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Don’t Ask Bobby Jindal Anything “Sciency”

[Crossposted from Smugbaldy.com]

Here’s some more for our Republican War on Science file.  Or should that be – Idiocy in high places file?  Either way, LA Govenor Bobby Jindal demonstrated yesterday that he has no grasp whatsoever of the issues surrounding the establishment of religious dogma under the heading of “Intelligent Design” in our science classes.

Here are some areas where Governor Jindal demonstrates his willful ignorance of the underlying issues:

When asked if he had doubts about the Theory of Evolution, Jindal replied:

I don’t think this is something that the Federal or State government should be imposing its view on local school districts.  As a conservative I think that government that’s closest to the people governs best. I think local school districts should be in the position for deciding the curricula and deciding what students should be learning.

In this case that’s absolutely, positively wrong, Mr. Governor, and you should know it.  You should be aware that Federal interests trumps State and Local interests whenever constitutional rights of American Citizens are infringed.  In the case of Intelligent Design (or ID), federal courts have found that ID is nothing more than Christian Creationism with some scientific-sounding jargon.  The teaching of this isn’t just bad science (or non-science) it also violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  As such – any local school board that attempts to sneak ID into public schools is actually indoctrinating students into a “state-preferred” religion, and the Federal government has an expressed interest in keeping that from occurring.  That is, unless you all want to have your kids recite the Branch Dividian creed in Bology class.  Thought not.

Jindal goes on to say:

I don’t think students learn from us withholding information from them.  Some want only to teach intelligent design, some want only to teach Evolution. I think both views are wrong … As a parent when my kids go to public schools, I want them to be presented with the best thinking.  I want them to make decisions for themselves. I want them to see the best data.

That’s not entirely true now, is it?  The best data in human sexuality clearly demonstrates that abstinence education doesn’t work, but conservative parents like Jindal want their kids exposed to it rather than comprehensive sex-education that could save their lives.  The best data available also clearly demonstrates that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is scientific, while Intelligent Design is instead a religious-political position.  And nobody in a state like Louisiana, that has a large population of conservative Christian voters, wants to dwell on that little truth nugget.

Interestingly, conservatives are ok with science as long as it doesn’t appear to step on their religious toes too much.  For example, most parents are OK with teaching about viruses and bacteria in science classes – especially techniques for minimizing the spread of harmful ones like hand washing and food service sanitization.  Unfortunately, you can’t have it both ways Mr. Govenor.  If your more fundamentalist supporters have their way, ID would replace Evolution in science classes, and we’d also have to replace bacteriology with an “evil spirit” theory of disease.  Interestingly, in some areas (not just beloved Louisiana) this is what passes for medical science, sometimes with disastrous results.

Of course, the scariest part of this whole episode is that, Bobby Jindal is reported to be on McCain’s VP short list, which would mean he has a great shot at becoming president himself since McCain is older than, well, everyone.  Is it too much to ask that we get presidential and vice-presidential candidates that have more than a thimble full of scientific literacy?

A Rumor of Puke

I don’t know exactly what motivated me to write this, but I’ve always been interested in group behavior, and I was at this party recently and …

You’re at a party, and the lights are flashing, the music is pumping, and people talking, laughing, clapping, dancing, and then a rumor starts: somewhere, out of sight, someone might have puked. Like a wave it moves through the crowd, touching everyone as they consider, “Oh no, I may be next”, and they swallow nervously, not wanting it to be true, but with that tentative swallow, they know the truth: they could indeed.

Read the rest of the post on SmugBaldy.com

 

Good Question: Why Sell Saudi Arabia $20 Billion in Arms Now?

[While we’re on the subject of blowing taxpayer dollars:]

US Army Col (Ret) Daniel Smith asks some very provocative questions in a recent article on Foreign Policy In Focus:

The “headline-grabber” read: “U.S. Plans New Arms Sales to Gulf Allies.”

Nothing startling there. For decades the United States has routinely sold or transferred weapons and ammunition, sent military teams abroad or brought foreign military personnel to the United States for training, and transferred technology that allowed “friendly” governments to produce almost state-of-the-art copies of U.S. weapons.

What was a surprise were two details in the article’s subheading. The main recipient of Uncle Sam’s largesse was Saudi Arabia, and the value of the deal was said to be $20 billion.

Saudi Arabia? Isn’t that the country:

 

     

  • from which came 15 of the 19 men responsible for 9/11?
  •  

  • that opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and whose king, in March 2007, called the invasion an “illegal occupation”?
  •  

  • that told the United States to remove its troops and find some other country for U.S. Central Command’s (CENTCOM) forward command post?
  •  

  • whose border is so poorly monitored that 75% of all foreign fighters crossing into Iraq do so from Saudi territory, far more than from Syria?
  •  

  • whose autocratic government either will not or cannot prevent its youth from going to Iraq – an estimated 40% of all foreigners fighting U.S. troops and Iraqi government forces are Saudi nationals – where they become bomb makers, snipers, and suicide bombers?
  •  

  • that nearly 60 years after the creation of the modern state of Israel still refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to Tel Aviv?

 

It’s hard to argue that they’re anything more than fair-weather friends, and while the Saudis are either barely supporting US actions in the region or are quietly or not so quietly subverting US efforts there, you have to wonder what sort of cerebral ischemic event has led the Bush administration to want to sell them $20 Billions of advanced weapons.  More importantly, Col. Smith asks, why now?

In a word, leverage:

But looking at the Saudi record and Riyadh’s increasing propensity to act in its interests without coordinating with Washington, there is the suggestion that the Bush administration is suddenly wary of its “other” flank in the Persian Gulf – the one occupied by the Saudi-dominated six-member Gulf Cooperation Council. Militarily overcommitted in mid-summer 2007, the White House has only two cards to play: pump up fear of Iran acquiring enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear weapon, or bribe the regional allies.

That’s a mighty big bone to toss to a mighty big dog.  Since there’s much profit to be had, the sale will likely fly through Congress.  The real question is, once the weapons are in the hands of the Saudis, what then?  If recent history is any barometer, we’ll probably see that many of these weapons will wind up in the hands of enemy forces as we are now seeing in Iraq.

Scariest Movie Ever: Why We Fight

[Reposted from SmugBaldy.com – because I’d rather have you read my writing.]

There are plenty of horror flicks out there, but way deep down we know they’re fictional and so we’re not really scared by them.  Startled, maybe.  Disgusted, sure.  But not really scared.

No, in order for a movie to really reach inside you and send an icy chill all along your spine, there has to be truth behind the terror.  Nothing gives birth to a truly horrific sense of dread as authenticity. 

That’s why I found Sony Pictures Why We Fight so damn scary.  It’s a story that begins with a warning of undue influence of for-profit military contract corporations on American foreign policy, and ends up with a picture of an an America that dutifully swallows think-tank generated talking points in support of war after war after war.  And, of course, the horror of it is that it’s all true.

First the warning:

Dwight D. EisenhowerUntil the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence-economic, political, even spiritual-is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted; only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

This was part of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell Address to the nation.  As Eisenhower stepped down, he was quite candid concerning what he perceived to be one of the two greatest threats to American liberty: the rise of Military Industrial Complex (aka the MIC). 

What is the Military Industrial Complex?

According to militaryindustrialcomplex.com, it is:

a phrase used to signify a comfortable relationship between parties that are charged to manage wars (the military, the presidential administration and congress) and companies that produce weapons and equipment for war (industry). To put it simply, the Military-Industrial Complex is described as an all-too friendly relationship that may develop between defense contractors and government forces, where both sides receive what they are perceivably looking for: a successful military engagement for warplanners and financial profit for those manning the corporate boardrooms. It can be viewed as a “war for profit” theory.

If the MIC represents an inappropriately comfortable relationship between corporations that would likely profit from war and our elected officials that are charged with actually prosecuting wars, there is still the question as to whether it’s real.  Could the MIC be a bogeyman used to frighten inquisitive bloggers?  Read on to find out:

 

Consider:

1. The United States spends more on defense than any other nation.  Since 1961, the US budget for defense has increased by an order of magnitude – from a mere $49 Billion to nearly $500 Billion today [ref].  While critics will cite that the defense budget remains a fairly small portion of GDP, they often omit that American GDP has increased by a factor of 10 over the same time period as well.

2. Defense accounts for more than 50% of the US discretionary spending budget.  [ref]

The Fiscal Year 2008 budget request includes $930 billion for discretionary spending (the money the President and Congress must decide and act to spend each year), roughly $481 billion of which will go to the Pentagon. The “National Defense” category of the federal budget for FY’08 accounts for over half of all discretionary spending (52 percent). [NOTE: These totals do NOT include funding for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the $141.7 billion requested for the “Global War on Terror” were included in both the request for the Department of Defense and the total for discretionary spending, the percentage of Pentagon spending of total discretionary spending would jump to over 58 percent.]

3. From 1961 to 1993, US forces have been involved in at least 56 military actions and wars around the world [ref].  It’s interesting that defending the US has historically and consistently meant projecting military force around the globe.

  • 1962—Cuba. President Kennedy instituted a “quarantine” on the shipment of offensive missiles to Cuba from the Soviet Union. He also warned Soviet Union that the launching of any missile from Cuba against nations in the Western Hemisphere would bring about U.S. nuclear retaliation on the Soviet Union. A negotiated settlement was achieved in a few days.
  • 1962—Thailand. The 3d Marine Expeditionary Unit landed on May 17, 1962 to support that country during the threat of Communist pressure from outside; by Jul 30 the 5000 marines had been withdrawn.
  • 1962-75—Laos. From October 1962 until 1976, the United States played a role of military support in Laos.
  • 1964—Congo. The United States sent four transport planes to provide airlift for Congolese troops during a rebellion and to transport Belgian paratroopers to rescue foreigners.
  • 1964-73—Vietnam War. U.S. military advisers had been in South Vietnam a decade, and their numbers had been increased as the military position the Saigon government became weaker. After the attacks on U.S. destroyers in the Tonkin Gulf, President Johnson asked for a resolution expressing U.S. determination to support freedom and protect peace in Southeast Asia. Congress responded with the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, expressing support for “all necessary measures” the President might take to repel armed attacks against U.S. forces and prevent further aggression. Following this resolution, and following a Communist attack on a U.S. installation in central Vietnam, the United States escalated its participation in the war to a peak of 543 000 in April 1969.
  • 1965—Dominican Republic. The United States intervened to protect lives and property during a Dominican revolt and sent more troops as fears grew that the revolutionary forces were coming increasingly under Communist control.
  • 1967—Congo. The United States sent three military transport aircraft with crews to provide the Congo central government with logistical support during a revolt.
  • 1970—Cambodia. U.S. troops were ordered into Cambodia to clean out Communist sanctuaries from which Viet Cong and North Vietnamese attacked U.S and South Vietnamese forces in Vietnam. The object of this attack, which lasted from April 30 to June 30, was to ensure the continuing safe withdrawal of American forces from South Vietnam and to assist the program of Vietnamization.
  • 1974—Evacuation from Cyprus. United States naval forces evacuated U.S. civilians during hostilities between Turkish and Greek Cypriot forces.
  • 1975—Evacuation from Vietnam. On April 3, 1975, President Ford reported U.S. naval vessels, helicopters, and Marines had been sent to assist in evacuation of refugees and U.S. nationals from Vietnam.
  • 1975—Evacuation from Cambodia. On April 12, 1975, President Ford reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to proceed with the planned evacuation of U.S. citizens from Cambodia.
  • 1975—South Vietnam. On April 30 1975, President Ford reported that a force of 70 evacuation helicopters and 865 Marines had evacuated about 1,400 U.S. citizens and 5,500 third country nationals and South Vietnamese from landing zones near the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the Tan Son Nhut Airfield.
  • 1975—Mayaguez incident. On May 15, 1975, President Ford reported he had ordered military forces to retake the SS Mayaguez, a merchant vessel en route from Hong Kong to Thailand with U.S. citizen crew which was seized from Cambodian naval patrol boats in international waters and forced to proceed to a nearby island.
  • 1976—Lebanon. On July 22 and 23, 1974, helicopters from five U.S. naval vessels evacuated approximately 250 Americans and Europeans from Lebanon during fighting between Lebanese factions after an overland convoy evacuation had been blocked by hostilities.
  • 1976—Korea. Additional forces were sent to Korea after two American military personnel were killed while in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea for the purpose of cutting down a tree.
  •      

  • 1978—Zaire. From May 19 through June 1978, the United States utilized military transport aircraft to provide logistical support to Belgian and French rescue operations in Zaire.
  • 1980—Iran. On April 26, 1980, President Carter reported the use of six U.S. transport planes and eight helicopters in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue American hostages being held in Iran.
  • 1981—El Salvador. After a guerilla offensive against the government of El Salvador, additional U.S. military advisers were sent to El Salvador, bringing the total to approximately 55, to assist in training government forces in counterinsurgency.
  • 1981—Libya. On August 19, 1981, U.S. planes based on the carrier Nimitz shot down two Libyan jets over the Gulf of Sidra after one of the Libyan jets had fired a heat-seeking missile. The United States periodically held freedom of navigation exercises in the Gulf of Sidra, claimed by Libya as territorial waters but considered international waters by the United States.
  • 1982—Sinai. On March 19, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of military personnel and equipment to participate in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai. Participation had been authorized by the Multinational Force and Observers Resolution, Public Law 97-132.
  • 1982—Lebanon. On August 21, 1982, President Reagan reported the dispatch of 80 marines to serve in the multinational force to assist in the withdrawal of members of the Palestine Liberation force from Beirut. The Marines left Sept. 20, 1982.
  • 1982—Lebanon. On September 29, 1982, President Reagan reported the deployment of 1200 marines to serve in a temporary multinational force to facilitate the restoration of Lebanese government sovereignty. On Sept. 29, 1983, Congress passed the Multinational Force in Lebanon Resolution (P.L. 98-119) authorizing the continued participation for eighteen months.
  • 1983—Egypt. After a Libyan plane bombed a city in Sudan on March 18, 1983, and Sudan and Egypt appealed for assistance, the United States dispatched an AWACS electronic surveillance plane to Egypt.
  • 1983-89—Honduras. In July 1983 the United States undertook a series of exercises in Honduras that some believed might lead to conflict with Nicaragua. On March 25, 1986, unarmed U.S. military helicopters and crewmen ferried Honduran troops to the Nicaraguan border to repel Nicaraguan troops.
  • 1983—Chad. On August 8, 1983, President Reagan reported the deployment of two AWACS electronic surveillance planes and eight F-15 fighter planes and ground logistical support forces to assist Chad against Libyan and rebel forces.
  •      

  • 1983—Grenada. On October 25, 1983, President Reagan reported a landing on Grenada by Marines and Army airborne troops to protect lives and assist in the restoration of law and order and at the request of five members of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
  • 1984—Persian Gulf. On June 5, 1984, Saudi Arabian jet fighter planes, aided by intelligence from a U.S. AWACS electronic surveillance aircraft and fueled by a U.S. KC-10 tanker, shot down two Iranian fighter planes over an area of the Persian Gulf proclaimed as a protected zone for shipping.
  • 1985—Italy . On October 10, 1985, U.S. Navy pilots intercepted an Egyptian airliner and forced it to land in Sicily. The airliner was carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro who had killed an American citizen during the hijacking.
  • 1986—Libya. On March 26, 1986, President Reagan reported to Congress that, on March 24 and 25, U.S. forces, while engaged in freedom of navigation exercises around the Gulf of Sidra, had been attacked by Libyan missiles and the United States had responded with missiles.
  • 1986—Libya. On April 16, 1986, President Reagan reported that U.S. air and naval forces had conducted bombing strikes on terrorist facilities and military installations in Libya.
  • 1986—Bolivia. U.S. Army personnel and aircraft assisted Bolivia in anti-drug operations.
  • 1987-88—Persian Gulf. After the Iran-Iraq War resulted in several military incidents in the Persian Gulf, the United States increased U.S. Navy forces operating in the Persian Gulf and adopted a policy of reflagging and escorting Kuwaiti oil tankers through the Gulf. President Reagan reported that U.S. ships had been fired upon or struck mines or taken other military action on September 23, October 10, and October 20, 1987 and April 19, July 4, and July 14, 1988. The United States gradually reduced its forces after a cease-fire between Iran and Iraq on August 20, 1988.
  • 1988—Panama. In mid-March and April 1988, during a period of instability in Panama and as pressure grew for Panamanian military leader General Manuel Noriega to resign, the United States sent 1,000 troops to Panama, to “further safeguard the canal, U.S. lives, property and interests in the area.” The forces supplemented 10,000 U.S. military personnel already in Panama.
  • 1989—Libya. On January 4, 1989, two U.S. Navy F-14 aircraft based on USS John F. Kennedy shot down two Libyan jet fighters over the Mediterranean Sea about 70 miles north of Libya. The U.S. pilots said the Libyan planes had demonstrated hostile intentions.
  • 1989—Panama. On May 11, 1989, in response to General Noriega’s disregard of the results of the Panamanian election, President Bush ordered a brigade- sized force of approximately 1,900 troops to augment the estimated 11,000 U.S. forces already in the area.
  • 1989—Andean Initiative in War on Drugs. On September 15, 1989, President Bush announced that military and law enforcement assistance would be sent to help the Andean nations of Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru combat illicit drug producers and traffickers. By mid-September there were 50- 100 U.S. military advisers in Colombia in connection with transport and training in the use of military equipment, plus seven Special Forces teams of 2-12 persons to train troops in the three countries.
  • 1989—Philippines. On December 2, 1989, President Bush reported that on December 1 U.S. fighter planes from Clark Air Base in the Philippines had assisted the Aquino government to repel a coup attempt. In addition, 100 marines were sent from the U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay to protect the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
  • 1989—Panama. On December 21, 1989, President Bush reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to Panama to protect the lives of American citizens and bring General Noriega to justice. By February 13, 1990, all the invasion forces had been withdrawn.
  • 1990—Liberia. On August 6, 1990, President Bush reported that a reinforced rifle company had been sent to provide additional security to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, and that helicopter teams had evacuated U.S. citizens from Liberia.
  • 1990—Saudi Arabia. On August 9, 1990, President Bush reported that he had ordered the forward deployment of substantial elements of the U.S. armed forces into the Persian Gulf region to help defend Saudi Arabia after the August 2 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. On November 16, 1990, he reported the continued buildup of the forces to ensure an adequate offensive military option.
  • 1991—Iraq. On January 18, 1991, President Bush reported that he had directed U.S. armed forces to commence combat operations on January 16 against Iraqi forces and military targets in Iraq and Kuwait, in conjunction with a coalition of allies and U.N. Security Council resolutions. On January 12 Congress had passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution (P.L. 102-1). Combat operations were suspended on February 28, 1991.
  • 1991—Iraq. On May 17, 1991, President Bush stated in a status report to Congress that the Iraqi repression of the Kurdish people had necessitated a limited introduction of U.S. forces into northern Iraq for emergency relief purposes.
  • 1991—Zaire. On September 25-27, 1991, after widespread looting and rioting broke out in Kinshasa, U.S. Air Force C-141s transported 100 Belgian troops and equipment into Mnshasa. U.S. planes also carried 300 French troops into the Central African Republic and hauled back American citizens and third country nationals from locations outside Zaire.
  •      

  • 1992—Sierra Leone. On May 3, 1992, U.S. military planes evacuated Americans from Sierra Leone, where military leaders had overthrown the government.
  • 1992—Kuwait. On August 3, 1992, the United States began a series of military exercises in Kuwait, following Iraqi refusal to recognize a new border drawn up by the United Nations and refusal to cooperate with U.N. inspection teams.
  • 1992—Iraq. On September 16, 1992 President Bush stated in a status report that he had ordered U.S. participation in the enforcement of a prohibition against Iraqi flights in a specified zone in southern Iraq, and aerial reconnaissance to monitor Iraqi compliance with the cease-fire resolution.
  • 1992—Somalia. On December 10, 1992, President Bush reported that he had deployed U.S. armed forces to Somalia in response to a humanitarian crisis and a U.N. Security Council Resolution determining that the situation constituted a threat to international peace. This operation, called Operation Restore Hope, was part of a U.S.-led United Nations Unified Task Force (UNITAF) and came to an end on May 4, 1993. U.S. forces continued to participate in the successor United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM II), which the U.N. Security Council authorized to assist Somalia in political reconciliation and restoration of peace.
  • 1993—Iraq. On January 19, 1993, President Bush said in a status report that on December 27, 1992, U.S. aircraft shot down an Iraqi aircraft in the prohibited zone; on January 13 aircraft from the United States and coalition partners had attacked missile bases in southern Iraq; and further military actions had occurred on January 17 and 18. Administration officials said the United States was deploying a battalion task force to Kuwait to underline the continuing U.S. commitment to Kuwaiti independence.
  • 1993—Iraq. On January 21, 1993, shortly after his inauguration, President Clinton said the United States would continue the Bush policy on Iraq, and U.S. aircraft fired at targets in Iraq after pilots sensed Iraqi radar or anti-aircraft fire directed at them.
  • 1993—Bosnia-Hercegovina. On February 28, 1993, the United States bagan an airdrop of relief supplies aimed at Muslims surrounded by Serbian forces in Bosnia.
  • 1993—Bosnia-Hercegovina. On April 13, 1993, President Clinton reported U.S. forces were participating in a NATO air action to enforce a U.N. ban on all unauthorized military flights over Bosnia-Hercegovina.
  • 1993—Iraq. In a status report on Iraq of May 24, President Clinton said that on April 9 and April 18 U.S. warplanes had bombed or fired missiles at Iraqi anti-aircraft sites which had tracked U.S. aricraft.
  • 1993—Somalia. On June 10, 1993, President Clinton reported that in response to attacks against U.N. forces in Somalia by a factional leader, the U.S. Quick Reaction Force in the area had participated in military action to quell the violence. The quick reaction force was part of the U.S. contribution to a success On July 1, President Clinton reported further air and ground military operations on June 12 and June 17 aimed at neutralizing military capabilities that had impeded U.N. efforts to deliver humanitarian relief and promote national reconstruction, and additional instances occurred in the following months.
  • 1993—Iraq. On June 28, 1993, President Clinton reported that on June 26 U.S. naval forces had launched missiles against the Iraqi Intelligence Service’s headquarters in Baghdad in response to an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate former President Bush in Kuwait in April 1993.
  • 1993—Iraq. In a status report of July 22, 1993, President Clinton said on June 19 a U.S. aircraft had fired a missile at an Iraqi anti-aircraft site displaying hostile intent. U.S. planes also bombed an Iraqi missile battery on August 19, 1993.
  • 1993—Macedonia. On July 9, 1993, President Clinton reported the deployment of 350 U.S. armed forces to Macedonia to participate in the U.N. Protection Force to help maintain stability in the area of former Yugoslavia.

4. In 2005, more than half (10 of 19) of the defense and aerospace contractors on the Fortune Global 2000 list were American corporations.

5. While US military contracting has always been a very lucrative business, it is relatively new for investment management firms to stake their whole business on trading defense equities .  Take The Carlyle Group, for example, which profited greatly following the 9/11 attacks:

In 1997, Carlyle liked the price of United Defense, and beat out General Dynamics and Alliant Techsystems, which also coveted the underperforming artillery firm. General Dynamics bid more than Carlyle offered for the company, but potentially faced a lengthy, drawn out antitrust battle if it acquired United Defense. Carlyle ended up winning the bid.

Carlyle finally sold its stakes in United after taking it public in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The Washington Post called the hugely successful public offering “one of the most successful single venture investments of recent years.”

But United did not seem all that lucrative before September 11.

“They [Carlyle] were really kind of in a pickle with United Defense,” McCutchan said. “They wanted to cash out on the equity. There wasn’t much money to be made… When 9/11 happened and the defense budget took off, suddenly they had a winner on their hands.”

Even Carlyle, which typically does not disclose its financial and operational details, crowed over the sale.

“It was one of Carlyle’s best investments,” Carlyle’s Ullman told the Center. “We did make more than a billion dollars on that deal, and we are very pleased that we served our investors quite well.”

To paraphrase one of the commentators in Why We Fight, “When there’s such a great profit to be made from war, you can be sure that you’ll see more of it.”

Indeed, Eisenhower was way ahead of his time, and that should scare the shit out of us.  Most interestingly, Eisenhower had some words of encouragement that he passed along with his warning:

 

Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield.

Disarmament, with mutual honor and confidence, is a continuing imperative. Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. Because this need is so sharp and apparent I confess that I lay down my official responsibilities in this field with a definite sense of disappointment. As one who has witnessed the horror and the lingering sadness of war-as one who knows that another war could utterly destroy this civilization which has been so slowly and painfully built over thousands of years-I wish I could say tonight that a lasting peace is in sight.

Happily, I can say that war has been avoided. Steady progress toward our ultimate goal has been made. But, so much remains to be done. As a private citizen, I shall never cease to do what little I can to help the world advance along that road.

So, friends, while it’s not much, here’s something that I can do: I can remind you that the USA was once ruled by sane and sober statesmen and scholars; that we once took pride in our work and our dreams for the future; that we were once willing to accept the responsibilities that our ideals demanded of us regardless of the sacrifices involved; that we never loved war, though we were sometimes forced into it.  I can also remind you that, while there are many new economic incentives to maintaining a perpetual state of war, there are still sane and sober Americans who will eventually, as President Eisenhower said, compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. 

What are you going to do?

Watch Eisenhower’s complete Farewell Address Here

The Pillars of Blind Faith

I love my local newspaper, the Mobile Press-Register.  There’s a section of the paper that changes each day, one day it’s the Senior Living section, the next it might be Neighbors section. On Saturdays it becomes the Religion section (because we need to justify the salary of our local Religion editor) and on Sundays, it’s the Insight section.  On every day other than Sunday, the editorials and letters to the editor are found toward the back of Section A – the front page section.  Today, we find this beauty in the letters:

God’s time is infinite

It has been said that science is man’s effort to understand how God runs his business.

God is infinite. He always has been and always will be. Our finite minds find it difficult thinking of God as timeless. To understand God and his religious ways requires faith.

According to creation, God created all things in stages (and the evening “and the morning were the first day,” according to Genesis 1:5).

We are so used to thinking of days as being 24 hours of time. But go back and read the creation account again. We know the Earth’s rotation gives us 24-hour days. Yet, the sun and moon were not placed there until the fourth day.

This truth tells us that the first three days could have been millions of years of time. Remember, God is timeless. He has no beginning or ending. Our limited minds try to compact six days of creation into six 24-hour days.

Think about this, theologians, preachers and Bible teachers. Let us admit we were misled. According to this truth, scientists are justified in expressing time in terms of millions.

W. S.

Saraland

So, once again we find some yokel trying to resolve the whole Science/Religion dilemma.  In this case, W.S. takes the tack of arguing that, since God is infinite, we cannot know how He measures time, so the dilemma is solved by quibbling over the meaning of a day.  According to W.S., we cannot take the meaning of the word “day” in the Book of Genesis to literally mean what we know as an “Earth day”.  One might hear some nerdy SciFi fans rejoice, as the word “hour” is not what we know as an “Earth hour” either. 

So, W.S., if we cannot accept the creation story in the Book of Genesis literally, then what other portions of the bible must also be seen as metaphor or allegory rather than literal truth?  Upon what criteria   do you sift the literal from the metaphorical? 

Ah, there’s the rub. 

There are two grand pillars of blind faith.  The first pillar is an unwavering belief in holy writ.  The second is trust. As in, believers trust that someone will tell them what is literally true and what is metaphor, especially when that first pillar begins to crumble.  That someone is usually a person that claims to be closer to God than the rest of the congregation.  You know, someone with a vested interest in having their interpretation of convoluted biblical minutiae accepted as the real truth.  A truthier truth than that proposed by religious rivals from within and without who claim the same position of privileged understanding of God and his or her mysterious ways.  A better, stronger truth than that supported by direct observation and measurement of physical evidence.  A more comforting truth than those derived from the laws of physics, or mathematical proof, or prior history, or predicted by sound theory building, or by rational and critical thought. 

This second pillar, the appeal to some human authority, is what I believe exposes all religions for the frauds they are.  Beneath the sweet facade of piety we find a dirty mechanism designed for social control.  Lord Acton famously said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”  What then of those to whom countless millions have freely given the power of their absolute trust?  What then of those millions who stumble around as if drunk in a world darkened by a rejection of what their own better senses tell them, all the while believing they are God’s special little angels?

What then?  Well, they’re running the show now, aren’t they? 

John Adams also has a famous saying concerning power: “There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”  If you look at our short US history, you’ll see that we’ve endured our share debacles that arose from misplaced public trust.  The most glaring examples in recent memory run the gamut from McCarthyism, past Eisenhower’s warning about the dangers of the military industrial complex and the ensuing Vietnam war, over the tarnishing of the presidency by both Nixon and Clinton, to the current era of warrantless wiretaps, secret government prisons, a blizzard of presidential signing statements, and a perpetual state of war against “evildoers”.  During the whole time, American faith has not wavered one iota.  During that time, many of our religious leaders have said, “Trust us” and we have forked over billions, because as a people, we tend to believe and trust in the invisible.  In recent years, government has curried favor from religious extremists, granting greater power in exchange for the votes of their faithful, trusting congregations.  As with other manipulative political strategies, this cozying up to the religious right works: power is maintained.  The price of that power, however, may be more than we can pay while retaining the integrity of our federal constitutional republic.

So there we are: we start with a proposal to mend the rift between science and religion by appealing to the supernatural time-perception of an arguably infinitely invisible imaginary being.  What we end up with is the same – an America balancing on the razor thin edge between a rational secular democracy and a powerfully dangerous and irrational theocracy.  Don’t be fooled my friends.  There are some very bad and dangerous people around.  Unfortunately, many of them smile like Ted Haggard, and are in positions of power that they wish to keep.  And they will, with our help, and unwavering trust.

Gallup Survey: Most Republicans Reject Theory Of Evolution

According to CBS News, a recent Gallup Survey shows that 68% of Republicans “Disbelieve Scientific Explanation of Creation”:

A Gallup poll released Monday said that while the country is about evenly split over whether the theory of evolution is true, Republicans disbelieve it by more than 2-to-1.

Republicans saying they don’t believe in evolution outnumbered those who do by 68 percent to 30 percent in the survey. Democrats believe in evolution by 57 percent to 40 percent, as do independents by a 61 percent to 37 percent margin.

As Jon Stewart might say, “Republicans, meet me at camera three”.

OK, Republicans, we understand that you’re devout.  We understand that you love God.  That’s simply beautiful, it really is.  Regardless of that, you have to stop cherry-picking the facts.  Evolution is a fact, just like some of those other facts that are somewhat less controversial, like Heliocentrism.  OK, this is less controversial now.  The church no longer arrests and executes people who believe that the sun is at the center of our solar system because there’s just simply such an abundance, a cornucopia if you will, of observational evidence,  that no rational person would claim otherwise.

The same is true for the facts of evolution: That species emerge and change over very long periods of time.  That some species that used to exist, no longer exist.  Further, it is a fact that humans appeared relatively recently in the history of our world.

The facts are irrefutable.  They are written in the very bedrock of our planet.  They are there for everyone to see, everywhere: older species in strata below newer species.  Never an exception.  No human jawbones have ever been found in a Tyrannosaurus nest. No dinosaurs after 65 million years ago. No Australopithecenes after about 2 million years ago.  No homo sapiens before about 500,000 years ago. None.  Anywhere.

Now, while you can certainly take a religious position on the explanation of evolution, you cannot take a religious position on the existence of evolution.  In other words, you can certainly disagree with the leading scientific Theory of Evolution, which explains how such facts as we observe everywhere in the world came to be (and does so quite nicely, thank you very much), but you can only disagree with the facts of Evolution to the same extent that you can disagree with the fact that the sun is at the center of the solar system, or that Pasteurization helps preserve foods, or that DNA codes genetic information for all species on earth.

We need to remember that, as Stephen Jay Gould said, there’s a difference between a fact and a theory, and Evolution is both:

Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world’s data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein’s theory of gravitation replaced Newton’s, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin’s proposed mechanism or by some other, yet to be discovered.

If you’re planning on rejecting the Theory of Evolution, you know, the scientific mechanism that Darwin proposed almost a century and a half ago, you have to follow the rules.  The rules are simple.  Come up with a better explanation for the Fact of Evolution.  Just make sure it doesn’t require anything beyond what we can expect from our normal, natural, very nonmagical world.

Crossposted from Smugbaldy.com

eSkeptic Finds Anti-Science Agenda At Creationist Museum

In today’s issue of the eSkeptic, Stephen Asma reviews New Creation Museum that recently opened in Kentucky.  If you recall, I wrote a bit about this museum a while back, and at the time I thought that the most interesting thing would be how they managed to deal with dinosaurs.

It turns out that explaining how dinosaurs might have thrived in an alternate universe populated with magical arks that floated safely over the world-wide-wet with the rest of the animal kingdom involves a degree of mental gymnastics that would make any self-respecting schizophrenic cringe at its implausibility.  According to Ken A. Ham, the director of the new Creation Museum in Kentucky:

“We don’t know for sure, but from a biblical perspective we know that all animals were originally herbivores.” (Carnivore activity only happens as a result of the Fall — animals did not experience death before Adam’s sin.) “So it is possible that carnivores [including carnivorous dinosaurs] ate plants and grains while they lived on the ark. Even today we know that grizzly bears eat grass and vegetation primarily, so it’s not true that an animal with sharp teeth and claws must eat meat or must be a carnivore. At the very least, the carnivores could survive on vegetation for a significant time span.”

Um … sure.  Let’s not even start with how idiotic that is from a scientific perspective.  It doesn’t even make good sense from a biblical perspective.  Apparently, they want us to believe that about 4500 years ago, Noah was not only able to get two of every kind of animal on the ark, but that the menagerie also included dinosaurs.  On top of that, all the carnivores ate sticks and berries because they weren’t yet carnivores.  In my bible this detail of the time line is pretty clear:  The fall of man came before Noah.  So if the fall precipitated the conversion of all carnivores from a blissful life of veganism, then it clearly occurred prior to the mythic flood.

Aside from such foolishness, Professor Asma detects a recurring theme at the museum:  That sciences like geology and evolution that favor an “old-earth” worldview make the average person feel small and insignificant, which naturally results in all the social ills that we see today.

It’s one thing to be ignorant of science.  It’s quite another to look at scientific evidence and the scientific method and claim that they’re evil.  If you’re a blind-faither, however, evil is what other people do. 

If you ask me, I think it’s likely that this well-funded museum will get get a decent amount of press, and that people large and small will marvel at how nice the dinosaurs were before we started all that thinking for ourselves crap.

While there’s no report on this, I hope there’s carrousel music playing in the background of this museum.  Stupid people need something with which to fill their empty little heads.

 

Um … Dad, Why is Aunt Beru So Crunchy?

Crispy Critters - Luke's Adoptive ParentsIf there’s a Star Wars Geek in your life, then he’s unlikely to have this particular bit of memorabilia: 

That’s right kids – it’s the official Kenner Star Wars Owen Lars and Aunt Beru (Charred) Action Figures.  Relive those exciting scenes from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in which the chemistry between Owen and Beru, Luke’s Skywalker’s adpotive parents, literally sizzles after they give some trigger-happy Imperial Stormtroopers a brief spot of target practice.  Join these intrepid Rebels as they stand up to the evil galactic empire with real “Smouldering Action!”  Be the first kid on your block to be able to accurately re-stage the first major crime scene set in the Star Wars Universe, and   conduct your own forensic analysis for the war crimes tribunal!

Fun for the whole family.  Recommended for Ages 4 and Up.

Reposted from SmugBaldy.com

HometownBaghdad.com

Reposted from smugbaldy.com

My wife gets all the props for this.  HometownBaghdad.com isn’t the evening news, but rather some college kids in Baghdad with video cameras and compelling stories.  They’re saying:

The brave Iraqi subjects and crew risked their lives every time they turned on a camera to make this series. They want to show the world what life is like when your hometown is a war-zone. We believe that people who see their stories will want to share them with others. That’s why we’re distributing the series online. So please – watch the videos, rewatch them, tell friends about them, comment on them, and link to them.

They’re up to 45 video episodes – all of which can be found on YouTube.

Without any exaggeration, I can say I am in shock and awe.

I Must Be Doing Something Right

There are times when I go weeks and weeks without writing anything, although I’ve been a bit inspired after having attended the Amaz!ng Meeting earlier this month.  Apparently, I must be doing something right, since James Randi himself references me by name on this weeks SWIFT newsletter regarding my analysis of “psychic superhero” Sylvia Browne’s 2006 predictions:

James Randi:

PROPHECIES

For Michael Peacock’s rundown of the Browne prophecies for 2006, go to www.smugbaldy.com/?p=48. That document stands without additional comment.  Other years of Brown’s declarations are equally erroneous and fatuous. Also, note that – in common with every other “psychic” – she has missed the truly momentous and critical changes in history – almost as if this claimed power of prophecy doesn’t exist! How could that be…?

I crossposted that article here on SEB, since you folks have a way of keeping me honest, and of course, since I’d prefer that someone actually read what I write.

Cheers, Michael