You can lead a soldier to slaughter

But you can’t make him die:

Iraq war veterans now stationed at a base here in upstate New York say that morale among US soldiers in the country is so poor, many are simply parking their Humvees and pretending to be on patrol, a practice dubbed “search and avoid” missions….

“We had units that never called in SIGACTS,” Millard, who monitored highly volatile areas like Baquba, Tikrit and Samarra, told IPS. “When I was there two years ago, there were at least five companies that never had SIGACTS. I think ‘search and avoids’ have been going on there for a long time.”

Millard told IPS “search and avoid” missions continue today across Iraq. “One of my buddies is in Baghdad right now and we email all the time,” he explained, “He just told me that nearly each day they pull into a parking lot, drink soda and shoot at the cans. They pay Iraqi kids to bring them things and spread the word that they are not doing anything and to please just leave them alone.”

That’s certainly one explanation for U.S. combat deaths dropping of late. Of course, the fact that this was written by a gentleman by the name of Dahr Jamail does render it somewhat suspect.

On the other hand, it’s perfectly rational behavior. The administration and military high command isn’t even pretending to have a strategy that might possibly lead to victory, so ensuring his own survival is going to be the highest priority for every soldier with even half a brain. This is one of the many reasons why garrison and policing duties have historically been avoided by combat troop commanders, as they are inherently detrimental to troop discipline, effectiveness and morale.

The cold indifference of the post-Christian culture

Maimon Schwarzschild notices that charity tends to be contingent upon a certain religion:

The New York Times ran a front-page story recently about an elderly man who starved to death in Japan, having been denied help by the welfare bureaucracy. The man kept a diary as he died: heartbreaking to read. The Japanese welfare bureaucracy seems to have been notably heartless, and not only in this case. There are other, similar cases of starvation in the past year or two in Japan, according to the Times.

There is this brief throwaway in the lengthy Times story:

With no religious tradition of charity, Japan has few soup kitchens or other places for the indigent. Those that exist — run frequently by Christian missionaries from South Korea or Japan’s tiny Christian population — cater mostly to the homeless.

If the Christian world is on its way to being post-Christian, will the tradition of Christian charity persist? Or is the ethic of charity liable to go down with the faith that inspired it?

Atheists argue from theory that the ethic of charity doesn’t logically HAVE to disappear from a culture as its number of Christians drops. And this is true, in theory. Both historical and current evidence, however, demonstrates the opposite; I would go even farther than Schwarzschild and predict that those countries which continue proceed in a post-Christian path will soon begin to see the same sorts of arguments for slavery and/or caste that they are currently seeing in favor of eugenics, infanticide and euthanasia.

What the atheists have failed to understand is that secularism is not an end destination, it is merely a point on the path towards paganism. Atheism’s primary emotional appeal, the release from religion’s sexual shackles, is overwhelmed by paganism’s offer of the erotic made divine. This is particularly true for women, for whom the nominally rational appeal of atheism is practically nil.

There will be no fully secularized societies of the sort which appear so often in science fiction. In fact, the infant science of socionomics points to humanity already having passed secularism’s high-water mark.

There is also some evidence that religion becomes more important to people as bear markets progress and less important as bull markets progress. At the stock market low of wave (II) in 1857, 22 years after the peak of wave (I) in 1835, newspapers reported that people in New York City were lined up for blocks to join churches for the first time. In contrast, it was in the late 1960s, near a multi-decade stock market top, that a national magazine asked on its cover, “Is God Dead”. In extended periods of social depression and war, religion is generally a central aspect of people’s lives. In long periods of social ebullience, religion plays a secondary role. Thus, social mood trends appear to affect not only the style of religious practices but the very importance of religion itself. We can see both aspects of this influence in the rise of fundamentalism in the form of terrorist activities by radical Muslims and efforts by Baptists to get stories in Genesis taught as science.
– Pioneering Studies in Socionomics, Robert Prechter, 2002

In light of these observations, it is intriguing to note that the recent housing and stock market peaks coincided rather closely with the sudden appearance of books such as The God Delusion, The End of Faith and God is Not Great on the best-selling lists. They are likely indicators of cultural change, but almost surely not in the way their authors had hoped.

According to the socionomics forecast, one should anticipate disease, war and increased racial conflict as well as a series of religious revivals. And, of course, longer women’s skirts….

He is, after all, an atheist

PZ Myers declares his political colors:

My least favorite political/economic group is the Libertarians

He prefers National Socialists, Fascists, Communists, Christian Socialists, Democratic-Farmer-Laborites and Ba’athists to those evil Libertarians. How dare anyone advocate human liberty and the rights of the individual over the collective’s imperative to build a godless New Man and Society!

And atheists wonder why Americans would rather vote for a one-legged black homosexual Mormon crack whore with a criminal record than an atheist.

PZ’s instinctual distaste for both libertarianism and God is very revealing, this distaste comes from an intrinsic desire to wield authoritarian power over others. It is why Hitchens was a Marxist as well as an atheist prior to his Damascene moment and rebirth as a neocon; it represents the complete opposite of my own Christian libertarian philosophy.

I note that a number of Pharyngula’s commenters don’t seem to understand that corporations, being creations of the state, are inherently anti-libertarian. There is nothing fundamentally capitalist about a corporation, which is why they were and are powerful in every communist society.

I like Mieville’s fiction, but since he’s a godless Marxist himself, it should hardly be surprising that a) he doesn’t like libertarianism, or, b) Myers admires his political views. The only difference between a Marxist and a Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party supporter is that the Marxist is an overt communist while the DFLer won’t admit it, not even to himself.


Just in case you weren’t sure that the “right-wing” blogosphere has gotten completely out of touch with the conservative movement, John Hawkins’s latest poll of blogs shows how they regard the Republican candidates in order of preference, taking both negatives and positives into account:

1) Fred Thompson (72.0)
2) Duncan Hunter (37.5)
3) Rudy Giuliani (33.0)
4) Mitt Romney (25.0)
5) Mike Huckabee (24.5)
6) John McCain (-13.0)
7) Tom Tancredo (-15.5)
8) John Cox (-38.0)
9) Alan Keyes (-41.5)
10) Ron Paul (-65.5)

For me, the telling thing is how much they appear to dislike and fear Ron Paul. This is totally bizarre, considering his policy positions and supposedly “minor” status. Either these bloggers regard him as a very serious threat or they are more totally committed to the ongoing War on Everyone Including Our NATO Allies than I had previously imagined.

She’s all right

I’m seldom a fan of women attempting to do a man’s job, because the evidence proves they usually don’t. Lara Logan, however, is clearly up to the task:

Yet the allegedly “antiwar” media is a myth that exists largely in the minds of the neocons, who see any deviation from their preconceived notions as the equivalent of treason. Logan, as Kurtz relates, was constantly hectored by superiors to do “softer” features: at one point, she was asked to do “a story on female soldiers who were distracting themselves by keeping cyber-pets online.” Logan emailed back: “I would rather stick needles in my eyes than spend one second of my time on that story.”

Good for her! It’s a pity more female editors, reporters and commentators don’t follow her lead. And the fact that Logan considers Michelle Malkin to be a “f*cking idiot” can only be regarded as an additional point in her favor.