Disclaimer


The content on this blog is my personal opinion and does not reflect the views of the Department of Defense or the US Navy in any way.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Conspiracies and Truth

... because I feel like pointing and laughing this week, I think.

Okay, that's a bit too much. Really it's more of a helpless pity, since I have no idea how to convince someone like Mike Adams or the average person who actually believes that NaturalNews is accurate that their view of the way reality works has become rather dramatically divergent from the way it actually works. Case in point: a recent article that I found via RationalWiki.

Apparently the Mayan apocalypse was the only crackpot theory Adams doesn't believe in (granted, this was apparent long before now). I would say I don't understand how it's possible to believe in this many wild theories... but I think this article does actually show how people get drawn in.

For example, the article mentions how the number of deaths at Sandy Hook is miniscule compared to, say, car accidents. That happens to be true. As is the fact that there is some collateral damage resulting from US drone strikes, and that the media rarely mentions it. Further down, the Fed can, in essence, create more money to put in the US economy. And there are powerful societal pressures to conform to everyone around you...

Granted, there's a lot that's... untrue, to put it mildly. Vaccines, while not 100% free of adverse effects (nothing is), tend to be far better than the diseases they replace - and if that becomes untrue then we tend to stop using them. There's essentially zero evidence of a massive propaganda system covering everything we watch, hear, or read. NaturalNews and Infowars either aren't seeking the truth, or are so breathtakingly incompetent that they're effectively useless - yes, more so than Fox or MSNBC's blatant partisanship.

Still, those truths appeal to people who are just realizing that something is wrong. Their presence makes the untruths easier to swallow - unfortunately, it's quite natural to think that if he's right about this one thing, then maybe he's also right about the other things I'd never considered before. That suggests that, however hard it may be, it's important to check all the claims being made, even if you know some are true...

But... and perhaps more to the point... those "truths" I mentioned are a little more complicated than the article mentions. The experience of many other countries suggests our number of gun deaths is abnormal, whether due to our gun culture or due to the number of guns we have. While I haven't exactly asked them about it myself, I'm reasonably certain the entire military chain of command from the President on down deeply regrets that collateral damage - and does what they can to minimize it (which might not be enough from some people's point of view, but even if you believe that, it's still better than nothing). The Fed has to carefully balance risks of inflation and deflation as they decide where to set rates and how much money to lend - they can't just create whatever they want. And those societal pressures are an unconscious product of psychology, not an intentional propaganda war - perhaps more to the point, they can be acknowledged and countered (to various, sometimes limited extent) without believing in all sorts of conspiracy theories.

They're true, but incomplete. In my experience, that's a much easier way to lie to someone... sometimes, even without actually knowing it (although, for something of this magnitude, even my naturally forgiving personality struggles with that idea). And that suggests that sometimes it's important, not necessarily to question the things we know are true (because ultimately, there's little we can do but rely on our own judgement for determining that, whether it's using personally observed facts or advice from others as input), but to ask ourselves if there's something else we haven't considered that might make a more simple answer partially wrong.

I think the failure to do that is both the easiest and the most tenacious way in which we convince ourselves to believe something that's wrong and settle for only part of the truth.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tragedy and Reaction

Sorry for the late post this week.

I'm commenting on the most recent school shooting this week (along with what I'm pretty sure is every other blog on the Internet). For my part, though, I'm going to look at what constitutes the right (or perhaps just a good) way to act in response.

There are a fair number of different choices, most of which we've seen before in previous such tragedies. Those very close to the victims are dealing with grief which most of the rest of us can barely imagine - I'm certainly not going to try for this post; I have no right to tell them how they should grieve.

As for everyone else... they're just doing the best they can, as usual. For some people that's a plea to avoid talking about the issue, or to avoid poisoning it with politics or acrimony. Most of those people, I imagine, want to help those close to the victims by avoiding too much sensationalism or hatred creeping into the discussion. Other people reject that approach and dive into the discussion, arguing as hard as they feel they need to in favor of what they see as the right solution. Their motivation is fairly obvious - to prevent, or at least limit, the incidence of any other events like this one.

Neither reaction, I would argue, is precisely wrong.

Some people, no matter how far removed, may wish to limit the discussion for their own reasons, or may imagine that keeping themselves out will limit the national discussion's cacophony, even if only by a small amount. Both those goals are acceptable to me.

Likewise, there is very little to disapprove of in the desire to reduce senseless violence, even if doing so makes people uncomfortable.

But there are two caveats here - two ways in which I do think someone can react inappropriately.

One is that you can't really control others' actions. Those people who want to limit the discussion are limited to what they personally can do - forcing others to remain silent does them a disservice and implicitly supports one side in the debate about how to react to incidents like this. (Likewise, forcing people to talk wouldn't be allowed - so no arguing that those who don't wish to discuss the issue have to do so. I think that's much less of a problem than the other way around is, though.)

The other is that no one gets a pass on talking points and emotional appeals, even in a highly emotionally charged time like this. In this time just like any other, we need to come up with the right answer - and passion and emotion might drive us to have those debates and to convince other people of the answers we come up with, but they won't help us as much when we're coming up with those answers. The paranoia seen in many gun advocates and the disgust of many gun control supporters only helps to a point.

UPDATE: I went back to Facebook after I wrote this, and read yet more posts from friends regarding the gun control debate... And now I just want to emphasize that last paragraph's point about fallacious arguments. I hate to call people stupid too obviously and/or act too arrogant about my own capacity for debate, but I guess the idea that this is the best we can come up with to react to this tragedy is getting to me more than I thought it was.

Also see this blog post from Almost Diamonds on Freethought Blogs - I had intended this to be more of a meta post about the debate as opposed to expressing my position on the debate, but now I find myself wanting to point out one of the main problems clearly, and I really can't do it any better than that post did.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Technologies and Tactics

For once I'm actually using a blog post as inspiration.

The post in question is titled "Shock and Awe without El Kabong". To summarize, it mentions a new missile being developed by Boeing which has the ability to generate a directed EMP effect - allowing it to neatly fry any electronic devices in a target as the missile flies past. The post continues to point out that such technology could be used to disable defenses while greatly limiting collateral damage.

Certainly, I'm happy to see it - improvements in precision weapons and nonlethal weapons make it easier for me to do my job while avoiding civilian deaths. That said, I'd also like to point out that this is far from a perfect solution. Granted, I think the author of the original blog post probably knows that, given the caveats that were included along with the proposed additional uses, but it's worth emphasizing that this, like every other technological advancement in history, can only change the nature of war so much.

One of these problems is the ability to defend against this missile's attack. There are some things which by their very nature will not be easily protected - building a Faraday cage around an antenna tends to make the antenna stop working. However, there's a lot more that can be isolated either with such devices or by building them that much deeper underground (and the blog post in question specifically calls out "provided they have not moved things underground" as one of its caveats). Even if the only recourse is to carefully switch your defense stations between "offline, useless, shielded" and "online, useful, unprotected", that's still more options than you get when your defense stations are smoking craters.

There are also some things that can't be effectively attacked with such technology. A rifle-wielding infantryman may wind up in trouble if he loses communications, night vision, or other electronic assists. He still has the capability to pose a threat, though, and many military technologies are designed with manual backups specifically so that they can continue to pose a threat even if something breaks. The Internet is another example. I've read the original blog post two or three times now and I still have no idea why the author thinks frying Wikileaks servers is plausible - or why he thinks that would do any good. Given the proliferation of mirrors, backups, and additional routers and paths, keeping anything off the air by hitting its storage media or communications links is the next best thing to impossible - at best, it would require a massive intelligence effort to find all of those things, followed by the political will to engage in quite a bit of "collateral damage" to mirror sites and archives that serve other sites as well as the one you were targeting. (Granted, "provided we can pinpoint servers" is the caveat listed with that idea, so I think the author understands that the idea isn't exactly a sure thing. Still, I think such a brief phrase vastly understates the difficulty of that task.) The same idea applies to using it to counter cyber operations - pinpointing their sources in real time remains difficult (at least, to the best of my understanding).

Finally, collateral damage remains a possibility. I alluded to that above when I pointed out that some servers run things we like along with things we don't like. One of the other possibilities here is that we could take out computerized regulatory/control systems for utilities, airports, or any number of other things - and that could have quite a few consequences, including death, for any noncombatants that really needed power or heat right then.

With all that said, I'll close out by acknowledging that I like the look of this new weapon myself. As I was saying above, there are manual backups - but the reason they are the backups is because they are less effective than the primary (electronic) methods. We still have to think about our tactics carefully and acknowledge that this won't save us from sometimes having to kill people - but this particular weapon gives us more nonlethal options than we had, and that's not a bad thing.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tactics and Compromises, part 2

Wasn't planning on writing something like this, but I recently had another interesting Facebook debate. (I think most of my posts have come from Facebook issues by now. I really need to go back to the blogs I read one of these weeks.)

Anyway, the reason this is listed as "part 2" is because said debate touched on the issue I raised here, namely: what do do when someone starts lying in a debate. Really, I should have known much better than to divide the choices into two specific options... given that I just pointed out a falsehood without actually calling my opponent a liar, I'd say it's quite clear that there's some gray area in there.

This is also why I sometimes like Internet debates more than real-life ones. I have as much time as I need on the Internet to line up my facts and think about how best to phrase a reply. Sometimes that turns into paralysis as I try to find the perfect way to put something, but overall it tends to go better.

Anyway, before I get too wrapped up in patting myself on the back, I should probably point out (to myself and everyone else)... I don't actually like using this gray area.

Why? Well, because I wouldn't be too surprised if my opponent's reply accused me of calling him a liar. For that matter, I'd probably agree with him, because I did, albeit indirectly.

Something like the "non-confrontational" idea I came up with in the linked post isn't just a matter of what I think; it depends a lot on what my opponents think of me. And when I'm calling out someone for lying, even if I'm trying to soften the blow by being indirect, I am being at least a little confrontational. Certainly less so, to my mind, than the rather more direct "you're a liar/idiot/whatever", but there's a little bit there. I'm not going to blame my opponent for picking up on that, even if I'd rather have him acknowledge and focus on my efforts to avoid emphasizing it. Probably that's why I came up with the binary selection in my earlier post... there may be gray areas I can aim for that will serve both purposes, but they're not always going to work.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Intent and Interpretation

Communication is a funny thing sometimes... it's amazing how easy it is for the message to get jumbled in between the sender and the receiver. Anybody that played the telephone game as a kid probably knows what I'm talking about.

Unfortunately, when it happens in real life, it starts to get less funny and more irritating very quickly.

Case in point: I happen across a link to a conservative post entitled "This is SICK AND WRONG." Being the curious sort, I click on it to find out just which of the right's many evils this particular post is attacking, and as it turns out it's referring to Planned Parenthood offering Black Friday discounts on abortions. Interesting claim, certainly, but would they really do that?

Luckily, it also provided a source... an article on the pro-life site LifeNews. It said much the same thing as the other post, albeit in a slightly calmer tone. And its source link, thankfully, went to the website of the Planned Parenthood clinic in question, which offered $10 off anything or $5 off emergency contraception for a visit on that particular Friday.

I think that's enough information to show the problem here, but just to make it very clear: the Planned Parenthood site says nothing about abortion. Granted it's a service they offer, but I find it curious that it became the main topic in the two pro-life posts. The message changed from "discounts on our services" to "discounts on abortions", and given that Planned Parenthood's services include more than just abortion, that is a meaningful change. How many other people are now going to argue that Planned Parenthood is trying to market abortions in particular (which is not supported by their website), for example?

It's not really a secret how it happened, though. Most pro-life activists only ever think of one thing Planned Parenthood does: abortions. So their minds take "Planned Parenthood's services" and replace it with "abortion". I can understand where it comes from, even though it remains an inaccurate interpretation.

The real problem is that we can't easily stop that process of interpretation, because everyone does it in one way or another, and sometimes it is valid. Most euphemisms require some interpretation, as do metaphors and similes. A lot of literature studies (at least, what little I remember) essentially revolve around the use of interpretation to derive meaning from literary works. It's not something we can really remove from the way we communicate, nor do I think we should try.

Instead, I think we should try to remember two things when dealing with people: our words will be interpreted based on the way our listener views the world, and we may occasionally interpret someone else wrongly. To put it another way, I think both the source and the listener have responsibilities. The source should think about how the message might be interpreted and, as much as is possible, express that message in a fashion that supports the source's desired interpretation. Likewise, the listener should think about the possible interpretations for a message and should be aware that the correct one and the one they want to be true may be different.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tactics and Compromises

Sorry about last week. I was a little too busy enjoying my Veteran's Day weekend, I guess...

Anyway. I'd rather not go into too many specifics, but this week's commentary is based on a friendly debate I had with some acquaintances. I usually try to avoid having debates in person; most of the time, my opponents in such debates are people I have to live and work with. Particularly given that I usually focus on poking holes in my opponent's argument, no matter which side they argue, I tend to worry about straining relationships.

This also promotes a rather non-confrontational debate style, inasmuch as such a thing is possible. I tend to ask questions a lot - where I think a point the opponent is making is suspect or wrong, I will say something to that effect, but I'll also ask if my opponent understands my criticism and/or how they resolve any contradictions I brought up. Or I'll just ask how they came up with a point that I feel is insufficiently supported - either I learn an argument to justify it that I didn't know before, or they can't come up with something sensible. (Incidentally, that second option, if it happens, usually isn't acknowledged; instead, the attempted justifications just become that much more vague.)

That said, there is a third option for that second question. Namely, that they lie. Or that they repeat ridiculous talking points because they don't know that they're repeating falsehoods, which is only slightly better. Whether through ignorance or malice, my opponent has started to say things that are demonstrably untrue.

At this point you may be able to guess how the debate I mentioned earlier went.

My style tends to break down at this point, frankly. However else I choose to drag it out, I usually end up having to decide between two options: call it a falsehood (and my opponent a liar) and present my alternate opinion, or simply state disagreement but acknowledge that I don't care to argue the point (which usually gets treated as a concession). I've used both, but I usually go with the latter; the only exceptions are topics that I feel very strongly about.

These are also the topics I know the most about. Oddly enough, I'm much less inclined to take a strong stance on something when I'm not sure whether all my facts are accurate and can be cogently presented.

With that said, this is a bit of a problem with my style. It usually does trigger investigations (i.e. I study all the details I wish I'd known hours earlier for the debate) but that doesn't really help me present those points to anyone else. Unfortunately, it's also a problem that I'm not sure I know how to fix, unless I give up on something else - that "non-confrontational" adjective. And at this point, I think that property is more important than calling out every liar I debate. I guess I'll just have to keep an eye on how I'm balancing calling out liars and avoiding direct confrontation.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

Libertarianism and Government

I think I've mentioned my conservative Facebook friends... so now I'll switch gears a little and talk about my libertarian Facebook friends.

I identified myself as a moderate liberal earlier - not quite aligned with everything the left wing does while disagreeing with most of the right wing. That said, I think I disagree most consistently with libertarians, as opposed to conservatives or liberals.

I say this mostly because of my reasons for joining the military - namely that I want to do something useful with my life, so to speak. In short, I actually believe that the government, in my own person as well as with the service of others like me, can actually do useful things. I would not still be here if I thought the government was corrupt enough to prevent my service from having a positive impact... a point that this Facebook page, for a radio show titled "The Angel Clark Show", seems to strongly disagree with.

I could spend all day talking about each individual post I can see for several days back, so I guess in the name of keeping this short I'll just talk about libertarianism in general - although I'll try and use some examples from the page.

My problem with libertarian thought is really quite simple. It worked this way when I read Atlas Shrugged, and it seems to work the same way with a lot of other examples. They take the free market's power to an extreme while completely negating the government's.

This means that a lot of what they say is right - anyone who thinks government is above any sort of corruption, or that its agents never abuse their power, probably should read the news. Likewise, anyone who thinks that businesses never do any good for the world or that they're all greedy thieves also needs to look up some examples. In this the libertarians get it right.

That said, those are extreme cases. There are a lot of government officials who can't be bought, or who won't abuse their power - I often harbor a fantasy of inviting people that think otherwise to the training sessions I've seen where we discuss where the lines are drawn, so our commanders can be more sure we're not going to step over them. There are also plenty of businessmen that get paid all out of proportion to the positive impact they have on the world, as well - stories abound of CEOs that get paid absurd salaries for a level of performance that would get me fired. The reality is that either government or the private sector can be good or bad, and I don't think I've seen that many libertarians acknowledge that. Most of the time, I see arguments - like some on the linked Facebook page - which merely say that "hey, the private sector can do this too; stop relying on the government for everything". There's no discussion of which is better or worse in that situation - merely an assumption that the government can't do it well, so the private sector should do it.

Those that do tend to argue that the government tends to be worse than the private sector. That one's debatable. In general, I argue that some things need to be done and that the will or ability simply isn't there in the private sector.

Finally, I'll address the one thread I see on this page in particular... namely that the government is, frankly, an enemy of its own citizenry, either because it wants the prosperous people's money or because it wants to exert more control over everyone's lives.

On one hand, I won't attack it too strongly, because such issues are a valid concern. But like anything else, going too far with them is a bad idea. In particular, I think it's relevant to remind everyone who thinks that the government is that evil that it is, ultimately, still made up of people. The big faceless evil that is the government still has to go home in the evening and do the same everyday things as everyone else... and will be negatively affected like everyone else if things go that far south. They want what's best for the country the same as most of us do, in short.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rumors and Conclusions

I was originally going to do my commentary for this week on something else - actually, I have two half-written posts, and was going to pick one and finish it.

Then I ran into something that seriously annoyed me, namely: Obama Administration Replaces Top Generals Following Benghazi Disaster. I've been trying to avoid this topic on Facebook and elsewhere - given that I'm also in the military, I hesitate to take sides on an issue like this one. Needless to say, I'd like to emphasize that disclaimer at the top.

With all that said, I have some serious problems with the article I linked to.

First is the source for what amounts to a claim that President Obama is relieving the AFRICOM commander, General Ham, for deciding to send a reaction force to help the embassy in Benghazi. It's a forum post on a forum related to Louisiana State University.

Really? No. Just no. I don't care how much that poster trusts his unnamed military friend. I have no reason to believe it.

For that matter, a quick check on Wikipedia reveals that Gen. Ham has been in his post since March 8, 2011 - about a year and a half. Given that the president's nominee for the post won't actually take command for a while yet, I don't find it unusual at all for Gen. Ham to be relieved after about two years; that's pretty close to standard for overseas military tours as far as I know. Not exactly conclusive, but it's not really helping the conspiracy theory either.

Then the article I linked mentioned that the Navy is relieving an admiral in command of a carrier strike group. I'm not quite sure why, to be honest. The cynical part of me is saying that they want the reader to see that and think that President Obama is relieving military commanders left and right for no reason, or to protect himself from the fallout over Benghazi. Which is stupid - the article itself says that the admiral being relieved likely isn't connected.

So what, exactly, am I saying here? Benghazi was a disaster; there's no doubting that. And I'm willing to believe that the president screwed up. I think we're still not sure exactly who screwed up and in what ways, but it's at least plausible.

But this would be something else entirely. This wouldn't be an overlong moment of hesitation or a stupid mistake - it would be active malice directed from the President to his military commanders. The evidence just isn't there for an accusation that serious.

Why do I care so much? It's not because I care all that much about defending the President, actually. His public relations staff can do that just fine. What I care about is that someone is effectively making up a story here, with no actual proof - yet it's already starting to spread. I think this XKCD comic applies here, if we replace Wikipedia with blogs in general - and that's not a good thing. This is how one side starts repeating pointless bullshit, and how the other side teaches itself that the other side has no respect for truth. We're not going to make any progress going this way.

One last thing: what if it's actually true? Then there might be a reason to risk that sort of damage, right?

Well, no. If it's true, then more evidence will emerge, and I'll admit that I was a little too doubtful at first. In general, I don't think there's anything wrong with that unless you're trying to act that way in the face of overwhelming evidence.

And as I've already noted, I really don't think this is overwhelming evidence. Not even close.

Friday, October 26, 2012

NaNoWriMo

... is the abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month, also known as the month of November.

Which is in a little less than a week, assuming I'm reading my calendar right. We'll see how it goes. I've got the skeleton of an idea - originally it was going to be an inversion of the "chosen hero summoned to save the world" trope, but now I think it's going to turn out similar to David Weber's and Linda Evans' Hell's Gate books. I think I'll refrain from spoiling any more than that, though.

With that said, I do also have a job nowadays, and it keeps me reasonably busy even on a good day. I know it's possible; I know there are plenty of other military members that manage it. Still, it'll take dedication to this project that I only really show when I've got a good idea. The idea I've got might suffice, but the specifics are still a little thin.

So yeah, we'll see. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ethics Bowl

My (somewhat amateur) knowledge of philosophy and ethics actually has one specific source (okay, not just one, but it's close enough). Those of you familiar with the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl run by the APPE (Association for Practical and Professional Ethics) likely already know where I'm going with this, given the title of this post.

I did in fact compete in this debate competition in college, and I credit it with giving me the time and practice to develop my interest in ethics and moral philosophy. I'm still not actually very good at either, but I've still learned quite a few things and had far more chances than I otherwise would have to sharpen my debate skills.

Of course, now that I've graduated, I'm not really going to get those chances anymore. Unless I do something stupid like analyze each of the current cases and post my thoughts somewhere... Like here. Get ready for another series of posts over the next few weeks!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Religion and Culture


Well, my first commentary post is going to come out of a random book in my ship's library.

More specifically (and with a little background), I've made a habit of occasionally going up to my ship's library, skimming titles until something catches my eye, and then reading that book. Usually I end up with a science fiction or action/adventure book, but this weekend I decided to grab one of the Christian books I saw.

The title of this book was "A Radical Reformission"; it promised strategies for better evangelism, essentially. I suspect it would not be considered proper Christianity by many of the more hardline Christians, but not being one of those myself I can't be entirely certain. I was also not its intended target audience; it was very clear that the book was directed at Christians who wanted to improve their ability to attract others.

With all that said, it was an interesting read, but it was about as effective as anything else I've read with regards to conversion. Namely, it wasn't. The author did come up with some interesting ideas regarding connecting the church to the culture around it; he argued that it was essential for Christians to go out in the world and not be afraid to associate with sinners, even to the point of engaging in some activities considered sinful by fundamentalists. With that said, he did maintain that it was important to avoid actual sins.

Which leads me to one of my biggest problems here. Here we have a Christian author and pastor all but admitting that the culture in which the religious teachings exist will affect those teachings. Yet he didn't quite go as far as admitting that those teachings might change because of that, and he maintained that several elements were still essential. How do we know that those essential elements aren't just the adjustments religious leaders made to spread their religion in the distant past, much the same as the author advocates adjustments in the modern world? That is one of my major problems with religion in general - that we really don't know whether all of these ideas are our hypothetical God's, or whether humanity came up with them as it searched for something to worship.

At least, it's my problem with the ancient religions - some of our more recently created religions are much better illuminated by the historical record. But that's an entirely different point.

Anyway, that also leads me to problem two - that there is no real discussion of the truth of the Bible. This is at least forgivable, since this book is directed at those who already believe the Bible to be true, but it does illustrate a problem. These evangelism techniques are about appealing to the right culture, building friendships, and getting people involved... and anyone can do that to get people into their group. Successful evangelism on these merits doesn't say anything about God, in my opinion - it says that people are willing to believe because their friends do, or because it helps them feel better about themselves. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, and I wish the people who think this way as much happiness as they can get from their beliefs. I don't, however, think their theological arguments are any more convincing from a thousand people instead of one.

Anyway. I'm still glad I read it, because it was an interesting take on the subject of religion with a few ideas I've never seen before. It still falls prey to those same problems as most others, though.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Introductions

Welcome to my blog, everyone. Per the title of the post, I'll start by explaining a little bit about who I am and what I intend to do with this blog.

Probably the most important detail about me is that I'm a young adult with an interest in philosophy, debate, ethics, politics, and policy. My career (officer in the US Navy) doesn't exactly require me to talk about any of those fields; while I don't mean to imply that they're useless to me, I rarely get the chance to discuss them. As a result, I decided to create a blog so I could get the chance to discuss such things more often, and here we are.

With that said, while I expect the majority of my posts will be about politics or current events, not all of them will be. I also care about computer science, Japanese anime/manga/computer games,  and music, so I'll probably be making a few posts on those topics. In particular, I'll probably use this area to post some translations of Japanese songs. I may also just write a couple personal posts about how my life is going - we'll see if anything that I feel like sharing comes up.

Now that the topics are out of the way, and given that I'm going to be discussing politics, I figure I should mention my own affiliations. The major one is my career as a military officer - In case you haven't already seen the disclaimer right below the blog title, I'll repeat that what I post here is my opinion alone, and does not reflect the opinions of the US government in any way.

Second is my party - I am a Democrat, and generally count myself as moderate left. In practice, I'll criticize either party if I think it's justified, and tend to be aggressively moderate on many issues. At the very least, I prefer to listen to both sides and learn the reasons both sides have to support them before I choose one or the other. To be quite honest, I think that one of the problems we have right now is that most people argue against what they think their opponent is saying rather than trying to find out what they're actually saying and addressing that.

Third is religious affiliation - namely none. I prefer to call myself an agnostic, because I believe that term better expresses the uncertainty we deal with when trying to prove or disprove the existence of any deity. However, I also think that the default reaction to that uncertainty should be to rely on secular arguments - in short, we don't know if God exists, so we act as if he doesn't. Therefore, I don't mind being called an atheist either; my beliefs and actions probably line up just fine with that term as well.

One of the last points has to do with my debate style. I generally use debate either to question fallacious or provably false arguments, or to learn more about what a particular side is saying. Therefore most of my posts will either be criticizing a blog post, article, person, etc. for saying something stupid or mentioning any of the same along with some notes about what I get out of it. I'll make an effort to pick one thing that I find particularly interesting every week and do one of those types of posts on it. I'll get those up over the weekend, so just check on Mondays. Any posts on personal issues or hobbies will be in addition to those, and there's no schedule for them.

Finally - I never mentioned my name, and that was intentional. I'm not really going to any effort to conceal it, but I'm not going to bother mentioning any identifiable details unless someone else brings it up.

Oh, by the way, for those of you that are curious about my blog title - I happen to think that the sight of a full moon on a clear night, with moonlight illuminating my ship and reflecting off the water, is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. I also think the idea of a voyage through light that's been reflected and distorted once (off the moon) then again (off the water) is an interesting metaphor for finding truth through whatever biases you have as well as whatever biases everyone else has. Seems a little pretentious written down, but there it is.

Check back on Monday - I'll use the rest of the weekend to come up with a comment policy and the first commentary post. I hope you enjoy reading my blog.