February 4th, 2010

hat lasso

Iran In Space! and a threat to Capitalism?

Two turtles, a mouse and some worms. Iran has launched a rocket carrying life into outer space. American military (as well as others) fears this technology could be used for ICBM's, conventional and possibly (eventually) nuclear.

Surely the launch of a rocket into outer space boosts Iranian pride and confidence. The launch of one rocket and the promise of more, eventually carrying Iranian cosmonauts. The rocketing nations is small but growing. Soviets, USA, France, Japan, China, UK, India, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, and now Iran have all blasted rockets into space. Brazil and South Korea have both made attempts from their own launch pads. 36 countries now have space programs of some sort, as well as some private companies.

The anniversary of the February 11th 1979 Islamic Revolution is coming up soon. Peaceful protests are being planned, supported, possibly organized by Iranian opposition. The government will likely respond.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warns “I believe that 22 Bahman [ February 11 in the Persian calendar] this year marks the demise of the liberal capitalist system.” and from that cryptic message offered no further explanation.

The American military is ready with sea to air missiles in the area at the ready... possibly more, probably more. Although I doubt Iran is going to attack anyone except maybe their own protesting citizens.

Ahmadinejad might be right. He might not be taking about a conventional or financial attack. It might just be his flowery way of putting things, predicting that USA will fall this year or very soon as it seems to be obvious anyways.

America's gross debt is at least 90% of the GDP. USA debt is equal to the rest of the worlds total sum GDP minus China, Japan Germany and France (significant subtractions but still). And USA still doesn't understand the moral hazard. US Congress raised the debt limit to $12.394 trillion by H.R. 4314, which was signed into law on December 24, 2009 (Christmas Eve, when few were report and nobody was watching the news). The only reason USA is not currently bankrupt is China and/or Japan still havn't cashed in their chips (US treasury bonds).

The timing of Iran's outer space launch may have been planned to inspire enough pride to quell Feb 11th protests. Thinking several chess moves ahead, a quieted protest would be used to prove support for Iran's government and the sanctions proposed against Iran may fail on the floor as consequence.

Maybe I can't predict the entire butterfly effect accurately. Still, I don't think Iran is the threat to the world like they thump their chests about boisterously. I hope USA doesn't repeat the Iraq experience in yet another Middle east county. (where are the WMD's?) I think it would prove disastrous, although I can see the economic temptation of having three ducks in a row... Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan.
me at yd
  • drcruel

In defense of knowledge

The Glenn Beckiest of my friends recently tried to engage me in a discussion of the percentage of Obama's cabinet that have never done real work; "real work" being defined as someone who has spent the majority of his or her career in politics, academia, research, or a handful of other jobs that sure as hell seem like they'd be a lot of work. The thing that occurred to me, even as I resisted the temptation to ask whence came the statistics he was spouting, was that conservatives really do seem to mistrust the educated-even though they extol the virtues of education.

Some of this is simple sour grapes; there is nothing we like better than watching the members of any elite group exposed for hypocrisy or personal failings. And some of this is pure Americana, where a recurring theme in movies (to say nothing of internet jokes) involves city-slick lawyers, government agents and professors duly receiving come-uppance, and accepting marriage proposals, from good, honest, simple folk. Following that logic, Palin's simplistic views are as attractive to some as they are repellent to others; Obama, with his multi-syllabic words and nuanced positions, is an effete snob.

Simple homilies and folksy wisdom certainly do sell conservative books, but can they solve today's problems? The last time my brother and I listened to Rush Limbaugh, agitating as usual against the liberal elites who lurk in the ivory towers of our universities, my brother did a great imitation of him. "Those...people! Those...EDUCATED people, with their KNOWLEDGE and their UNDERSTANDING of issues! How DARE they! Just because they've dedicated their LIVES to the STUDY of a particular SUBJECT, how dare they PRESUME to tell me that they know more about it than I do!" And while it is easy to dismiss Mr. Limbaugh-and the significant portion of his audience that dismiss all science they find to be in conflict with their Bronze Age religious texts-the viewpoint bears examination. It really does seem that we want our phds, and our politicians, to be a little smarter than us-but not much. We want them to know more than we do, but we also want to feel as though they've missed something along the way. Yes, they have book smarts, but do they have street smarts? Consider the apocrypha about Einstein's failings as a young student or his inability to balance checkbooks or dress himself.

Some of this, of course, is information shopping. But I do find it ironic that some people use education as a way of making someone sound less qualified, rather than more qualified. And I wonder how the intellectual elite of the American Revolution-the over-educated intelligentsia that conservatives now revere for simple, folksy wisdom-would fare today.
  • merig00

Incurious Americans

There were several posts in this community about how anti-intellectual and ignorant some Americans are. So I as I was reading the news I came across a great example. Read on...

Imagine that a man known throughout the world is coming to your city. A man who is not just a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but one of those who make this award less ridicules than it is. This is a man who fought to overthrow the totalitarian dictatorship in his country, was the leader of the struggle, and then was the first freely elected president. He was proclaimed "man of the year" by Time, Financial Times, and The Observer.

In addition to the Nobel medal, he has a whole pack of various international medals of freedom, he is a knight of the most diverse orders, including the Most Honourable Order of the Bath.  He is an honorary citizen of London (if I understand correctly, it gives him the right to duty-free transport of sheep across London Bridge, Eisenhower had the same honor). Plus he has some thirty honorary degrees from the most famous universities around the world, including Harvard, Columbia, Fordham and Notre Dame.
If this does not inflames your interest, this person was given the highest award of your own country. He was the third foreigner ever (and first non-head of state), who was allowed to give a speech to the Congress.

And so he came to your city and state - because he believes that there is an important political event taking place, and he wants to take part in it. What do you think, how much attention he would give the local newspapers and television?

You guessed it. Almost none.

PS  On the other hand, some might argue that I am judging superficially, and what I accept for the lack of intellectual curiosity and inertness, is just keeping the leftist democratic party line. I do not know. It is hard to say. But, if someone knows how the two can be distinguished, - tell me.