Charles Again

As I mentioned previously, a blog commentator, Charles, had some brilliant insights. Here is his most brilliant one, which I have already put into my "enlightenment" document:

OK, let me finally say how I imagine the old world view they have lived in might be influencing Maha and Rana,

Baathist totalitarianism, like all totalitarianisms, did not just say, “nyah, nyah, we leaders will grind you people under our heels forever and you can’t do anything about it!” They said, things are hard now because we are in a struggle, but all your collective sacrifice will someday lead to a wonderful utopia (vague and untested) where Arabs are powerful, respected, and free (i.e., unconstrained as a ‘people,’ dignity uncompromised); while those leering, almost supernaturally evil, zionist and colonialist forces now opposing us will have vanished from the earth. This is the background promise always being pushed off into the future (communism’s ever receding future lead eventually to disillusionment).

Well Saddam claimed that his wars were the first phases in a push to achieve the dream. Rana and Maha saw that death and destruction came from this. They knew that Saddam was excessive in sacrificing lives and people and was cruel. They saw that other nations (the UN) said one could not justify war of aggression. They conceded this simple point, as the Europeans have, “thou shall not kill to rearrange the world.” But that doesn’t mean the supposed dream goal looked bad to them. Or that they had adopted a western world view.

Then we come riding in, seemingly led by Paul to rearrange the world by force, but for our own dream goals. They say, hey, if you’re going to allow this sort of thing, then why shouldn’t our vision of an ideal future have been allowed to be reached this way. We are not saying that we should be allowed to do that, but better us than you! Saddam is out of their lives, and they aren’t unhappy about that, but their “background mental universe” is not out of their lives.

When we argue back about “why its OK for us” we argue the content of our vision. Good if we can convince them, but a world view shift is a messy and slow thing, our ideas are too linked together, and it seems as if everything might crumble before we build up a new set of links. People don’t want to assume that “everything” they know is false, and it isn’t, but only those who embrace such a feeling can make the jump quickly. Anyway, they don’t necessarily dislike the content of the vague dream which was promised by Baathists, even though they may have disliked the reality of daily life under Baathists.

So, before getting into arguing about the worth of our (less vague and more tested) dream, I’d reply to them in these terms: It is not all about our goals being “better” so therefore we are allowed to use force: we were forced into having to use force. I think Ken said it very well when he said at root this was a continuation of the 1991 war at the end of which the rest of the UN left us “holding the bag.” Think of it this way. When Saddam unleashed his push to achieve dominance, he chose his terms of engagement with the world.

I wish I had grabbed Charles's contact details while he was around. It was news to me that Saddam wasn't just going "nyah nyah".




Softly changing minds

From the Iraqi blogs (of a decade ago), in particular, Sarmad's "Road of a Nation", there is some great writing from Charles, who is a physicist (and it is interesting to note that these gems come from someone with a hard science background not a soft arts background). He came up with several brilliant insights, so this is just one:

In the biography of Benjamin Franklin he writes about how he suddenly had a revelation concerning how to convince people in argument.

Up till then he was like you, he would attack and bludgeon the other's point of view with logic and information and devastating critiques.

The other person, threatened, always battened down the hatches and never let the ideas penetrate.

I think your "left" "right" defining does that too.

Then he found that if he listened to the other person respectfully, and then instead of dismissing said, "oh that's interesting, I would have thought ..., why isn't that so?" He could lead the other on gently by questions until that person thinks of the weaknesses in his position or comes to the conclusion Franklin wanted to implant.

I'm not sure I will be able to practice this myself, but it's an interesting approach. There is also this massive website, but again I think it is beyond me. I think I need to join forces with someone who has this sort of adaptability. I'm just a bludgeoner.




Pope Punchup

The Pope recently said that if his friend insulted his mother, he would resort to violence. Only against someone weaker than him of course. He wouldn't dare attack a guy stronger than him.

What a world we live in. Verbal insults require a violent reaction, while Iraqi men having their tongues cut out by Saddam requires no reaction at all. :-(

Christians (which the Pope claims to be) are meant to be following the example of Jesus Christ, ie turn the other cheek, love thy enemy and forgive trespassers even when they're nailing you to a fucking cross. Instead what we see from horrible Christians in places like South America is hatred of the totally innocent USA. This stupid religion needs to be abandoned.

Here is what a Christian SHOULD be doing. The problem in this world isn't a lack of self-reaction to provocations and an over-reaction to provocations to others. It's the exact opposite. People will over-react to provocations against them, ie their human rights are sacrosanct, but when it comes to provocations against others, they just yawn. This is a very bad philosophy creating a very bad world. The yardstick that should be used is that you should never react to a provocation unless you would also react to an identical provocation against a stranger.

There is a rule in computing - be generous in what you will accept, but be strict in what you produce. The same rule applies in human relations. If you want to live in a peaceful world, then start with yourself. Make a decision to allow as much provocation as you can withstand. ie if someone verbally insults you, walk away. Even if someone punches you in the stomach, you will only experience momentary discomfort and you will recover. WALK AWAY. This is your chance to be a Christian martyr! Although you definitely have a right to self-defence, you should not exercise that right, or at least take a long time before you exercise it, and only if other paths fail. But you SHOULD react if someone is about to chop off your hand or nail you to a cross. Why? Because you need that hand in order to defend the innocent. Also don't let anyone steal your money. Why? Because you need that money to help protect the innocent also.

If you want to react against human rights abusers, then act when you see someone else's human rights being abused. See here for an example. The other thing you can do if you are personally attacked is to report the problem to the authorities. You can be sure that the authorities won't over-react. In the case of Iraqi women being raped by their own government (Saddam) the authorities (the UN) just yawned. If you believe the authorities are not reacting to your problem adequately, then you should seek to change the authorities so that the problem is solved for everyone, not just yourself.

When I started Year 11 at school, I was determined that I wasn't going to fight. I hate fighting. I basically had about 1 fight every year at school. People would only leave me alone after I demonstrated I was willing to fight. I wanted to follow Jesus's example and not fight. I got valuable data from this exercise. I generally had a reputation for being a weakling. I didn't mind that. I was trying to be a pacifist, not a boxing champion. This led me to the point where someone smaller than me was trying to take over my locker (at boarding school). We almost came to blows, but I said "stop, you can have it". One of his friends, who I'd never had any dealings with at all, and bigger than me, and also who ludicrously claimed to be a Christian, punched me in the stomach and told me to not tell the teachers. The smaller guy still wouldn't leave me alone though, continually bullying me. Eventually I was talking to a teacher who asked me how things were going and I said I was being bullied. He told me that the natural reaction to that was to fight back, and that's what I needed to do. That is also the advice from prison. About 10 minutes later I returned to class, was bullied by the smaller guy, and I said if he wanted to fight me, he could do it here. He wanted to go to the toilets instead of the classroom so that the fight couldn't be broken up, and possibly so that he could get assistance from his friends. I refused and challenged him to fight right here. He relented and we fought. I was shocked that he managed to duck away from my punch, but as my arm extended, it made contact with his ear, and he complained about being hurt. I wrestled him to the ground and shortly after the fight was broken up. I was unscathed. These people underestimate my ability and think they can prove themselves on me.

Anyway, I resorted to violence after the authorities failed to react properly to my human rights abuses. America and Israel are in the same position. Neither country should need to resort to self-defence. After being attacked, in an ideal world they should have just said to the UN "please fix this problem". But sometimes it is the whole world that is wrong, not you. The US needs to resort to self-help because the authorities are grossly immoral and do not care about human rights abuses. In an ideal world, the US should only have to defend itself if the UN says "I'm sorry, we don't have the required capacity to protect you, could you please help us protect you?".

So that's the ideal path. Be slow to anger when your own human rights are being abused. But be quick to anger when someone else's human rights are being abused. If no-one comes to your aid when it is your human rights being abused, then you should consider the possibility that the abuse is not that great. If it was a great abuse, surely others would come to your aid? They would not allow that travesty to be conducted in their presence. They would take that affront personally, right? Just the same as you take the rape of Iranian girls by their dictator personally. You do, right? As I said, sometimes it is the world that is at fault, not you. But I can tell you that if I heard someone say something nasty to the Pope, I would not react with violence against them. I would just intercede with words, telling this person that they are being nasty. I might bite my tongue if the abuser was physically bigger than me though.

One other thing to note is the saying "for evil to prevail, all that it requires is that good men do nothing". This is the case with a country like Sweden. They are basically saying they don't give a shit what happens to anyone else except them. The Swedes are helping to make the world a nasty place. That is selfish and not what Christianity should be.

There was actually one guy at school, a big guy, who a couple of times interceded on my behalf, saying to one bully "what has he ever done to you?". I was very grateful for that. This guy was better than the authorities. The guy may as well have been called "America".




Eton and Harrow

In 1980 I was in Form 3 (approx Year 8, aged 12) at Natabua school in Lautoka, Fiji. In an English lesson we were told about an exchange of letters between Eton and Harrow. Even though I am a native English speaker, I did not get the joke. I recently did a search for what I remembered on the internet, but the only link I got was a bad scan of a newspaper. From that I found a link to many scanned newspapers. I was able to extract the exchange from multiple newspapers (e.g. Eastern State Journal, Saturday, 16 November, 1912) and try to present a clean version. Here is the clean version:

Eton and Harrow.

One of the Eton and Harrow school cricket matches recalls an amusing incident. Eton had a monotonous series of wins for some years, and one day the Harrow captain received the following:

O ye boys of Harrow school. Of cricket ye have no knowledge! It is not cricket, but the fool. You play against Eton college.

The Harrow school poet was hunted out and commanded to send a fitting reply. This clever response made him famous:

If, as you say, we play the fool. No wonder we were beaten. For at that game no other school Could e'er compete with Eton.

For those who don't get the joke, here it is. The Harrow school poet has literally interpreted the Eton message as saying "you were playing the fool". So when he says "that game", he means "the fool" instead of "cricket". So in a game of "the fool" between Eton and Harrow, Eton won. ie Eton won the competition of "who is the true fool". I hope you can understand the explanation. :-)

And apologies for diverging from war for a moment. :-)




Major Milestone

As of 2015-01-01 we have reached a very important milestone. We have returned to the situation as it was on 2001-09-10. Namely, there are not a large number of US troops involved in overseas wars, and especially not being killed. Having troops in places like Kosovo does not rub a raw nerve like it does when thousands are being killed in e.g. Iraq.

It was necessary to have large numbers of troops engaged in messy nation-building over the last 13 years, but that era has now passed. We have collected the required data, and proven the technology. In the future, wars can be limited to just providing air power to local forces. Air power doesn't rub a raw nerve in America. We now fortunately have plenty of evidence that this model works. On 2001-09-11 we did not have sufficient evidence and people were insisting that Afghanistan couldn't be won from the air. For whatever reason, people wouldn't accept Kosovo as proof. Regardless, the stunning Northern Alliance victory showed that air power is basically all we need to provide to assist locals to victory. We got more evidence of that in Libya. And just today we see that it worked in Kobane.

This really is a great burden lifted from the forces of the free world. No more nation-building. Just air power added to friendly locals. All the troops have been freed up now. In previous years there were questions about the US military failing to meet its recruiting targets (and even the possibility of reintroducing conscription). Such questions are now moot. We no longer need to deploy lots of troops to do nation-building. America's enemies have failed. We are now past the point of no-return. Every future war only requires the US to do the initial battlefield defeat (which in Iraq took 3.5 weeks). Locals can take it from there (with continued US air support to our favored locals, to avoid a power vacuum like in Libya). Or alternatively, US ground troops are not even required at all - we can instead just provide air support to locals, as is likely to be done in Syria (and was already done in Libya).

The opportunity to harm America while America's military was elsewhere engaged passed on 2015-01-01. A wonderful, wonderful day.

Note that we should remain mindful of the troops that remain in Afghanistan. It is of absolute importance that we do not outstay our welcome in Afghanistan and accidentally go to war with the Afghan people. Once again, it is not really necessary for American troops to remain in Afghanistan. Afghan troops could go to somewhere like Tajikistan to be trained by the US. No need to do it in Afghanistan. But sure, Afghanistan is the most convenient place, so there's no problem staying there if we are very sure that the Afghans don't mind. As far as I can tell from Afghan opinion polls and Afghan election results and Afghan politicians, the Afghans are overwhelmingly supportive of the US presence. And the US presence has the side-effect of preventing any military coup against Afghanistan's democracy. So we shouldn't pull the (small number of) coalition forces out of Afghanistan just because we are scared of overstaying our welcome. If we have natural friends/allies in Afghanistan, then that's fine. We're happy to assist our friends and allies, wherever we find them.

Anyway, bottom line is that the world is in a new state now. All western forces have been freed up, ready for the next big battle. Hopefully America will get over its war-weariness after a little while (e.g. in 2 years from now when Obama is out of power) and we can send the troops to do the battlefield defeat of the Iranian dictator's forces. In and out in 3.5 weeks flat (or similar - that was the figure from Iraq). Or if not Iran, then maybe North Korea. Anyone drawing attention to themselves, basically.

Note one more thing. If it is possible to get local ground forces to fight their dictator as was done in Libya, it is also possible to simply do the battlefield-defeat for locals, and then hand it over to locals. That is a lot quicker and nicer than expecting locals to do the battlefield-defeat themselves, with just US air power added, no US ground troops. ie what I am saying is that it would be best if US ground troops were used to defeat North Korea instead of mucking around trying to find locals to support. The only objection I have to this use of US ground troops is that it may put some local noses out of joint (while 50% of Iraqis supported being liberated, there were another 50% who felt "humiliated" for whatever strange cultural reason). So I think it was right to stay in the air in Libya so that the locals can (sort of) rightfully say that they did the job themselves, and weren't humiliated by external forces. I don't think we have that problem with the Koreans. Regardless, since 2015-01-01 we have all the options in the world we need, and just need to choose one. We'll win regardless, and with ease.

Another way of saying all this is "now we are free".





I recommend that strong/positive atheists should instead be weak atheists/agnostics. People like Richard Dawkins who makes the leap to say that there is almost certainly no god (without any of the usual probability and statistics calculations that are normally used to arrive at "almost certainly" in the world of science). First take a look at this.

Note - I do not agree with everything there, but the presentation within it is far better than I can do with words.

In particular I'd like you to see page 5. I don't play computer games these days, so I assume that's a picture of a real game. If it isn't, you've definitely seen Pac-Man, which will do for the purposes of this conversation.

Anyway, let's say the creatures (dot-eating Pacman plus ghosts), are endued with artificial intelligence, some time in the next 1 million or billion years of evolution, I mean, computer science. Given that you as an atheist (even a weak atheist in fact) have no problem believing intelligence can come from an otherwise devoid-of-even-life ocean (given a lot of patience), you will presumably have no trouble accepting that computer scientists, applying a lot of combined effort, will eventually beat primordial slime at its own game.

The Pac-Man has evolved to more intellectual pursuits than eating dots, e.g. running a large corporation, and the ghosts have similarly evolved, and are now crack dealers. In fact, the Pac-Man's world looks uncannily like our own.

Now, Mr and Mrs Pac-Man are discussing theology, and Mr Pac-Man says that he's an positive atheist. There's been no evidence of any God, like, ever ever ever, after many fruitless attempts. Mrs Pac-Man is using the usual tired argument about the world not being able to come into existence all on its own, without being able to offer any explanation for how the more complicated "God" could have come into existence. At this point, note that the combined efforts of computer scientists will not necessarily be inferior to some 3rd grader playing Pac-Man. Chess Grandmasters used to insist that they would always be able to beat a machine too. So much for famous last words. So there's the first point to note.

But next, the 3rd grader mentioned above, invites his 3rd grader classmate over to his house, where they've been running this "Pac-Man game" for a couple of months now to "see what happens". Most of the time they're watching 3-D porn, not watching Pac-Man, but nevermind.

Anyway, they notice this exchange between Mr and Mrs Pac-Man. Quite clearly, Mr Pac-Man, the atheist, is wrong. Within the Pac-Man game itself, it is totally and utterly impossible to prove that one way or the other. It's not possible to reach outside of the computer simulation and start analyzing God (ie the first 3rd-grader), and coming to some pretty derogatory conclusions about him in fact.

My questions (to atheists) are this.

1. What arguments would you suggest that Mrs Pac-Man arm herself with, to get Mr Pac-Man to switch from strong atheist to agnostic. I can understand that without some pretty hefty intervention by the snotty-nosed 3rd grader (e.g. putting a ghost into bed with the two of them by pressing Alt-G), it would be absolutely impossible for Mr Pac-Man to switch to "believer" (even though - in this case - he would be right).

2. Is God (the 3rd grader) considered omnipresent/omnipotent/etc, assuming he can do a dump of RAM any time he wants?

3. If God dumps the data structures associated with Mrs Pac-Man, and puts her into a different simulation, would that be considered being saved and going to Heaven?

4. Given that we know that Mr Pac-Man made an ill-advised leap of logic, coming to a belief, without any data that would be able to back up that belief, what did Mr Pac-Man do wrong? ie which rules of science did he break specifically? If he could retrace his steps, where should he have stopped with the logic and said "I refuse to go beyond this point, for the same reason I don't say whether or not there is life elsewhere in the universe or not - we do not have that data available yet, no matter how impatient you may be"?

5. If the 3rd grader chooses to not press Alt-G (supernatural ghost generator), to give the required proof of the supernatural to Mr Pac-Man, to stop him putting his foot in his mouth any further, is he considered to be deceptive? Malicious?

6. If the 3rd grader decides to press Alt-R (religion generator), to zap up a book of rules, deliberately ambiguously written, some things deliberately and obviously fallacious, so that you can't quite be sure if it's really from God or not, and in it it contains some radical philosophy, e.g. "love thy enemy", that sets such a high standard for Mrs Pac-Man to have to try to live up to, because the 3rd grader thinks that it would be cool to watch animals attempt to cooperate, would that book be considered "the word of God" or "holy" - despite the deliberate falsehoods?

By the way, there's a fantastic movie called "The Thirteenth Floor" which may make you think twice.

But while there's still time (ie before atheists quickly switch to agnosticism to cover themselves), I'd like honest answers to the above, with your current state of mind. Mainly question 4 I'm after. Mainly for future debates. I can watch how atheists respond to (your) answer to number 4, and then demonstrate that they are just as dogmatic as religious people, unwilling to climb down from their position, before hitting them with this counterexample which doesn't leave much wriggle room that I can see.




Afghanistan Advances

I am really happy with this progress being made in Afghanistan:

"NATO has committed to fund Afghanistan’s 350,000 security forces at $4.1 billion annually. At a NATO summit in Wales in September, alliance leaders committed to continue funding through 2017."

This is the exact best foreign aid you can possibly give. Fund local security forces (or send your own) to ensure an allied democracy stays (or gets) in power.

And look at what a great ally we have: "Ghani praised the alliance’s efforts".

And hopefully now the foreign forces will be entirely out of the Afghan's faces and just providing air support. Not that the Afghans ever complained about us being in their faces. According to opinion polls something like 85% of Afghans support the foreign presence. It is a really fantastic result. And to think that after 9/11 many people wanted to turn our 85% allies into a parking lot, instead of giving them the chance to kill the 15% by themselves. Also note that despite the quite high casualty rate of the Afghan security forces, there is no shortage of volunteers. How beautiful is that? Our brave allies signing up to fight our enemy. All we ever needed to do was give them a chance to help themselves, instead of demanding that they do the technically impossible task of overthrowing their own dictatorship without outside help.


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