The War And Beyond

So how are things going in Iraq? As pointed out in the last issue of the PenPo, news is down in the major media, with little information reaching the public — some of whom probably assume that means the USA is sinking into the quagmire. Not so, as PenPo subscribers realize. The Washington Post, long a purveyor of misleading and carefully selected news (which is the definition of the term “propaganda”) has finally capitulated in a fascinating way: in the recent past, the paper neither believed nor reported the facts, but is now saying that given those discredited and unreported facts, its original proposal (that the USA pull out of Iraq) has been proved correct and should be implemented. “We are losing, therefore we need to pull out.” Later: “We are winning, so it’s time to pull out.” The crafty editors manage to deduce the identical conclusion from whatever facts they deign to acknowledge, even when the facts change 180 degrees. That’s proof that genuine logic was never involved.

In any event, the politicians’ investment in defeat is not paying dividends, as even Al-Reuters has been forced to admit.

Here are some links that will take you to ignored, tardy, improperly-reported, trivialized and narrowly-publicized events that provide a decent overview of how Iraq (oh, yes, let’s not forget Afghanistan!) is coming along:

First we note that Al Qaeda — you remember them; they are the guys who killed more people in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania than the Japanese empire managed to kill in Hawaii in 1941, and they are the people we have to whip, no matter what our trendy politicians say — is hurting. Badly. If your news sources are just the papers and TV, it’s doubtful that you realize just how badly.

As pointed out at length in PenPo Three, there is Iran to consider, as well. It’s easy to overlook the fact that the problem is not this or that nation, terrorist network, or sect — it’s the Koran and hadith. When we read how Islamists are making monkeys of the Canadians, how there are “no go” regions in Britain where non-Muslims wisely hesitate to set foot, how easily Western news media can be manipulated and corrupted by Muslim elements, or we learn of Islamist meddling in the USA’s electoral process, we don’t make the necessary connection. It’s not politically correct to do so.

What can we, what must we do? First, it is essential for us to prove that Islam’s violent nature can not prevail. We must defeat Al Qaeda and all Muslim nations, networks or factions that attempt the destruction of the West. Second, we must give Iraq a chance to stabilize and evolve as a peaceful, atypically tolerant nominal Muslim nation; the Iraqis have it in their nature, as the Bush administration recognized.Considerable progress has been made in this project. There is an excellent overview of the entire situation available; it easily trumps the legacy media’s best efforts so far. So where do we go from here? The next targets in the war are clearly identified.

Finally, we must militate against the Islamic ultimate weapon, demographics. US immigration policies must reflect lessons learned from the stunning blunders made by Europe. We literally cannot tolerate more than a token Muslim presence in the USA, and that small population must obey laws that protect Western Civilization from both corrosion and assault — no more Canadas in America, in other words. Non-Westerners living among us can not be permitted to overturn our freedom. Our democracy was never supposed to be a philosophy or form of government that could be voted out of existence, or mocked by its judicial system.

That might raise the related question of just how much the news media contribute to the common good. Part of the answer will be found in this examination of the benefits we derive from the AP. It’s…well, a brief article.

Meditate On This Quote

Here’s Hillary, reacting to the outcome of the Byzantine process by which Obama was chosen to head the Democrats’ ticket: “I think it’s been deeply offensive to millions of women. … Oppression of women and discrimination against women is (sic) universal.”

Source (audio).

Politics Is A Matter Of Values, And That’s Often Very Much Too Bad

The Canadian mindset, previously opaque to the PenPost’s penetrating gaze, is slowly revealing itself. Free speech and a free press are indeed alien above the border. As one observer notes, “Nobody is safe from these appointed interrogators of totalitarian bent. So what can be done to return freedom of speech and freedom of expression to Canadians?” There appears to be no answer.

Regarding which, do you recall Warman, the intrepid enemy of Liberty, and his abuse of Canadian law? (See PenPo Eight.) He’s upset that some people disagree with him, and characteristically tries to silence his critics. And: a weblogger struggles to defend herself against Warman; it’s a very expensive proposition, which gives Warman a huge advantage.

It’s all a losing battle at the moment. Clearly what is needed is a groundswell of public opinion, but Canadians appear to be brought up to be “nice,” which means they are loath to hurt anyone’s feelings, eh? Imagine being polite to the villains who want to destroy your civilization, force your children into a religion that will kill them if they try to leave it, and wage literal, eternal war on all other faiths! That’s what Canadian law mandates.

Perhaps the ultimate authority on this tacit surrender to an unevolved, insatiable belief system is Mark Steyn; read this sterling sample of his prose. You will recall that he is involved in a legal tangle with Canada because he dared express his opinions in print. His insights are highly instructive, and include this worried glimpse of a possible future for the USA: “Speaking personally, I don’t want to remake America. I’m an immigrant and one reason I came here is because most of the rest of the western world remade itself along the lines Sen. Obama has in mind.” (The source for that quote, all of which you should read, is here.)

Speaking of Obama, three observations: first, he was born a Muslim and schooled to be a Muslim, and converted to Christianity some two decades ago. Melanie Phillips has the full story. Keep scrolling down, and investigate the items that relate to the candidate. Phillips insists that, “…the real point isn’t what faith he professed or was brought up in as a child — it is the fact that he has not told the truth about his early background.”

Second, Phillips’s observation is fine, as regards the sentiments of US voters, but Obama will be regarded around the Muslim world as not just an apostate, but the son of an apostate. It does not get any worse than that, for apostasy is a sin that merits the death penalty. How can any predominantly Muslim nation be seen to treat with him, without losing the respect of its populace and of all other Muslim states?

Finally, there turns out to be more to Obama’s erstwhile relationship with his former pastor and spiritual advisor, Wright, than was obvious. (The PenPo pooh-pooed the link.) Phillips:

…according to a passing reference in a profile in The New Republic last year, Pastor Wright was himself a Muslim convert to Christianity. He seems to have moved from being a Muslim black power fanatic to a Christian black power fanatic — which might go some way to explaining his close affinity to the Muslim black power ideologue Louis Farrakhan.

If Obama is seen as a candidate whose views on race seem to form a noxious pattern…the campaign will be, er, interesting. As he recounts an unpleasant incident, one observant weblogger says, “I can think of no better reason to vote against Obama than the prospect of an administration where any criticism of the President is treated as racism.” Yes. Hypersensitivity and simplistic thinking are defining characteristics of the home-grown Black Muslim movement in the USA, from which Wright comes.

Those who wish to look more closely at Obama — “Who and what is this guy?” — might want to check out some opinionated sources: first, commentary on the candidate’s background; then a British leftist’s view of him; and finally, a complaint about Obama’s attempt to slink away unnoticed from his past pronouncements on Iraq.

The truth is available; whether the voters will become aware of it is up to the major news media, as always.

Victor Davis Hanson gets the final word on the forthcoming election. Be warned: this man is insightful, principled, and perhaps too rational. Those qualities are not mentioned in the laws regulating the franchise.

Technology-Related Matters…And Some Things That Are Step-Strangers-In-Law To Technology

Environmentalism varies all the way from loony claims of anthropogenic global warming to having a compost heap in your garden. There is even a “green” church, where this information must be gospel. The parishioners are presumably praying for the success of this or thatresearch into nuclear fusion as a power source, and with good reason. If it can be made practical, we shall be distilling huge quantities of sea water cheaply, as well as driving electric automobiles. That’s good, because it would reduce pollution and free us from the greed of the villains who sit atop most of the world’s producing oil fields.

That won’t solve everything, though, because China plus computers equals trouble. This nation’s perfidy, its stubborn refusal to play fair, must be acknowledged and understood in the West. We can’t stop the villainy any more than we can prevent floods, tornados and hurricanes from happening, but we can ameliorate its effects.

Then there’s MicroSoft, which is playing well with Uncle Sam these days. What should we think of this little “feature” in Redmond’s software? Could your computer be involved? And is it the case that the National Security Agency does whatever it wants, regardless of this law or that judicial decision? We shall never know the answers to these questions, so the threat we pose to our own values and Liberty remains unknown — and therefore beyond our ability to thwart.

Since we can’t know exactly where we are, and given the fact that computer science and related fields are developing faster than we can rationally assimilate, we certainly have not gained the technology-granted ability to direct the course of our civilization. We can’t predict, we can’t control, we can’t guide…in spite of the fact that never has humanity had such mastery of matter and energy. That brings us to the instance of Michael Crichton, a seminal thinker if ever there was one. His ruminations on the impact of technology on the news media — and the failure of his predictions — are well worth the few minutes it takes to read them.

Depending exclusively on the major media for news is not the only bad habit people cultivate. Consider smoking. Research into tobacco addiction brings bad news: smokers are just about hopeless cases. Because it is impossible to link to the relevant article, the following extended quote is necessary (Google Fenella Saunders for information on this author).

“We’re interested in the general process by which addiction hijacks learning mechanisms in your brain,” (a researcher named Montague) says, “and smoking is a gateway drug for lots of other things.” The research group tested both chronic smokers and nonsmokers on a mock stock-market investment game. Smokers performed the trial twice, once deprived of nicotine and again when fully sated. During the test, participants underwent functional magnetic-resonance imaging (fMRI) to record changes in blood flow in their brains, a measure of neuronal activity.

The participants were each allotted $100 to invest in a model stock market, so the participants stood to make real financial gains from their activities. There were 20 investment rounds, and after each step the participants were shown the fluctuation in the market, how much their allotment had changed and the maximum amount they could have gained by investing a different amount. At the end of the trial, participants left with the actual amount of funds they had won — an average of $120. (“Somebody walked out with $400,” notes Montague.)

The investigators focused on data from rounds where participants gained money in the market. They found that it was possible to predict how nonsmokers would alter their investment behavior in the next step, based on how much more they could have gained in the previous round had they allotted their funds differently. “It accounts for 60 percent of the variance in nonsmokers’ next choice,” Montague says. “In smokers, whether sated or not, it had no influence whatsoever, none.”

“Say you bet 40 percent of your $100, and then the market fluctuates. When it goes up, every bet bigger than 40 percent would have made more money. That drives nonsmokers to really increase their bet next time. But in smokers, it has no impact on what they do next; they are only driven by their actual gains,” Montague says. Smokers are only influenced by rewards they directly experience as the result of an action they have taken. They choose smaller, more immediate outcomes over those that are larger but more delayed.

However, nonsmokers and both sated and nicotine-deprived smokers all had the same neural response on the fMRI scan to the revelation of the largest possible investment return. Thus it appears that smokers’ brains do in fact compute and understand that a different outcome might have been possible, but this does not translate into a control signal that affects their next behavioral choice.

“Another interesting case is, suppose you put in a lot, say 85 percent, and the market fluctuates positively, so now you’ve won a whole lot. You couldn’t have won that much more, just 15 percent in this case. People back down from big wins like that, and there’s never been a good explanation for why. We didn’t see that effect at all in the smokers.” Montague thinks this research may provide an underlying neurological explanation for this phenomenon: There wasn’t a big enough fictive-error signal from the experience for nonsmoking participants to decide they should be risking as much in the next round.

Montague plans to tease out more details by next studying a large group of adolescents, before any have started smoking, over a number of years. Such quantitative results may make it possible for him to develop a risk index for addiction. His work could also be a step toward deciphering any biological explanation, such as an anomalous number of dopamine receptors, that may underlie the breakdown of this behavioral pathway, and help in determining whether there’s any chemical way to restore the process.

So, are people with impaired control signals more likely to take up smoking, or does smoking itself somehow interrupt this neural behavioral-response pathway? Montague’s working hypothesis is that it’s both: Some people may be predisposed to a weakly coupled behavioral response to the neural signal, but smoking further breaks down the pathway.

“I think that it’s tending to select people for whom this is already a weak coupling,” he says. “Because in a sense, if you’ve got a really strong capacity to use what might happen to you tomorrow to put a drink or a cigarette down, it’s just going to be harder to get you addicted.” — Fenella Saunders

So much for the evils of smoking. Now what about the evils of mobile “phones” and compact fluorescent light bulbs? Both infernal devices have come under attack in the PenPo. There has been a riposte to warnings about the lights, while the tiny communicators remain accused and probably guilty. Defenders of the funny-looking bulbs have their say here and here and here, and with telling effect; all right, buy and use the devices, but don’t be surprised if in time they turn out to be worse — more dangerous and costly — than you expect. Their flickering does give some folks seizures. Then for the latest on research into the damage done by mobile “phones,” see this article. (While discussing or using these and all communication devices, please remember that “text” is not a verb.)

Old Stuff

Oddly enough, some folks are still trying to figure out and then explain Slick. The topic deserves little space, so here it is in a thimble: First, Vanity Fair plunges its knife deep into Slick’s innards. Then a weblogger records three minutes of Slick venting his perforated spleen. The LA Times picks it up. The story gets repeated and repeated again. Finally the whole sordid mess is used to beat the major news media over the head. What does it all mean? Simply that it’s finally official: the chattering class has decreed that the Arkansas Swordsman is No Longer The Bee’s Knees, and is expected to end his days as the USA’s version of Lloyd George.