Monthly Archives: April 2003

Hundreds of Millions Found in Iraq

LGF reports that hundreds of millions of dollars were found in Iraq by US soldier, who stubmled upon the money hidden in sealed-up cottages in an upper class Baghdad neighborhood. CNN reporters are currently debating whether the money was destined for Iraqi civilians or the dismantling of WMD’s. </sarcasm>

In other news, new evidence shows that the shuttle was most likely doomed by the falling debris in the first few seconds of flight. Read my take on NASA here.

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The original purpose of this

The original purpose of this blog was to comment on various web-design tricks and technologies as I explored them, but since it has turned out to be a forum for my political and philosophical rants, I decided to start a new web-design oriented blog. Check out the inagural entry on Google.

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While the lights were out…

Power Outage

The power went out in College Station last week, and Texas A&M shut down for the day as the stop lights in the entire city died (see the photo I took above.) Moments after my power died, I heard the generator in the private dorm come on, while the rest of the city remained dark. Going to my [canceled] class, I overheard various cell phone conversations as one person said "pray for power" and another "the main power line for [XYZ] generator is down." (I leave the metaphysics lesson up to you.) In a scene eerily reminiscent to a certain book, I later heard that the power failure had been greatly compounded by faulty infrastructure caused by massive bureaucratic regulation of the state’s power grid. (My own conclusion.) The official response to nearly 4 hours without power? Keeping the citizens safe from food poisoning:

As the power outage stretched into its third hour, the Brazos County Health Department ordered all area retail food outlets without power to close the doors."There is a simple law under the Texas Food Establishment Laws that once food is being kept below 45 degrees it is no longer safe to eat," said Julie Anderson, spokeswoman for the health department. "We tried to get the message out through the radio, but some restaurants said they wouldn’t close so we sent inspectors out there," Anderson said, adding that they ended up having to urge only one to shut down.

Meanwhile, as the stop lights in the entire city died, I watched one-time coordination scenarios play out over and over, as thousands of students who had only been driving for a few years somehow managed to avoid hitting each other, and while traffic backed up, there were no major accidents and only a few horn blows. A policeman tried to direct traffic on one street, but seemed to give up when the drivers did a better job directing traffic on their own. Alternation between cross-traffic seemed to happen by momentum: whenever a driver paused before crossing an intersection, the cars next to him would pause as well, giving the cars and pedestrians on the intersection a chance to cross. When the first pedestrian or car paused before crossing the intersection, the other side would get started, starting the next cycle. The biggest pauses were caused by unaware or aggressive drivers who tried to initiate crossing the intersection without waiting for a prompt from the other side. All in all, an interesting study in game theory.

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¡Voy a México!

I’m going down to Mexico for a day, so excuse my lapse of entries, y ruegue que no consiga la venganza de Montezuma. ¡Muchas fotos que vienen pronto!

Update: Check out the various photos I took along the way.

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How the US armed IRaq

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LTE: Gaines Memorial Would be a Tribute to Racism

Despite the noble claims of those who support erecting a statue of Matthew Gaines on campus, their real motivations are dishonest, and their “tribute” is fundamentally racist in nature.  If Gaines had been instrumental in the founding of A&M, and had his contribution hushed up because of his race, there might be a case for recognizing his efforts –but even his supporters admit that their primary motivation for his memorial is his skin color.  Whether they believe that the memorial will inspire other students or be a politically popular move for the administration, there can be no doubt that their motivations are racist in nature.

 Some people reduce racism to a dislike of a particular skin color or ethnic group, but this is a very incomplete understanding.  Racism is the notion that one’s race determines one’s identity.  It is the belief that one’s values, character, and achievements are determined not by their mind, but one’s anatomy or blood.  To praise or condemn an individual based on his race is to claim that the value of a person comes from inherited characteristics rather than their achievements, destroying people’s confidence in their own mind.  Classifying people by racial identity creates an unbridgeable gulf between groups, as though their skin color determines their identity and actions.  When Frederick Douglass took inspiration from Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words that “all men are created equal” was he mistaken in applying them to himself because he was not white?  Am I wrong for thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and Walter Williams as heroes and great Americans because I am not black?  Should those who follow the teaching of Jesus forget them because he might be white, black, or neither?  Would the supporters of the memorial have me ignore the contribution of all the great men and women in history because they are not the same sex or color as I?

 I will not accept this view.  I will judge individuals based on their values and actions, not their race.  If the administration truly wishes to extinguish racism, it must teach students to recognize people for their values and actions, not traits that they have no control over.

 

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Editorial: In Defense of Fast Food

Check out my latest editorial, In Defense of Fast Food, inspired by this article: Anti-War Leaders Fear US Fast Food Threat to Iraq (Thanks to Dakach for the original story.):

April 14, 2003

A sinister new threat is looming over helpless Iraqi civilians, one that may rob them of their health, take away their freedom, and destroy their culture.  Is it the Iraqi dictator?  No, Saddam is dead or missing.  Is it American bombs and bullets?  No, the U.S. military took great care to avoid civilian casualties (putting our soldiers at risk in the process) and besides, the war is nearly over.  What is the nature of this insidious threat?  According to Voices in the Wilderness, an anti-war group in Chicago, one of the greatest threats to Iraqi civilians is fast food.  After complaining for years about millions starving due to U.S. sanctions, liberals are now whining about overeating and obesity due to American food.  As member Stephanie Schaudel explains, “Some people would think that seeing a KFC on a street corner is a sign of progress, I certainly don’t.”  Why the opposition to fatty foods?  “You can just look at what those kinds of businesses have done to the diet and health of many Americans to think that it might not be the number one thing we should be exporting…Iraqis have really good food, they don’t need a KFC.”  Now that the pacifists’ hopes of bloody resistance to the liberation of Iraq have been dashed, they are once again uniting to oppose U.S. “colonialism” and “cultural imperialism.”  A spokesman for A.N.S.W.E.R., an anti-war group worries that fast-food corporations “will enter this homogenized McDonalds culture and of course we will see a loss of local traditions and a local way of life.”  What is the nature of this unspoiled native “way of life” and what kind of threat does McDonalds pose to it?

Iraq has a 4000-year history of being ruled by one despot after another.  In 634 AD, invading Muslim armies kicked out the Persian rulers and offered the people the following ultimatum: “Accept the faith and you are safe; otherwise pay tribute.  If you refuse to do either, you have only yourself to blame.  A people is already upon you, loving death as you love life.”  For a time, Islamic civilization was a thriving center of intellectual discourse, in stark contrast to the barbaric tribes and religious fundamentalism dominating Europe during the Middle Ages.  However, around the eight century, the Islamic world was split between teachings of the Arab philosopher, al-Kindi, founder of the school of Mu’tazilites and advocate of a rational interpretation of basic beliefs of Islam, and the followers of Ahmed ibn Hanbal, a traditionalist who argued against the use of reason and for the reliance on faith and tradition in interpreting the Qur’an.  When the Mu’tazilite school lost out in the ninth century, Iraq, along with the rest of the Arab world, were plunged into an era of religious fundamentalism and traditionalism that persists to this day, effectively isolating themselves from the intellectual Renaissance in Europe that brought scientific discovery and progress back into the Western world.  Like many of his predecessors, Saddam was not religious, but he used religion to skillfully exploit the beaten and brainwashed people of Iraq.

The rediscovery of classical thinking during the Renaissance led to the formation of the “ethnocentric western culture” that liberals love to demonize. The foundation of Western culture is the reliance of reason rather than faith to find out the basic facts of reality. By the use of reason, great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, Francois Voltaire, John Locke, Adam Smith, and Thomas Jefferson, discovered that man had certain unalienable rights, among them the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. While the Islamic world plunged ever deeper into the stagnation of religious fundamentalism, the great minds of Europe and America woke up and asserted that every man had a right to live for his own sake, and that the proper function of government was to be an obedient servant, not master of the people. They recognized that voluntary trade to mutual benefit was superior to slavery and servitude, whether to a king or to a mob. When the Founders established the United States of America, they set up the greatest experiment in history to test their newly-found values. The experiment, for a while at least, was a great success. The civilized world experienced never-before seen prosperity, economic growth, and increases in the longevity and quality of life. Religion did not die out in the West, but the Founders recognized that the role of government was to protect men’s rights, not to enforce morality, and allowed men to their own meaning in the universe. Western civilization was far from perfect: slavery, war, and suffering persisted — but to the extent that men recognized the right of every person to his own life, their societies flourished.

This is then, the “Western imperialism” that liberals condemn as inferior and destructive to the “fragile” Iraqi culture.  McDonalds and KFC are the products of a wealthy society, one that is able to mass-produce cheap, dependable goods more efficiently and safer than ever before.  Certainly, as a mainstay of one’s diet, fast food would be unhealthy – but the rapid growth of low-fat items on menus and health-oriented franchises like Subway shows that the markets respond to consumer demand.  Peter Cook, an organizer with a radical pacifist group claims that “Iraqis have really good food, they don’t need a KFC” – but is he worried that Iraqis will be dragged into KFC at gunpoint and traditional eating venues bombed into extinction?  No, he is scared stiff that Iraqis will choose to eat cheaper, safer, and yes, even healthier food paid by productive and free Iraqi workers, rather than thrown the scraps of international handouts after their dictator decided which city was going to starve that day for not bowing down to his regime.

The pacifists are clearly not concerned about Iraqi civilians.  They did not care about the millions who died under Saddam’s brutal regime, and they do not wish to bring Iraqis the values that brought the Western world out of the Dark Ages and into the light of liberty and prosperity.  They volunteered as human shields to protect Saddam’s weapons factories, but they now wish for Americans to get out of Iraq without restoring order or reconstruction by turning over Iraq to the incompetent and corrupt hands of the UN.  Now that they have failed to keep the United States from asserting the right to its own existence (albeit weakly), they seek to prevent the United States from asserting the values that give us the right to that existence.  Having failed to save the Iraqi dictator, they seek to save the values that created him.  They claim that all cultures are equal, that even the claim that freedom is better than slavery, prosperity is better than poverty, and life is better than living death amounts to ethnocentric imperialism and racism.  It is not fast food that these peaceniks oppose, but civilization and life – as it should be lived.  They have made their stance clear.  Let us now make ours.

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Where is my free oil?

Where is the free oil?

Oh, speaking of Stupid Stuff Liberals Say, here is a prediction a liberal I was debating sent out shortly before the war:

"Let it be known [that] the people of Iraq will do everything in their power to keep our government and armed forces out. Women and children will take arms protecting their land from a foreign government, just as we would if we were invaded."

My response:

Kiss Bush Bash Saddam

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Commentary on "America vs. Americans"

Leonard Peikoff recently gave a speech at the Ford Hall forum titled "America Versus Americans." I’m not going to summarize it, because you should watch it yourself. Several points stood out. First, while it’s easy to get wrapped up in the outpouring of support for the war coming from moderates and conservatives, we have to put things in context: in many ways, America is fighting the wrong war for the wrong reasons.
While Dr. Peikoff explains the reasons for our moral failures sufficiently well, I recently experienced the views he mentioned firsthand. I work with two students — a Russian exchange student and a typical Texan bible-thumping conservative. When the topic of civilian causalities came up, the Russian was vehemently anti-war and claimed that even one civilian casualty was killing, which was wrong per se. Now, we are normally on good terms, but I almost ended having a shouting match with him right in the middle of the office. I asked if the victims of Saddam Hussein counted as murder too, and he gave the usual liberal rant about evil US occupiers, violence wrong in all forms, etc, etc, until I refused to listen anymore and he stormed off shouting about western imperialism, Dictator Bush, etc, etc. At this point, I took up the conversation with my Christian coworker, giving him the same arguments as those found in Stop Apologizing for Civilian Casualties. In reply, he questioned whether it was more important on balance to risk the lives of American soldiers or Iraqi civilians. (!!!) I asked him why we were in the war in the first place, and he have the usual altruist reply (even using biblical references) that our sole motivation was "to free the Iraqi" people, and rejected any "selfish" motivations such as being free from terrorism. At this point, I gave a passionate defense of the proper motivation for the war, the idiocy of valuing civilian lives over that of our soldiers, but that is beside the point. The incident was indicative of how conservatives are just as blinded by religiously-motivated altruism as liberals are by the secular kind from seeing the real nature of the conflict: pro-individual western secularism vs. collectivist fundamentalism.
I did not agree with everything Dr Peikoff said however. I am tempted to agree that Iran is a more worthy target of regime change than Iraq, and that the primary reason we are in Iraq is that it is much easier to portray Saddam as a just another "corrupter of the peaceful nature of Islam" and rely on the existing public support from Gulf War I. However political reality makes a war with Iran impossible, and I think that Iraq may be more successfully used to influence the rest of the Middle East if we take an approach of peaceful reconstruction into a US-friendly democracy, than trying to intimidate the Islamic world by turning Iraq into a nuclear wasteland, as Dr Peikoff would have us do. If it were politically feasible (and if it were, we would not have a terrorist problem in the first place) nuking Irag may scare fundamentalists into behaving, but it would not result in long-term positive change. Creating a free democracy in Iraq on the other hand, will put continual pressure on other Middle Eastern governments, and that may be a more effective strategy in the long run. After all, even Al Jazeera admitted that Saddam’s fall sends a warning message to other Islamic dictators.

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Mountain Health Care – antitrust victim

Check out Mountain Health Care, R.I.P a sad story about the latest victim of antitrust…

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