December 16, 2015

Sometimes I like to pretend I know how to draw

I know enough about art to know that I am a terrible artist. But that's okay. Some people dedicate their lives to mastering the skills, tools, and medium of art. I never had the patience or the discipline. In all honesty, one of the reasons I have always found photography to be an exciting and fascinating hobby is because it allowed me a way to communicate visually without the hard work it takes to learn drawing and painting. Nonetheless, sometimes I feel like sketching out a half-formed idea to see if I can come up details not readily available when I write. For example, trying to describe the surface of the moon without resorting to arcane scientific language and elaborate astronomical terminology. It's much easier to photograph the moon or paint a picture of it than it is to describe it in words. Unless the moon is fulfilling some kind of metaphorical role, of course, in which case it serves quite well in poetry, songwriting, and fiction without a detailed description of the craters, mountains, refracted light, and other features.

Since carrying around a bag full of art supplies is silly just for an occasional sketch, I downloaded a drawing program onto my Kindle Fire. The program is called, "Paint Pad HD" It is free to download and use. Here are the four pictures I have drawn so far. Each is followed by a brief description of how they came about.

This is December, Christmas season, so the first picture I drew was a Christmas Tree. This image was mostly intended just to familiarize myself with the program's interface. I was happy to find the interface completely in line with standard interfaces for Windows drawing programs. It lacks many of the save features, crop features, and so on that are standard nowadays, but it works perfectly well for creating one image at a time and saving it. The pictures are saved in PNG format and they include information that allows the program to run them as a short video showing each step of the creative process. I don't find the movie aspect useful, so once I offload the PNG onto my computer I convert the image to JPG, which deletes the animation information.

For my second picture I wanted to draw a winter campsite under a full moon. The first and most annoying problem I encountered was my inability to accurately target small strokes of color or darkness as accents. After I finished this picture I decided I was definitely going to have to find a stylus that worked with the Kindle touch screen. This turned out to be a much more difficult proposition than you might imagine! I don't know the technology of the touch screen. I do know that most narrow point stylus have no effect at all while the soft point stylus are no different than using a finger. Since I needed a narrow point stylus that worked on an interface designed for fingers, I could not find anything online that I could trust. Reading reviews did not help because most of the stylus designed for manipulating a touch interface are designed for use with mobile phones and no one who wrote the reviews mentioned trying to draw or write!

While I was pondering the problem of finding a suitable stylus for drawing on the Kindle Fire touch screen, my son came home for a visit. He wanted to go to Shinjuku to look for accessories for his brand new Microsoft Surface 4, so we went to an electronics shop. I happened to have my Kindle with me, so after he finished his shopping I went by the stylus display and began experimenting. It took quite a bit of searching to find a stylus that not only worked with the Kindle touch screen, it was easy to use and comfortable in my hand. This more detailed campsite was the first thing I drew with my new stylus.

Today I watched the Republican Presidential Debate on CNNj. This was, without a doubt, the looniest presidential debate I have ever seen. The candidates were arguing with one another like school children. It was embarrassing to call myself a Republican. Not only were they acting crazy, some of the ideas they were tossing around were completely unconstitutional. Almost every idea debated today, regardless of the candidate, would require expanding the size and reach of the federal government and increasing the cost. Even the anti-establishment candidates were proposing ideas in line with the old guard Republican Party. It was quite shameful. So naturally I drew a full moon in response!

December 07, 2015

A world governed by Islam

The first thing we need to establish is who this fellow is and whether he has the right to make sweeping comments about Islam. Grand Ayatollah Ahmed al Hassani al Baghdadi is a famous Iraqi scholar and cleric. Unlike their Iranian counterparts, the Iraqi Ayatollahs do not exercise direct control over the secular government. However, considering the current situation in Iraq, the Iraqi Ayatollahs probably do have more real world influence than the government does. When a tribal leader or a local politician has a question about the religious nature of a decision they must make, that leader either consults one of the Ayatollahs directly or refers to one of their publications. In a country such as Iran, the Ayatollahs are the government because the secular government operates at the mercy of the Ayatollahs. The Ayatollahs are the most important leaders at the top of the theocratic hierarchy in Shia Islam. They are the experts everyone turns to when they need answers about how Islam applies to life in the modern world. It is true that outside of Iran the ability of each nation's Ayatollahs to enforce their decisions becomes somewhat limited. However, it is equally important to note that even in countries like Jordan or Saudi Arabia many political and legislative decisions are designed to be as inoffensive as possible to the Shia leadership because if the Ayatollahs are not satisfied, they can and will inspire outbreaks of Shia or Wahhabi violence by issuing one or more "fatwa", which is a call to arms for the most conservative Muslim faithful.

Sunni Muslims are less inclined to dogmatically follow the dictates of their leaders. Most of the "modern liberal Muslims" President Obama likes to refer to are Sunni Muslims. They play modern music, wear modern clothes, the women work alongside the men, their children are raised in secular schools and taught to have secular goals. Although there are some exceptions, the majority of violent Islamic radicals responsible for modern terrorism are Shia, not Sunni. Those Sunni Muslims who do wind up terrorists are often from the Wahhabi subset, which parallels Shia in its propensity for extreme conservatism. Some terrorists who are raised in the West might not even realize which school of Islam their parents have taught them to follow since Sunni Islam accounts for the vast majority of Muslim adherents. In many cases, although not in all cases, when a Muslim raised in the West is "radicalized" what has happened is the children of a Sunni family have discovered the writings of either Shia Ayatollahs, Wahhabi evangelists, or both. However, even in a predominately Sunni country such as Saudi Arabia, many of the stricter Shia Ayatollah theologies are the deciding factor in legal circles because the country uses Shari'a as the basis for their national legal system rather than English common law or German case law. Although English common law and German case law are compatible with each other in many areas and are the basis of most modern legal systems in the West, they are both completely incompatible with the theocratic precepts of Shari'a. Western scholars neither like to recognize it nor admit it, but the writings of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels have so many parallels with Shari'a it is entirely possible that Shari'a was the inspirational basis for communism. Impossible to prove, of course, but the number of parallels is truly uncanny, especially in the treatment of the poor and the assumption that violent overthrow is necessary to impose enlightened rule on self-centered humans.

The rise of ISIS, for example, was expedited and made possible because Nouri Al-Maliki, a Shia Muslim, violated the mandate given to him by the American government. As soon as the United States removed their military from Iraq, Al-Maliki consolidated his power by driving out Sunni military officers and government bureaucrats. Many of the Iraqi Army divisions that walked off as ISIS advanced, leaving behind advanced American weapons and armor, were Sunni divisions whose commanders Al-Maliki had fired and replaced with Shia officers. Given the choice between political isolation in Iraq and political power with ISIS, they naturally chose ISIS. As a result, the ragtag and undisciplined mixed band of Shia and Wahhabi terrorists who had broken away from Al Qaeda gained a multitude of experienced, competent Sunni commanders, bureaucrats, and social leaders. Faced with a common enemy, the Shia and Sunni naturally fall into this sort of arrangement with the Shia guiding the passion of the collective and the Sunni providing the realism that keeps it functional. (See, The Historical Roots of ISIS)

If the West submits to the demands of terrorists it will have far more impact on our daily lives than a few changes in how we do business or what our children learn in school. Submission to Islam means global imposition of Shari'a. Western law, with its emphasis on individual rights and personal responsibility, will be replaced with jurisprudence defined by the Shia Ayatollahs which is then enforced by strong arm Shia and Wahhabi moral police. In Shia Islam the Ayatollahs are far more than legal scholars; they are the hand of Allah on Earth and the only ones enlightened enough to make decisions about how people should go about their lives. Scientific pursuits would be grudgingly entrusted to Sunni researchers, but the Shia Ayatollahs would decide which avenues of research were "in line with Allah's plan for humanity" and which were "the realm of Iblis that can only bring sorrow to the people of Allah". Shia Ayatollahs are recognized throughout Islam as the only source of divine wisdom on Earth. Pursuit of any field of study not marked out as acceptable by them is accompanied with either deep feelings of guilt or elaborate self-justifications. A Muslim forensic pathologist, for example, might enjoy their work immensely and believe it is important but their family and friends would be relentless in their ridicule of examining dead bodies as a career choice.

According to the Pew Research Center, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. (See, The Future of World Religions) Whether anyone likes it or not, whether ISIS is defeated or not, by 2050 it is entirely possible that Islam will control our world. Unless something changes and changes fast, our children and grandchildren will live under an Islamic Caliphate governed by Shari'a that spans the entire globe. It is less than one generation away. Either you are comfortable with this idea or you are not. It seems to me that if you are, you have not fully grasped just how dramatically different life would be under global Shari'a. This is more than just brutal punishments for crime and women being forbidden from driving. Global Shari'a means the number of children you are allowed to have, where you are allowed to live, what kind of work you are allowed to do, and the upper limit of your earning potential would all be dictated by Shia Ayatollahs and enforced by Sunni bureaucracies. Space exploration will completely cease, or at the absolute best, be limited to unmanned orbital satellites which make it easier for the government to monitor and control the population to insure everyone is conforming to "the Prophet's divine guidelines for happiness and prosperity of all".

If you think greedy capitalists are harsh taskmasters, just wait until you are forced to live under the dictates of the Ayatollahs!

Wikipedia: Shia Islam
Wikipedia: Sunni Islam
Wikipedia: Wahhabism
Crethiplethi: The Historical Roots of ISIS
Pew Reasearch: The Future of World Religions
The Guardian: ISIS Constitution for a Global Government
American Enterprise Institute: A Global Strategy for Combating Terrorism

December 03, 2015

Gun control did not work in San Bernardino

State of California
Department of Justice
Bureau of Firearms

Fox News: Mass Shooting in San Bernardino

Everything the anti-Second Amendment crowd dreams of at the national level already exists in the State of Kalifornia. They require background checks for every transfer of a firearm, they require background checks to purchase ammunition, they have a list of "approved" firearms and anything not on the list is considered illegal, "high capacity" magazines are prohibited, and they even have a registration requirement for "assault weapons", although it only applies to weapons sold before the current statewide ban on the sale of new assault weapons went into effect. If gun control people are demanding it, Kalifornia has already implemented it, and yet none of those laws were able to prevent yesterday's ruthless slaughter of 35 people (14 killed, 21 wounded - not including the two killers).

So why are we still arguing about gun control? I honestly don't understand why we are still having this debate. Clearly Kalifornia's "superior quality" firearm's regulations are not doing the job which gun control advocates promised us they would do. It seems plainly obvious to me that all of Kalifornia's draconian restrictions on the basic freedom of self-defense did absolutely nothing to either prevent this horrible massacre or lessen the ability of two people to engage in mass slaughter. Seriously, can there be any clearer example of the delusional nature of gun control? And yet, even though none of the existing laws accomplished anything, the first response of tens of millions of people in Kalifornia and across the nation is to demand even more gun control! I don't understand! I'm sorry, but none of this makes any sense to me at all. How will punishing law-abiding gun owners prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again? If everything already in place does nothing to prevent two people from walking into a Christmas banquet and brutally slaughtering 35 people, how will adding more laws prevent the next tragedy? Nothing short of going daily from house to house confiscating weapons and destroying them will make a difference, and even then, anyone inspired to commit mass murder needs simply to rent a truck, load a barrel of ammonia next to a barrel of bleach, drive into a busy intersection and dump them over the side.

We can't control people with laws. The only thing laws accomplish is to set out a system of punishments and retributions to apply after the fact. Writing a law does not prevent anyone from doing anything. It only punishes them for it after they have already accomplished whatever nefarious purpose they can imagine. The purpose of the law is to lay out the standards for civilized behavior and punish those who refuse to conform. That's it! Law neither controls behavior nor prevents people from being destructive. It is impossible to control the choices another person makes. That is the simple reality of life. People think their own thoughts, arrive at their own conclusions, and engage in behaviors that result from their own internal choices. We will never have utopia because it is impossible to control the choices another person makes. It simply will never happen. Not even the best propaganda supported by carefully drugged water can completely control a population of people. Individuals will always ask "why?" and then refuse to drink the water you provide them. Complete mind control is a fiction, a dream, and a delusion. If population control were possible then everyone in the world would wear Nike shoes and Levi's jeans.

You can, however, make a huge difference as an individual. If you treat everyone you meet with respect and courtesy, if you compliment with sincerity and scold with restraint, if you negotiate before you demand, if you treat people the way you want to be treated, then you can reduce the likelihood someone around you will be driven to the point they pick up a gun and start shooting people at random. You can not stop it from ever happening again. There will always be one or two people out of every hundred who simply cannot believe the courtesies and compassion they receive are genuine. I'm sorry, but it is true: you can't please everyone. It is important to try, but it is also important to realize some individuals are insane and cannot respond in positive, constructive ways. This is also why it is impossible to legislate good behavior. It just cannot be done.

I cannot force the world to read my blog. I cannot even force the people to do read my blog to accept the things I write. Even if my influence spread far enough and high enough to have laws written requiring everyone in the world to read my blog, it would not work. Some people would simply open the page, stare at the words, and think about something else. We cannot write laws that will stop people from being violent. The only thing we can do is write laws that punish those who engage in violence. It is possible to make self-defense illegal. Just look at the United Kingdom. It has become routine in the U.K. to prosecute burglary and assault victims who dare to defend themselves. Consider Saudi Arabia, where rape victims are routinely punished under laws governing adultery. Is that the extreme we wish to achieve in the United States? Already in many of our schools if children defend themselves against bullies it is the victim who is expelled while the bully is free to continue terrorizing the class. The slaughter in San Bernardino clearly demonstrates that something similar has happened with Kalifornia's gun control culture. The victims are the ones who were denied the right to choose violence in response to the violence of their attackers. The attackers had absolutely no restriction on their ability to exercise a violent choice, but the victims had no freedom to respond with equal violence. The only choices the victims had were die, flee, or hide. For 35 of them, two of those choices were denied to them by the combination of the attacker's violent choices and the laws put in place by the People of the State of California to "protect" them from gun violence.

Is it irony or insanity that the laws designed to protect the victims of the San Bernardino massacre made them victims?