Our politicians' support for Israel is based on several things, not the least of which is appeasing Jewish and certain Evangelical voters—sources of votes and campaign contributions. The belief that Israel was the birthplace and home of Jesus is an integral part of the support by many of the religious.
Another reason for support of Israel is the belief that Israel provides a bastion for the US in the Middle East. This belief is unfounded, because Israel has always and will always do what is best for Israel, not the US.
Another is residual guilt for the Holocaust, the MV Stuma, and especially the MS St. Louis, which after being denied entry into the US in 1939, returned Jewish refugees to Europe where about 250 of them later died in concentration camps.
Another is the arms trade between the US and Israel. I don't know the balance of payments, but Israel buys a lot of US weapons. On the other hand, the US provides Israel a lot of aid money to buy those weapons.
Hidden in the arms trade is the benefit that Israel provides "live fire testing" for these weapons, something the US isn’t always able to do.
I suspect a very close relationship between Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israel research and development (R&D) company, partly responsible for the Iron Dome anti missile system and US arms manufacturers.
The US shared the cost of R&D of Iron Dome, and co-produced the older Arrow III missile system, about half of which was built by Boeing. At the least, the US and Israel almost certainly share technology.
While Israel may provide the US some intelligence, the larger and broader US intelligence assets and sources almost certainly provide more information to Israel than they to us.
You may have seen the announcement that Israel accepted delivery of two F-35 fighters o/a 12 December 2016. The jets are built by US's Lockheed, and are the first of 50 to be delivered to Israel. It's likely that they will be "combat-tested" before any that are in the hands of US units.
Another reason for support of Israel is simply habit, and our inability to re-examine the fundamentals and consider that our thinking may have been, or may now be, wrong.
I would clarify "habit" to mean that many people in this country are blinded by perceptual filters. They have, perhaps for one of the reasons I've mentioned above, created a belief in their mind that "Israel is an ally and must be supported." As we humans do with all such beliefs, they then built a wall around that belief. Any information that supports the belief passes easily through the wall and strengthens the belief and the wall. Any information that contradicts the belief is not only rebuffed by the wall, but serves to make the wall stronger.
It is not usually possible to break down such walls by a frontal attack, but only by undermining them. Think Henry V and the siege of Harfleur as transmogrified in the Kenneth Branagh production (historically inaccurate, but almost certainly better than history). In the Branagh movie, if I recall correctly, the walls of Harfleur were broken by sappers tunneling below them.
We may be able break down such walls in our own minds by following the advice of Peter Abelard:
• Doubt; question everything. Doubt leads to questioning; questioning leads to truth.
• Distinguish rational proof from propaganda or persuasion.
• Be precise with words and demand precision of others.
• Be wary of error, even in the most sacred texts.
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. I must have heard that chorus a dozen times each year as I was growing up. Still hear it.
But we may be approaching the last year when Santa’s sleigh will be pulled by reindeer.
The largest wild reindeer herd, on the Taimyr Peninsula, Siberia and the herd in Svalbard, Norway have both suffered from—you guessed it—global climate change.
Melting sea ice, less ice cover, especially in the Barents and Kara Seas, has resulted in more evaporation, which has raised the humidity in the atmosphere, which has resulted in more rainfall.
And that’s not good news, because when rain falls on snow, and then freezes, the reindeer cannot break through the crust to reach the lichens that are their main food supply.
Without food, reindeer starve. But first, pregnant females spontaneously abort their fetuses. Fewer reindeer are born; more die.
This doesn’t happen all the time or every year. On the other hand, 61,000 reindeer (22% of the herd) starved on the Yamal during the winter of 2013-2014. The Taimyr herd, which has been tracked for nearly 50 years, peaked at one million in 2000, but now numbers only 600,000—a 40% loss.
While average global temperatures have risen less than 2 C in recent decades, temperatures at places in the Arctic have risen as much as 2.8 C.
According to a study in Biology Letters, the situation is expected to get worse.
Of course, even more catastrophic has been the almost complete absence of sea ice at the North Pole during the summer. Do you suppose Santa’s Workshop has slid to the bottom of the sea?
Let us not forget that Trump has labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t." In 2012, Trump tweeted that global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” His denial of climate change and his nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator suggest that neither we nor Santa will get much help from Trump.
couple of people have asked me why “Paul Lentz” is commenting on and sometimes questioning blog posts by “Paul Lentz.” The Questioner (whose thoughts keep me honest, and which I appreciate) is my nephew. He’s about 50 years younger than I am, a graduate of the University of West Virginia, and is becoming an electronics technician in the Air Force. I want to say, again, that I appreciate his comments both on the blogs and in private email messages to me. He has caused me to do considerable research and to be more precise in my statements and more careful in my references.
Recently, he posted a comment to the blog on “Trump’s Cabinet” (2016-12-13). He posited two thoughts. First, that climate has gone through cycles in the past. Second, that the winter of 1777—1778 at Valley Forge was an indication of a climate anomaly.
He is absolutely correct that Earth has gone through climate cycles.
Just to clarify things, weather does seem to follow a seven-or-so-day cycle. If it’s rainy this weekend, it’s likely to be rainy next weekend. That, by the way, rather than the creation story in Genesis, is probably why we have a seven-day week… the ancients knew that weather tended to follow a seven-day cycle, and that cycle is probably the reason the Genesis story takes seven days.
On the other hand, climate change is defined in terms of decades, even centuries, while weather is defined in terms of “today,” “this week,” and “this month.”
Probably the most famous graphic showing climate change in terms of global temperature variation and global CO2 variation is from the Vostok Ice Cores (Antarctica) from about 450,000 years ago until today. The chart oddly enough runs time backward: the present day is on the left; the oldest data (about the end of the Ordovician Period) is on the right side.
One must therefore be very careful in reading this chart. Going from right to left, in most cases (it’s hard to see in the scale of the attached graphic), temperature changes lead CO2 changes by about 600 to 1000 years. Temperature falls before the concentration of CO2 falls; temperature rises before the concentration of CO2 rises. That does not seem to support the popular understanding of today’s scientists’ theories that rising CO2 causes rising temperatures. What’s going on?
The answer in part is that while CO2 did not cause the initial temperature changes, it amplified those changes.
The initial changes in temperature were caused by changes in Earth’s axial tilt and changes in the eccentricity of its orbit. (See my 2016-11-20 blog post [It’s All About… the Sun], in which I describe “Milancović Cycles.”)
In the case of warming, the biggest contribution of CO2 as an amplifier comes as a positive feedback phenomenon: as the ocean warms, it spews, releasing dissolved CO2. (Think of opening a warm can of soda… it spews because the warm liquid cannot hold as much carbonation—CO2—as cold liquid can.) This CO2 released into the atmosphere helps trap solar energy. The air gets warmer. The oceans get warmer and release more CO2. Other feedbacks include other sources of CO2 such as thawing permafrost and changes in snow and ice coverage, as well as changes in vegetation (which is pretty good at absorbing CO2).
There are many other things going on. For example, melting ice sheets (glaciers, sea ice) increase the amount of fresh water in the oceans, changing the huge oceanic circulation patterns that carry heat through the oceans. They also change the albedo (reflectivity) of Earth, affecting the amount of solar energy that is absorbed.
Another part of the answer is that the ice cores present (describe, show) CO2 at a global level. CO2 is easily mixed in the atmosphere and concentrations everywhere in the world are “about the same”) but temperature is presented only at Antarctica. There are better and worldwide records of the most recent glacial and post-glacial era that show this phenomenon in more detail.
In simple terms, these things “reverse” during the cooling phase.
(I realize that that’s a bit of a “trust me” answer. I plan to have more information for you in the future.)
Now, let us take a look at Valley Forge. While that particular winter was a hard time for the Continental Army, I’m not confident either that weather was extreme or that weather was responsible for most of the privations suffered by the Army. I’m going to quote from a National Park Service document. You can read the whole thing at
“… an early and romanticized version of the encampment story became a convenient parable to teach Americans about perseverance… The Valley Forge winter was not even a severe one. … Disease, not cold or starvation was the true scourge of the camp. Army returns reveal that two-thirds of the nearly 2,000 men who perished died during the warmer months of March, April, and May, when supplies were more abundant.”
What’s the lesson, here?
First, that what we are experiencing (the polar vortex, for example, as well as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) are weather events.
Second, that climate change does seem to follow cycles. (That doesn’t mean that it’s completely natural or that there’s no human-caused component. More on that, later.)
Third, that the legends and stories we’ve grown up with aren’t necessarily true. They may teach a lesson (most parables do), but in the end, they are just stories.
Finally, that the words of Peter Abelard are important, perhaps more important then when he uttered them.
“Doubt; question everything. Doubt leads to questioning; questioning leads to truth. Distinguish rational proof from propaganda or persuasion. Be precise with words and demand precision of others. Be wary of error, even in the most sacred texts.”
I wonder. How many people, watching Fox News, watching CNN, linking to Breitbart or Huffington Post, even know those words, much less consider them.
On the other hand, I demand that you learn them and consider them. If you won’t, please find another web site to read.
I am a scientist, not a conspiracy theorist. I am a rational thinker, not an alarmist. If you will accept this, you will understand when I say our way of life, indeed, our civilization and the survival of the human race and perhaps all life on this planet stand on a cusp. The slightest push—or the failure to take action today—will drive us over the precipice. Donald Trump seems determined to provide that push and determined to ensure that action isn’t taken to stop it.
His denial of climate change and his nomination of Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and of Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator bode nothing but disaster for the climate and for Planet Earth.
Trump relies on lies, slogans, and propaganda. He seems to be impervious to facts, truth, and reality.
Trump has said he supports “clean coal.” Mr. Trump, there is no such thing as ‘clean coal.’ It is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels *. When you say “clean coal,” you lie.
Trump has labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t." Mr. Trump, you lie. You deny facts. You deny data. You deny the truth. *
Trump has said that “nobody really knows” the facts about climate change, and “It’s not something that’s hard and fast…” With these words, he casts doubt on something he knows little or nothing about. And he lies **. The facts about climate change are somewhat complicated, but should not be hard to understand by a “smart person” as Trump claims himself to be when he dismisses the entire US intelligence community. Mr. Trump, you are not smart. You are seriously intellectually impaired, largely because it seems your mind is closed to new information. Not your fault. It’s those pesky perceptual filters that you’ve erected and which seem impervious to any information that conflicts with your preconceptions.
In 2012, Trump tweeted that global warming “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” ** If you or I said that, we’d be labeled “conspiracy theorists” or “kooks.” Trump said it, and was labeled “president-elect.” Does anyone else see the irony?
A large part of the problem is Trump’s creation (if not creation, then nurturing) of the “post-truth” era, in which the far-right embrace of social media threatens the truth. Trump declares something without any basis in reality.† It is immediately re-tweeted to his millions of “followers” (think “sheep”). In their minds, it becomes the truth. Trump’s distortion of reality, and the gullibility of Trump’s Chumps is perhaps more threatening than climate change. For only with massive popular support can the worldwide attack on climate change succeed. And Trump has diverted that support to his populist agenda. (Actually, I suspect his agenda is simply to increase his own power, but it is the mob that will allow him to do that. Remember, the root of the word “mob” is “mobile party,” another name for “riot.”)
As far as his nominations of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, and Scott Pruitt as EPA Administrator, the best thing I can say is, “I told you so.” It seems that they’re both “climate change deniers,” and likely shills for the energy industry.
The results of the most recent presidential election, between the two most disliked candidates in history, suggest several things. One, that the American people by and large are more gullible than even P. T Barnum ever thought. (Barnum is credited with saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”) Second, that they’ve grown even more gullible since Barnum died in 1891.
What can you do?
Write your Senator. Demand that they vote against the confirmation of Tillerson and Pruitt. Don’t trust me… check multiple news organizations’ reports of who these to people really are and what they really believe.
It’s probably too late to change the results of the recent election. It’s not too late, however, to throw as many roadblocks as possible in the path of the Trump juggernaut as it seeks to destroy the world. (Question: How does he expect himself and his genetic heirs to survive? Does he care?)
Try this link:
PS: In a few days, I plan to post an article on how Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen have become victims of climate change. You may not want your children to read this.
Yes, I have drawn on some foreign news sources and some easily identified with the “left.” I’ve done this, because neither the US mainstream media nor the “alt-right” have offered hard news on these subjects.
* Blog Post 2016-12-07 “CO2 Breaks Five Million Year Record…”
What started as political correctness has grown like Topsy—into unplanned and perhaps unintended enormity. The pendulum is still swinging in that direction. For example, we’ve invented “trigger warnings,” introductory words to a document, a blog, an article in the press, etc. that warn people that they might be offended or traumatized if they read the article, blog, or book. Another phenomenon is the “spoiler alert,” used by a reviewer who cannot write a review of a book or movie without giving away a key plot point.
Examples (which I made up):
For Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”: (Spoiler Alert) This book portrays adultery and sexual conduct by unmarried persons including a man of the cloth. If these subjects might offend you, please select another book. Perhaps something from the “McGuffey Readers” series. And, no, “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Red Badge of Courage” are two entirely different books.
For Alexandre Dumas, père’s “The Man in the Iron Mask”: This book may offend or cause severe psychological damage to any person who has a phobia of having his or her head covered with an iron mask and then being imprisoned.
For Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”: This book includes dialectic speech that demeans Persons of Color as well as speech by melanin-deficient persons who use the “n-word.” If you might find this offensive, read no more.
For my blogs: WARNING: If you are a dumba__, you may be offended by the attempts to use correct grammar and vocabulary in the following essay. Of course, if you’re a dumba__, you probably don’t know that, so go ahead and read.
For the Jewish Bible (the “Old Testament”): This book treats incest, adultery, and polygamy as acceptable family values. It describes more than two million murders including those of children, the sale of women into sexual slavery, and the first recorded incident of date rape.
My inventions are all true, including the date rape in the Bible. [It involved Lot and his daughters after they escaped from the destruction of Sodom. The story is told in Genesis 19, especially verse 31 and following.]
Trigger warnings are censorship. If an author places a trigger warning on his or her work, that is self-censorship. When a newspaper editor, web site administrator, or social media site puts trigger warnings on others’ submissions, that’s censorship. In either case, trigger warnings block access to ideas, to thoughts, and to information.
Battle lines have been drawn between supporters of the First Amendment to the US Constitution and academic freedom, and those who want to ban all speech they find in any way offensive. But, the First Amendment was designed to protect offensive speech. To block speech one finds offensive is censorship, blocking access to ideas, thoughts, and information.
The First Amendment in simple terms was created to protect political speech, to allow people to speak out against elected officials without fear of reprisal or gagging.
One of the first things elected politicians did was pass the Alien and Sedition Acts (1798). The “Alien” part made it easy to deport immigrants and made it harder for them to vote. [Sound familiar?] The “Sedition” part prohibited public opposition to the government, and allowed fines and imprisonment for writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government.
I agree that knowingly publishing false information is inappropriate. Scandalous? I’m thinking Bill Clinton and a p____y-grabbing president elect. [You knew I was going to get Trump in here somehow, right?]
One reason the Federalist congress got away with this in 1798 was that the Supreme Court wasn’t considering the constitutionality of laws at that time. Besides, the justices were all members of the same political party that passed the laws.
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson opposed the laws, and convinced the state legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky to pass laws saying that the A&S Acts were illegal in those states. (Sound familiar? This exercise of “states rights” was later used to justify the secession of the South in the Civil War.)
Oliver W. Holms, Jr., a Supreme Court Justice, in a unanimous decision of the court, wrote that speech in opposition to the draft during World War I was not protected free speech under the First Amendment. Part of his opinion was that the First Amendment does not protect “falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater and causing a panic.” Most people don’t include the word “falsely” when they think they are quoting Holmes.
Holmes’ opinion was based in part on both the World War I draft law and yet another sedition law passed in 1918. Holmes wrote that the defendant’s opposition to the draft was “a clear and present danger” to the US war effort.
This ruling was not overturned until 1969 (!) when the Supreme Court ruled that speech could only be banned if it was designed and likely to incite an imminent illegal action such as a riot.
The United States is becoming Balkanized in part because people are determined not to hear words and ideas that they think might be offensive. We need to get off the politically-correct bandwagon, we need to ignore trigger warnings, we need to use reason and facts rather than propaganda and myths. We need to parse the statements of politicians and shills on national media to find the truth, and we need to challenge their lies.
There’s a story that Sir Isaac Newton watched a chandelier in a church swing back and forth after an acolyte lighted the candles. Newton didn’t have a stop-watch, so he timed the swing by his pulse and reached the conclusion that the duration of the swing, from one extreme to the other, remained the same even though the swing covered less and less distance and eventually, bereft of a stimulus, stopped.
The story continues with the assertion that this led Newton to formulate some of his important laws of motion.
The story is likely anecdotal—perhaps apocryphal. But the pendulum is important. You see, there is a pendulum in the affairs of humankind which, taken at its best, leads on to fortune.
On the other hand, we are now afloat on a full sweep of the pendulum which is swinging from one extreme to the other (as pendulums do) and which is now swinging in a direction and at a speed that brooks nothing but ill.
That pendulum began as something called political correctness. Using “he” and “him” to refer to persons of the female sex became anathema and workarounds such as “he or she” and “him or her,” as well as idiocies such as “heshesh” became the only proper way to speak. Grammar took a back seat, as the plural pronouns “they” and “their” became acceptable (although improper) for a singular antecedent. White people became “melanin deficient,” short people became “height challenged.”
“Handicapped” became “disabled” became “differently abled” became… or will become… who knows what. What’s wrong with “handicapped”? Nothing, except in the mind of some idiots it became associated with “cap-in-hand” begging(1), which in reality was a children’s game played without any disrespect.
It’s not that much different from the situation that existed until the mid-20th century (and in some cases later) when “persons who happened to have Down Syndrome” were locked in attics and not taken out to be displayed with the same reverence that some people apply to their rescue dogs. [“Yes, it’s a Rescue Dog. Aren’t we wonderful for rescuing from death a dog that some idiot allowed to be born because the idiot didn’t have the parent spayed or neutered?” Maybe we should have the people who allowed that dog’s parents to breed spayed or neutered.]
“My child has Down Syndrome. You know that children with Down syndrome are more loving than other children.”
Actually, I don’t know that. But I know not to say “Down’s” — it would only show what an unfeeling and un-correct person I am.)
“Don’t you dare criticize him or her [another work-around] when he or she screams uncontrollably in the library or the supermarket. After all, he or she has Down syndrome.”
I don’t know that “more loving” is the right assessment. “More pathetic and therefore more susceptible to our pity—often confused with love,” may be more accurate.
“Persons who happened to be (or have)…” has become another work-around. You aren’t a Jew. You are a person who happens to be Jewish. You don’t have Down Syndrome. You are a person who happens to have Down Syndrome. You aren’t homosexual. You are a person who happens to be gay/lesbian/bisexual. You aren’t crippled. You are a person who happens to be mobility challenged.
I can agree with this workaround. That someone is Jewish, with Down Syndrome, and gay doesn’t necessarily define that person. He or she (there’s that work around, again) is much more than his or her (ditto) Jewishness, mental ability, or sexual orientation. Yes, even a gay, Jewish, homosexual is more than those words can convey.
The pendulum has swung so far that it now encompasses “trigger warnings.” These are introductory words to a document that warn people they might be offended if they read the article, blog, or book. Book and movie reviews often are prefaced by “Spoiler” because the person cannot write a review without revealing too much of the story. Examples (which I made up):
For Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”: (Spoiler) This book portrays adultery and sexual conduct by unmarried persons including a man of the cloth. If these subjects might offend you, please select another book. Perhaps something from the “McGuffey Readers” series.
For my blogs: WARNING: If you are a dumbass, you may be offended by the use of correct grammar and vocabulary in the following essay. Of course, if you’re a dumbass, you probably don’t know it, so go ahead and read.
For Alexandre Dumas, père’s “The Man in the Iron Mask”: This book may offend or cause severe psychological damage to any person who has a phobia of having his or her head covered with an iron mask and then being imprisoned.
For Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”: This book includes dialectic speech that demeans Persons of Color as well as speech by melanin-deficient persons who use the “n-word.”
For the Jewish Bible (the so-called “Old Testament”): This book treats incest, adultery, and polygamy as normal. It includes more than twenty million murders and the first recorded incident of date rape.
My inventions, above, are not exaggerations. However, they’re all true, including the “date rape” in the Bible. [Lot’s daughters, after he and they escaped from the destruction of Sodom. The story is told in Genesis 19, especially verse 31 and following.]
1. True story. I was teaching supervision and management, including a segment on dealing with reasonable accommodation for persons with handicaps, when a government-employed lawyer complained to the contracting officer that I had used the word, “handicapped,” and that it was demeaning because it was associated with begging. I resisted calling the lawyer an idiot in the subsequent meeting. I kind’a wish I had.
2. When I searched the internet for “Down Syndrome,” one of the options was “How do you have a baby with Down syndrome?” Okay, that’s entirely TMI. Someone wants to do that? Please, whoever asked that question: go to the pound (sorry, “Animal Rescue Facility and Shelter”) and get a Rescue Dog. I promise it will be a lot easier to train and rear.
2016 is likely to be the first year in the past five million years that CO2 in the atmosphere will routinely and regularly exceed 400 parts per million (ppm). That record was broken in 2015, the first time in human history the level of CO2 has exceeded 400 ppm.
This record-setting performance can be credited in part to a strong El Niño condition in 2015. The El Niño worsened drought in some tropical regions. The stressed vegetation was less able to absorb CO2. This says a lot about the delicate balance of the natural carbon cycle.
Does this mean that the increase in CO2 was a natural phenomenon? Does it mean that we should ignore it, that we cannot do anything about it? No. Some of the responsibility for the drought can be laid at the feet of anthropogenic global warming. How much anthropogenic global warming contributes to modern extremes of weather, including the El Niño/La Niña cycle, is still being studied.
On the other hand we have a very good understanding of how CO2—a greenhouse gas (GHG)—contributes to global warming and subsequent climate change. We have a good understanding of the contribution of anthropogenic (human-caused) activities such as burning fossil fuels contribute to higher levels of CO2.
Both CO2 and average global temperatures are likely to be higher in 2016 than in the past century or more. We understand that “correlation does not always mean causation,” however in this case, direct causation can be drawn from CO2 and the “greehouse effect,” and from the burning of fossil fuels and the increase in CO2. All this will be discussed in future posts.
Do not forget that Trump labeled climate change a "con job," a "hoax" and "bull ---t." Do not forget that Trump said he would support “clean coal,” when there is no such thing as clean coal: coal produces between 200 and 250 pounds of CO2 per million Btu, more than any other fossil fuel*. Do not forget that the official position of the Republican Party Platform rejects both the Kyoto Protocol and the more recent Paris Agreement to control carbon emissions. And do not underestimate the harm that could be caused by a “climate change denier” and a “shill for the energy industry” as the head of the EPA.
And remember, it’s all about the children.
[References will be provided in future blog entries.]
*Petroleum coke, a byproduct of oil refining, produces about 225 pounds of CO2 per million Btu, However, the amount of “pet coke” burned is very small compared to the amount of coal burned.
Between 1 November and 15 January, there are at least 25 holidays or Holy days celebrated by Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Seculars, Sikhs, Wiccans, and Merchants. Here are the ones I found. All are Christian except where noted.
All Saints’ Day, All Souls' Day, Guru Nanak Birthday (Sikh), Bodhi Day (Buddhist), Diwali/Deepavali (Hindu), Christ the King, Guru Tegh Bahadur Martyrdom (Sikh), Thanksgiving (multiple), Black Friday (merchants), Cyber Monday (merchants), First Day of Advent, St. Andrew’s Day, St. Nicholas Day, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Last day of Chanukah (Jewish), Solstice (Wiccan, others), The Prophet’s Birthday/Milad un Nabi (Islam), Festivus (secular), Christmas, Kwanzaa (multiple), Boxing Day (secular) & Holy Innocents, New Year’s Eve (multiple) /Watch Night, New Year’s Day (multiple and those recovering from New Year's Eve), Epiphany, Eastern Orthodox Xmas, Orthodox New Year, Makarsankranti/Pongal (Hindu).
Some people may celebrate none of these, and I may have missed a few in my research.
Therefore, in the Spirit of the Season (Autumn, approaching Winter) I wish everyone “Happy Holidays.”
I enjoy the gift giving, parties, drinking, and dinners associated with various holidays. I enjoy the spirit of goodwill that accompanies some holidays. I also believe in the phrase from a popular song, “…be good for goodness sake.” Be good because being good is good. Do the right thing not because you fear punishment if you don’t or reward if you do, but do the right thing because it is the right thing.
As I look over the list of holidays and Holy Days, and think of the various religious beliefs that underlie many of them, I am reminded of words of John Stuart Mill in his essay, On Liberty: “The same causes that make a person an Anglican in London would make him a Buddhist or a Confucian in Peking.”
What Mill was suggesting is that beliefs are inculcated in children, frequently through repetition and memorization (I think of the “Child’s Catechism” which I memorized). We know, or should know, that once an idea is planted in a person’s mind, especially before the person is really capable of independent thought, it is very difficult to change that idea. Our minds build walls behind which ideas hide. Information that supports that idea easily penetrates the wall. Information which contradicts the idea not only is blocked by the wall (perceptual filters) but also makes the wall stronger.
To paraphrase Mill: The idea that truth always triumphs is one of those pleasant falsehoods which we repeat until they pass into aphorisms, but which all experience refutes.
Breaking with both law and more than fifty years of tradition, Trump has asked a near-clone to be Secretary of Defense—retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
I say near-clone, except that General Mattis served in the military and Trump managed to avoid military service with a series of deferments which finally included him being listed as 4-F.
On the other hand, like Trump, Mattis seems to speak without thinking. For example, in 2005 he said, “Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot. ... It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling.”He added, “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil… You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."
It’s a reflection of an old apothegm: “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”
After 9-11, Mattis commanded Marines who entered Afghanistan in Bush’s diversion, to attack the Taliban. Once the amphibious assault had established a foothold, Mattis declared, “…we own a piece of Afghanistan.” Fine words from a military commander; not so much from a Secretary of Defense who must consider diplomatic solutions and not only military solutions.
To paraphrase Carl von Clausewitz, “War is the continuation of politics by other means.” To add a personal touch to those words, “War is an option only when diplomacy has failed.”
No, I’m not a “peacenik.” I spent twenty years in the Air Force. First as a Minuteman Missile Combat Crew Member and Commander. Then as a controller in a wing command post. I pulled shifts in the Strategic Air Command underground and in the National Military Command Center. My last assignment was Chief of the Data Control Section, Nuclear Warfare Status Branch of J-3 in the Pentagon. I was responsible for knowing the location and status of every nuclear weapon in the US arsenal, and for maintaining the Strategic Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) data base. I never questioned my job or the need for it.
I’m not a peacenik, but I am intelligent, and I do not see the intelligence in General Mattis’s seeming position or in Trump’s selection of General Mattis as SecDef.
Trump’s selection of a man who appears to be a rabid (i.e., “Mad Dog”) militarist is especially puzzling given at least some of Trump’s past statements. With regard to the Vietnam War (from which he managed to exempt himself), he said, “I thought it was ridiculous…a war we shouldn’t have been in.”
And let us not forget his anti-war sentiments which I think led him to suggest that Senator John McCain, a prisoner of war during Vietnam, was not a hero because Trump “[likes] people who weren’t captured.” Not quite as offensive was Trump’s denigration of the Vietnam war [on a Harold Stern radio program] by saying “that avoiding sexually transmitted diseases while dating ‘is my personal Vietnam.’”
Trump’s choice is more puzzling given his statement that he “hated the concept of the [Vietnam] war “…but I was never at the protest level, either, because I had other things to do.”
What could have been more important than expressing his hatred in some concrete way?
And let’s not overlook that Trump’s draft status was eventually changed to 4-F. That was considered disgrace by many during both World War II and the Vietnam War.
Like Trump, Mattis is alleged to have been involved in some shady, if not illegal, business deals. You can read about those in the Associated Press reference, below.
Mattis’s nickname is “Mad Dog” is perhaps as apt for him as is “Loose Cannon” for Trump.
Fear for your children.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.