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, 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.