Trayvon Martin and the Fresh Prince

The continuing national media attention to the George Zimmerman trial is an example of America’s obsession with race.  In addition, we found out today that the Justice Department’s “Peacemakers” were deployed to Florida to “quell racial tensions” whatever that means.  Perhaps the most insightful thing I’ve heard came from Rose Tennent, guest host of the Sean Hannity show.  She said that the entire matter – the shooting through the trial – would be at most a local headline if not for the particular racial circumstances: that George Zimmerman is light-skinned and Trayvon Martin was black.

carltonHowever, there is one thing I still don’t understand.  What did Obama mean when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”?  I think the President’s son would look more like Carlton.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics and culture

Hitler-chic and Chairman Mao

I saw this post of a fried chicken restaurant in Thailand.  hitlerThe picture actually made the rounds on the internet a couple of years ago.  Apparently, Hitler-chic is popular in Thailand, while other Southeast Asian countries like India and Indonesia are fascinated by the infamous dictator.

In the United States, we are fascinated by Che Guevara, second in command to Fidel Castro during and after the Cuban revolution, and Mao Zedong, former dictator of China.  The Beatles sing about Chairman Mao, but Che has his own line of clothing.  I even know a cat named Che!  I suppose the fascination arises from the fact that these men were revolutionaries who threw off the chains of colonialism and capitalism.  Hitler was a revolutionary, too.  He revolted against the Western powers who had contrived to punish Germany through the Treaty of Versailles, but he also revolted against the liberal and elitist culture that pervaded Germany during the Weimar Republic.  All three men were also strongly Nationalistic.

So why no Hitler-chic in the United States?  People seem to have a visceral reaction to Hitler.  I think perhaps this is because Hitler reminds us of the United States’ own struggle with racial bigotry.  Also, perhaps popular perceptions lead people in the United States to believe that Hitler’s actions were much worse than those of the other two men.  The 45 million killed during Mao’s reign were victims only of wrongheaded government policies, those killed by Che were traitors to the cause of freedom, while the 10-15 million killed during Hitler’s reign were victims of racial bigotry and genocide.  That any of these people are lionized in popular culture, as Stalin was lionized in the 1930’s by America’s Elites, is beyond me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Things are Getting Tough

Monday on Conan, the late night talk show host made the following comment:

“Some Republicans are saying that due to his current scandals, president Obama should be impeached. That’s what they’re saying, yeah.  In response Obama laughed and said, ‘two words, fellows — President Biden’.”

I found this comment to be out-of-place compared to the political comments I’ve come to expect from the Late Night crowd.  Furthermore, it is a stunning admission of two things:

  1. Obama is in trouble.
  2. Biden is incompetent.

See for yourselves:

Benghazi

AP Records Seizure

Private Tax Records Leaked

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Timeless Issues in American Politics

A remarkable thing about early American history is that the government was already somewhat divided into “parties”.  I’ll call the first the party of Washington and Hamilton, and I’ll call the second the party of Jefferson and Jackson.  

ImageImage

After the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton, as George Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, established the financial machinery that helped America climb out of debt and return to a state of economic competitiveness.  Hamilton also thought that America’s future depended on manufacturing and industry, and he worked to ensure that industry thrived.  

Washington’s successor, John Adams appointed John Marshall as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Through his Court’s decisions, Marshall laid the legal foundation for the growth of industry and manufacturing in America.     

Several prominent anti-federalist politicians, chief among them Thomas Jefferson, distrusted these new “monied interests”.  Jefferson thought that real value was only produced by working the land.  He was also against the establishment of a central bank.  Later, Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory as he was called by his admirers) would be far more distrustful than Jefferson, and even reactionary.  In fact, Jackson helped bring about the financial collapse by letting the charter of the Second Bank of the United States expire.

This battle of the monied interests versus agriculture was also prominent in the lead up to the Civil War.  The South remained mostly agricultural while the North diversified into many areas of heavy industry.Image

Today, the major players are different – Labor plays the part of agriculture, while Wall Street plays the part of the monied interests.  But the same divide that pitted Jeffersonians against Hamiltonians is certainly recognizable between the parties – let’s call the first the party of Coolidge and Reagan, and the second the party of Roosevelt, Johnson, and Obama.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Science and the Bible

I am a person of Faith.  And I am also a scientist (well, almost – I’m an engineer).  I’ve often tried to understand the Bible in the context of what we have learned through science.  This is kind of like a science of the Bible.  In contrast, sometimes it seems impossible to understand God’s Word in the context of scientific knowledge.

ImageFor example, Exodus tells us that God sent nine plagues to the Egyptians so that Pharoah could see God’s power.  Were these plagues caused by something that can be explained by our scientific knowledge, like the plague of darkness by an eclipse, or the plague of blood by red tide?  I find this to be an interesting question.  Arguably the biggest question is how to reconcile the story of creation in Genesis with our scientific observations that, for one, date the earth at billions, not thousands, of years.

I suppose that one could put these inquiries and others on a firm scientific foundation by using God’s Word as an axiom.  Thus, all scientific observations at odds with God’s Word would be either incorrect or incomplete.  This seems like a difficult standard to me.  I do believe in the scientific process.  I’ve seen that some of our knowledge gained through this process has seemingly been at odds with God’s Word.  However, I wouldn’t dismiss that knowledge as being false.  There is a lot of activity in this area of science and God’s Word; the notion that science and Faith cannot coexist is anathema to me! 

In contrast, who says that God has done everything in ways that humans can or do understand?  For example, perhaps God simply made Egypt dark through his direct action.  This is by definition incomprehensible and not really science. 

Ultimately, it does not matter how God works.  However, this seems to contradict the fact that we were made in God’s image as scientific, knowledge-seeking people.  Science will never provide evidence of God, but maybe it can help us understand our relationship to him.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An American Story from the Joint Mathematics Meetings

British One and Two-pound Coins

British One and Two-pound Coins

The following story came from a talk entitled, Your Humble Servant, Is. Newton.  This talk highlighted the interesting and unique pieces of correspondence between Isaac Newton and his peers in the scientific community.

A 1676 letter from Newton to Robert Hooke contained this quote: “If I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of Giants.”  The quote is famous enough to have been milled into the edge of the British two-pound coin.  The above letter would certainly not be out of place in a British museum, or at The University of Cambridge where Newton studied.  Instead, it resides at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in the Simon Gratz Collection.

Simon Gratz was a Nineteenth Century Philadelphia lawyer, descended from a prominent family with roots in Colonial Philadelphia.  He bought and sold autographs and letters from around the world; his collection contains pieces from the late fourteenth century through the nineteenth century, including the famous letter from Sir Isaac Newton.  What a quintessentially American story!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Mathematics

War on Science

Consider these stories on fracking: Vermont Bans, City Council Pushes Ban, Hollywood Blowhards.  Are these examples of the Left’s “War on Science”?

Hollywood Blowhard

Hollywood Blowhard

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics and culture