Sunday, November 29, 2015

Freedom and Schengen

With the latest terrorist attack in France people are trying to reduce the liberalization of Europe. Under attack now is the Schengen treaty with xenophobes calling to close the border. The issue is that there have been very few terrorist attacks in Europe relative to other countries is still very low, and his won't stop them. Even with massive surveillance no country has succeeded in stopping a single terrorist attack through such methods, and without that information all closing the borders will only waste money and hurt the economy. The United States has the NSA of course, and there is no evidence that surveillance has ever been necessary to stop a terrorist attack.

I do not think closing the border will make any significant difference regarding terrorist attacks. There were attacks before open borders, and there are still attacks. All it will do is isolate Europeans from each other and inconvenience travellers.

To fight terrorism, the only thing we can do is reach out to people at risk of these groups. Increasing communication and trust between peoples through travel, internet, and friendship will help tear down dictators and expand liberty. Closing the borders only plays into their hands by doing the opposite.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Evil of Mao

The 20th century saw several horrible events, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, the Young Turks genocide in Armenia, and other smaller events under a million dead, but no one in the 20th century came as close to one man in terms of the total number of lives lost as a result of the action of Mao Zedong. Hitler killed up to 14 million people (including over 70% of all Jews) in the Holocaust, Stalin killed over 11 million people through famines in the USSR, Pol Pot killed a quarter of all Cambodians (over 2 million), and half of all Armenians were killed in the Turkish genocide by the Young Turks. Add up all these numbers (which is 30 million approximately) and you still don't come close to the total number of people killed as a result of one man, and that tyrant's name was Mao Zedong.

The 30 million people killed by Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and the Young Turks is about 2/3 of the total number of people killed by starvation by Mao Zedong during the Great Leap Forward. As information has been released, recent estimates have concluded at least 45 million people died as a result of the famine brought on by the decisions of Mao Zedong. For these 45 million deaths the economy actually shrunk, failing in every way.

45 million people dying (0.6% of the global population and 3% of China) should be enough for a man to be seen as a monster by anyone with a soul, but this is not all that Mao Zedong committed. China has supported the dictatorship in North Korea since its founding and if it weren't for China's support of Kim Jong Song it is likely that Korea would not have been divided for long. Because of Mao Zedong's actions, and the actions of the government which follows in his footsteps of supporting the world's largest prison has given the government of North Korea the support it needs to keep from tumbling under internal pressure. They continue to support North Korea to this day by returning refugees and allowing exports of weapons to the tyrant.

For all of these reasons, there is no other person in the history of the world I am aware of who comes close to Mao Zedong in terms of his absolute destruction of human rights and inhumanity. There are certainly people who have tried and are rightfully detested and hated around the world for it, such as Hitler and Stalin, but no one else has been able to succeed as well as he did for almost 70 years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Obama's roots

The hatred against Obama makes sense, not only was his father born in Africa, but his mother was born in a UU family and he attended religious education at the UU church in Honolulu. He is the antithesis of everything the Republican Party stands against. His roots are in one of the two religions (the other being Quakers) which has fought the hardest against their dogma, and it is reflected in his speeches. The values which he was raised with are embedded deeply in the decisions and political platform he has ran on his entire political life over the last 20 years. While Carter was from the South and started the NSA, and Clinton (another Southern boy) destroyed food stamps and deregulated the banks, Obama on the other hands succeeded in health care reform, put back significant regulation on the banks, and on every issue besides surveillance has been extremely liberal. He is the most liberal president since Johnson by a wide margin, and has his roots in the two things Republicans hate most, hippies and Africans. He is the only president in the last 45 years (as of 2015) who has had any desire to move us towards those goals and if he had been able to get his party behind him on the most important issues would have destroyed the Republican Party’s Nixonite ideology more than any other political leader in the last half century.

In 1961 the UUA was formed and President Obama was born. President Obama turned out to be the first truly liberal president in exactly 40 years after President Johnson left office and the only President since Johnson to expand our human rights legislation. He started live in the UU church and those values have never left him. You can take the person out of a UU church, but you can’t take the UU values out of that person. We are so lucky as a country to have him as a President.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Copyright is broken

It now appears that Anne Frank didn't really write her novel, but instead it was her father, according to the company which owns her work (no relation to the Frank family). Never mentioning her father as a coauthor before means there probably is no credible source between the two is blatant copyright abuse, and just shows how the current copyright system is broken. Not allowing derivatives off of Anne Frank's work is going to seriously hurt writing about the Holocaust and World War II, and is not going to produce any benefit for society. Hopefully the courts in Switzerland will block this move and her book will be available for everyone.

They want us to be terrified

The attacks on Paris yesterday were a cowardly act against innocent people. These people thrive on people being afraid of them and use that to their advantage in their attempt to create a Caliphate. But different from the Caliphates off old where Christians and Jews were allowed to live alongside Muslims as long as they paid tribute to the Caliph, the caliphate these extremists want to create looks a lot more like the system of government in Saudi Arabia where women's rights are limited, and freedom of religion doesn't exist. The historical caliphates of old were places where learning was fostered, algebra was invented, science progressed, and toleration was mostly practiced, particularly in comparison to contemporary Europe and the Arab States today. The history these radicals want to go back to never existed and they are on the wrong side of history.

They are financed by Saudi Arabia and other Wahabbi states primarily (source) who are all American allies given the amount of trade and aid that goes between them and us. These states are doing nothing to apprehend the plutocrats who fund terrorism and their inaction is itself an action. They could treat these people the way they treat journalists (Reporters) and end al Qaeda, ISIS, and other major extremists groups right here and now. But they choose not to because they agree with them. The lack of freedom in these countries is what al Qaeda wants to bring for the whole world, and their sickness can only be stopped by ending their support network and then bringing the region back to the support of science, philosophy, and art which the Muslim world was in the Middle Ages as the height of human civilization. There is no reason this cannot happen again, and it is criminal that the West does nothing to make it happen again by continuing to trade with and support state sponsors of terrorism.

So, instead of being terrified by the terrorists and giving them what they want, write about what they are doing. We need to show them that oppose the way they treat people in their countries, we oppose the slave trade, we believe that men and women are inherently equal to one another, we believe that everyone is important and deserves to be treated fairly. We will not vote for people who will seek to divide and conquer us. We oppose Marine la Pen, Viktor Orban, and Alternativ fur Deutschland with as much fervor as we oppose ISIS, the House of Saud, and al Qaeda, and for the same reason. We will not give them what they want, and we stand with the majority of Muslims who only want peace and an opportunity to do well against their oppressors. We will continue to invest in renewable energy to destroy their power and then help them build a system where they can live in peace. The Muslim world reminded Europe of Greek philosophy in the 1300s when Gemisthus Pletho (who was from the Ottoman Empire) brought it to the Medici family, sparking the Renaissance, and it is time we reach back in thanks to the Muslim world and bring their gift of philosophy back to them, so they too can prosper from its teachings. Europe suffered from Feudalism for 1000 years and much of the Arab world is suffering from the influence of Wahabbism today. There is no reason they cannot have a renaissance as well. We (the West) stand with you (the Muslim world) against our common enemy of the Saud family.

Vive le France
Vive le Union européenne
Vive le Schengen
Vive le Monde

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

All politics is local

When we want to understand where great leaders in history come from, it is important to understand their roots. If we want to have future leaders who can change the world, tearing down systems of oppression, leading millions of people towards a single goal, we need to understand how such work is done. We often look to the Presidency in American politics as resembling that power of changing the narrative and moving policy in one way or another, and this is completely true. What is also true is that behind every great president there are hundreds if not thousands of people behind him (and hopefully someday her when the right candidate comes along) working in the background. The really great presidents have congresses working with them, either because they agree with the President's values or because the bully pulpit and/or politics forced them to work with the President's agenda.

But, where do presidents come from? They don't just pop out of the ground! Most presidents (and Vice Presidents) in American history come from either the Senate or are a former governor. The last president to not fit this root was Eisenhower who was able to catapult up to the Presidency because of his service in World War II. The only other President in the 20th century to not fit this analysis was Herbert Hoover, who is another anomaly.

So, the next question in our quest is where do senators come from? Well, according to the Congressional Research Service, a majority of members of Congress have had previous experience working in local politics. We are looking at state legislatures, county and city councils, and other elected positions. 1

In our ultimate quest for where great leaders come from leads us to your county courthouse where your city council meets. With jurisdiction over how land is used, one of the most powerful things governments do, city and county governments are actually extremely powerful branches of government. Their ability to give leaders experience making major decisions can lead them to then being in the United States Congress if they are ambitious and talented enough, with experience to demonstrate their ability to lead and what values they may or may not hold. This is valuable information for voters when voting on legislative or congressional leadership, and I believe it is very important for politicians to have at least some experience at the local level to test their worth before going to an important job further ahead.

It is a little late, but always remember to vote in your local elections. Who knows, maybe you are voting for a future president.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Anti-Intellectualism Part 1

I like to think of myself as an intellectual, and today I was thinking of the anti-intellectual plague in American society. Most of my good friends I definitely consider to be intellectuals, and I frequently have deep conversations with them on a variety of topics. It is in my experience very rare to find an individual who truly is an intellectual across a wide range of disciplines. I have noticed that anti-intellectualism is a plague in American society which has often been noted by many authors before me. For myself, I have noticed several major factors which contribute to anti-intellectualism which I see as personal attacks for all thinking people.
But first, I define the word intellectual as someone who tries to really understand why things work and takes a rational approach to understand things at a deeper level not just when is required but also as a game. An intellectual does not have to be given an assignment to delve into a topic.
With this out of the way, here are 5 ways I have noticed people attack intellectualism in day-to-day interactions.

  1. Disparaging theoretical knowledge as not being valid or useful. Only people with experience have the right to comment on a topic, even if you have a degree and have spent hundreds of hours examining the topic, that is not enough to really understand it. I believe this is wrong because while everyone participates in the economy, that does not mean that they have studied the details of how it works the way it does. Most people drive cars, but not everyone is a mechanic or even should mess with their engine. The same is true with every issue, merely having experience as part of something does not mean that you understand why. This is one of the most common types of attacks on intellectuals I have noticed, mostly at my university from classmates which is ironically where most of my interactions with non-intellectuals takes place.
  2. Not being open to new ideas is a very direct attack on intellectuals who are the people who come up with those new ideas. It is deeply tied into a conservative mentality (which is wanting things to stay as they are, and not necessarily political) and the largest enemy to progress.
  3. "Ivory tower" implies that universities and professors are not engaged in real world activities. This is opposite from the truth as many professors actively take their knowledge to realms outside of their work in non-profits, religious organizations, advising for politicians, and writing books. Very few phrases in the English language are as divorced from reality as the false notion of the "ivory tower."
  4. When children demonstrate their intellectual nature (as I definitely did as a child, and still do) there are other children who will bully that child and make them ashamed for being curious. This is furthered by media children are given and is very psychologically damaging to them, isolating them from their peers. If a intellectual child is isolated from other intellectuals around their age it can be particularly damaging. Different organizations outside of school which foster an intellectual mindset are crucial to providing us with the friendships we need to foster our nature without being damned for it.
  5. "Every side has a point" proposes that intellectuals have the same footing as people who have no understanding of the issues. It lowers the pursuit of knowledge to the level of lobbyists who are only working for their own short term gain. It discredits rationalism in our political debates which means we get policies which are not nearly as good as we are capable of having, or frankly deserve. There is a very big difference between science and conspiracy theories, and that idea needs to enter our media discourse. This sort of problem creates massive economic problems when policies like austerity which economic models predict and the consequence of ignoring the science has been a lost decade for Europe. At an even bigger level, the "every side has a point" which brought Andrew Wakefield's scam out to the public in a way that made people not get vaccinated is nothing short of mass murder. This notion needs to go.
  6. Simply discrediting the findings of science. Many politicians will continue to say things about the economy, global warming, etc. which are wrong and people latch onto because they sound good. It makes it much harder to do research to make the world a better place when you are always defending your work from baseless attacks.
I hope that someday we can throw off the anti-intellectual atmosphere which America has inherited from the Puritans of Massachusetts so we can be a better society. We need to build a world where people are free to search for the truth and understand why things happen. Social justice requires it, and it is our moral duty to make such a world a reality.