Friday, September 16, 2016

How the Next U.S. President Will Fall Into a War with Russia

Regardless of who wins the election in November, the United States will once again be afflicted with a president who has no coherent foreign policy. I would argue both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have an even less coherent foreign policy than Barack Obama, whose foreign policy aligned with the radical "new" left of the 60s and believed that the United States is EVIL incarnate and our highest goal should be to change ourselves rather than anyone else. Changing someone else being, of course, the goal of anything resembling an actual foreign policy.

Hillary Clinton perhaps used to have a somewhat more traditional foreign policy, but she is now so firmly tied to the Obama administration that she simply can't move a muscle on the issue. She went so far as to accept the Secretary of State position in Obama's administration and got majorly burned by going behind his back to implement something she believed in. At the very core of her soul, she is a political animal, and there's no possible way she can implement the type of foreign policy she actually believes in now that she has so closely aligned herself with Obama, not to mention the Democratic Party which has been overrun by radical leftists. If she did do what she really wants, her foreign policy would look much more like George W. Bush's than Barack Obama's, but unfortunately no foreign leader, least of all Vladimir Putin, is going to take her seriously on that.

 Donald Trump is even more of an enigma on foreign policy. Pretty much the only notable thing he's said on foreign policy is lionizing Vladimir Putin and hinting that the United States would renege on Article V of NATO which would allow Putin to essentially rebuild the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. The only other things he's known for even relating to foreign policy are his opposition to the Iraq War, which is now over, and building the wall on the southern border, if that qualifies. I suppose you could include his China "policy" that they are evil, cheating bastards and he will make them pay for screwing us over, presumably by starting a trade war that would damage both our economies. As on many other issues, the only available clues as to what Donald Trump actually believes point to him being a Democrat running as Republican. Even Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have made it clear they support Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton, impossible to imagine for just about any actual Republican. Much like Hillary Clinton, Trump will take positions on foreign policy not by any consistent philosophy or principles but rather by testing the political winds and going whichever way they happen to blow.  I have written before that this tendency in American government is the root cause of virtually all our foreign policy blunders since World War II. If I am correct, then under the next U.S. president it will again be the root cause of yet another major foreign policy blunder.

Wars are always the result of miscommunications of power or of the intent to use power. It may sound like a trivial reason to start a war and requires explanation. We can at least say without argument that wars are conflicts between two opposing factions who want something that is mutually exclusive. In order for involved factions to choose war as a means to get what they want, the factions must believe that they will win. Seems obvious on the surface, but we should explore it more critically.

What kind of war might begin if at least one faction believed they would lose the war? Well, suppose one nation attacks another nation that doesn't want war and was just minding its own business. We could suppose that the defending nation "has no choice" and must defend itself or be taken over by the aggressor. However, that is actually a choice between a war which results in the destruction of their nation and a capitulation which results in the destruction of their nation. The result of losing the war would be the same as the result of the capitulation, except a lot more people would be dead. In other words, the rational choice if the defending nation believed it would lose the war would be to capitulate, since the result of losing the war would be the same as the result of the negotiations except they would take no casualties. Let's suppose though that the aggressor nation made it clear that their goal is to annihilate the defender by killing them all. If the defending nation actually believed they would lose the war and all their people would be killed, then the result is still the same regardless of whether they choose war or not. Real people might choose war in this extreme circumstance for emotional reasons, but rationally there would be no purpose to fighting. The best option for the defender in this case is to advise all their people to attempt to run away before the enemy attacks. In this case, it's possible to choose war in order to give their people time to get away, sacrificing their over-matched military in order to give them time to escape. We might then say that here is an example of a defender knowing it would lose the war but choosing to fight it anyway. But that is wrong. Remember the aggressor's stated intention is to kill everyone. If the defender succeeds in escaping, using war to give them time to do so, then they have successfully prevented the attacker from carrying out their intention. It might not look like a win, but it is. In this case the defender doesn't really believe it would lose the war. The defender believes they will win the war by preventing the aggressor from carrying out their intent.

So the only thing we can really say is that in a real life situation, a nation or group of people which believes it would lose the war would only engage in war to satisfy emotional or perhaps spiritual needs, and even this is only likely in extreme circumstances. It is not the rational choice,* and I believe in the end all nations are rational actors. I have also defined war as the attempt to accomplish an intention, which is important. Some might disagree and try to define absolutely what winning looks like without regard to either side's intent, but I believe war is primarily an argument between two viewpoints. Each side engages in war because they believe war gives them the tools to win the argument by forcibly preventing the other side from carrying out their intent. In summary, all wars begin because each side believes they will win by preventing the other side from carrying out their intent.

Recall that wars are the result of miscommunication of power or the intent to use it. If wars only begin when each side believes it will win, then at least one side must be mistaken. And if at least one side is mistaken, that must be the result of a miscalculation of their relationship with their opponent. Accurate calculations of this nature are fundamentally about communication between the two groups, since an accurate calculation can only be made by correctly assessing the capabilities and intent of both sides. In order to prevent war, both sides must make accurate calculations of this nature whenever they have a disagreement. The goal of any foreign policy should be to resolve conflict without resorting to war, and therefore accurate communication of power relationships is fundamental.

Let me bring all this abstraction back into the realm of current events, specifically relating to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Looking at the foreign policy gestures of both major party candidates, what do we see them communicating about their intent to use power against Russia?  We see both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump communicating quite clearly and intentionally that they will not use U.S. military power to inhibit Russia's ambitions in Eastern Europe. The minimum result of this type of communication is Russia will continue its territorial conquests in Eastern Europe, which is currently ongoing. The only question is whether or not our esteemed presidential candidates have accurately assessed their own position. If they have, then Russia has a free hand and may do whatever it wants. The U.S. will allow it without engaging in war to prevent it. If they haven't, then they have failed to correctly communicate our intent to the Russians. In the current situation, this miscommunication of our intent will inevitably lead to war. If the U.S. did correctly communicate our intent, then Russia would have no choice but to back down as the hard power relationship quite clearly favors the U.S.

Russia has been given every reason to believe the U.S. does not care about their ambitions in Eastern Europe. In the case of Donald Trump, this is quite explicit, right down to specifically renouncing our responsibilities to defend NATO members in Article V of the treaty. This is important because both times Russia recently conquered territory, they did so in Georgia and Ukraine, both states which are not members of NATO. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are much weaker nation states than Ukraine, yet Putin has attacked Ukraine and not these weaker NATO members. This suggests that the only inhibition of Russia's territorial aggression in Eastern Europe is in fact the NATO treaty buttressed by U.S. military power. In effectively renouncing NATO, Trump has given Russia a blank check. Clinton's communications have been less clear, but equally suggestive of a willingness to allow Russia leeway. In any case, Putin clearly knows that U.S. politics is heavily driven by public opinion. The fact that both major party candidates have taken very passive positions in respect to Russia might suggest to him that public opinion is against war with Russia regardless of what Russia does. He has already completed a successful test of the strength of our intentions in Syria.

When civil war originally broke out in Syria, U.S. politically leaders immediately moved to intervene against Assad and the Allawite faction aligned with Iran. This provoked a massive public backlash. U.S. congressmen reported unusually large numbers of phone calls to their offices advocating against intervention in Syria. Then came ISIS, and all of the sudden public opinion shifted towards intervention as ISIS began to reveal their intentions in spectacular fashion. However, even hawks in the Republican party balked at intervention at this point, reasoning that it was far too late to do anything. As for our president, Obama handed the original decision to Congress, not because he cared about what they thought or the constitution, but because he agreed with the people and Congress was calling for an intervention. After the rise of ISIS, however, Obama steadily increased U.S. involvement in Syria, but stopped well short of war. Hillary Clinton meanwhile attempted to use her power as Secretary of State and her alliances in the foreign policy establishment to smuggle weapons to the Syrian rebels. To the extent she succeeded, she burned herself politically because many of these rebels turned out to be jihadists who later joined ISIS. The actions of the U.S. both politically and on the ground in Syria have shown to any outside observer that the U.S. is fundamentally fickle, unstable and not serious. We are clearly not acting according to any principle or even any interest, and can simply be manipulated by anyone willing to take aggressive, consistent action, as Russia has done.

Russia consistently supported Assad and Iran in the region, and now has a sizable military force based in Syria in support of Assad. They proved their commitment to Iran, which inexplicably the U.S. has now attempted to emulate. But Russia has no serious ambitions in the Middle East. Their primary concern is Eastern Europe. As any foreign policy aficionado knows, the primary driver of Russian foreign policy is control over Eastern Europe. Centuries of Russian history show that threats to Russia from foreign nations always come from Europe and must go through Eastern Europe to get to Russia. Russia has been historically saved by controlling vast swaths of Eastern Europe which act as a buffer against European threats. The obvious examples here are Napoleon's invasion and the German invasion during WWII, both ultimately unsuccessful because of the massive logistical problems of invading such a large territory, a territory which can be quite unforgiving during the famous Russian winters. Even in World War I, when Russia was defeated, they were able to gain peace by giving up large amounts of territory in Eastern Europe and were not successfully invaded.

So what was Russia really doing in Syria? They were testing the U.S. The U.S. failed the test, and Putin now believes that as long as he doesn't burn people alive and broadcast the video to the world, the U.S. will not care what he does. As a result, he will at a minimum massively escalate the current conflict in Ukraine. He will likely attempt further territorial conquest, first in Belarus, which is not a NATO member, then perhaps even against NATO countries like the Balkan states.  At some point in the process, the United States will find its resolve, as it historically has always done, and intervene with force. She has failed to communicate this inherent resolve to Putin's Russia which does not understand this aspect of American history or its people having had no direct conflict with them of any significance. As a result, the U.S. and Russia will engage in a conventional war during the term of the next U.S. president.

Now that's whack.

*I may have to discuss spiritual needs further, since Islam in particular offers spiritual rewards for engaging in war, especially for dying in war, and if dying is their only goal then losing the war might be the best rational choice.  If their intent is to die in war, then "winning" for their enemy would involve preventing them from carrying out their intent, i.e. by preventing them from dying in war, or at least preventing them from believing they will receive spiritual rewards from dying in war. At this point I can say with confidence that in practice Islamist nations do not attempt wars they think they will lose, and I can provide many examples. Islamist nations, unlike some individuals and terrorist groups, always have some additional goal besides dying. I also define war as a conflict between states

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Prime Directive Fallacy

In honor of the release of the Star Trek Beyond movie, I thought I'd comment on the central pseudo-moral dilemma of the Star Trek universe: The Prime Directive. I say "pseudo" because the posed moral dilemma is based on evolutionary theory, which cannot support a rational, objective moral system at all.

Every Trekkie knows what the Prime Directive means, but I'll just rip off the short statement from the original episode from 1968 it appeared in, via Wikipedia:

No identification of self or mission. No interference with the social development of said planet. No references to space or the fact that there are other worlds or civilizations.

Later in the article there's a statement from Star Trek: Next Generation character Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

"The Prime Directive is not just a set of rules. It is a philosophy, and a very correct one. History has proven again and again that whenever mankind interferes with a less developed civilization, no matter how well intentioned that interference may be, the results are invariably disastrous."

The purpose of the Prime Directive then, is to prevent the United Federation of Planets, to which all the main characters in the Star Trek universe belong, from interfering in the development of less advanced alien cultures. Since the mission of Star Trek characters usually involves the discovery, study and establishment of diplomatic relations with alien cultures, the Prime Directive plays a central role in creating dramatic tension and often moral dilemmas.

The Prime Directive made it's most recent appearance at the beginning of the last movie, Star Trek Into Darkness.  At the beginning of the movie, the Enterprise crew is studying a very primitive but sentient and intelligent alien race on an alien planet and finds that a nearby volcano is about to erupt. The eruption will likely wipe out the entire race, so they cook up a plan to prevent the eruption. Spock beams inside the volcano to plant a special explosive that will seal up the volcano and prevent the eruption. Unfortunately, they are not able to beam him out again without taking the Enterprise out of its hiding place in the ocean, revealing themselves to the indigenous population and violating the Prime Directive. Spock prepares to die, sacrificing his life in obedience to the Directive, but Kirk decides to violate it in order to save Spock's life. As the Enterprise crew leaves, we see a scene of the indigenous alien race drawing a picture of the Enterprise in the dirt and bowing down in worship, forever changing their religion and presumably justifying the wisdom of the Prime Directive by showing what happens when it is broken. Kirk neglects to mention the violation in his report on the mission, but Spock, of course, does, resulting in Kirk's demotion from captain.

As a fan of the Star Trek franchise, I have become quite used to the various sorts of moral dilemmas offered by the Prime Directive. I've also had the experience of growing up in a household which strictly regulated entertainment options based on Christian moral directives, which was often in tension with virtually every entertainment option available. But the science fiction franchises of Star Wars and Star Trek often escaped the usual rules, probably because my mom liked them. We used to watch reruns of Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) in the 80s when I was growing up, and when The Next Generation came out it became a weekly family event for years. We were equally excited when Voyager came out, but my dad nixed that one permanently after one very early episode in which a Native American character showed the captain how to have a spirit vision and meet her animal spirit guide, which she did. I have since watched the entire series on Netflix, and the spirit guide never made another appearance after depriving me for years of probably the best writing and story-telling in the Star Trek universe outside of the story progression of the movies Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan through Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. To date, I have seen every episode of TOS, The Next Generation and Voyager, as well as all the movies. There are two other TV series, Deep Space Nine, of which I have only ever seen a few episodes, and Enterprise, which I am currently making my third attempt to get through the first season. Enterprise tells the story of the very first Enterprise ship and its crew, which occurs during a very early stage of the Star Trek universe as mankind begins to first explore deep space and before the formation of the United Federation of Planets. Because of my upbringing, I often reflect on moral dilemmas and values in the shows and movies I watch, and I just watched a humdinger of an episode of Enterprise involving the Prime Directive called "Dear Doctor".

The "Dear Doctor" episode is narrated by the ship's doctor, Dr. Phlox, who is one of only two alien crew members aboard. His narration takes the form of a correspondence with a human doctor practicing on Dr. Phlox's homeworld of Denobula, as they share with each other their experiences practicing medicine in each other's alien cultures. Throughout the episode, Dr. Phlox often comments favorably on the extraordinary compassion shown by human beings, especially towards strangers and other species, including the captain's pet dog Porthos and the sick alien crew of a ship they come across. This ship happens to be from a planet containing two sentient humanoid species, one of which, the Valakian, is suffering from a mysterious and catastrophic disease threatening their extinction. The Menk on the other hand are not affected by the disease, and are primitive compared to the Valakians. Both species are considered technologically inferior to the humans though, and the Vulcan character spends most of the episode warning the Enterprise's human crew about interfering in an inferior culture. This takes place before the Prime Directive is written, but the Vulcans apparently have their own version of it, and that is not to engage with alien races before they have developed warp drive, which neither of these alien species have. However it is decided to help them anyway due to the fact that they are already aware that warp drive exists and have already met other alien races.

At the episode's climax, Dr. Phlox figures out that the disease affecting the Valakians is a genetic condition. He also comes to the conclusion that the Menk are on the verge of something he calls an "evolutionary awakening", apparently meaning some kind of major evolutionary advancement. He concludes that if things continue as they are, the Valakians will become extinct in 50-100 generations, and the Menk, though currently technologically and evolutionarily inferior, will supersede them and become the sole intelligent humanoid race on the planet:

"Captain Archer: A cure, doctor. Have you found a cure?

Dr. Phlox (visibly uncomfortable): Even if I could find one, I'm not sure it would be ethical.

Captain Archer: Ethical?

Dr. Phlox: We'd be interfering with an evolutionary process that has been going on for thousands of years. 

Captain Archer: Every time you treat an illness you're interfering. That's what doctors do.

Dr. Phlox: You're forgetting about the Menk. 

Captain Archer: What about the Menk?

Dr. Phlox: I've been studying their genome as well, and I've seen evidence of increasing intelligence, motor skills, linguistic abilities. Unlike the Valakians they appear to be in the process of an evolutionary awakening. It may take millenia, but the Menk have the potential to become the dominant species on this planet.

Captain Archer: And that won't happen as long as the Valakians are around.

Dr. Phlox: If the Menk are to flourish, they need an opportunity to survive on their own.

Captain Archer: What are you suggesting? We choose one species over the other?

Dr. Phlox: All I'm saying is that we let Nature make the choice."

Dr. Phlox then reveals to the captain that he has found a cure for the disease, but believes he should not give them the cure due to the fact that it would interfere with the evolutionary trajectory of the planet. The captain at first disagrees, but comes back the next day after sleeping on it and has changed his mind:

"What I've decided goes against all my principles. Someday, my people are going to come up with some sort of a doctrine. Something that tells us what we can and can't do out here, should and shouldn't do. But until somebody tells me that they've drafted that "directive", I'm going to have to remind myself every day that we didn't come out here to play god."

In the end, even though they have a cure for the disease, they refuse to give it to the Valakians. In fact, they don't even tell the Valakians there is a cure, thus possibly condemning an entire race to extinction. In the process, the show lays the foundation for the Prime Directive explicitly on evolutionary reasoning and in opposition to human compassion.

There are many things that could be said at this point. We should note here the juxtaposition of Nature and humans as competing gods. Humans aren't allowed to make the choice of whether or not to save a race from extinction because then we would be "playing god", but Nature is allowed to make the choice. Nature is god in this formulation. Evolution is the principle from which morality is derived, and that is the function of God in any religion. We should also note the tension it creates between leftism and evolutionary theory. I have commented before on the leftist moral system based on human compassion or empathy for others who are suffering. In leftism, human beings are god, and our morals come from our own feelings. If evolutionary theory is god instead, then it will at times differ from leftism in its moral doctrines. The moral dilemmas posed here clearly demonstrate that Judeo-Christian morality has been driven out of pop culture, as it makes no appearance at all.

We should also note the similarity between Dr. Phlox's argument and that of Adolf Hitler, who reasons in Mein Kampf that the French practice of contraception and abortion goes against evolution because preventing births removes the ability of Nature to evaluate the fit versus the unfit:

"It was possible to adopt the French example and artificially restrict the number of births, thus avoiding an excess of population.

Under certain circumstances, in periods of distress or under bad climatic condition, or if the soil yields too poor a return, Nature herself tends to check the increase of population in some countries and among some races, but by a method which is quite as ruthless as it is wise. It does not impede the procreative faculty as such; but it does impede the further existence of the offspring by submitting it to such tests and privations that everything which is less strong or less healthy is forced to retreat into the bosom of tile unknown. Whatever survives these hardships of existence has been tested and tried a thousandfold, hardened and renders fit to continue the process of procreation; so that the same thorough selection will begin all over again. By thus dealing brutally with the individual and recalling him the very moment he shows that he is not fitted for the trials of life, Nature preserves the strength of the race and the species and raises it to the highest degree of efficiency. The decrease in numbers therefore implies an increase of strength, as far as the individual is concerned, and this finally means the invigoration of the species.

But the case is different when man himself starts the process of numerical restriction. Man is not carved from Nature’s wood. He is made of ‘human’ material. He knows more than the ruthless Queen of Wisdom. He does not impede the preservation of the individual but prevents procreation itself. To the individual, who always sees only himself and not the race, this line of action seems more humane and just than the opposite way. But, unfortunately, the consequences are also the opposite.

By leaving the process of procreation unchecked and by submitting the individual to the hardest preparatory tests in life, Nature selects the best from an abundance of single elements and stamps them as fit to live and carry on the conservation of the species. But man restricts the procreative faculty and strives obstinately to keep alive at any cost whatever has once been born. This correction of the Divine Will seems to him to be wise and humane, and he rejoices at having trumped Nature’s card in one game at least and thus proved that she is not entirely reliable. The dear little ape of an all-mighty father is delighted to see and hear that he has succeeded in effecting a numerical restriction; but he would be very displeased if told that this, his system, brings about a degeneration in personal quality.

For as soon as the procreative faculty is thwarted and the number of births diminished, the natural struggle for existence which allows only healthy and strong individuals to survive is replaced by a sheer craze to ‘save’ feeble and even diseased creatures at any cost. And thus the seeds are sown for a human progeny which will become more and more miserable from one generation to another, as long as Nature’s will is scorned.

But if that policy be carried out the final results must be that such a nation will eventually terminate its own existence on this earth; for though man may defy the eternal laws of procreation during a certain period, vengeance will follow sooner or later. A stronger race will oust that which has grown weak; for the vital urge, in its ultimate form, will burst asunder all the absurd chains of this so-called humane consideration for the individual and will replace it with the humanity of Nature, which wipes out what is weak in order to give place to the strong.

Any policy which aims at securing the existence of a nation by restricting the birth-rate robs that nation of its future."

Note that Hitler recognizes the same tension between Nature and Man as dueling gods, preferring Nature. Hitler here disagrees with the French policy and also that of the American Margaret Sanger, the founder of the American Birth Control League which later became Planned Parenthood, who believed that contraception could be used to eliminate poverty, disease and crime because those things were genetic and could be restricted by restricting births to the already poor, infirm and criminal. Hitler's innovation was that Nature should be allowed to make the choice, and that human beings should not interfere. Of course, Hitler and the Nazis interfered liberally after adulthood through their muscular eugenics program, making the choice themselves as to whether homosexuals, mentally retarded and physically deformed people should procreate. And of course they chose to attempt the extermination of the Jews, whom they deemed an inferior race parasitic on the German and other races. Presumably at this stage Dr. Phlox would argue that the Holocaust was an even more extreme example of a superior race making choices for an inferior race rather than allowing Nature to take its course. I imagine Hitler retorting that the Aryan race is also part of the natural order, and their striving in war and removal of parasitic races like the Jews is part of Nature's struggle to sort out the fit from the unfit, the strong from the weak, that the strong may survive and improve the species.

Dr. Phlox's contention that superior races should not interfere with inferior races assumes that superior races have moral responsibilities that inferior races do not. If the Valakians had figured out the cure for themselves, this would not violate the Prime Directive, nor would it violate evolutionary principles. It would merely justify Nature's choice to favor intelligence and technological ability over genetic stability. But if a third race, superior to both Menk and Valakian provided the cure, that would be a violation of Nature's choice because...why? Why shouldn't Nature reward the technological capability of spaceflight? Why shouldn't the Valakians, because of spaceflight, be able to find superior races and obtain a cure from a superior race? What if the Valakians were telepaths and read the minds of the humans, knew they had the cure and stole it? What if the Valakians found out the humans had the cure and used their mind control technology to convince the humans to give it to them? What if the Valakians had evolved to evoke sympathy from other races, causing humans to have pity on them and give them the cure? On the other side, why shouldn't human compassion be favored by evolution to help them befriend and preserve other races and help humans obtain knowledge they may not have otherwise obtained, or simply to avoid continual conflict that would damage them?  What if the Valakians found the cure on their own, then discovered humans had withheld it? What if they retaliated by destroying the human race? Would not human compassion have prevented this and been favored by evolution? Or what if the Valakian disease had been bacterial or viral instead of genetic? Would it then have been okay for the humans to cure it, even though that would be making the choice to preserve the Valakians even though their immune system was inferior to the Menks? Or what if the Menk had intentionally introduced the disease to wipe out the Valakians? Would that be wrong even if the evolutionary result would be the same as if they hadn't? Would it not be Nature's justification of the Menk superiority in biological warfare? Or suppose the Valakians had discovered a disease that would wipe them out and kept it contained in a lab, and a Menk had stolen it and introduced it to the population. Would that not be Nature's choice to justify the Menk superiority in subterfuge? Or would it be wrong since the inferior race made a choice to alter their evolutionary relationship with the Valakians? Is it morally acceptable, according to evolution, for a technologically inferior race to wipe out an superior one through war or subterfuge? The problem quickly becomes apparent. If our standard really is evolutionary theory, than no race is inferior or superior to another except through the simple fact of survival or extinction. Survival or extinction is the only justification. Neither survival nor extinction can be separated from human behavior. Behaviors are part of why some species survive and others don't. Behavior cannot be held responsible for altering the course of evolution unjustly because behavior, including moral behavior, is part of evolution.

Here we come to the crux of the issue, which I will call the Prime Directive Fallacy. Are human moral choices always consistent with evolution because we are part of the process, or are we above the evolutionary process somehow such that our choices can interfere with the proper operation of evolution?  The Prime Directive Fallacy, which I have alluded to before in the context of global warming, is the idea that even though humans are products of and participants in the natural order, we can somehow make choices which interfere with that natural order. The Prime Directive Fallacy was introduced in Western civilization after World War II to explain why the Holocaust was wrong without rejecting Nature as god. If I choose to get married and have ten kids because I am highly intelligent, or if I choose to get a vasectomy and never reproduce because I have back and heart defects, then each choice has a clear evolutionary consequence. But evolutionary theory cannot tell me which is the right choice. What it can tell me is that my faculty for making the choice is a product of evolution, and whatever choice I make is consistent with my decision making faculty and is therefore part of evolution. I cannot make a wrong choice, because my decision making faculty is determined by evolution itself. My choices, whatever they are, are also Nature's choices, because Nature's choices are manifested in my behavior.

We reject this, because we know that the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jews was wrong. If we can make no other moral claims, we can make this one. Failing an appeal to Judeo-Christian morality under which humans are not products of the natural order but are rather products of the Judeo-Christian God, we must commit the Prime Directive Fallacy, that superior races have moral responsibilities towards inferior races. It is a fallacious attempt to introduce morality into an amoral philosophy. Thus the Nazis were wrong to attempt the extermination of the Jews because that would interfere with evolution and with Nature's choice. Never mind that the Nazis are just as much a part of evolution as the Jews. Never mind that human behavior influences evolutionary outcomes just as much or more than blond hair, blue eyes, or intelligence. Never mind that evolutionary theory cannot dictate moral choices to humans because only ends, not the means, matter in evolution. Never mind that the Prime Directive Fallacy prescribes genocide by omission in exchange for precluding genocide by commission. Never mind logic. Evolutionary theory cannot be wrong, and since it cannot be wrong, it cannot be irrelevant, even to morality itself.

Now that's whack.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Price of No Leadership

After beginning this blog with commentary on the 2012 Republican Primary (the first few posts are gone because I wrote them on another website which is gone), I have not written about the 2016 primary hardly at all. The only exception was a rather minor shout-out to Carly Fiorina for a single comment. I have tried to write other things. There's an unfinished post called the Two Faces of Reagan about Rubio and Cruz possessing different Reaganesque characteristics. That one will never be finished. There's another one about Trump called Abdominal Inspiration that I started the same day and with the same intro as this post. I don't think I've written much about the primary because I realized very early on that I did not understand what was happening. When asked the direct question by a friend who I thought was going to win, I answered Ted Cruz, and this was when his poll numbers had zero within the margin of error. From the unfinished post:

"Cruz's positions on everything have been perfect, and he is the only Republican out of the entire field of 17 initial candidates who understands how to handle the media. That ability, which comes so naturally to liberals and progressives, is exceedingly rare among Republican politicians."

Everyone is so focused on Trump we are all forgetting that Cruz would have won if Kasich had dropped out when he had no chance of winning, which was somewhere around Never, 2014. We are forgetting that Trump never got above 40% in the early primaries where it counts, and the only reason the Republican Party nominated this despicable douchebag is a failure of leadership. But I'll get to that.

So I did what I have learned very few people are capable of doing: I admitted I was wrong not just by happenstance or because I didn't care, or because I was wrong in a particular but not the general. None of that is acceptable to me, and it never has been. Reality trumps what goes on in my own head, because my own head is not that very big of a place when it comes down to it. I was wrong because I misunderstood something fundamental. I saw this great quote by T.S. Eliot somebody posted on Facebook. "Humankind cannot bear very much reality." Perhaps not, but maybe one individual human can. It sort of reminds me of this other less famous quote that's been going around in my head for months now. I was talking to my atheist professor of history in college in his office, one of the very few times I went to a prof's office. I was a biochemistry major, but he was probably the best teacher I ever had there. He didn't use a textbook. He had us read books. You know, actual books that changed history when it was still fluid and uncertain. It was so refreshing I didn't even care that the books he chose were by Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud. I ate it up because it was real. It was the kind of class I'd always thought college was supposed to have, where students stop being babies and whiners, crying to the teacher about too much homework, and actually start giving a shit about the subject. Anyway, I remember two main things about that conversation, other than some of his interest in the more local history of Nebraska. The first was his observation that Marx was ultimately wrong. The socialists revolutions he predicted did not occur in advanced capitalist, industrial societies. They in fact occurred in backwards agrarian societies, primarily Russia and China. The second was his own observation that at any given time in history, in any given country, forty percent of the population are complete fucking morons. I never forgot that, but generally, complete fucking morons don't vote, so I figured we were safe. Unfortunately, I guess they do vote when one of their own is running.

I have only recently become loosely, barely involved in actual real life politics. And my short experience has taught me very quickly that at the local level where hardly anyone is paying attention, high voter turnout is usually bad news for the conservative insurgent candidate. That's why conservative activists love run-off elections and rainy election days. Run-offs and rainy days have much lower turnout. And when we are talking about something like 5% of registered voters voting in a presidential primary, imagine how many we are talking about in a primary run-off election for a state house seat. So basically if you can get a similar level of name recognition as your opponent, which normally only happens in a race for an open seat, then the activists will tip the scales in your favor. But I was slow to translate that into a national campaign. I assumed these were the gamey types of things you can do to win low turnout elections and that at the national level everything would average out, making it much more difficult to game it. So much media coverage and information is available about a presidential campaign that I thought people were on the whole making better informed decisions. I thought that conservatives have a harder time winning local elections because there's much less information out there, people don't care as much and all of that translates to less informed voters. But turns out that even at the national level the same basic principle applies just the same as in every other race: Name recognition is everything. The vast majority of the tiny number of registered voters who actually bother to vote in a primary are still doing so primarily on the basis of simply checking the box beside a name they recognize from somewhere. Almost the entirety of every political race is decided by whose name people recognize more than the other names in the race. All the punditry, all the policy positions and even televised debates in the end boil down to one thing: How many people know your name? Donald Trump won because his was a household name brand for thirty or forty years. That's it, and that's all. Everyone knew his name. Not enough people knew the other guys in the race. So when all those complete fucking morons somehow found a polling station and wandered in, and they stared glassy eyed at that long list of names, one name jumped out. "Hey! I know that guy!" Check.

Politics is a stupid game played by stupid men. The fact that the dumbest of the lot ended up winning should not have surprised me. And here we have a nice segue way to the thesis of the post, namely, that Donald Trump beat the "geniuses" who run the Republican Party because he was even dumber and more shameless than they were, if that were possible. In fact, Donald Trump seems to know he is stupid and shameless, which is actually an advantage because it gives him a counter intuitive kind of honesty. Not, of course, honesty in the substance, or lack thereof, of what he's saying, but honesty about what politics is really about. So the Donald didn't give a shit about anything that he was supposed to. He didn't care about his speeches, his policy papers, his campaign staff or anything that all the smart people think matters. He had the name brand, and they didn't, so nothing else mattered. Instead of taking the high road and letting all those establishment hacks do his dirty work for him with the attack ads and whisper campaigns, he did all those things himself. And all the voters that the establishment hacks have been playing like violins for years ate it up. Finally a candidate who accuses his opponent's father of being involved in the assassination of JFK!  Out of his own mouth! Right on TV!  Who needs establishment money when the candidate can do his own attack ads on Twitter and the nightly news?

The establishment was not prepared for this, and neither were conservatives, because we all failed to recognize what my history professor, and also the Founding Fathers of this country, knew years ago: A very, very large number of people are very, very stupid. Actually I think I'm being a bit derogatory towards the establishment. Of course they knew there are a lot of stupid people. They are the ones who win elections by throwing all that money they have into negative advertising, and they know it works. The problem is this time Trump got all those voters, so there was nothing they could do. The real conservative candidates were splitting the conservative vote, again, because our movement has no leadership. Hats off to Tony Perkins though. At least he tried. And the Republican Party leadership was rendered toothless because Donald Trump took all their idiot voters on whom they depend to win primaries and keep control of the party. Make no mistake about it: Donald Trump's nomination only happened due to a failure in leadership, both in the Republican Party establishment and the conservative movement. And now we are all wondering the exact same thing all those ancient Egyptians must have wondered about the inbred sons of their inbred Pharaohs: I know he's next in line, but are we seriously going to be led by this guy?

Now that's whack.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What's going on with Ex-Im?

I'm staying home from work today due to my first experience with food poisoning, which is apparently what it takes to get me to write again. I figured at this important time in our nation's history we should focus our attention on the Export-Import Bank and what exactly is going on with it at the moment. I wrote about this about a year and a half ago when conservatives managed to get a vote to extend the authorization of the bank for only nine months instead of seven years like the D.C. establishment wanted. That meant another fight on the issue in June of last year. I predicted conservatives would lose this battle. They actually won that particular vote, and the Ex-Im Bank was not re-authorized. However, I waited before pronouncing judgment, because as with all things government, nothing is ever as it seems.

Just a few months later in October, the House voted 313-118 on a stand-alone measure to reauthorize the bank, including all Democrats voting in favor. This is important because this discharge petition only considered one issue, the re-authorization of the bank, so nothing else was at stake. Around the same time there was also an attempt to attach a rider re-authorizing the bank to the highway bill being considered in the Senate. That was initially shot down, but when the final highways bill was approved in December, a full, four-year re-authorization of the bank was included. So I may have been wrong about the vote in June, but I was not wrong about reform conservatives being unable to push through a relatively mild policy initiative that should have been able to garner bipartisan support, at least from bipartisan voters if not their elected representatives, who one and all get big donations from big businesses. What I wrote a year and a half ago still rings true:

"The Tea Party, for all its uncoolness, knows something that reform conservatives do not. If you want to wield political power, you must first have it. It's not enough to appeal to the ideology to which every Republican appeals to get elected in his primary. You have to have political power and you have to hurt somebody with it before you are taken seriously. You can't be a wine club that writes articles for online conservative magazines and expect to get anything done."

But there is good news. My main source for all this information is Veronique de Rugy at National Review, and here is the last thing she wrote about it:

"The reauthorization of the bank’s charter hasn’t brought the crony program back from the dead entirely. In fact, the situation hasn’t changed much at all. That’s because the agency lacks enough board members to authorize deals above $10 million. These large loans over $10 million are the bread and butter of the program — a program that specializes in serving big businesses."

Basically, while the Ex-Im Bank has been fully reauthorized, they need at  least three of their five board members to vote in favor of loans exceeding $10 million, and they currently only have two active board members. In order to get more, the president must appoint them and the Senate must approve, as I understand it. Until then, the Ex-Im Bank can only authorize loans less than $10 million, meaning the vast majority of its business still cannot be conducted. That's good, but there were more than 66 votes in the Senate for re-authorization and I already gave you the House vote. That's enough to override a presidential veto. Even with Ted Cruz as president, they might find a way to a full restoration of the bank, even if Obama or the next president refuses to appoint more board members.

Now that's whack.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Pooping in a Pool

This incident happened awhile ago, but it hasn't left my mind. It's one of those little things that hang around in my head because it illustrates an important concept. Muslim immigrants were caught on security cameras defecating and masturbating into a public swimming pool, as well as sexually assaulting female swimmers. As a result, some German swimming pools have banned them.

Let's suppose this happened in the United States. Everyone would assume these young men were drunk, or just bad actors, or irresponsible teenagers who made, ahem, some very bad choices in looking for something to do. The tendency for us would be to explain what happened in Germany the same way. But that's not what happened at all, and this story goes a long way to explain some of the differences in Muslim versus Christian culture.

In the Bible, women are asked to keep their hair long "as a sign of authority over their head" and to dress modestly, but there is nothing much more specific beyond that. Today, long or short hair doesn't really symbolize or signify anything, so that admonition has gone by the wayside. Christian women should still dress modestly but I don't see a lot of concern about bathing suits, as long as women, or men for that matter, don't wear them around outside the swimming pool.

According to sharia law, however, women are required to be covered from head to toe whenever they are in public, swimming pools or not. The reason for this is any uncovering of a women's body is considered to be a sexual advance, or in those cultures, more like a sexual invitation. In other words, a women uncovering herself in public makes her fair game. Males are not blamed for making sexual advances on a woman who has "exposed" herself to the man.

Combine this with European norms about public nudity which are more liberal than in the United States, and you get a fairly explosive situation. I would not be surprised at all to learn that some German women at these pools were topless. I've seen that myself in Russia, and that was an outdoor swimming area in a pond. Put a bunch of young male Muslim immigrants into the situation and sexual assault should not be surprising. This is what they believe, and this is how they will respond to European social norms.

Sex is viewed much differently in Islamic culture. It's difficult to explain, especially as I'm sure I don't have a full grasp on it myself, but what I see happening here is not teenage irresponsibility or drunken buffoons. Simply put, women who are not fully clothed in public are considered disgusting. Sexual assault is how men punish women for breaking those rules, and it's considered a perfectly normal and appropriate response by a male to a women in a bathing suit or less. The thought goes that if  women is going to expose herself in public like that, then she will get what is coming to her. This makes sense of the sexual assault, but why the defecating and masturbating? Especially the defecating. What does that have to do with it?

When Muslims see something that they consider disgusting, they respond by doing something that we consider disgusting. It is a protest. It is revenge. It is them trying to make a point. They don't have the "turn the other cheek" teaching. They don't try to set an example of better behavior. When they feel their views and beliefs are being attacked, they respond by attacking back. This is leftist, Alinsky style direct action coming from Muslim immigrants. Pooping in a pool is an attack on European public modesty norms. It is not a few bad actors making some bad decisions while intoxicated.

 We will see more of this type of thing in the future. As soon as the Europeans figure out what is happening, they will no longer have any defense against it. What's happening here is what Westerners might call a "social protest". As soon as its framed in that light, Europeans will immediately become okay with it, because hey, what's right for you is right for you. Relativism is a weak belief system. It's really no belief system, and it won't last long. Europe has rejected Christianity, and they are now a spiritual vacuum. Like nature, the human heart abhors a vacuum. If Christianity is rejected, something else will fill it. In Europe, it's looking more and more as if that something will be Islam.

Now that's whack.