Do we need a wartime leader?

I love this article.  It isn’t that often that an article hits the nail on the head.
I would add some comments to this.  The estimated long term costs of the war in Iraq are something like 2 trillion dollars, just with the involvement to date. 
For perspective, World War 1 was a stupid war, but it was a global war with enormous long term influence on the world today. 
World War 2 had a similar impact, with enormous devastation and the United States going all out on two major fronts at the same time in the greatest conflict in human history. 
The Korean war was important for stalling the advance of militant communism, and though minor compared with the world wars, it was important in something of a global sense in preventing the spread of a great evil.
I am not even convinced that the Vietnam war was wrong, in retrospect, and I’m not even convinced that we would have been wrong to go into Vietnam if we had known that we would lose.  That too helped stall the spread of rabid communism.  Eventually communism ran out of steam.  It was stalled long enough that it lost its sense of purpose and the minds of even the leaders began to realize that communism had no manifest destiny, and it didn’t really work.   The developed world had evolved so much from 1848 that the workers had a better life in non-communist countries- the core premise that the communist state would be the best for the working class had been proven to be demonstrably false.  Somebody had to hit the brakes long enough for them to sort it out themselves internally. 
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me that the economic cost of this stupid diddly-shit conflict in Iraq is more than that of all of the rest of these conflicts, all of which were of more objective importance, combined.  Public debt has a habit of carrying forward, and the second world war was quite expensive, so I would be most interested to compare that cost compounded with the total cost associated with Iraq. 
So now what do we do if a real threat presents itself?  At the present cost of military operations, the US can’t afford a second front- anywhere.   The weakening of the economy is a threat to security.  Even if the US walked out of Iraq right now, it can’t afford a sustained conflict anywhere.  You have to choose your places. 

Footnote on interpretation

On the topic of the association with Raphael, in connection with the previously cited reference from the so-called Freemason Testiment, Raphael is generally associated with healing in works that I give less weight, such as the modern airy-fairy new age materials.  There is of course some more credible past basis for this, and mercury appears to have been, probably incorrectly, associated with healing in ancient times.   This is another connection with the "green man" or saviour stories, which usually have a connection with both life/healing and death. 
Because of the ethical issues of using a known poison on people, there is I expect a lack of studies on any beneficial effects of mercury that there may be.  Many of the heavier metals do have an anti-inflammatory effect that may assist with the symptoms of some illnesses and health problems, and so I would speculate that mercury may have had a similar effect.
Another footnote, from the Book of Hiram, page 524, in which the following is said:
"28. Wherefore the first cause has always revealed itself by the cross, the cross that one composed of two, each of the two divided so that they constitute four, the cross, that key to the mysteries of Egypt, the tau of the patriarchs, the keystone of the temple…"
The keystone is the portion that legend has it was thrown away.  It suggests, obviously, central importance.  And as I have noted previously, the astrological symbology on the banners of Gabriel, Michael, Uriel and Raphael in chapter one of the Freemason Testiment, on page 497 of the Book of Hiram, is in the form of the grand cross.
I had the impression that the overall intent of many various works was that rather than the new-age and hack religion version of 4 central archangels, what this actually symbolizes is two opposing factions, Gabriel and Michael on the side of evil, Uriel and Raphael on the side of good, Gabriel as the enforcer on the evil side, Uriel as the enforcer on the good side, Michael what might be called the spiritual leader of evil, Raphael in the position of saviour as the spiritual leader of good.  Each is placed opposite to his opposite number, Michael in opposition to the savior, Uriel in opposition to Gabriel. 

The history of Latinos and immigration

Not surprisingly the illegal immigrant issue comes to the forefront ahead of the election.  The latinos are fairly pragmatic voters and so the issue will be a difficult one for McCain.  Most people that hate latinos are already Republican so he can’t really expect to gain many voters by taking a hard line stance.  Whatever direction he takes on it will lead to disgruntlement and probably a net loss of votes for him, and if he alienates the latinos to cater to the traditional Republican constituency of racial bigots, the latinos will vote Democrat in droves.
But there is a deeper issue that I think that everybody is missing.  What is a latino?  Most have a combined white and native american heritage.   Their ancestors were walking back and forth across these lands thousands of years before Abraham, thousands of years before the biblical flood.   Then a couple of hundred years ago some white guys show up and start dividing everything artificially according to white guy rules, taking the best land for themselves and in many places either butchering or enslaving the local population.   And I see that we should have a sense of duty in relation to these people more along the lines of that to native americans.  To see these people as having the same standing as, say, some chinese illegally immigrating in ship containers, is in my view inappropriate.  I think that they should be seen as having a claim that is far more ancient than ours and that within reason that should be honored and they given preferential treatment as compared with other immigrants.
I would add that the lack of integration with Mexico doesn’t make a lot of sense.  If Mexico were stabilized and some defence measures integrated as with Canada, the further one pushes these measures south, the easier it is to defend because of the narrowing of land in Central America.  As things stand now, Mexico is the perfect beachhead for organized crime seeking access to the U.S. because there is a lot of border.  Because of the lax security that is now there, there could be threats to national security from that quarter as well.   In my view it is better to be on closer and better terms with the latinos, especially the Mexicans, for these reasons as well.

different types of evil and their handling

Not all evils can be taken on at once and it is desirable to compartmentalize them to a degree for handling.  Different approaches work better with different types.  With the strength of each there is a corresponding weakness.
Gandhi had a good approach for handling hypocritical evil.  For those with hypocritical evil, it is necessary for them to see themselves as good.  And so it may be sufficient to bring that evil out into the light of day, to hold up a mirror.  And that is what he did.   He made it so that it was impossible for the British to continue to enslave India because they would see that this was wrong.
Such an approach doesn’t work with what might be called idealistic evil, such as with Hitler, where men uphold evil as a principle.  This is the second worst form of evil.  If Gandhi had faced Hitler he would have lost.  There were elements of hypocrisy with the Nazis and what was actually being done to the jews in the death camps wasn’t advertised, but on the whole they were proud of their evil.  That makes them dangerous.  Like the hypocrits though, they see themselves as good, but they can face their evil and see it as a form of good.  If this form of evil gets going full steam, the only thing that can stop it is physical violence matching them blow for blow, shot for shot.   The correct strategy depends in part on how far it has gotten.  Before it reaches critical mass in terms of support, care must be taken to avoid taking actions that will appear to justify it in some situations, such as with Arab terrorism.  For every suicide bomber we go and kill a thousand Arab civilians and turn all of their friends and families against us and create more suicide bombers.  That is stupid and reckless, pouring gasoline on the fire.  The greatest martyr is not a suicide bomber, it is a young child.
On the other hand, before the second world war the English and French had the ability under the treaty of Versailles to march into Germany as Germany had violated the treaty, before Hitler was set up.  These matters are situational. 
Then there are the festering cases of idealistic evil where it may be that no crime has yet been committed.  One of the very worst cases of this is those that believe that there must be a "third temple" built where the "Dome on the rock" is now built in Jerusalem.   That would mean destroying the third most sacred temple in Islam, starting world war 3 being the likely consequence.  Eternal damnation would not be a severe enough punishment for anybody striking against that temple.  And who is to say that it is itself not the third temple?  In any event, I happen to agree with the templars that on taking Jerusalem discovered that it was not god’s purpose that the third temple be built.  These OCD fixations on specific times and actions are more a reflection of evil wishes than good ones.  But what to do about such a dangerous fixation?  Watch it like a hawk and preach against it.   The Christian factions preaching this insanity think that this mythical third temple is necessary to for the messiah to come.  This is one of the rare occasions when I prefer the view of the Orthodox Jews, who say that it is for the messiah to come at a time of his own choosing and it is dangerous arrogance to purport to limit this.   It’s the devil that has the deadline as I read the scriptures, vainly decreeing long ago that our world would be destroyed at his whim some distant time in the future.
In any event, idealistic evil does suffer from a similar idea to idealistic good, the idea that something is destined, which breeds overconfidence and oversights.   The best way to get a wedge in with this kind of evil is leading by example, such as when the US rebuilt Germany and Japan after the second world war.   This works best when it is in a weak state, especially after a defeat, when the notions of destiny have been obliterated.  It may be that such a wedge can be gotten in early so as to avoid having first having to have a conflict.  This type of evil requires a script, where if you take on the counterpart in the script, you may reinforce it.  If you act inconsistently with the script, you can inflict confusion and an identity crisis. 
Then there is utilitarian evil.  Maybe the best current example is Halliburton.  This evil wants money, power or some other form of valuable consideration, and the evil- or good- that it does is incidental to this pursuit.  This is the form of evil that now requires the greatest attention, not because of the threat, but because of the potential.  Halliburton for example has grown immensely because of the Iraq war.  However, an attack on Iran would generate great instability in the middle east and create strong threats against Halliburton interests.   All sorts of evil persons and organizations wanted there to be an attack on Iraq, and now some of those want to push that further- too far.   Phrases such as "military-industrial complex" ignore that the interests of the individual components may be different.   There is no honor among thieves.  Evil is cannibalistic.   Instability always creates losers and evil utilitarians can be controlled and turned against other evil factions if they understand that otherwise their interests will be damaged.  The Saudi billionaires are another group, some of whom I think had a hand in the Iraq business, that would risk everything from further instability in the middle east.  If there is a jihad, those that don’t flee into exile will probably be dragged out of their opulence and unceremoniously butchered.  And if there is an escalation into a nuclear war, everybody could lose.  This is a time for the utilitarians to side with the good guys out of a sense of self preservation.  That is  not to say that it should be given free reign, but it is a time for hard bargaining.
And then there is what might be called pure evil, where just as a good person derives satisfaction out of doing the right thing even if contrary to their own interest, someone that is pure evil will derive satisfaction out of doing wrong even if contrary to interest.  That is the most dangerous form when it is strong, and would not have too many persons outside of the group that was historically called the Elohim, the biblical men calling themselves gods or angels and creating endless suffering for its own sake.  At a lower level though, it is present in many people.  We all know at least one person whose sole joy is poisoning the lives of others.  The problem with that evil is great and it is in my view not reformable.  Handling it is difficult, as under our present laws it is frequently possible for a person to destroy the lives of others without even committing a crime.   Psychologists know that emotional abuse of children often causes more harm and suffering than even sexual abuse.  We take sexual abuse seriously enough that many people think that those who commit it should get the death penalty.  Yet many of these people will heap enormous abuse on their children, spouses, classmates, coworkers, employees etc., in some cases even driving them to suicide.   Prohibitions against physical violence have probably made this problem worse, because if someone is in the wrong there may be no legal way to straighten him out.    The problem is not capable of easy resolution.  You can’t make it the law to be polite, you can’t make it illegal to yell, there are a lot of things that may be justifiable in some situations but not others.   Raising people to treat each other with respect is no doubt part of the solution.    I think that this evil in some degree is at the root of the others and as long as it is there it will find a way to manifest itself.  If we want to take the next step as a civilization, we need to start thinking about how we want to address it. 

US Supreme Court upholds the rule of law

On the striking down of the District of Columbia gun control law, the US Supreme Court made the right decision.  I have to say I told you so because, well, I did.  I’m just surprised that the decision was 5-4 with two Bush appointees on the majority.  4 of those considered more liberal voted against, which troubles me as a liberal.  I think that a lot of what has gotten liberalism into trouble is that it has descended into a nebulousness in which even boundaries that ought properly to remain in place become blurred.
At the heart of this is a key misunderstanding of the legal system.   It is often misleadingly described as a justice system.   The role of the legal system is to implement the laws as justly as possible.  In some places, such as setting precedents, the court can to a degree make new law.   But the courts do not and should not have poetic licence to do whatever they see fit in the interest of justice.   They are in the business of upholding public order, not creating poetic justice. 
In some cases the writers of the constitution themselves used broad, flowery language about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and the like, and in such cases it may be inferred that they wanted to leave the courts a very broad discretion to decide what those words meant, and potentially update those interpretations with the times. 
In other cases, such as with the right to bear arms, the language is pretty explicit:
"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed"
Some would have us believe that this means that people in a government run militia have the right to bear arms.   The idea of having to give the government a constitutional right to bear arms is both comical and asinine.  Governments have always had the right to bear arms.   You only need to enshrine rights in a constitution that might get taken away.   It can not rationally be accepted that the second amendment was introduced after considerable debate with the sole intention that it be redundant. 
In one sense, the ruling is a victory for all of us, in that the rule of law won over the rule of poetic licence.   When the law doesn’t give a judge discretion, his personal opinion on the subject matter is strictly irrelevant and it is dangerous to go there.   We don’t need judges ignoring the law because there is a higher sense of purpose that suggests a different outcome might be better.   Even if it were proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the gun ban that was struck down was for the social good, the court was still required to rule as it did.   The court can overrule some laws for the public good where they are given jurisdiction to do so by, for example, the constitution.  But the constitution is the supreme law of the land and the court has no jurisdiction to overrule it. 
In another sense, the victory is a victory for nobody.  It should not be understood as validating anybody’s political views or opinions about gun control, as those are quite outside the scope of what was there to be decided.   This wasn’t supposed to be a popularity contest.  It wasn’t about right and wrong in a broad sense.  It was about right and wrong in a necessarily narrow and legalistic sense, and again that is a good thing. 
At a time when the administration is trying to brush the constitution under the rug, so to speak, we should be glad that the Supreme Court will defend it as they are required to do.   It doesn’t matter if somebody can come up with a public policy argument for why they should be able violate the constitution.  Certain things are deemed sufficiently sacred that they are not to be set aside in the name of momentary expedience and that is a good thing.
Apparently there were certain politicians that had signed petitions in favour of the gun control law in question being struck down.  This ruling should not be seen as a victory for them as I doubt that the judges were influenced by that and the attempt to so influence them was highly improper.  Again, this isn’t a beauty pageant.   It isn’t even a democratic contest.  Constitutional rights are embedded sufficiently so that they can’t get swept away by some momentary misguided enthusiasm of the population. 
Nor should it be seen as a strike against those who are for some form of gun control.  The District of Columbia drafted a law that was in the form of a direct contradiction of the constitution and so the outcome was mandatory.   There may however be rules such as no guns within a certain distance of certain government buildings, no guns in any government building, no guns in buildings that overlook government buildings, etc., which can be quite restrictive without violating the constitution.
Nor should the ruling be seen as a finding that gun owners are wonderful people.  Whether they are good or bad people was not relevant to the narrow issue before the court.   The people that are really into guns, especially those that get really defensive about it, I think are a bunch of whack-jobs with anger issues and I think there is something to be said for people wanting guns to feel powerful and make up for their sexual and other inadequacies.  
Lots of people are trying to read things into the judgment that I frankly don’t see.  Like the constitution, it says what it says. 

Ever increasing camera surveillance

I was a security guard for 9 years and so having used various security cameras, I find the trend amusing.  The really important trend will be when they are integrated with computer technology with the ability to store masses of small information more efficiently than videotapes. 
The main problem with normal systems is efficiency.  Because it would be cumbersome to change tapes every couple of hours, they are usually in some extended play mode with therefore less accuracy.  Often there are feeds from a number of cameras being recorded on the same tape.    The result is an artificial sense of security- if on a standard security tape where you are looking afterwards for something that happened, it will probably be out of focus and you will probably be lucky if you can identify the race of whoever you are looking at- some grainy blur. 
It can help if you can control it and know who you are looking at and do a zoom on somebody, but that takes an active mind behind the camera, and even then there may be issues to do with too much information on one tape or the information that is actually recorded is often time lapse, so you don’t necessarily get everything that the operator saw.  With time lapse, if something happened quickly, you may lose the most important detail between frames.
Having a large bunch of manually operated cameras of great resolution etc. and keeping enormous collections of video tapes can preserve more information, but at great cost.
Unless it is done properly, a lot of surveillance cameras is just a gimmick for public relations or some other purpose.  And it may be easy to sell them to people that will never use them personally but who want to appear proactive and so they’ll buy something that sounds cool so they can make a public announcement. 
If it is going to be purposeful at all, have the end user security guards or cops take systems out for a test drive and if they fall down laughing, you need another product. 
We aren’t anywhere near Orwellian surveillance here.  This is one area where existing measures are woefully adequate to provide meaningful security at a low level.  Most security camera arrangements you’d have to stand motionless directly in front of it for five seconds just to make sure that it got a good shot. 

Mars ancient large impact

So Mars probably got hit by something pretty big.
Check out the full earth map at the US Geological Survey’s earthquake map:
The first thing that jumps out at me is the large circular formation around the Pacific with the rockies in North America and the edge of the Himalayas on the other side, with the continuation in cracks in the sea plates.  Then right about the middle of that, to the right and above Australia, there is another circular shape.  Concentric circles can signal some of the larger impacts.  Without being able to say for sure what that is, it sure looks interesting.
Looking at some of the online topographical maps there appear to be a lot more circular arrangements on a large scale than one would expect although they are easier to see at some resolutions than others and the clarity varies from service to service. 
My impression is that the search for such things tends to be for smaller impacts rather than large ones and it might be useful to look at the larger scale.  Of course some of these may be accidents of nature, but something to think about.