Monthly Archives: September 2008

Religion buffet…

Every once in awhile I like to take a spin in the ol’ Belief-O-Matic and see what religion I most closely adhere to.  My recent results:

1. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
2. Theravada Buddhism (98%)
3. Secular Humanism (81%)
4. Neo-Pagan (79%)
5. Liberal Quakers (77%)
6. Mahayana Buddhism (74%)
7. Taoism (66%)
8. New Age (66%)
9. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (64%)
10. Nontheist (58%)
11. Reform Judaism (54%)
12. Sikhism (52%)
13. Orthodox Quaker (50%)
14. Scientology (50%)
15. Jainism (48%)
16. Hinduism (47%)
17. New Thought (46%)
18. Bahá’í Faith (44%)
19. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (42%)
20. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (34%)
21. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (28%)
22. Orthodox Judaism (28%)
23. Seventh Day Adventist (26%)
24. Islam (25%)
25. Eastern Orthodox (21%)
26. Roman Catholic (21%)
27. Jehovah’s Witness (10%)

Well, the good news is you won’t be seeing me on your doorstep with copies of the Watchtower anytime soon.  With all due respect, I’m not sure Unitarian Universalism can really count as a religion since it seems so inclusive (not that that’s a bad thing!) that I’m not sure what it does or doesn’t stand for.  It seems a little more like a support group for people trying to find their own spiritual way.  I’ll admit I haven’t researched it much but there just doesn’t seem to be any sort of theology there.

Of course, if there was it’d probably rank down there with my childhood religion, Roman Catholicism (hey!  26 out of 27 ain’t bad!).  I may not care for the Catholic theology but I respect the fact that they take a stand.  I suspect that Roman Catholicism is ranked as poorly as it is because it’s the one I’m most familiar with and see a lot of the quiz questions in terms of.

So, looking at my other options I’m thinking it comes down to Bhuddism or Secular Humanism (I don’t think I could do the neo-Pagan thing…I’d just feel stupid dancing around a tree and praying to the earth).

Iran! Lions! Bears!

There seems to be quite a lot of talk about Iran this election and for good reason.  We haven’t exactly been best buds for awhile and they’ve been planning to rearrange the furniture in their neighborhood for awhile.  Of course, the fact that they’ve got a guy in power who may, or may not, be ‘cuckoo for cocoa puffs‘.

There’s been a lot of hand wringing, saber rattling, and general predictions of doom and gloom if Iran were to develop a nuclear weapon.  While I agree it isn’t our desired end state, allow me to present a contrarin view…

First, it’s not like we can do a whole lot about it in the first place.  They learned quite well from the Israeli strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor.  They spread out their facilities and built in redundancies.  At best we could delay their effort and piss them off in the process.

Second, let’s not forget that Iran of 2008 is not the Iran of 1979.  All revolutions, once they come to power, moderate and maintance of power becomes their primary concern.  The French, Soviets and Chinese had some pretty crazy ideas when their revolutions took over and within 30 years had settled into fairly conventional nation states (not necessarily ones I would want to live in but that’s another issue).  Yes, the Iranians cling to their revolutionary rhetoric but it’s not at all clear that they aren’t doing the same thing.  Hold onto power and try to further your national goals.

Third, it would be dangerous to assume that the Iranian leadership is irrational.  Just because they do (and say) things we don’t like doesn’t mean they’re crazy.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be crazy or he may be stiring the pot and saying outrageous things about Israel for his domestic audience in order to boost up his approval and take their minds off of the fact that in face of $100 a barrel oil, they still aren’t making great headway economically.  Also, it’s not like Ahmadinejad is the supreme leader of Iran and can make his word law.  He may want to bomb Iran all day long but there would have to be a whole host of others in the government who agree with him before such an action could happen.

Fourth, look at Iran’s position.  On their eastern border are about 70,000 troops (U.S. and non-Afghan coalition) and on their western border are over 140,000 U.S. soldiers.  The U.S. has been a hostile power since the revolution in 1979 and ever since the end of ‘major’ combat operations in Iraq there’s been talk about hooking a right turn and taking Tehran.

So, is it really that irrational to try to get a nuclear bomb?  Everyone knows that is the ultimate game changer.  And a small number of bombs is a defensive move.  Let’s say Iran gets 1, 5 or even a dozen bombs.  What does it do with them?  Unless you assume that Iran is headed by a Hitler-esqe (or Joker-esqe if you’re tired of Hitler analogies) freak who just wants to destroy the world, there’s no way you’d contimplate a nuclear strike against Israel.  Even if you were to throw out the notion of American retaliation, it’s a widely held belief that Israel holds 100-200 nuclear weapons.  It would be the very definition of Mutually Assured Destruction.

So what would a few weapons get you?  A guarantee that the U.S. won’t invade.  Increased prestige and a seat at the regional (and perhaps international) table.  I suspect these are the things Iran really wants.

In order to be an offensive weapon, Iran would need to develop a first strike capability which would limit or eliminate Israel’s ability to retaliate.  Given the distances and capabilities of Israel such an attempt is likely to end up as fruitless as the attempts by the U.S. and Soviets during the cold war.

So I generally agree with this article by Bob Baer:

I myself think a deal can be cut with Iran. During the last 30 years, Iran has gone from a terrorist, revolutionary power to far more rational, calculating regional hegemon. Its belligerence today has more to do with a weakened United States and Israel than with any plans to start World War III.

If we want to have any hope of influencing Iran in the future we going to have to engage with them.  This idiotic idea we seem to have gotten that by somehow ignoring countries we don’t like will result in them running back to us, begging to give them just one more chance is ridiculous.

I’m convinced that our adherence to that policy has done more to keep tyrants in power (see Cuba, Iran, Syria, Lybia, Venezuela, etc.) than Soviet subsidies, radical Islam or expensive oil ever could.

So let’s cut the crap and start using some soft power…

Crash!!!

Ah, nothing like narrow minded ideologes to bring down our financial system.  It appears a number of our fine representatives are willing to sacrifice our livelyhoods in order to protect us from…SOCIALISM!!!  Horrors!!

From the NY Times:

Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican, said he was “resolute” in his opposition to the measure because it would betray party principles and amount to “a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan’s coffin.”

Hey, thanks Darrell!  You’re right, I (and millions like me) will be more than happy to stand on the bread line so that we can honor the memory of Ronald Reagan.  After all, you can’t make an omlete without breaking some eggs.

Idiot!

And as an aside, am I the only one thinking that Bin Laden and the Islamists are feeling totally vindicated right now?  While I think this has nothing to do with them, I can see how they’ll spin it.  Just like the Soviets, we invaded a Muslim country and faced economic ruin.  This was, after all, their plan.  Draw us into war(s) and then bleed us dry financially.

The big squeeze

Well, something’s gotta give and, unfortunately, it’s been this blog over the past week or so.

Mea Culpa…mea culpa…mea culpa….

Two classes, house hunting, volunteering for my presidential candidate and trying to keep a life going is making blog posting tough (Cripes, I haven’t even been able to play Team Fortress 2 or Total War!).

And it’s really frustrating because there’s tons of things I want to talk about.

So…things should start picking back up a bit now.

Stay tuned!

Serendipity?

For some reason my interest has been sparked in the subject of animal intelligence.  So, I was pretty psyched to get a book for my birthday on the intelligence of crows and ravens (yeah, yeah…I know, I’m a geek.  But we’ll see who’s laughing when the great bird uprising happens and you’re all trying to figure out how to appease our new avian overlords).

So, I thought it an odd bit of fortune to this this post in boing boing about…how smart crows are.

Recent research has found that crows are able to use ‘casual reasoning‘, a skill unidentified in non-humans to this point.  In fact, crows seemed better at tasks requiring such reasoning than chimpanzees.

Here come the Finns! Well…maybe not.

In today’s Helsingin Sanomat there’s an article about Finnish reluctance to join NATO in the wake of the Russo-Georgian conflict this summer.  Finland has been flirting with NATO cooperation and the idea of membership for a decade or more but it’s tradition of neutrality has kept it from making the jump.

Russia remains the one and only security concern for Finland (from a nation state, at least) and that concern weighs heavily on their decision to join.

Normally, the assurances NATO gives might be very attractive in terms of preventing Russia from getting any funny ideas about grabbing more Finnish lands.  Russia, as far as I know however, hasn’t made any claims on Finnish territory and even tried to sell Finnish Karelia back to Helsinki. It also appears that most Finns don’t really regard Russia as a serious threat (they’ve got other countries to invade first).

The recent strong American stance in response to Russia’s invasion of Georgia and endorsement of Georgian membership in NATO by both presidential candidates turns that calculation on its head and now might make NATO membership more risky than going it alone.  If Georgia and/or Ukraine enter NATO, for example, and Russia decides it wants to veto that decision with a few T-80s a country like Belgium, the UK or the US can rattle some sabres and slowly escalate.  Finland, on the other hand, would literally be on the front line of the conflict (Helsinki is less than 200 miles from St. Petersburg) and could find itslef more involved than it prudently would want to be.

A resurgent Russia might create some incentives for Finland to join (BTW, is it just me or does Mr. Stubb look an awful lot like Guy Pearce?)  but probably not before the Georgia/Ukraine question is settled.

Here’s a 1999 examination of the pros and cons of NATO membership.  I’ve only just skimmed it definately looks worthwhile.  But that doesn’t mean the Finns are isolating themselves.  It just looks like they’ll continue to cooperate with NATO on an ad hoc basis.  They may very well assume that NATO wouldn’t stand for Russian incursion into their territory regardless of their membership status since it wasn’t a part of the old Soviet Union.  With Georgia and Ukraine, the Russian leadership can make bogus arguments about how they’re defending Russian citizens that were essentially left behind with the USSR collapsed.  That argument wouldn’t fly in the case of Finland.

Allright…enough talk…let’s watch some cool Finnish Defense Forces videos.

My life lessons

I just turned 40 yesterday and I figured now would be a good time to start dispensing all that wisdom -ahem- I’ve accumulated over the years.  So, in what will likely be the shortest reoccurring segment ever, here’s the first nugget of knowledge

Rule #1:  Don’t trust anyone with a nickname that has no relevance to their given names.

Example:  “From those distant beginnings grew American International Group, which became one of the biggest insurance companies in the world, under the leadership of Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg.”

What’s wrong with Maurice?  Too girly?  Then use the middle name.  What are the odds his parents gave him a middle name that was unacceptable too?  ‘Robin’?  ‘Rachel’?

It’s just wrong.  They have something to hide and once they hide from their name there’s no stopping them.

Yours truly,

Iago