Friday, July 29, 2011

The Ironic Ethics of Wernher Von Braun

Air Force Cites New Testament, Ex-Nazi, to Train Officers on Ethics of Launching Nuclear Weapons | Truthout

This story changed even before I got it published. Update below.

There are certain levels of irony that tend to render the ordinary human speechless. There are ways of getting through, and Jason Leopold guts it out with his usual determined outrage and the aid of direct quotation.
One of the most disturbing slides quotes Wernher Von Braun, a former member of the Nazi Party and SS officer. Von Braun is not being cited in the PowerPoint as an authority on a liquid hydrogen turbopumps or a launch vehicle's pogo oscillations, rather he's specifically being referenced as a moral authority, which is remarkable considering that the Nazi scientist used Jews imprisoned in concentration camps, captured French anti-Nazi partisans and civilians, and others, to help build the V-2, a weapon responsible for the death of thousands of British civilians.
"We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation, to what victorious nation we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision[emphasis in document] more than anything else," Von Braun said upon surrendering to American forces in May 1945. "We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured." [emphasis in document]
Well, as stunning an irony and as compelling an insight as it is... it's not exactly new, either. So rather than react in amazement to the sudden realization that the people who build and deploy disintegrating totem poles with radioactive "happy endings" may have to struggle with the ethics involved... rather than that, I turn to Tom Leher. Because Just Moral Outrage Theory goes down better with a bit of piano. 

And this way... I turn you on to Tom Lehrer. He also had some things to say about the ethics of deploying nuclear weapons that really should have been included in that Air Force Power Point presentation.

UPDATE: It appears that the military found the optics as bad as everyone else did.
The Air Force, in response to a report published by Truthout earlier this week, has pulled a Christian-themed training session that used a quote from an ex-Nazi SS officer and numerous passages from the New and Old Testament to teach missile officers about the morals and ethics of launching nuclear weapons.

"It has been taken out of the curriculum and is being reviewed," said David Smith, chief of the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command, about the Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare training session. "The commander reviewed it and decided we needed to have a good hard look at it and make sure it reflected views of modern society."

Smith said the ethics course has been in place for "20-plus years." He added that it will now be "given thorough scrutiny" and if "folks will be appointed to look at what we have and determine its utility and if they think its useful to continue having an ethics course they will develop a new course."
So perhaps they will now consider including Tom Lehrer in the revised materials? It was a contemporary critical review of that ethos. Somehow, that makes this whole thing a little more darkly humorous, as "20+ years" puts it in range of not just Lehrer, but other thoughtful critiques of the ethics of atomic war.

Indeed, the Air Force need not even concern themselves with creating new materials. It turns out an Independent Contractor has met the need.

Obama on the Debt Ceiling "negotiations:" A tax by any other name...

D.C. Tea Party hardly a tea party
Ah, the irony. The sweet, sweet, unintended irony!
I've said this a bunch of times out loud and in print, but had despaired of ever seeing anyone important and well-connected saying something like this out loud. This is one of the great shared secrets of power. Not all taxation is called taxation.

Remarks by the President on the Status of Debt Ceiling Negotiations | The White House:
"Keep in mind, if we don’t do that, if we don’t come to an agreement, we could lose our country’s AAA credit rating, not because we didn’t have the capacity to pay our bills -- we do -- but because we didn’t have a AAA political system to match our AAA credit rating.

And make no mistake -– for those who say they oppose tax increases on anyone, a lower credit rating would result potentially in a tax increase on everyone in the form of higher interest rates on their mortgages, their car loans, their credit cards. And that’s inexcusable."
The way I'd put it is that a "tax" is an additional fee, charge, expense or transactional cost that you cannot avoid and must pay in order to conduct the ordinary business of life.

And this is absolutely a tax. Worse yet, it's a tax that rewards nobody but banks - it essentially will create a condition where you - and you and you and you - will have to pay more for everything, and none of that additional money will achieve a single damn thing.

Which, from the viewpoint of a middleman, is the perfect tax. Getting an extra share of something in return for nothing at all.

Now do please realize that the people that brought us to this passage are the people who say, loudly and insistantly, that "all taxation is theft."

But rather than eliminate taxation, they've figured out how to privatize it - by compelling the government to mandate theft.

This compellingly illustrates the compound idiocy of the Tea-Party caucus, for I regret to say, for the majority of them, there isn't a shred of nudge-nudge wink-wink. They aren't actually trying to "put one over" on the American People. They really think that there is a difference between having to pay Peter and having no choice but to pay Paul.

And they think it's "freedom" when you have to pay Paul twice as much to do what Peter did before, for results that are at best half as good.

The sole task of good government is to do those things that cannot be done cost-effectively in bits and pieces, here and there; to determine standards and provide for the common security and defense.

Well, tanking the economy would be a brilliant stroke of economic warfare, if it were done by an actual enemy of the state. It will do more harm over a longer span of time than, say, popping a nuke over Washington.

So perhaps it might be prudent, at this juncture, to consider that anyone damn fool enough to think that risking the entire economy over a re-election strategy is, in fact, an enemy of the state. In a very real, non-rhetorical, this isn't politics you morons sort of way.

John McCain Wakes Up in Bizarro World

I remember back to the dawning of the current Cycle of Unease, the days immediately after the 9/11 attacks.

I'd been ignoring politics almost entirely; politics, current affairs, world news and for the reasons most people do.

It's boring. Politics are supposed to be boring. Like soccer, golf or Dungeons and Dragons, while it matters a great deal to those who enjoy the sport and great benefits are claimed of it, the rest of us are mostly glad that it keeps those who are interested in such things locked away in oppressively smoke-free rooms, chewing nicorette and trying to look dignified while peeing on one another's shoes.

It is not particularly surprising that those who participate in this needful task try to make it seem more significant than it is when in the ideal, it is a mind-numbing routine with occasional achievements, not unlike a garbage worker's job; it's value is mostly recognized when the workers go on strike to remind us that we could, after all, do without them if we were not such fucking lazy slobs, willing to recycle and compost.

And perhaps there's a lesson in there for those of us unwilling to sully our hands with such a distasteful task. Clearly, the standards have slipped to a point that it would be an improvement if the whole lot of them went on strike.

You see, every once in a while it does matter what sort of person we send to our legislatures. We expect our political leaders to respond in accordance to our expectations. And I mean not just according to the most petulant and dogmatic interpretation of our political wishful thinking - I mean, in accordance to "what sane people would choose to do, given the access and information a member of Congress has."

In a way, it's just like a volunteer firehouse. Most of the time - ideally, even - it's a way for people to get out of the house, sit around with friends in a context where they can play with large, rumbly boy-toys, drink sodas and swap lies in a context where belching and ball-scratching is not merely tolerated, but humorously encouraged. The understanding, though, is that when the bell rings, you run for the fucking truck! ALL of you!

For ten years, the American People presumed that they had sent firefighters to the hall, and that if they didn't actually say all that much, or seem to be doing all that much that made sense, it was presumed that they were, after all, fire-fighters and knew at least that fire was hot, water was wet and explosives go bang.

As these are not particularly complex ideas, it seemed safe enough to presume that people old enough to be elected to the House and Senate; people legally able drink hard liquor and presumably able to read and at least sign their own names; such people would know intuitively, that there is a time to play games and a time to fight fires.

I mean, you would think, wouldn't you?
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said today that some members of his own caucus who are refusing to agree to a compromise debt ceiling deal are hoping to unleash “chaos” and thus force the White House and Senate Democrats to make bigger concessions than they’re already offering. As many as 40 House Republicans, especially Tea Party members and freshmen, have demanded nothing short of changing the Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment before they would vote to raise debt ceiling, even though that has zero chance before the U.S. faces potential default on Aug. 2.
Speaking on conservative radio host Laura Ingraham’s show this morning, Boehner agreed that failing to raise the limit before the deadline would be devastating, and said the “chaos” plan won’t work when asked by Ingraham what’s motivating the recalcitrant Republicans:
BOEHNER: Well, first they want more. And my goodness, I want more too. And secondly, a lot of them believe that if we get past August the second and we have enough chaos, we could force the Senate and the White House to accept a balanced budget amendment. I’m not sure that that — I don’t think that that strategy works. Because I think the closer we get to August the second, frankly, the less leverage we have vis a vis our colleagues in the Senate and the White House.
This is what we get from the Tea Party Caucus and the freaking' House Majority Leader?

It's amazing how very diplomatic other nations are being in the face of this assault upon reason and the very real and deadly threat that a small group of economic illiterates would happly tank the global economy in order to achieve a political goal.

But then I rememember Will Rogers' definition of "diplomacy." "Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice doggie" until you can find a rock."

On that note, I remind y'all that John McCain - A man who is very much an elder statesman of the GOP - didn't say anything like "nice doggie." But more to the direct point, neither did President Obama.  Which leads me to think that he may well have a few choice rocks all picked out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bill O'Reilly gets it EXACTLY right!

"No one believing in Jesus commits mass murder," he said. "The man might have called himself a Christian on the net, but he is certainly not of that faith...we can find no evidence, none, that this killer practiced Christianity in any way."

It's odd to find that I agree with Bill-O. I do. I've said a great deal about this over the years. I was actually a little shocked to see how VERY much I'd said about it.

But I don't think Bill-O would really like to pursue that thought. Because it amounts to this: Calling yourself a Christian doesn't make you a Christian.

Anders Behring Breivik is a Christian in exactly the same sense that Michelle Bachmann is. Or Ted Haggard. Or George Bush. Or Tom Ball. 

Jesus made this point a few times. "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord,.. " but I think that obvious and commonplace. Frankly, people like Bill and Anders and George Bush really don't seem to act as if there are consequences in the afterlife for their acts - but what they do care about is you giving them the slack, the benefit of the doubt a "coreligionist" deserves.

So to avoid confusion about the point myself, and being quite unwilling to concede the foundation of my own moral high ground to those unworthy of it, I've coined the term "Chromefishtians." 

Chromefishtians are people, people like the sort Bill is complaining of. The are the ones that have to slap a chrome fish or a bible verse on everything they do so that people will know they are godly people. Because, well, if they didn't do that, their actions would lead people to different and perhaps more obvious conclusions.

Let me quote an example of what I mean from one of my many fine rants on the topic.
 (Welcome to Free Republic! America's exclusive site for God, Family, Country, Life & Liberty constitutional conservative activists! ) in a thread titled Wisconsin Teachers Lead Students in Anti-Walker Chants (thugs instruct children in the capitol)

To: Libloather
> Are they indoctrinating their pupils? You bet your @$$ that's exactly what they've been doing since the 1960s. 
> Where are the decent people of Wisconsin? 
Working to support these slugs. 
Or cleaning and oiling their rifles.
8 posted on March-19-11 10:11:34 AM by Flatus I. Maximus (Everything you know about McCarthyism is wrong.)

To: bigbob
It’s that bad. Isn’t it?

9 posted on March-19-11 10:28:03 AM by GVnana

To: Libloather
It’s the way WI “repents” for having twice elected Joe McCarthy to the Senate.

10 posted on March-19-11 11:02:14 AM by Theodore R. (John Boehner just surrendered the only weapon with which he had to fight. What does OH see in him?)

To: sanjuanbob
"Where are the decent people of Wisconsin? Why no rallys?"Working and earning a living. It's long past time to go Galt.
Boy, it's a good thing they tell us they are Christians, right up there in the title. I don't know how we'd ever know, otherwise. 


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