United States Space Corps?

“It has been painfully apparent from the briefings that we’ve gotten from our general officers that both Russia and China have nearly caught us in space capabilities and are on the path to surpass us soon.”  — Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)

Pop Quiz: Without googling it, how many branches of the U.S. Armed Services are there?

Answer: 5 — Army (est. 1784), Navy (est. 1794), Marine Corps (est. 1798), Coast Guard (est. 1915), and the Air Force (est. 1947).

At least, for now. If some people have their way, there will soon be a sixth: the United States Space Corps. I have to admit, this sounds kinda cool — not the name, especially, but the idea of it. It’s the science & sci-fi geek in me, I suppose. On the other hand, is it really necessary (and affordable) to create a new and independent branch to handle space-oriented issues at this stage? Many high-ranking military leaders don’t think so.

The idea has been brewing since at least early 2001, when Donald Rumsfeld “warned of a ‘space Pearl Harbor’ and urged a reorganization of the military to put a greater emphasis on warfare in the space domain,” according to Sean Gallagher of Ars Technica. The current move to shake things up is being led by the bipartisan team of Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Jim Cooper (D-TN), Chairman and minority Ranking Member, respectively, of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces. The pair pushed it through a vote in the U.S. House Armed Services Committee (HASC), so that a provision for creating this new military branch was added to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2018.

The U.S. military’s space activities (e.g., spacelift operations, command and control of satellites, etc.) are currently supervised by the U.S. Air Force. But some (e.g., Rogers and Cooper) believe that the “crippling organizational and management structure” has kept the Air Force from giving “adequate priority” to the U.S. military’s space mission and “fix[ing] the problems that exist in space.” The plan is to create the U.S. Space Corps “to organize national security operations in space” and assure that they get the attention necessary. It would be an independent branch with an equal seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, yet it would be administered by he Sec. of the Air Force, much like the Marines are separate yet administered by the Sec. of the Navy. Having been merged with U.S. Strategic Command in 2002, the U.S. Space Command would be separated once again into a separate-but-subordinate command (like U.S. Cyber Command).

“If you want to make space professionals the best they can be, they need to come to work every day knowing space dominance is the number one mission. That culture can only be bred if we segregate them, properly resource them, educate and develop them.”  — Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)

When the proposal went to committee (i.e., HASC), there was pushback. For example, former Air Force officer Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) complained, “This is the first time I’ve heard about a major reorganization of our Air Force and Department of Defense…. I think it deserves at least a couple hearings and discussions on the matter at the full committee level.” Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) proposed an amendment limiting action in FY2018 to further study. But, Rogers responded,

“There’s been nothing shortsighted about this. We started working on it vigorously in September, and we’ve had countless meetings with a number of experts who have advised us as to how this should be construed. GAO has done three studies on this, all of which tell us that you cannot maintain the current organizational construct of the Air Force and solve the acquisition problems and the operational problems that we have.”

Turner eventually withdrew his challenge.

Opposition comes from the military, too, and in particular the Air Force. (No surprise there.) Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, who is already taking action to put more focus on space, cited unnecessary additional complexity, bureaucracy, and expense, should such a massive effort be undertaken. Lisa Disbrow, outgoing Undersecretary of the Air Force, voiced her concerns about timing:

“[N]ow’s not the time. I won’t say never, I think we should always keep our minds and our eyes open. Right now it would be a distraction. The more urgent goal is to work on capabilities and enhancing our capabilities and acquiring the systems that we need.”

Rogers countered, “It would be legislative malpractice for us to delay this.”

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is concerned, as well. While sympathetic to Congress’s fears, he warned about creating a “narrower and even parochial approach” to space operations. In an unusual letter to Rep. Turner, chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, Mattis wrote,

“I look forward to working with Congress to implement necessary space organizational changes. That said, I believe it is premature to add additional organizational and administrative tail to the department at a time when I am trying to reduce overhead…. I strongly urge Congress to reconsider the proposal of a separate service Space Corps.”

The new Wikipedia entry includes this concise summary of military notables who are against creating a U.S. Space Corps at this time:

Sec. of Defense Jim Mattis

“This proposal is opposed by the U.S. Air Force, Air Force Space Command, and military leaders such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva, Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David L. Goldfein, and the current commander of Air Force Space Command General John W. Raymond. Other former military and space leaders in opposition to this effort include Secretary Sean O’Keefe, former Secretary of the Navy and NASA administrator; Lisa Disbrow, former Under Secretary of the Air Force; General Victor E. Renuart Jr., former commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD; and Lieutenant General Edward G. Anderson III, former deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD. The former commander of Air Force Space Command, General Lance W. Lord, is supportive of the effort, on the condition that the Army’s and Navy’s space programs are absorbed into the new Space Corps.”

If the proposal is passed into law without major change, we could have a new U.S. Space Corps by January 2019. However, given all that’s needed to make it happen and the necessity of not jeopardizing security in the meantime, that may be an overly-optimistic expectation.

Meanwhile, there’s a proposal in the Senate to create a new position — Chief Information Warfare Officer — who would be subordinate to the Sec. of Defense and would “assume responsibility for all matters relating to the information environment of the DoD, including cybersecurity and cyber warfare, space and space launch systems, electronic warfare, and the electromagnetic spectrum.” Most or all of this would have to be stripped from the current Chief Information Officer of the DoD, leaving them with just the more mundane IT responsibilities. Or, perhaps the Pentagon’s CIO would become the CIWO, and the regular IT stuff would be left to the newly-created Chief Management Officer.

Everyone agrees that military space projects are of increasing importance and need to be given the appropriate support. Either way Congress decides to go, we’re talking a major reorganization in the military and/or information/intelligence areas of the Defense Department. Frankly, I don’t know enough of the complexities involved to hazard an opinion. I just hope that they (i.e., both houses of Congress and the military) can put egos and special interests aside, make the tough decisions, cooperate, and do what needs to be done for the security of the nation and our allies.

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First Step in Rebuilding U.S. Military?

“We’ve done deep damage to our military because of the budget cuts, the continuing resolutions, the erratic nature of funding over the last few years.”  — Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC)

I considered writing about the Russia collusion / Trump Jr. mess, but then I figured you all are probably as tired of it as I am. Same goes for the healthcare bill stuff. So, here’s something a bit fresher…

Soon-to-be-commissioned USS Gerald R. Ford

Every year, Congress passes a National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which directs how federal funds should or should not be used by the DoD for the current fiscal year. Actual spending limits are addressed in a subsequent defense appropriations bill, but the authorization bill does “authorize” various dollar amounts to be budgeted “for military activities of the Department of Defense and for military construction, to prescribe military personnel strengths for such fiscal year, and for other purposes.”

The House passed the NDAA for Fiscal Year 2018 (which begins 10/1/2017) — aka H.R. 2810 — this past Friday with a 344-81 vote. This means that majorities in both parties supported it, though 8 Republicans voted against it. Not surprisingly, there was some controversy over the bill, with hundreds of submitted amendments, many of which were screened out or voted down — e.g., Rep. Hartzler’s bid to greatly restrict funding for “gender transitions”. (A few of the proposed amendments are mentioned in this Defense News article and details on the votes are here.) What is also notable about the bill is that the authorized $696.5 billion is over 15% more than President Trump asked for. Woohoo!

As per Travis J. Tritten at the Washington Examiner,

“The House-passed NDAA bill would add 17,000 soldiers to the Army, something requested by the service but unfunded under the president’s budget, as well as authorize purchase of four additional Navy ships, 17 more F-35 fighter jets, and eight more F/A-18 Super Hornet jets. The House bill is comprised of two sections, one that would authorize $631.6 billion in base defense spending [including $10 billion from the wartime Overseas Contingency Operations account], and $65 billion in overseas war spending.

Trump requested a $603 billion defense plan in May that was already an increase over last year’s funding, but still focuses on shoring up existing forces and pushes his promised military buildup into 2019.

The House’s NDAA defense bill must be reconciled with Senate plans, but the vote Friday was another sign the two chambers may push big increases for the military for the coming fiscal year.

Senators are now weighing an NDAA authorizing $700 billion in spending, which also blows past Trump’s defense budget and also hikes aircraft, ship and troop numbers.”

Democrats have been pushing for parity in defense and non-defense budget increases, and the current bill exceeds statutory budget caps by $72 billion. In order to ease those caps, it must pass the Senate with 60 votes, which means a certain amount of support is required from Democrats, giving them leverage. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member of HASC, praises the bill but thinks it can be made better when domestic spending is brought into consideration.

“[T]o simply gut the nondefense discretionary budget to plus-up defense does not make this country safer. I care enough about national security that I would raise taxes to pay for it.”

Sounds like some intense negotiations, maybe with some creative budgetary workarounds, are in the offing….

F-35s

I firmly believe in the “peace through strength” axiom, so I’m all for Trump’s buildup plans and delighted that a bipartisan majority of Congress appears to be for it, as well. We have powerful and influential enemies and potential enemies (e.g., ISIS, China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, etc.), and we need to be big-n-bad enough to make them think thrice about doing anything aggressive or to jeopardize our security and that of our allies. Of course, one still has to be smart about how to spend those defense dollars, and some complain that the money can be better spent elsewhere. For example, the F-35 has been somewhat controversial, so some people think we should axe that program and stick to the tried-n-true craft (e.g., F-15 Silent Eagles or even more F/A-18 Super Hornets).

I don’t know enough about all that to weigh in. (Here are a couple informative articles in defense of the F-35, though.) But, I am certainly encouraged by the steps being taken to rebuild the U.S. military into even more of a force to be reckoned with than it already is, despite being greatly diminished in recent years. I truly hope & pray the House and Senate can work together and make some wise decisions on our defense spending. Many lives depend on it.

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House Retains Funding for Gender Transitions

“[Obama’s] transgender decision is costly in dollars and short on common sense.”  — Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)

Prior to voting on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on several proposed amendments to the core bill. One of those was “H.Amdt. 183 (Hartzler) to H.R. 2810: To prohibit funds for medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition to a person entitled to medical care under chapter 55 of title 10, U.S. code.”, proposed by Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO).

Rep. Hartzler argued,

Bradley/Chelsea Manning

“The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing defense dollars into addressing budget shortfalls of the past. By recruiting and allowing transgender individuals to serve in our military we are subjecting taxpayers to high medical costs including up to $130,000 per transition surgery, lifetime hormone treatments, and additional surgeries to address the high percentage of individuals who experience complications.”

Note that the arguments for Amdt. 183 are based on concerns for both budget shortfalls and military readiness — very much practically-oriented.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), co-chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus, protested,

“It would have a negative impact on morale, a negative impact on retention, and move us away from the merit-based system which we now have, where we have one set of rules applied to everybody.”

Hartzler countered:

“The deployability of individuals going through the sex transition process is highly problematic, requiring 210 to 238 work days where a soldier is non-deployable after surgery. This recovery time equates to 1.4 million manpower days where transgender personnel cannot deploy and fight our nation’s wars, therefore relying on an already stressed force to pick up the burden. It makes no sense to purposely recruit individuals who cannot serve.”

Unfortunately, imo, 24 Republicans broke ranks to vote with the Democrats, defeating the proposal 209-214.

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Snippets of True Reason, part 2

Continuing on from Part 1, these next four snippets from True Reason (eds. Tom Gilson & Carson Weitnauer) provide more “evidence that the New Atheism fails to live up to its claimed connection with reason.” Targets include Sam Harris, John Loftus, and the failure of naturalistic presuppositions.

Five: “Unreason at the Head of Project Reason” (Tom Gilson)

“On one side of the debate floor stood the cofounder and chair of Project Reason, a nonprofit organization ‘dedicated to reason’…. On the other side of the floor stood a man often (and accurately) described as a theologian: a religious man, in other words….

One debater brought forth a series of logical arguments based on precise definitions, carefully delineated lines of thought, and technically sophisticated modal and syllogistic logic. He presented one argument that he boldly described as a completely unanswerable knockdown for the other person’s position; and indeed, if his reasoning proved sound, it would demolish the other’s position.

His opponent, astonishingly, ignored most of his arguments — as if he hadn’t heard them. Or if he did, it seemed he failed to recognize how much damage they had done to his position — not just rhetorically, but by the strength of their logic. This debater offered nothing in response to the knockdown argument. He simply held forth on his own views with no seeming regard for how completely they had just been undermined…. His argument was peppered with enough identifiable fallacies and distortions to seriously undermine any claim he might have made to championing the cause of reason. He employed red herrings, equivocations, and straw man versions of his opponent’s claims….

[T]he one who focused on a reasoned approach to discourse was the theologian and philosopher, William Lane Craig. The one who appealed to emotion, whose arguments were choked with fallacies, was the man representing Project Reason, Sam Harris.” (pp.60-61)

Six: “John Loftus and the Insider-Outsider Test for Faith” (David Marshall)

“Nor has modernity halted [Christianity’s] progress. A hundred years ago, there were few Christians in sub-Saharan Africa; now there are more than four hundred million. A century ago, most Latins belonged to a syncretistic ‘Christo-paganism’. Today, tens of millions of evangelicals live in South America, and I have heard — my own field is East Asia — that many Catholics have become more orthodox. In the past twenty years, some sixty to ninety millions Chinese, and tens of millions of Indians, have taken the OTF [i.e., Outsider Test for Faith], found that Christianity passed, and converted. Most others have probably not yet really considered Christianity, or been reluctant to convert for nonrational reasons — cultural inertia, vestiges of persecution, love of money or sexual sin, unexamined atheistic propaganda, continued anger over nineteenth-century ‘Christian’ imperialism. Millions of contemporary Muslims have also prayed to Jesus, despite the dangers, and despite rivalry with the (post) ‘Christian’ West and natural attachment to their own traditions.” (p.83)

Seven: “Atheism and the Argument from Reason” (Lenny Esposito)

“When judging a belief we are really trying to determine whether it is true or false — that is, if it matches the fact of the matter. We are seeking to know whether our belief is true, which means we have to somehow find the facts regardless of how the dominoes fell. How can we do this if our reasoning ability is purely an internal product of biochemical development? Discerning the truth requires us to transcend our senses, indeed to transcend our very biology. We wish to ‘get the real story’ on the facts of the universe, but we cannot call a belief rational if it is strictly the product of an event-chain. And because naturalism holds to biological development as one long complicated event chain, there’s simply no way to show that our reasoning is reflecting ‘the real story’.” (p.104)

Eight: “The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism” (David Wood)

“When we investigate the world using the tools of the biologist, or the geologist, or the physicist, we find that natural effects are preceded by natural causes. Science gives us explanations without appealing to the supernatural. Since this is exactly what we would expect if naturalism were true, we say that the success of science confirms naturalism over supernaturalism.

Or so the story goes. The problem with the naturalist’s story is that it is grounded in extraordinarily superficial thinking. Contrary to the claims of several popular atheists, science offers no support for naturalism. Indeed, if naturalism were true, we could learn nothing at all through the sciences….

To see why [this] is true, we simply need to consider what is required for scientific investigation to take place. If naturalism can’t account for these necessary preconditions, then naturalism can’t account for science, and science turns out to be evidence against naturalism. Let’s examine eight conditions without which science could not take place. As we will soon see, none of them makes sense in naturalism….” (pp.109-110)

Pretty interesting stuff. It’s awfully difficult to recognize, let alone acknowledge, that your own worldview is inconsistent or even incoherent. Hopefully, though, there are some atheists/naturalists who concede some of the weaknesses in theirs. Getting them beyond that, hopefully to a recognition of moral guilt and the need for reconciliation with our Heavenly Father, generally takes a lot more, patient work. But, at least it’s a step in the right direction.

“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.” — Romans 1:20 (HCSB)

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The American Idea

“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”  — James Madison

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) aggravates and annoys me as much as he does/says things I like. Just when I really start to appreciate him again, he’ll do something immensely frustrating. Of course, I try to remember that I am not in his position, nor do I have all the relevant facts.

He did write a pretty good book, though. The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea (2014) is equal parts autobiography and examination of the current state and future of the conservative movement in America. Along the way, Ryan also critiques the other side — i.e., the progressive movement and its leader (at the time, at least), President Obama. He then lays out his plan for the future, aka “the way forward”. It’s a good read, and you can pick it up pretty cheap at Amazon, right now.

Meantime, allow me to cite one particular section that I thought was apropos for this Fourth of July weekend celebration….

“The American Idea is our nation’s most unique and powerful contribution to the world. It describes a way of life made possible by our commitment to the principles of freedom and equality — and rooted in our respect for every person’s natural rights.

We can understand the American Idea in philosophical terms — as the expression of those principles in ideas like the opportunity to rise, the rule of law, and the American Dream.

We can understand it in political terms — as a system of government that is at once both energetic enough to meet our needs and limited enough to preserve our freedoms.

We can understand it in human terms — as the vital space between the individual and the state, the space where family, community, and civil society thrive. As the conviction that we’re all in this together and have a duty to protect the vulnerable.

We can understand it in cultural terms — as the notion that a free society requires a virtuous citizenry.

And we can understand it in economic terms — as the belief that broadly shared prosperity is best achieved by allowing individual creativity and ingenuity to emerge and evolve. This understanding, of course, assumes that productive enterprise and free choices in the market — not the edicts of centralized command — should shape our economy.

The American Idea is a way of life — one that enables each person to chart their own course, pursue their own happiness, and govern their own lives.

Why is this so special?

For most of human history, a very different idea reigned supreme: the idea that a few were born to rule, and everyone else was destined to obey. The common man lived to serve the king, the despot, or the state. They were subjects, serfs, or slaves.

Our forefathers rebelled against this long-held belief. To this day, America is exceptional in part because it was the first country explicitly founded on the ideas of natural rights, human equality, and self-governance. It was the first to take these articles of faith and write them into law. It was the first to tell the world — and to prove by its example — that the best government rests on the consent of the governed. It was the first to proclaim that our rights come not from rulers, but from God.”

To advance this idea, the Founders first issued a “birth certificate” — i.e., the Declaration of Independence — to establish that “the power of government was legitimate only to the extent that it secured the rights and expressed the consent of the people — a truly radical claim.” After sacrificing much in blood and wealth to win that independence, our Founding Fathers authored and passed the United States Constitution to structure the new government, establishing which powers belonged at the federal level and leaving the rest to the states and the people.

Ryan continues…

“So in addition to our birth certificate, the Founders gave us the blueprint for a free and just society. Limiting government and freeing up the formative institutions of civil society makes safety and security, self-government and liberty, opportunity and social mobility available to everyone. It has led to unprecedented prosperity and unrivaled opportunity. It’s done more to help the poor than any other economic system designed by man, and it remains a beacon of hope for the rest of the world.”

To my fellow-American citizens and residents (and anyone else who wishes to join with us), I wish you a “Happy Independence Day!”

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Paglia on Democrats, Journalism, Islamist Terror, and LGBT

Liberal progressive. Atheist. Member of LGBT community. Pro-choice, feminist icon.

Given the above attributes, you wouldn’t think there was much for a politically- and religiously-conservative individual like me to agree on with Camille Paglia (silent ‘g’), writer of Sexual Personae and Free Men, Free Women. For the most part, that’s true. But, Ms. Paglia is one of those rarities on the Left — intellectually honest, iconoclastic, and willing to call out her own “side” for its inconsistencies, hypocrisy, and bad behavior. As such, her commentary is often quite critical and unexpected. Think of her as a politically-liberal cross between Tammy Bruce and Christopher Hitchens.

To demonstrate, allow me to share a few quotes from recent interviews Paglia did with Sean Hannity (on air) and with Jonathan V. Last of The Weekly Standard (in print). First from Hannity’s show:

“I’m a Democrat, and I voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary and for Jill Stein in the general election…. I’m committed to the reform of my party. [But,] all this rage, this massive tantrum… all the Democrats are doing is demonstrating they should not lead. They’re demonstrating we are the party you should not elect. Are they crazy, this behavior?… Trump wasn’t elected because of racism, homophobia, and so on. Trump was elected because he defeated all those nudniks in the GOP primary, who were not nearly good enough.”

[Note: I find it very odd that Paglia supports far-Leftists like Sanders and Stein, while also proclaiming that capitalism emancipated the modern woman. (It’s in the Hannity interview.)]

Re the violent rhetoric in the media:

“It’s obscene. It’s outrageous. It shows that the Democrats are nothing now but words and fantasy and hallucination and Hollywood. There’s no journalism left. What’s happened to The New York Times? What’s happened to the major networks? It’s an outrage….

I think it’s absolutely grotesque the way my party has destroyed journalism, right now. It’s going to take decades to recover from this atrocity that’s going on, where the newsmedia have turned themselves over to the most childish, fraternity, buffoonish behavior.”

After bemoaning the academic ignorance of the general public, especially younger generations, re history, geography, economics, etc., and the likelihood of anarchy following a potential attack on the U.S. power grid, she said the following (though I didn’t quite follow the connection):

“I’ve been saying for 25 years that people need religion. Now, I’m an atheist, but I predicted 25 years ago that secular humanism was on the skids. And that’s what’s happened, because secular humanism has no spirituality left(?) to it.”

Switching now to the Weekly Standard interview

“[T]o have any hope of retaking the White House, Democrats must get off their high horse, lose the rabid rhetoric, and reorient themselves toward practical reality and the free country they are damned lucky to live in.”

“[T]oday’s liberalism has become grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian: It’s all about reducing individuals to a group identity, defining that group in permanent victim terms, and denying others their democratic right to challenge that group and its ideology. Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates.”

Re religion and Islamist terror:

“The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity….

Everyone should have a general familiarity with the beliefs, texts, rituals, art, and shrines of all the major religions. Only via a direct encounter with the Qu’ran and Hadith, for example, can anyone know what they say about jihad and how those strikingly numerous passages have been interpreted in different ways over time.

Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension — waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage.”

And, perhaps the most surprising (to me, anyway), re transgenderism:

“Although I describe myself as transgender (I was donning flamboyant male costumes from early childhood on), I am highly skeptical about the current transgender wave, which I think has been produced by far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows. Furthermore, I condemn the escalating prescription of puberty blockers (whose long-term effects are unknown) for children. I regard this practice as a criminal violation of human rights.

It is certainly ironic how liberals who posture as defenders of science when it comes to global warming (a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence) flee all reference to biology when it comes to gender…. The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible. Every single cell of the human body remains coded with one’s birth gender for life. Intersex ambiguities can occur, but they are developmental anomalies that represent a tiny proportion of all human births.

In a democracy, everyone, no matter how nonconformist or eccentric, should be free from harassment and abuse. But at the same time, no one deserves special rights, protections, or privileges on the basis of their eccentricity. [Emphasis mine.] The categories “trans-man” and “trans-woman” are highly accurate and deserving of respect. But like Germaine Greer and Sheila Jeffreys, I reject state-sponsored coercion to call someone a “woman” or a “man” simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it. We may well take the path of good will and defer to courtesy on such occasions, but it is our choice alone.”

Bam!!

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Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

This blogpost is probably not about what you think it’s about.

Based on the title — a phrase variously attributed to Thomas Paine, George S. Patton, Laurence J. Peter, and “Anonymous” –, one would most likely think it is about leadership in general, or maybe with a business/entrepreneurship or military emphasis. It’s not. The title is from a chapter in the science-fiction novel Transhuman by Ben Bova, and the subject is about the human lifespan and the potential impact of medical/genetic technology that would greatly increase our longevity. In context, then, the title refers to the scientific and political/economic aspects to such a development, but also the societal changes overall. (I guess there is a business aspect, too, come to think of it.)

Many people like to dream about how great it would be if they lived a couple hundred years or more instead of mere decades — preferably in good health, of course. But, we don’t often think through what the effects on modern society might be. It’s an intriguing topic, and I thought that Bova (via his characters) hit on some interesting points. Not every area that would be affected, of course, but some. I considered trying to summarize it all, but it works much better as played out between the characters. So, I decided to cite (with minor edits) some of the conversation from the book. Hope you find it interesting….


SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!

“Do you realize what you’ve done?” Rossov snarled…. Shaking his head, Rossov said, “I don’t think you understand what you’ve let loose. Curing cancer. All sorts of people living past a hundred. It’s a disaster.”

“It’s a revolution,” said Luke. “What the hell are you so spooled up about? This is the best news the human race has had since… since Watson and Crick unraveled DNA.”

Rossov moaned. “Death rate going down. Lifetimes doubling. That’s a disaster, Abramson! A f_____ disaster!”

Genuinely puzzled, Luke asked, “What the hell are you talking about?”

“You’ve ruined Social Security. We’re already going broke with Medicare. And the whole insurance industry, too. You’ve wrecked the American economy.”

“Bull____.”

Jabbing a finger at Luke, Rossov insisted, “The economy can’t survive having a nation full of centenarians! It’ll break the bank.”

Luke felt growing anger simmering inside him. These chowderheads don’t understand, he realized. They don’t understand anything at all.

He rose slowly to his feet. “You just don’t get it, do you? You can’t stop this. You can’t put a cork in scientific knowledge. What I’ve done is just the tip of the iceberg. We have the knowledge, the power, to transform the human race.”

“And ruin the country.”

Change the country. Change the world.” Luke started to pace across the office, but his ankle flared and he sank back onto his chair. Still, he continued. “We’re going to be able to extend human life spans indefinitely, sooner or later. Prevent genetic diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s. Stem cell therapies will repair failing hearts, rebuild nerves and any other tissue that’s been damaged, regrow limbs that have been lost –“

“By killing fetuses,” Rossov growled.

Luke waved the thought away. “We don’t need fetal stem cells. We can take stem cells from your own body. Or regress skin cells to become stem cells.”

“I’ve read reports on that,” said Colonel Dennis.

Turning in his chair to face Rossov squarely, Luke said, “You think we’re going to have a country full of pathetic, creaking old geezers. Well, that’s wrong. Look at me! I’ll be seventy-five in a couple of months, but somatically — physically — I’m like a forty-year-old. And I’m going to stay this way for a long time.”

“That’s the f_____ problem,” Rossov muttered. “Millions of people living to a hundred and more….”

“It’s not a problem,” Luke countered. “We’re entering a new era…. What I’m telling you is that people will be healthy and vigorous all their lives. So they live to be a hundred and fifty, two hundred, so what? They won’t need Social Security or Medicare. They’ll be working, going back to school, starting new careers for

themselves.”

Fisk’s eyes narrowed. “They’ll continue to be consumers.”

“Damned right,” said Luke. “They’ll continue to buy cars, homes, take vacation, overseas trips–“

“Have babies,” said the colonel.

“You just don’t understand,” Rossov repeated. “You think your transhumans are going to give up their Social Security benefits, their Medicare, their pensions just because they’re feeling spry and healthy? In your dreams! This is going to destroy the economy.”

“No,” Luke replied. “It’s going to change the economy. And you politicians are going to have to make some real changes to Social Security and Medicare and the rest.”

“Change them? That’s impossible. Political suicide.”

“Then we’re going to have to find political leaders who can make it possible.”

Rossov glared at him.

“Besides,” Luke went on, “this isn’t going to happen all at once. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. You won’t start to see any major effects for another five, ten years.” …

Luke pointed out, “I’m not the only one working in this area. Sure, I’m ahead of all the others, but sooner or later some bright researcher would hit on the same idea. You can’t control everybody. You can’t stop people from thinking, learning.”

Rossov muttered, “And you can’t drop a bombshell like this without dislocating the economy. We’re having a tough enough time keeping Social Security and Medicare properly funded. Now…” He sank his head into his hands.

“Now,” Luke took up, “you’re going to have to get those egomaniacs in Washington to do the jobs they were elected to do. You’ve got at least five years to do it, maybe ten. Instead of trying to stop this transformation, get to work and prepare for it.”

“You’ve never tried to work with the Congress,” Rossov moaned. “You’ve never tried to move the bureaucracy.”

Luke snapped, “Then get out of the way, buster, because the change is coming, whether you like it or not.” …

Rossov looked dubious, but Fisk went on grandly. “Transhumans. It’s exciting. People staying young, vigorous past a hundred. Active.” [To Luke, he said,] “You’re still under contract to me, you know.” … Fisk’s tentative smile widened into a happy grin.

“So you peddle your fountain of youth to the masses,” Rossov growled.

“That’s right,” said Fisk. “And you start getting the government ready for the changes that are coming.” …

“What choice do I have?” Rossov said bleakly.

“No choice at all,” said Luke. “The change is coming. Either you take credit for it and try to lead the country or you’ll get rolled under by it.”

“It’s impossible,” Rossov muttered. “You have no idea how impossible it is.”

Luke shook his head at him. “Listen, pal, you either lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

Rossov isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character in the novel, but I had to chuckle sympathetically at his frustration in this scene. Not only does he need to come around to a new way of thinking, but as the White House’s representative, he needs to get the President on board and then will likely be tasked with getting entrenched politicians, lobbyists, and Washington bureaucrats to wake up to the new reality, too. Poor guy!

This excerpt only briefly touched on matters such as ethics and responsible science. (For example, just because a thing can be done does not mean is should be done.) The book examines some of these questions a bit more but also raises others. There are also the very practical matters of how to implement the life-sustaining treatments going forward, especially since there will be limited supplies, great expense, a variety of reactions by the populace, etc. Quite a complicated mess, both ethically and practically, if you ask me. And figuring out the answers is “way above my pay grade”, though I might return to the topic at some point.

Meantime, give the book a try, whydontcha? It’s a pretty good read — or, listen on audiobook (as I did).

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In Other News…

“Trey Gowdy is the right person for the job. He has a long history of demanding accountability, upholding transparency, and relentlessly pursuing the truth.”  — Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

While we are all alternately fascinated, repulsed, engrossed, and confused by the Comey news and subsequent opinionating of late regarding President Trump and the Russians, a few other developments have occurred that you may have missed. Hard to believe, I know. For example,…

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC)

Trey Gowdy (R-SC), conservative bulldog and pain-in-the-butt to many, has been chosen to replace the outgoing Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. He beat out Steve Russell (R-OK), who probably would have been a fine choice, too, though he is more junior and not as conservative as Gowdy.

Gowdy, who has been in Congress since Jan. 2011, is best known for his straight-shooter impartiality and dogged determination as Chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He has served on other committees, too, where he demonstrates conservative positions on defense, economic, and social issues (including pro-life and healthcare), with an emphasis on constitutionality. Some tried to get him to run for Speaker of the House a couple years back, but he declined and instead supported Paul Ryan. He was later considered for Attorney General and recently as replacement for James Comey as FBI Director. (He said he wanted to stay in Congress.)

The purpose of the House Oversight Committee (aka the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) is the primary investigative committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and one of the most influential and powerful committees in the House. It has broad jurisdiction and its chairman is “one of only three committee chairmen in the House with the authority to issue subpoenas without a committee vote or consultation with the ranking member.” Being chair of this committee is one of the most powerful and important positions in Congress, and I can’t think of anyone more trustworthy to wield such power in a responsible manner than Trey Gowdy.

Assuming the House Republican Conference votes him in officially this Tuesday (6/13/2017), Gowdy will assume the chairmanship on July 1.

The other bit of under-the-radar-yet-significant news from this past week that I wanted to bring to your attention involves the Judiciary Branch. Namely, the President has nominated several federal judges, three of whom will serve on influential circuit courts of appeal. As per the Washington Times,

“Colorado Supreme Court Justice Allison H. Eid, is being tapped by the president to fill a vacancy on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals created when Justice Neil Gorsuch was confirmed for the Supreme Court in April…. Mr. Trump also nominated U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson of North Dakota for the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and said he intends to nominate University of Pennsylvania Law School professor Stephanos Bibas to serve on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals….”

A White House statement pointed out that “[t]hese nominations follow the successful nomination and confirmation of associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court, the successful nomination and confirmation of Judge Amul R. Thapar of Kentucky to serve as a circuit judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and the nomination of numerous candidates to other judgeships.”

The appointment of such judges/justices to district and appellate court positions was touted by some during the presidential campaigns as at least as important and impactful as naming someone to SCOTUS, if not more so. They are needed to help rein in the leftist judicial activism that has taken over the lower courts in certain areas. Fortunately, it looks as if Trump is following through on his promise, with various legal scholars voicing their approval.

“It’s a fantastic list…. Many of the nominees are well known in the conservative legal movement and have shown commitment to principled and evenhanded application of the law throughout their careers. For the many Americans whose top concern in November was electing a president who would put committed constitutionalists to the courts, this is another major victory.”  — Carrie Severino, chief counsel and policy director of the Judicial Crisis Network

“President Trump continues to put forward superlative judicial nominees with sterling credentials and impressive intellects. It’s especially notable that President Trump continues to pick current and former academics for the appellate bench — more so than any recent president. This will only magnify the impact his nominees are likely to have on the federal courts.”  — Jonathan Adler, director of the Center for Business Law & Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

This is very good news, indeed. Let’s just hope that the Senate can confirm these candidates without too much hassle from the “progressives”.

(See the WT article for names and brief details on the nominees. Guy Benson’s Townhall article has additional info, particularly in re Justice Eid.)

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Radical Christians, U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, and the Paris Climate Accord

It has been a busy weekend, and I wasn’t sure what I’d have time to share with you this week. I knew I wanted a political element to it, though. So, I looked back at several articles from the past few days and came up with a few items of interest to briefly comment on….

First up, it appears that angry atheist Mikey Weinstein is still up to his old tricks, crying out about imagined Christian Dominionists trying to establish a hardline Christian theocracy in America. This time, Newsweek is helping him recycle old tales he’s been telling for years, but now he tries to blame Trump.

“In a story headlined ‘Trump effect inspires radical Christians in military,’ Newsweek political writer Nina Burleigh describes an ominous scene unfolding in the armed forces: crazy Christian ‘fundamentalists’ in uniform harassing non-believers in a fervent attempt to establish a theocracy. Ron Crews of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty noticed that Burleigh’s 1,300-word story relied exclusively on atheist attorney Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation, relying on a claim he made years ago to bash the five-month Trump administration.”

Of course, to a militant anti-theist like Weinstein, any Christian who has the gall to somehow express his/her Christian faith or moral values is a “radical Christian” who must be silenced!

Trump made a campaign promise to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Most Israelis and pro-Israel supporters in the West were thrilled, given such a move’s symbolism, and it looked like it would happen fairly soon. That is, until last week, when Trump signed a waiver to keep from moving that embassy for at least another 6 months. The reasoning?

“[S]ince taking office, Trump has heard repeatedly from foreign leaders and Mideast experts warning him that such a move could terminate his push for a Mideast peace deal even before it gets started. The longstanding U.S. position is that Jerusalem’s fate must be worked out through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The Palestinians argue moving the embassy would prejudge one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict, undermining America’s status as an effective mediator.”

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, moving the U.S. embassy to the much-politicized and divided Jerusalem would be a strong show of U.S. support for the State of Israel. That would be a good thing and worth doing. (However, I believe all other foreign consulates to Israel are in Tel Aviv, so that might be a little inconvenient for conducting business. Not sure.) On the other hand, it won’t hurt to delay a few months, if it removes a potential stumblingblock from negotiations. On the other other hand, I don’t care how good a negotiator Trump is, I don’t trust the Palestinians to uphold any *fair* deal. They haven’t been trustworthy in the past, and I doubt they are suddenly any more so now. (In fact, the lies have already begun.) But, I suppose the Trump administration needs to be able to say it tried. Certainly, if & when the move is finally made, there will be unrest, probably violent, in Jerusalem and elsewhere.

In another major policy decision, President Trump announced that the U.S. is officially withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord that his predecessor got us into. The Left is wailing about “mass extinction” and destroying the planet, because, well, they’ve drunk their own kool-aid. On the other side of the aisle, as Ben Shapiro observes,

“[T]he entire conservative movement [is] celebrating him for pulling out of the meaningless and counterproductive Paris Accord on climate change. Trump gave a highly effective, politically attuned speech regarding the costs to the economy of substantial environmental regulations – a speech the left will deride, but that won’t lose Trump a single vote in a swing state.”

Contrary to what the Left would have you believe, many of us (including Trump) recognize that mankind can and does have some impact on the planet’s ecology. What we question is how much our impact truly is and the best way to go about managing or correcting that. In our estimation, the data does not justify the alarmism from the (mostly) Left, and it certainly doesn’t justify the radical measures pushed by Al Gore and friends. And the Paris agreement, frankly, placed an undue burden on the U.S., which is why Trump pulled us out. It would cost our economy trillions of dollars and force American taxpayers to pay $3 billion to the U.N. Green Climate Fund.

Sen. Rand Paul remarked,

“We would lose 6 and a half million jobs, while countries like India and Iran… we would have to pay them to reduce their carbon emissions. I think one of the reasons President Trump was elected was that he would defend the American worker and defend American jobs. I can’t imagine a worse agreement for the American worker.”

Furthermore, this move is not a move toward reckless waste and pollution. Sec. Rex Tillerson had a few things to say on this. Also, as per President Trump,

“I will work to ensure that America remains the world’s leader on environmental issues. We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work. We’re not going to lose our jobs.”

Plus, he is open to working out a new or amended accord (see image above). So, everyone, just chill out!

P.S.  Kathy Griffin is a washed-up, unfunny has-been of the Looney Left, who is trying desperately to gain public attention. Well, she did so in an incredibly tasteless and disgusting way, much like what goes for “humor” these days among her ilk. Following up her tone-deaf stunt by crying “I’m a victim!” just further proves her mental imbalance and/or warped sense of self-relevance. (Ouch! That was harsh!)

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We Honor Those Who Died…

To those who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces:

With a heart of gratitude, we honor and thank you for that service and for your sacrifice.

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