Monday, December 29, 2008

Hamas Mess

I am not an Israeli, and I am not a Palestinian, therefore I can probably have no authority in commenting on the horror of wars in the Middle East between Arabs and Jews (and so many other entities.)

But I do have an opinion, as unwelcome as opinions may be. It has been 60 years since the creation of Israel after the fall of the Nazis and the Jewish war with the Arabs to obtain a homeland. I have not witnessed any of those things directly, since I was not born yet when they occurred. I will most likely be dead when and if there is ever an end to the wars. So far they have occurred during my whole life.

The Arab perspective is always from the point of view of someone whose land has been occupied by outsiders. Naturally they feel wronged, displaced and oppressed. It is probably not fun to be an Arab in Israel or the Palestinian territories. However, there are also other Arabs -- not just Jews -- who contribute to the bad lifestyle of the Palestinians. And they also have themselves to blame. Much foreign aid has gone into those lands, only to be transformed into weapons or gangster kingdoms instead of a better lifestyle for the intended people.

The Israeli perspective is always from the point of view of people without a homeland, driven from every land they wound up in over the centuries, and with many exterminations and atrocities committed against them by their host peoples. This started long before there were any "Palestine" borders. Between the Greeks and Egyptians and Romans and, in modern times, by the Nazis and Soviets, the Jews had always been slaughtered and displaced, and in far worse conditions than the worst of the modern Palestinians.

Although I am American, and therefore am hated by all parties for various reasons, (both true and false,) I still have my point of view. I was born into America, and I had no choice in the matter -- no differently than a Jew in Israel or an Arab in Gaza -- to be born into that world whether one likes it or not is not a choice, it is a matter of circumstance. To be hated merely because I was born here is strange, but more common amongst the world's primitive societies.

If Hamas had a nuclear weapon capable of destroying America, there would be little hesitation before it was used. I am afraid they have such deep hatred for Israel they would use it immediately, right next door to Gaza, even if the effects would destroy most of Palestine as well -- one of those "martyrdom" operations that also wipes out unwitting women and children in a brilliant splendor of religious fanaticism.

Unfortunately, there are such nuclear weapons in the hands of precarious Islamic countries, although in Pakistan the balance of power is mainly between themselves and India, another precariously ruled nuclear power composed of several other religions. Both of those countries are consumed by religious extremism, however there are some rational people in control of the weapons launch apparatus -- so far.

In Iraq and Kuwait, at least partially radioactive materials are laying about on the ground in the form of depleted uranium, used by anti-tank weapons, A-10 Warthog munitions, and the armor of tanks and other vehicles.

I am not sure how easily one can collect such stuff, and fortunately it is "mostly depleted" and cannot be formed into nuclear weapons or power station fuel pellets. It is radioactive, however, especially when collected into unshielded piles. It is especially dangerous when vaporized and breathed, since it is also quite toxic - like many other heavy metals.

People who are living in poverty may be quite happy to collect the stuff for small amounts of money, obtained by some bad actors who may be more capable of using it in a dirty bomb, or making their own armor piercing weaponry. We should always be careful what kind of stuff we take out of Pandora's Box and scatter about in foreign lands.

I do wish that Israel and Hamas would find some sane balance, in which both entities could live more peacefully. But I know it is just a wish, some mistaken belief that people everywhere can be rational, to live and let live. Since my wish cannot come true, then, since Hamas only feeds the fanaticism of terrorism, which is also directed toward my children and my future -- I can only hope that Israel quickly "wins" their war.

But I know it will be just a temporary win, on whichever side, and in some future time it will be perhaps my grandchild who writes a similar opinion as this, in a future war of insanity, only to be followed by another, and another.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

$100 Toilet Paper Bills

There are many issues that peeve me in today's chaotic world, but the recent wave of economic disasters have gone far beyond the minor worries of yesteryear. There are bail outs for the super-rich, bail outs for the banks, bail outs for the crooks who spent our tax dollars on lavish bouts of prostitutes and murderous rampages (otherwise known as the War on Terror), and bail outs for everyone except the people who work for a living and generate the taxes.

And none of these bail outs will really work. Why? Because the problem isn't like a boat that is taking on a little water, where bailing out the water will keep the boat from sinking. These bail outs are like pumping gasoline into a fire, expecting to put out the flames. Or spraying the crops with herbicide to kill the weeds, but killing all the crops along with them.

We are spending money that isn't real, wasn't real and never will be real. It is fake money, made by printing presses, with fancy lettering and counterfeit-proofing and the signatures of government officials. But it is no more real than Monopoly money. It is just a certificate of value, but is based on nothing but promises. The same promises that politicians repeat to get elected, but never keep. The same promises that party boys use to get into the pants of young ladies.

But there are real things in the world -- food, medicine, houses, cars, computers and lots of other things. Those things have real value, but only relative to each other. Let me trade so many potatoes for a bottle of blood pressure pills. This computer that I'm typing this on must be worth at least as much as a set of tires for my car. And my car is worth at least a years rent in an average apartment.

But in terms of dollar bills? I have no idea what this computer is worth. Someone might pay $100, someone might pay $500. I don't really know what it is really worth in dollars, because I don't know what a dollar is worth. It keeps changing. It might be that today's dollars are about the value of a dime when I was a child. Maybe only a nickel. I don't even use pennies anymore -- they are a nuisance when shopping. I suppose if you saved enough of them they might be worth their weight in watermelons.

Yet, a penny is really worth more than a dollar bill. That is because I can pound a penny into some shape, like a strip or a wire, and it will conduct electricity. I can use the zinc or copper in the penny for some chemical purpose. About the only thing I could do with the dollar bill (or even a hundred dollar bill) would be to roll it up into a tube and snort something with it. Or I could burn it and keep my hands warm for about 10 seconds.

But, just recently, there was a wall street guy who admitted that he was a crook, and that his $50 Billion business was only a Ponzi scheme. Just a pyramid ripoff. The only good thing about that is that mostly rich assholes were burned by that guy. I certainly don't make enough with my software jobs to invest in that kind of stuff. Lucky for me. I may be poor, relative to those jokers, but if you got nothing, you can't lose much. Imagine losing like $7 Billion, or "only" $100 million. What does that feel like?

I will die soon enough -- I'll live another a decade or two at the very most. But my grandchildren will probably die of old age before our debts (created by the rich assholes that are stealing us blind today) are ever paid off. They may never be paid off. But even if they are paid, someday, it will only be in those worthless scraps of paper anyway. Go ahead, roll off another billion sheets of those hundreds, guys. And pay off the Saudis and Chinese with that stuff.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Those Darn Terrorists

This is the age of terror. No doubt about it.

Dr. Theodore John Kaczynski was the "unabomber" and he considered that technology was basically the bane of mankind. His writings, in the form of a manifesto (which was written sometime within the 1980 to 1995 range), described a future world where terrorists use high technology. That is a great problem, of course, and the governments of the world would use any and all high technology of their own to counteract it.

Of course, this technology would give police states ever increasing policing ability, thereby able to relieve man of all freedom, permanently. The unabomber manifesto was extremely detailed and seemed to ramble or rant, at least in my opinion. It was not inaccurate, in fact it seemed pretty much on target so far as the world of bad guys is concerned.

But the manifesto was definitely the work of somebody with a personality disorder, not to mention being exceptionally critical of capitalism and authoritarianism (although that was not his madness, only his politics.) Certainly, he was paranoid, at least in the street meaning of the word. Supposedly he does have real disorders of the mind, but anyone who feels like murdering other people on some whim of a manifesto must be implicitly irrational.

I don't want the terrorists to win - nobody wants that except them. People that murder other people indiscriminately can't be allowed to keep doing that, no matter what. In Texas they might say, "they need killing" - obviously the terrorists need to be terminated. Yet, anyone who could terminate all the terrorists would surely be able to terminate anyone at all, at whim. Those who did such things would become terrorists by definition.

If someone was fighting a war in our back yards, and if our children were harmed in any way, it seems that just about any technique that can "get those guys" would be acceptable. Yet, any actual success would probably result in a similar number of their children being harmed. The cycle of revenge would thereby repeat indefinitely.

The war is actually in our front yards, where the WTC stood and the damaged but repaired Pentagon still stands. It is something we cannot ignore. It is a real danger to our survival. The only fly in the ointment is that we have to only fight a war that wins, not a war that kills everything on the planet. Nor do we wish to live in a world similar to THX1138, where all aspects of emotion and mind are controlled by biochemical and cybernetic means.

If wars can be won without shooting, such as by countering their logistics or confounding their communications, and so forth, then that must be tried as far as it will work. It can at least minimize the amount of shooting necessary.

In terms of bullet cost alone, it would be cheaper to kill only those terrorists who are actually guilty of terrorism. The problem with that is that it may be extremely costly to put the one bullet to use, needing extremely difficult pinpoint locating techniques. In that case the solution tends toward using larger, less accurate bombs.

So we cannot win a war with an unremitting enemy, who will not fear death nor be deflected by rational argument, unless we become as unremitting and free of deflection. We must always become as terrible as our enemy or we will be defeated by them, one or the other.

If we must be defeated, but merely serve as the vanquished and not be tortured (perhaps we treated the Japanese as such after WWII) then defeat would not be so important. The Japanese have not suffered so badly at our hands. They have thrived. It would be better than death, at least, even in the spirit of Samurai.

The more likely result from defeat at the hands of Islamic extremists would be a bloodbath, with mass beheadings, etc. And all in the name of some weird sect of Islam that doesn't make any sense to the rational mind, and indeed pours gasoline on all fires.

Religions can be good or bad (from a certain frame of mind) but they cannot be rational. Anything that demands belief without some degree of proof seems to be sheer folly and cannot be rational.

If one wishes to believe in invisible pink bunnies then that's OK, but believing that Allah wants my head on a stick is not OK. To me it is a very clearly defined problem. I already have problems dealing with modern religions, which, though irrational, usually have found ways to live with each other peacefully. I can never live with an irrational AND violent religion.

The modern, peaceful religions are usually merely argumentative, however, not prone to hack off my head at the hint of disbelief in their particular view of Allah. I am not so afraid that Lutherans will bomb my house if I express some doubt in the views of Luther.

We will not win using religion, such as Baptists vs Sunnis. That has never worked. They will use any technology as a weapon, believing that Allah has blessed any and all weapons, however demented, against us. So we must use even greater technology as a shield, to protect us from such irrational extremists. But where the best or only shield might only be an even more demented weapon, then the irrational extremists will ensure that we must use it against them.

That is suicidal of them, no doubt. Ours is a choice then, between the bodies being either us or them. We may or may not be deserving of victory, but I think we must make sure that the bodies will be theirs. Hopefully I am wrong, and that rationality might prevail - no need to light up the nukes.