raises questions, but I can't help but wonder what science might look like if it were not a public good. Indeed, despite Collins' fears and distaste for the competition, I can't help but wonder how this facilitated the discovery. Also, the private companies pursuit shows that science can be funded privately. Finally, it is also worth mentioning a point he may miss about privately controlled science and scientific discoveries. As noted in the video, the government's control of discoveries through intellectual property law may exacerbate what he sees as the problems with privately-funded science.
September 23, 2011
Professor Mettler’s fawning over the government’s humility to quietly provide society with untold benefits (“Our Hidden Government Benefits,” Sept 19, 2011) made me wonder if government doesn’t prefer this arrangement. This would explain why it despises when WikiLeaks publishes their embarrassing cables, and why government shudders at the thought of an audited Federal Reserve.
People tend to only think about government when they are fondled by TSA agents, when questioning the wisdom of another “stimulus,” and when fearful that the failing social security system will not be sustainable long enough for them to enjoy. As such, the government likes its shadow presence.
With a few uncritically-thinking cheerleaders, the government thrives, despite the inevitable failure of its programs, the failed businesses it props up, and the wars that continue to bring the loss of human lives and economic calamity.
September 20, 2011
September 16, 2011
The Wall Street Journal has identified the "fantasy" Ron Paul believes, leading him to relentlessly go on-and-on about the ethical, economical, and even Constitutional considerations of a vast world-wide military presence and action around the world. The Journal quotes Paul, saying, "We're under great threat because we occupy so many countries. We're in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world."
The truth, though, is quite different. As The Journal points out:
The reality is a tad less alarming. The Pentagon's 2010 Base Structure Report notes that the U.S. maintains a total of 662 bases abroad. But of those, only 20 were listed as "large sites" and another 12 as "medium sites." The rest (630) were listed as either "small" or "other" sites. (emphasis added)Well, that does paint an entirely different picture, doesn't it?! We don't occupy 900 bases outside the U.S.; we only have 662, most of which are classified by the Pentagon--an arm of the Ministry of Truth, no less--as "small".
Also, the "130 countries" remark depends on how many troops are present to be considered an occupation or presence in another country. As The Journal notes, by some measure, "we're in every country...". The WSJ concludes:
There's an intellectually respectable argument to be made that perhaps the U.S. doesn't need so many troops in rich and peaceful countries like Germany or Japan. But to say, as Congressman Paul does, that we're in 130 countries isn't just factually inaccurate. It's absurd.Absurd, indeed! It's absurd that The Journal would boil the nearly lone position against a significant aspect of the American politics--its foreign policy--down to these insignificant and seemingly arguable details, and they are insignificant.
His position is not to say that we should scale down the size of the (erroneously! 900 bases). If Paul's position is about the size of the bases, then his argument contributes little to the foreign policy landscape and distinguishes him not a bit from the other candidates.
The point is that there shouldn't be this type of military presence and intervention around world. That some of the bases are small, that many of them are not actively engaged in war does not diminish the reality of the U.S.'s foreign policy.
To play such games also white-washes the reality that a few military people can often play significant and important roles in foreign affairs, and it also ignores the CIA's wars, which are not necessarily accounted for in these numbers as military occupation. It is the presence of the military around the world, the secret wars, and the drone attacks that is the moral, practical, and economic issue. The substance of the argument changes none, and indeed, it is the substance that the WSJ does not address.
September 14, 2011
(HT2: David Kramer at LRC)
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It's also important to note that these are likely not coincidental events that have no direct relationship to the 9/11/01 attacks either. To support this claim, one must understand terrorism. I'm not expert, but have done some reading on this in the psychological literature a few years ago when I was team-teaching a course on terrorism. The notion that terrorists are of some unique psychological profile is erroneous, according to the research. Terrorism is a response to aggression. In a Chronicle of Higher Education article, social psychologists, Scott Plaus and Phillip Zimbardo write:
...one of the most common motivations for joining a terrorist organization is the desire for revenge or retribution for a perceived injustice. Many terrorists report that acts of violence committed by police officers, soldiers, or others are what led them to join a terrorist group. ...and go on to say
Perhaps for those reasons, studies suggest that large-scale military responses to terrorism tend to be ineffective or temporarily increase terrorist activity.To point to the U.S.'s foreign policy as way to potentially give rise to terrorism is not to justify terrorism. Instead, it is simply to note that intervention in foreign affairs increases the chances of terrorism, and in turn, makes us less safe. Said differently, this awareness is simply opposed to pretending that military interventions, foreign entanglements, and establishing democracy around the world is the path to some future peace.
September 13, 2011
Here are Ron Paul's answers in last night's Tea Party debate. The biggest moment for Paul happens about 7:00 minutes into the video, where you see Ron Paul criticize the foreign policy of the U.S. His anti-war stance seems to have garnered more support in the past, but the crowd clearly disagreed, "booing" Paul's position that our interventions in foreign nations precipitated the 9/11 events (see here and here). The "booing" is about 9:00 minutes into the video, as it was facilitated by Santorum's criticism of Paul. There are a couple of revealing points about this exchange.
1. If this crowd is representative of the Tea Party, it seems clear to me that this political sect will suffer the same fate as the Republicans and Democrats. Namely, it will be awash in fuzzy, gray-area, politically useful and self-serving policy promoting. That is to say, the party will stand for its own values/ideas on each issue that may change depending on who is in office and time, and as such will attract members who are apt to adopt this stance at a particular time. This is in contrast to a principled approach that applies these principles across situations, such that where one falls on any particular issue is not determined by a particular party line. Ron Paul, for example, uses the principle of liberty to decide policy decisions. At times, this principle puts him square on the Republican side of an issue (e.g., opposition to "Obama-Care") and quite popular, and at other times, his principle is counter to the Republican establishment (e.g., his stance against the wars/military spending). What we see from the Tea Party, then, (again, assuming that this crowd somehow represents the Tea Party positions) is that they are not for small government, but this is really a Republican-light party. This is not a group opposed to a large State per se, but opposed to a large State that runs health care. The Tea Party is fine with a large military, being policemen of the world, having a gated nation (although, it seems that it is only that southern border that is of primary concern), and perhaps, other things like social security, medicare, prescription drug plans, etc. In short, I think the Tea Party showed itself for who it was, and this recent poll seems to provide support for my sense of the situation, for it shows that the Tea Party is more committed to the Republican candidate than other Republicans.
2. The Ron Paul "boos" were precipitated by Santorum's criticism of Paul's stance that the US's intervention in other nations is the reason for the 9/11 attacks. Paraphrasing here: Santorum's said that it was irresponsible for a Presidential candidate [Ron Paul] to parrot the words of Bin Laden when pointing to the cause of 9/11. This is a remarkable statement! Said differently, he saying: "it is wrong for you to think that the cause of 9/11 is the reason given by the people who attacked us." It is wrong for you to state the reason the attackers gave for attacking?! Santorum makes a guilt-by-association attack on Paul that, when thoughtfully considered, can only point out his naive position.
Santorum, giving props to Gingrich (there was quite a love-fest Santorum poured on Gingrich all night), held to the false position that they hate us for our freedom and prosperity, which is really an idea of nationalistic pride that falsely sets us up as the moral standard fending off attacks from an evil world. It is pleasant to think that your in-group is always right, but it is not always right to ignore the objective reality of the world's stage, in which US soldiers occupy some 300+ bases around the world, where the CIA conducts secret wars, and civilian casualties pile up as we fight bring freedom to the world. To even consider that we have no right to do so, to even consider the ethics, or even to consider that the reason given for the attacks is the reason is treasonous, for it calls into question the official narrative of the U.S's foreign policy.
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See Paul's handling of this same sentimentality in the 2008 debate with Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
UPDATED: See the video below, showing Paul further explain his position and point out his disagreement with Guiliani in 2008.
September 11, 2011
These sermons have been a great blessing for me today, for they point to the only comfort and hope there is. In light of the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks, it is a great joy to see sovereign God, even amongst this most terrifying and horrible event on this continent thus far in my life .
September 8, 2011
I saw this commercial last night during the GOP debate.
First, the commercial opens up discussing the problems with illegal immigrants, who 'take' jobs from Californians. This week I'm discussing the idea of "rights" with my students. We've begun by examining the things that people believe they have a right to (e.g., education, health care, jobs, and then the obviously ridiculous things that are simply a list of desires). The same mistaken process is involved here; namely, the idea that Californians have a right to a particular job (and more specifically, that they have a greater right to a job than someone else). Let's be generous, though, and assume that by rule of law (like the law or not), the case is valid to the extent that it is a violation of the law to be working as an illegal immigrant. As such, a persuasive argument for the enforcement of law might be seen as a reasonable plea.
The commercial does not stop there, though, and it is for this reason that the commercial becomes clearly mistaken and even offensive. The message is not about the enforcement of immigration laws and legal employment; instead, it goes on to argue for the slow down of legal immigration until Californians are back to work. (Wouldn't a legal citizen be a "Californian," though?) The real message, then, is not the erroneous collective right that Americans to have a fundamental claim to American jobs. Instead, it is the erroneous and gross claim that some Americans have a right (or at least, a priority) to jobs in California.
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As somewhat of a sidenote, I wasn't sure if this commercial was directed at the (perhaps, sympathetic) conservative audience watching the GOP debate. (This suspicion seems to be substantiated by remarks on the advertiser's website, but it is difficult to tell). However, this is not only a conservative issue. Liberals erroneously claim the right to "American jobs" too.
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In thinking about this commercial, I couldn't help but think of this South Park episode.
This video opens on the street that I used to come home from work yesterday.
The floods in PA wreaked havoc on friend's basements and property; I've seen businesses hurt and even animals in the zoo. The destruction is quite sad.
UPDATE: See the flooding at LVC.
September 6, 2011
As a case-in-point, every time Rick Perry denounces the Obama-regime for the take over of health care, know that he has in his pocket plans to take over other industries. The NY Times reports that Perry has asked Texas' colleges to come up with a four-year college program for $10,000. Why $10,000; why not $5,000? Why stop at cost-controls to
September 5, 2011
Baumeister takes an interesting stand on self-control. He argues (and his research supports this), that to raise happy and healthy kids, one should not focus on building self-esteem (as much of the popular psychology books might tell you), but to develop good self-control, for much of society's problems are really a problem of self-control.
September 1, 2011
Glenn Greenwald illuminated this very idea well. Greenwald makes two points in his post. First, he points out that many of the "victories" we will tout as our post-9/11/01 legacy were against former allies, which were evil dictators but only recognized as such when we were through with them.
Second, he points out that the victims in these military campaigns will be honored in the memorials to 9/11. By "victims", this specifically refers to America's soldiers, though, ignoring the civilian victims in the countries where these campaigns are fought.
These are important points. Perhaps, an additional point that is overlooked or less significant in the wake of these critiques is simply the idea that the White House is sending out guidelines on how to remember 9/11.
Returning to my opening, then, we can expect that the solemn reminder of that horrible day will be tainted with propaganda that exalts war (our wars, that is) and the mission to rid the world of evil, ignoring any and all references that highlight the moral and ethical problems of our wars, the police state at home (e.g., PATRIOT act), the economic toll, the insecurity brought on by our occupation of other countries, and more. Simply that the White House carefully crafts messages about how national events should be framed or promoted is--in my mind--an eerie look at the stage the political class play on. It is alarming to consider that our perspective is shaped by a carefully constructed script--one that paints the State in the white cowboy hat.