Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Federalist Papers

Being somewhat distracted this weekend, and kind of busy, I can't think of anything to write about. So I will give you a link with lots of good reading material--the Federalist Papers.

You might enjoy exploring that entire site. It's called The Avalon Project at Yale Law School: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy. Lots of material there from various times--plenty of reading to keep you out of mischief! Enjoy!

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Easter Island in the South Pacific

In a recent discussion with a friend about isolated islands, I was reminded of a documentary I saw several years ago about Easter Island. It focused on the giant statues and the history of the island, but also had a little about the current population. Looking on a map and seeing how far from anywhere Easter Island is, I had to wonder how anyone ever got there and, once they did, why they stayed. I don't have all the answers, but I have found some links to share with you about the island's history and current status. I have to say, though, that I would be afraid to live out in the middle of the ocean on a tiny piece of land. The ocean is so vast and deep and spawns tsunamis and typhoons. Still, Easter Island is interesting and, from what I've read and seen on the web, it has a certain charm.

I'm going to share four links with a variety of information and photos. You can, of course, do a search on Easter Island and get all sorts of material, from travel information to ecological information and everything in between. I had hoped to find more on the people who live there now and what they do, but had to settle for bits and pieces gleaned from articles about the history and the statues. If you know of a good link about modern day Easter Island, feel free to put the url in a comment.

The links:

Easter Island in Words and Pictures

Rapanui (Easter Island) by Dr. Grant McCall (book excerpt)

Easter Island History

Easter Island at Wikipedia (You know the drill--confirm wikipedia info with another source.) (Actually, that applies to anything!)

Also, there is a map of Easter Island here.

There are some minor discrepancies in details between the above sources, such as how far from other places Easter Island is, but you can get a nice overview of the island from these sources and the links they provide.

Easter Island is about 63 or 64 square miles in size and roughly triangular in shape. From the Easter Island History link above, we learn that:

Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) is one of the world’s great archaeological sites, and also one of the most remote. The nearest inhabited island is tiny Pitcairn, over 1,200 miles [1,931 kilometers] to the west. Rapa Nui is almost 2,500 miles [4,023 kilometers] from the coast of South America and, in the other direction, it is 2,000 miles [3,219 kilometers] to Tahiti. Its isolation is one of the key factors affecting the culture that evolved here.
Can you imagine living so far from other inhabited lands?!

The general story goes that the island got its name this way: "Easter Island's long isolation was ended on Easter Sunday in 1722 when a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, found the island. He named it for the holy day." (Again, from the Easter Island History link above.)

The native name was Rapa Nui and that name is still used somewhat today. It is generally believed that Polynesian people settled on the island about 300-400 A.D., but some think the settlement was much later (800-1200 A.D). Some also believe there is South American influence, too, and not just Polynesian.

Wikipedia says, "Population at the 2002 census was 3,791 inhabitants, up from 1,936 inhabitants in 1982." There are people--a number of people--living there today. Tourism is a major income producer for the island, which has been annexed by Chile (and has a Spanish name of Isla de Pascua), although it has a local governor now. Dr. McCall's link above provides a factual summary of information about the island and, if you scroll down to the "History" section, you can read a detailed account of the island's dealings with Chile.

The Easter Island in Words and Pictures link will take you to a site with fantastic photos and a brief write-up of the basic information about the island.

I just think it is so fascinating that people found and settled such an isolated island. They settled in to stay and developed a civilization. They even had developed the only written language in Oceania (a name given the group of many islands in the Pacific), called rongorongo, which no one has been able to decipher. Thor Heyerdahl arrived in 1955 with the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition and they were the first to do excavations and attempt to come up with dates for the various findings.

This is just a brief summary of some of the information you can read about in the above links. The material is fairly short and the Easter Island in Words and Pictures page has a Resources page with a number of links.

Enjoy the geography lesson!

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

More on Global Warming

On September 25, 2006, Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) delivered a fine speech on global warming and on the way media has joined in unabashedly in hyping this hysteria. He gives specific examples of where the science has wandered away from the trail and also on how various media presentations have been blatantly biased. Good reading. And, yes, I am very proud of my Oklahoma senator!

Some highlights:
Since 1895, the media has alternated between global cooling and warming scares during four separate and sometimes overlapping time periods. From 1895 until the 1930’s the media peddled a coming ice age.

From the late 1920’s until the 1960’s they warned of global warming. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s they warned us again of a coming ice age. This makes modern global warming the fourth estate’s fourth attempt to promote opposing climate change fears during the last 100 years.

Recently, advocates of alarmism have grown increasingly desperate to try to convince the public that global warming is the greatest moral issue of our generation. Last year, the vice president of London’s Royal Society sent a chilling letter to the media encouraging them to stifle the voices of scientists skeptical of climate alarmism.

During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and instead crossed squarely into global warming advocacy.

Then there is this:

First, I would like to summarize some of the recent developments in the controversy over whether or not humans have created a climate catastrophe. One of the key aspects that the United Nations, environmental groups and the media have promoted as the “smoking gun” of proof of catastrophic global warming is the so-called ‘hockey stick’ temperature graph by climate scientist Michael Mann and his colleagues.

This graph purported to show that temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere remained relatively stable over 900 years, then spiked upward in the 20th century presumably due to human activity. Mann, who also co-publishes a global warming propaganda blog reportedly set up with the help of an environmental group, had his “Hockey Stick” come under severe scrutiny.

The “hockey stick” was completely and thoroughly broken once and for all in 2006. Several years ago, two Canadian researchers tore apart the statistical foundation for the hockey stick. In 2006, both the National Academy of Sciences and an independent researcher further refuted the foundation of the “hockey stick.”

The National Academy of Sciences report reaffirmed the existence of the Medieval Warm Period from about 900 AD to 1300 AD and the Little Ice Age from about 1500 to 1850. Both of these periods occurred long before the invention of the SUV or human industrial activity could have possibly impacted the Earth’s climate. In fact, scientists believe the Earth was warmer than today during the Medieval Warm Period, when the Vikings grew crops in Greenland.

Climate alarmists have been attempting to erase the inconvenient Medieval Warm Period from the Earth’s climate history for at least a decade. David Deming, an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Geosciences, can testify first hand about this effort. Dr. Deming was welcomed into the close-knit group of global warming believers after he published a paper in 1995 that noted some warming in the 20th century. Deming says he was subsequently contacted by a prominent global warming alarmist and told point blank “We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period.” When the “Hockey Stick” first appeared in 1998, it did just that.

Take a few minutes to read this speech and see what you think. The same webpage has a link to a follow-up speech as well.

Here is a link to Senator Inhofe's opening remarks at the March 21, 2007, hearing on global warming, featuring Al Gore. Scroll down for more links, including a pdf file on A Skeptic's Guide. Lots of information is there for you to mull over. Senator Inhofe is the ranking member on the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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At Jewish World Review Dennis Prager writes a column titled "Compassion and the decline of America" in which he discusses the values trampled by a misguided sense of compassion. He begins with a little story:

This past weekend, a friend of mine attended his 13-year-old son's baseball game. What he saw encapsulates a major reason many of us fear for the future of America and the West.

His son's team was winning 24-7 as the game entered the last inning. When he looked up at the scoreboard, he noticed that the score read 0-0. Naturally, he inquired as to what happened — was the scoreboard perhaps broken? — and was told that the winning team's coach asked the scoreboard keeper to change the score. He and some of the parents were concerned that the boys on the losing team felt humiliated.

In order to ensure that the boys losing by a lopsided score would not feel too bad, the score was changed.
Mr. Prager goes on to point how this "compassionate" act trashed four values: truth, wisdom, building character, and fairness. For example:

Truth was the first value compassion trashed. In the name of compassion, the adults in charge decided to lie. The score was not 0-0; it was 24-7.

He discusses all four values and shows how "compassion" creates far more problems than it might solve. The conclusion?
Compassion in social policy almost always produces unfair results. Compassion for murderers allows them to keep their lives after taking the life of another. Compassion for minorities leads to affirmative action, which means that individuals who are not members of a designated minority will be treated unfairly. Compassion for immigrant children led to bilingual education, which subsequently prevented most of those children from advancing in American society.

Compassion as the primary determinant of behavior is effective in personal life. In making public policy, it is a morally and socially destructive guideline. In fact, it is so bad that thinking people must conclude that its primary purpose is to enable policy makers who are guided by compassion to feel good about themselves.
This is recommended reading as an object lesson in thinking things all the way through instead of just acting on surface appearances.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Walter Reed Scandal

Whatever your personal opinion of Ann Coulter, she does her research and gives us some important viewpoints to consider. At you can read her column titled "In Washington, It's Always the Year of the Rat". She begins by writing:

Democrats have leapt on reports of mold, rats and bureaucratic hurdles at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as further proof of President George Bush's failed war policies.

To the contrary, the problems at Walter Reed are further proof of the Democrats' failed domestic policies -- to wit, the civil service rules that prevent government employees from ever being fired.

She also writes:

Unless U.S. Army generals are supposed to be spraying fungicide on the walls and crawling under beds to set rattraps, the slovenly conditions at Walter Reed are not their fault. The military is nominally in charge of Walter Reed, but -- because of civil service rules put into place by Democrats -- the maintenance crew can't be fired.

If the general "in charge" can't fire the people not doing their jobs, I don't know why he is being held responsible for them not doing their jobs.
As in my previous post about the public (i.e., government) schools, here again we find government keeping its own counsel and not responding to the taxpayer who supports it. What's up with not being able to expect actual conscientious work from government employees?

As Ms. Coulter points out:

You will find the exact same problems anyplace market forces have been artificially removed by the government and there is a total absence of incentives, competition, effective oversight, cost controls and so on. It's almost like a cause-and-effect thing.
An excellent point. When are we going to hold the government and its various entities responsible for their performance? Why do we persist in turning things over to the government and then ignoring what happens? How about doing something about it?

Now that the Democrats are once again pretending to give a damn about the troops by wailing about conditions at Walter Reed, how about some Republican -- maybe Chambliss! -- introduce a bill to remove civil service protections from employees at Walter Reed and all veterans' hospitals? You know, a bill that would actually address the problem.
Take a few minutes to read the entire column. Ms. Coulter shares some stories of things that happen in D.C. that ought to give us pause.

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The Government Gets Too Big for Its Britches

What's up with the Government and its entities? Lately, we've watched news stories about scandalous conditions at Walter Reed, giving us a glimpse of what socialized medicine would be like if Hillary Clinton and others get their way. Now we get a glimpse of what public schools can be like if they continue to try to take over the raising of children from parents.

In an article at Concerned Women for America, we learn that "School Tells Kids to Hide Pro-'Gay' Propaganda from Parents". It seems that Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois,

has required fourteen-year-old freshmen to attend a “Straight Gay Alliance Network” (GSA) panel discussion led by “gay” and “lesbian” upperclassmen during a “freshman advisory” class which secretively featured inappropriate discussions of a sexual nature in promotion of high-risk homosexual behaviors.

Not only has DHS required that its young and impressionable freshmen be exposed to radical homosexual propaganda, the school has further required that students sign a “confidentiality agreement” promising not to tell anyone – including their own parents – about the discussion.
This is an outrage that must be stopped, whatever form it takes. Schools have no business keeping secrets from the parents of their students, or from the public in general. Our tax money supports these schools. It is most definitely our business what goes on there.

In addition to having no business keeping secrets, schools also have no business having classes in propaganda. Schools are to teach such things as history, math, science, English, and no more. No wonder our students do poorly academically when schools waste the kids' time and "teach" them things the schools have no business teaching. And guess what?

Remarkably, even after the school district’s surreptitious actions were exposed, parents were nonetheless told that they were not welcome to sit in on the “freshman advisory” and were not permitted to have access to materials used in compiling its activist curriculum.
Go read the entire article. It's quite educational. And that brings up another question--why haven't we heard/read stories about this in the good ol' Mainstream Media?

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Political Reflections

I often link to and quote from conservative political articles in my posts here at Scholar. I suppose that I come off as agitating for war instead of peace. Believe me, that is not my intent! However, there are times when we need to stand up for what is right and oppose what is wrong, even if that does mean going to war. When you think about the repressive regime the jihadists wish to force upon the entire world, you understand why they must be stopped.

It appears that many Americans have grown impatient. They want instant solutions rather than long term corrections that will genuinely solve problems. If a war takes longer than a couple of months, they want out. If tax cuts take awhile to work, they want to repeal them. If immigration problems take time to solve, they want to just leave them be. People seem to have lost sight of the fact that problems don't develop overnight and cannot be solved overnight. You have to think deeply and consider all the possible consequences of any course of action. Then you choose the best long-term solution and began, knowing that it will take time--sometimes a lot of time--but that in the end, the problem will be truly solved.

Education in government schools is at least a part of the problem. Our children aren't taught in depth like they were in the first half of the twentieth century (and earlier). Now it seems that they are skimming along on the surface of subjects, not learning the patience and persistence it takes to study something thoroughly. Everyone is praised for everything and no one wants to get into anything too difficult because it might injure somebody's self-esteem or offend them in some way. I imagine the real world is something of a shock to today's young people, a real world in which there is competition and there are difficult problems that render a surface knowledge of subjects useless. This is a real world where there is right and wrong--truth isn't relative like they were taught in school. There really are values and virtues, evils and vices, and they must be sorted out. Some things are of great importance and must be defended. Other things are trivial and time-wasting and need to be let go.

If people don't know how to think things through, they fall victim to every scheme and scam that comes along. They believe everything they are told. They think you can throw money at a problem and solve it. They even think that empty-headed celebrities and politicians always know what they are talking about. Where are people who are able to think carefully and read up on different points of view and consider the ramifications of various proposals? Where are people who have values and standards and understand that liberty, freedom, virtue, morality, marriage, family, religion, and other such things are essential to the development of real civilization? Where are respect and honor? Where are truly good role models?

Being human, none of us are perfect. We make mistakes. We fall short. My concern is that we lack the depth necessary to overcome our imperfections and to correct our mistakes. We are too short-sighted, too impatient. We are too concerned with the politically correct and not concerned enough with what is the truth.

One solution is to teach truth, values, virtue, and morality. If it isn't taught in schools, it should be taught at home and in the community. It can be taught through various forms of media. It can be taught through churches, private schools, and home schools. And there are always some people of depth who survive their public schooling and exposure to mainstream media and learn on their own to study subjects in depth and think things through and consider consequences.

We shall just have to continue to do the best we can in whatever circumstances we find ourselves and be good examples that will reach at least a few people, eventually spreading through society. It would be easy to become pessimistic and give up. That we must never do.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

On Negotiations

At Jewish World Review, Caroline B. Glick has an article titled "If Iran Gets the Bomb." This is an excellent piece which lays out why the world should get busy and stop Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. Her first two paragraphs read as follows:

With the Bush administration now happily basking in the glory of positive coverage in The New York Times and enjoying the warm embrace of the James Baker/Brent Scowcroft wing of the Republican Party, it is hard to imagine that it will reconsider its decision to abandon the Bush Doctrine. That doctrine, named after President George W. Bush and most forcefully enunciated by him, eschewed appeasement of terror supporting, weapons of mass destruction proliferating enemies of the free world.

Today, what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refers to as a "diplomatic initiative" aimed at appeasing terror supporting, and weapons of mass destruction proliferating Iran, and its terror supporting, and weapons of mass destruction proliferating Syrian colony is about to take off in Baghdad. So too, this week the US began normalizing its relations with the terror supporting, weapons of mass destruction proliferating Stalinist dictatorship in Pyongyang.

She goes on to explain the consequences of following this appeasement/negotiation pathway. Read the piece and see what you think.

Also at Jewish World Review is this article by Michael Ledeen titled "The Negotiations Hoax." In this piece, Mr. Ledeen demonstrates the falsity of the Left's position that negotiations have not been tried in the Middle East or elsewhere by the United States. He begins by saying:

A great hoax is being perpetrated on the world, the hoax of negotiations as an untried method to "solve" the "Iranian problem." In fact, we have been negotiating with the mullahs ever since—indeed even before—the 1979 revolution that deposed the shah and brought to power the Islamic Fascist regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In the intervening 28 years, we have participated in countless face-to-face encounters, myriad "demarches" sent through diplomatic channels, and meetings—some on the fringes of international conferences—involving "unofficial" representatives of one government or the other. The lack of any tangible result is obvious, yet the chatterers, led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, and cheered on by intellectuals, editorialists, and instant experts on Iran, act as if none of this ever happened.

and concludes with this:
Those who still dream of the grand bargain—including those in the G.W. Bush administration who have pursued it avidly, and have gotten kicked in the same place as the Clinton pursuers—must explain to us simple souls why there is anything different today that might make a bargain with the Iranians more likely than it has been for the last 28 years. Certainly the Iranians have shown no desire for reconciliation; quite the contrary, unless you think killing Americans at a rate considerably faster than the tempo of murder in the Clinton years represents some odd form of mating dance. The Supreme Leader is the same fanatic as he was then, in terrible health to be sure, but no friendlier towards satanic negotiators. The only big change in Tehran personnel is the president. Instead of Khatami-the-Reformer we've got Ahmadinejad, Hitler's great admirer. I don't think that is an improvement.

If they were forced to answer these questions, the advocates of negotiations would resort to the hoax—we haven't tried negotiations, and it's worth a try. But the real history of U.S.-Iranian relations suggests very strongly that the only possible winners in such talks will be the mullahs. They will gain more time to organize their war against us, and to build atomic bombs.

All those who think we haven't tried negotiating with our enemies and that if we would, we could solve all the problems, should read these two articles. Talk about a wake-up call!

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More on Origami

My friend, Pop, sent me a link to a fascinating article on origami. It's "The Origami Lab" by Susan Orlean. The article is about a physicist, Robert J. Lang, who decided to devote full time to origami. He has a website here and you will be amazed at his wonderful creations!

The article talks about Lang and how he got started in origami, and it also gives some background about origami. Here's a paragraph about Lang:
Lang grew up outside Atlanta. He was given an origami book when he was six by a teacher who had run out of ways to keep him entertained during math class. Lang took to origami immediately. He was fascinated by the infinite possibilities within the finite-seeming—the characters and the creatures that could almost magically come to life from an ordinary square of paper. He worked his way through the designs in one book and then another and another. He had many interests—stamps, coins, plants, bugs, mud—and he was, as his father, Jim Lang, says, “a super-duper math whiz,” hooked on Martin Gardner’s recreational math column in Scientific American. But paper folding engaged him most. He started designing his own origami patterns when he was in his early teens. He diagrammed them in detail on letterhead from the Chrysler Corporation Airtemp Division, where his father was in sales.

And here's a bit about origami itself:

The Japanese have been folding paper recreationally for at least four hundred years. For the first two hundred of those years, designs were limited to a few basic shapes: boxes, boats, hats, cranes. Folding a thousand cranes—all of white paper, which was the only kind then used—was thought to bring good luck. The principle was simple. The sheet of paper was the essence: no matter what shape it became, there was never more paper and never less; it remained the same sheet. Japanese folding probably didn’t spread directly to the West. There is no definitive history, although David Lister, a retired solicitor in Grimsby, England, and the author of more than a hundred essays on the subject, suggests that paper folding developed independently in countries all over the world. In the nineteenth century, schoolchildren in Germany, France, and England made paper horses with riders, and boxes to trap flies, and it is reported that paper folding flourished in Spanish villages and prisons.

In 1837, a German educator, Friedrich Fröbel, introduced the radical idea of early-childhood education—kindergarten. The curriculum included three kinds of paper folding—“The Folds of Truth,” “The Folds of Life,” and “The Folds of Beauty”—to teach children principles of math and art. The kindergarten movement was embraced around the world, including in Japan, where Fröbel’s simple folds merged with traditional origami. Japanese magicians of the time also began doing paper tricks as part of their conjuring. By the eighteen-sixties, Japan’s isolationism was ending, and in the following decades those magicians travelled to Europe and the United States to perform. Suddenly, the kindergarten exercise appeared mysterious and wonderful. A square of ordinary paper creased and crinkled could come to life as a flapping gull; a sheet of parchment could take shape as a lion or a swallowtail. Professional magicians in Europe and the United States loved origami, and a number of them wrote books about it. In 1922, Harry Houdini published “Houdini’s Paper Magic: The Whole Art of Performing with Paper, Including Paper Tearing, Paper Folding and Paper Puzzles.” (He regularly did a trick known as “the troublewit,” turning a piece of paper into an endless number of different shapes without any cuts.) In 1928, the stage magicians William Murray and Francis Rigney published “Fun with Paperfolding,” with chapters on square folding, diagonal folding, and a complete paper-folding stage routine titled “How Charlie Bought His Boat.”

The entire article is a fascinating read, and a visit to Robert J. Lang's will top off your fascination just right. Have a look. Maybe you will have found a new hobby!