Saturday, January 24, 2015

Encouragement or Nagging?

My son's interest in Scouting began in elementary school, when we lived in Longmont, CO.  Chad joined the Cub Scouts and really enjoyed the experience.  His best friend was also a Cub Scout, not coincidentally.  When we moved to Oklahoma, it took us a while to get him into a Boy Scout troop, for no particular reason, but he was insistent enough that he made it happen.  It turns out that his interest in Scouting was a big influence on my life, and definitely for the better.

Chad was among the first members of a new troop forming in Norman - at first, I had no interest in doing anything more than giving him a ride to and from troop meetings.  After Chad's first summer camp, a conspiracy was hatched:  at the next troop meeting, I found I had become a Patrol Dad, partnering with a person who was a relative stranger.  Suddenly, I was in Scouting, and up to my neck!  As it has turned out, this was more than a great opportunity for Chad.  It was an important life-changing experience for me as a parent and as a person.  We had joined a troop with wise leadership, where the focus was totally on the boys, not the parents.  Our job as adult leaders was to help the boys grow up into good young men.  I had not enjoyed my own Boy Scouting experience, so I wasn't very enthused at first.  But like the boys, I loved the outdoors.  I didn't know much about hiking and camping then, but I was willing to learn.  And I certainly didn't know much about Scouting, but my Patrol Dad partner was an Eagle Scout and our Scoutmaster was a wonderful man, so they patiently waited for me to find my bearings and begin to know how to help the boys.  With time, I learned ... a lot ... about Scouting, about hiking and camping, and about helping boys grow into men.  Our troop involved whole families, including wives and daughters.  They became a second family to me.  Many wonderful experiences were to follow. Chad's participation resulted in one of my life's most rewarding experiences.

I could go on at great length about all my personal Scouting history, but not here.  The point is that one of the most important lessons I learned, by seeing the mistakes being made by others (as well as then seeing what I was doing as a mistake), was to not help the boys very much.  A huge problem for Scouts is parents who live vicariously through their children.  If their children fail, that's seen by the parents as a reflection on them, so they'll do anything to force their child to succeed.  Such parents want their boys to advance as fast as possible, not at a pace determined by the boys' personal growth.  They impose wholly unrealistic expectations on their boys:  that their boys be perfect in every way, all the time.  Therefore, they're constantly griping and nagging their boys about every little thing they might be doing.  I could see most kids not much caring for the constant nagging.  They 'tuned out' most of that harassment and did whatever they wanted, instead.  Sound familiar to you? 

And such parents get so involved in their boys' projects, they wind up doing most of the work for the Scouts.  When camping and hiking, some parents don't want their boys to make any mistakes that might inconvenience the parents, so they get involved in everything the boys are doing and never let the boys make any mistakes.  And of course, the parents make mistakes that inconvenience everyone!

It was easy to see others doing this.  Not so easy to recognize when I came to realize that I was doing it.  Through Scouting, I came to know many good parents whose primary concern was supporting the growth of the boys.  If parents had to do some growing, too (as I did), then the leaders patiently explained what they were doing and why I had to stop doing certain things and provide support in other ways than nagging and interfering.  I found I could see the rightness of this 'philosophy' of letting the boys make mistakes and overcome them.  Nagging and doing things for the boys was actually a demotivator, not helping them.  I watched my son grow into a real leader right before my very eyes.  If he needed discipline, I let other parents (who wouldn't take his transgressions personally) help him see his mistakes.  That was the way the troop worked:  parents helping boys other than their own grow into men.  I found I enjoyed working with boys not my own, and I had deep reservoirs of patience with them, whereas I was prone to be impatient with Chad.

Support what your children choose to do, of course.  But if you have to nag at them all the time to succeed at what they're doing, then perhaps the kids need to consider other things to do.  I told my son if I had to drag him to Scout meetings and events, then we just weren't going to do Scouting.  As is turned out, I never found myself having to nag at all.  His participation was always enthusiastic and frequently successful  He formulated and carried out his own Eagle Scout project - when I was bragging to my boss at the time about my son's success with his Eagle project, he asked me (facetiously) if he could get his managers into Scouting! 

With teenagers, I think parents need to back off and give their kids room to grow as they themselves see fit, not just what the parents want!  Let your children define success in their own terms.  Let them make mistakes and fail, and then learn how to overcome those setbacks on their own, as much as possible.  And not just in Scouting, either!!  Kids need to learn how to make life choices and deal with the consequences on their own. If you can show them how to do that, they'll likely be just fine.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Fraud and Insanity - Welcome to Meteorology 2015, Part 2

I would add the following final thought to my previous blog:  No forecast that doesn't contain information about the uncertainty of the forecast can be honest.  Uncertainty is inevitable with any forecast and to issue a product without including that information is dishonest and unprofessional.  If people want to use a long-range forecast as if it were just as accurate as a 1-day forecast, even after being told about the uncertainties, that's their choice.  But if we want to be professionals, we need to be honest, regardless of whether or not people choose to listen to our caveats.

OK - moving on to my next topic, I want to spend a little time on an example of a conspiracy theory that doesn't involve climate science:  the very weird and bizarre notion of the so-called "chemtrails".  Up until a few years ago, I didn't know that this nonsense existed.  The basic notion is that aircraft are dispersing chemicals via their contrails, and those chemicals are supposed to be associated with a whole array of fantasized evils.

It seems that a person named Scott Stevens ... "an award winning television weatherman"... has developed quite a following with wild claims about "geoengineering" projects including (but not limited to) the chemtrail concept.  If you're involved much with social media, no doubt you're well aware of the fanaticism associated with conspiracy theories of all sorts.  There is no scientific basis for claims of a conspiracy involving aircraft contrails, and the other similar parts of "sinister" geoengineering.  Mr. Stevens is careful not to claim he's a meteorologist ... probably since he was forced to resign from an Albany, NY TV station in February of 1995:

Weatherman Scott Stevens has resigned from WRGB (Channel 6) after station management accused him of lying about his credentials.

In a statement read during Tuesday's 6 p.m. broadcast, David Lynch, vice president and general manager, said WRGB "hired Scott Stevens to be chief meteorologist based on faulty information provided by Scott" and his agency. WRGB subsequently learned that "Scott has never completed the necessary academic course of studies that would lead him to the official title of meteorologist,'' according to the statement read by anchorwoman JoAnne Purtan.

In effect, he has essentially zero qualifications to engage in such claims.  It seems that these days anyone can make any wild claim they wish, including those that are virtually complete fabrications, and they can put such garbage out via the Internet.  Gullible, ignorant people are taken in by such nonsense, and the followers of such can infect others easily via electronic media.  This applies to a lot of such imaginary conspiracies (like the putative conspiracy by climate scientists to defraud the world into believing in anthropogenic global warming).

I'm a huge fan of the freedom of speech on the Internet - but people need to take some time to consider what is and is not credible.  Wild "scientific" ideas are common in today's world and nonprofessionals might easily be taken in by them   People need to be able to recognize reliable sources from the loonies out there trying to convince you of such absurdities as the government is using aircraft to fill the air with chemicals that will harm you.

Finally, I've recently seen several examples where junk science concerning topics involving meteorology that may even have been rejected by meteorology journals then turns up in some other journal.  There's the utter nonsense of the example about erecting walls to prevent tornadoes, another one where the authors make up some gibberish about:

... the theory of byuons, allegedly realized by means of a positive feedback between the tornado updraft and the cosmological vector representing the global anisotropy.

as an "additional energy source" for tornadoes, and so on.  My favorite subject - tornadoes and severe storms - long has been a magnet for crackpots and those who think they know something the subject but in reality are profoundly ignorant about severe storms meteorology.  When I dispute their ideas, I've even been subjected to insults.  As a recent example from someone responding to one of my blogs, he called me a "government paid phoney" and said about my science that "One thing we know is that it will be meaningless. It will be pseudoscience. It will be more Doswellian lunacy."

Next, I suppose, come death threats from the chemtrail fanatics ... 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Fraud and Insanity - Welcome to Meteorology 2015, Part 1

There are several things going on in the weather business that make me cringe these days.  This field has become politicized and even worse of late, in ways I never dreamed of in my past, when I was nose down into my research.  I can only touch on a few of them, but the list is long, especially in the climate business - a can of worms I won't review here.

Most everyone now is accustomed to seeing 7-10 day forecasts, where the forecast high and low temperature, as well as clouds and precipitation are presented, usually in some graphical format (as shown in the example).

These show up on TV weather broadcasts but are quite common on the Internet.  No doubt many people look at these on a regular basis, most without any suspicion that they're being sold a pig in a poke - such an extended range forecast includes a fundamental dishonesty.  Here's the crux of the problem:  if anyone gives the topic even a few moments of thought, it should be obvious that the farther ahead the forecast product extends, the skill and accuracy of that forecast diminishes.  It's a well established principle in meteorology that every self-respecting meteorologist knows - it's an indisputable fact of the science.  A 3-day forecast is less reliable than a 1-day forecast; a 7-day forecast is less reliable than a 3-day forecast.  By roughly 10 days, the forecasts are essentially without any skill: they're no better than simply forecasting the long-term average conditions.  At that range, if you know the local climatology, you know as much as the forecast can offer.

There are scientific reasons for this growth of error with forecast time - basically, in about 10 days, any very small errors at the start of the forecast will grow to the point where they have contaminated the resulting forecasts.  And small errors at the start are inevitable - we don't know atmospheric conditions well enough to eliminate those small errors.

Furthermore, the detail contained in the forecast becomes less and less reliable with increasing lead times (that is, the time from the start of the forecast to the time when the forecast is valid).  A 1-day forecast has one day of lead time, for example.  The farther into the future the forecast goes, those details (such as the location of a front, or the region where precipitation might occur) become "fuzzy" - it's sort of like looking into a crystal ball, where the farther ahead you look, the cloudier the crystal ball becomes.  In the example above, the day-7 maximum (57) and minimum temperature (39) simply aren't known to a precision of 1 degree Fahrenheit, despite what's shown.  At 10 days or so, none of those details can be trusted beyond what you would expect from climatology for that location and time of the year.

Presenting this information with attractive graphics but without any indication of decreasing reliability is just not being honest.  It's a misrepresentation of the information.  Where does that "detail" come from?  For all practical purposes, these forecasts are derived from numerical weather prediction (NWP) models, where the equations governing the atmosphere determine the values on a grid of points in space (and time).  These models not only provide the forecast data used in those pretty graphics.  They also have been used to determine the limits of reliable forecasts I've referred to previously - roughly 10 days or so.

Any source of forecast information that doesn't let the user know about these limitations on extended forecast skill and accuracy is misrepresenting the science of meteorology.  In my view of things, the meteorological community should rise up in protest over this fraudulent practice.  The only hope to reverse this situation lies with the professional meteorologists, who need to stand up for what is right.  My blog can only reach so many and has little influence by itself.  If professionals can somehow muster the courage to speak out against this egregious practice - yes, it takes courage, as many feel their jobs are at risk when they speak out for the truth - we can change the way our forecasts are presented to the users, for whom we can have no expectation that they will figure this out for themselves.  It's our professional duty!

... more to come ...  

Monday, January 5, 2015

The passing of friends and family

It seems that 2014 and now 2015 has seen death take many people from those within my circle of friends and family.  All of us know that death will come for us some day, sooner or later.  Life is not a contest to see who can live the longest.  We're given the gift of life without ever having asked for it, and it's up to us to use it as we deem best.  Some of us find life to be cruel and burdensome or even loathesome, some seem to be indifferent to it and perhaps take it for granted, and some find great joy in being alive.  In my life, it's been my privilege to have known many people who are in the latter category.  They seize the opportunity and revel in all of life's gifts - even the bad times seem not to bother them too much.  Without bad times, we could never understand the full measure of the good times.

One of life's bad times is the passing of those we know and love, whose companionship has meant so much to us.  Your life is marked by the deaths of friends and family, right up to your own death.  I often find it difficult to know what to tell people who have lost friends, so I try to think about when it has happened to me.  What words or thoughts have I found some solace in, when it's happened to me?  To me, it always comes down to remembering the times I had with a friend or family member.  There never was a guarantee that those good times would go on until I died; the end of my personal "forever".  I try my best to be in the moment in the company of my friends and family, to savor those times as best I can.  Truthfully, it's not always easy to do so.  Real relationships are complicated and can be plagued with petty conflicts that seem important at the time.  Nevertheless, I feel I should try to be more appreciative of the here and now, so that I'll have fewer regrets when the time comes to bid those I know a final goodbye.  Most of my life's regrets to date are tied to not having expressed what I felt toward those who have passed, before the opportunity was lost forever.  There can be no replacement of my friends and family members ... once gone, they are gone forever, never to return.  Holes in my life (and those of others, of course) that can never be filled.

Sometimes, when I particularly miss a certain person who has passed on, I still feel the grief I felt when I found out they were gone.  I'm just feeling sorry for myself, though.  I miss them and the good things they brought into my life.  But it does no good to indulge in such moments of sadness overlong.  What's gone is permanently gone and I can do nothing to bring it back, save perhaps to think about them and keep their memories alive.  It's not necessary a melancholy thing;  after all, I had that time with them, and it was good.  I try my best to pay forward what my absent friends and family gave to me.  Those left behind have to live their lives, despite their losses and sorrow over the absence of those that matter to them.  Life is too rich with wonders and joy to remain sorrowful all the time.  It truly would be a disservice to those special people in your life who have died if you were to be so crushed and disheartened by their loss that you lost your interest in what life has to offer the living.

Some years ago, a friend died in an unfortunate home accident.  The loss was shocking and sudden - a good man cut down in prime adulthood.  At his funeral, the following quote was read, and I was deeply touched by its message, and by how well it applied to my friend's life.  It has come to mind several times since, when friends and family have been taken from me.  I'd like it for my epitaph, if those who survive me deem it to be applicable to me.  Obviously, I think a similar message applies to women.

The man is a success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children; 
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; 
who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; 
who never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty or failed to express it; 
who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had. 
     - Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Dangers Inherent in the Seductive Allure of Paradise

Both christians and muslims believe in an afterlife (for the "righteous") that's characterized by eternal bliss with their putative deity.  For the unbelievers and unrepentant sinners, there's eternal pain and torment.  This is the classic carrot-and-stick by which the faithful are controlled.  Reward or punishment?  It's your choice.  Submit or suffer forever, it appears.  This seems like a simple and effective way to control behavior and, to listen to many believers, it seems to work.  Furthermore, many people who experience the death of their friends and relatives are comforted by the thought that (a) the suffering (if any) has been exchanged for eternal bliss, and (b) they will meet again when the living join the dead in paradise.

Unfortunately, this seemingly simple black-and-white isn't so simple as it seems.  For instance, the comfort derived from the prospect of a heavenly afterlife for our friends and family members has to be a bit uncertain.  After all, there's precious little comfort if the deceased were to pass on into eternal torment!  How can we know for sure, since no one has ever come back and let us know how it turned out for them?  Can we know for sure that we'’ll pass muster when we die?  Every religion claims to be the right path.  At most, only one can be right, and they may all be wrong, even about the very existence of a heavenly afterlife reserved only for their followers.

And think about the attractive lure of paradise when your life becomes a living hell (at least as you or others see it)?  Why not take one's own life, put an end to your troubles, and hasten your entry into paradise?  The bible is silent on suicide, interestingly enough.  See:  here

The clergy figured out centuries ago that if they gave believers the choice of a hard, unpleasant life on Earth or an everlasting paradise in heaven, their churches could become rather sparsely populated!  Hence, the clergy invented a cure for this problem:  they ruled that suicide is a guaranteed way to wind up in the bad place to spend eternity, not the good place!!  No mention of that in the bible, so it's clearly an invention of the clergy.  Brilliant!  Problem solved, right?

Well, no, not completely.  Religious believers are still committing suicide, although some perhaps are swayed by this threat.  To what extent the prospect of paradise (or hades) motivates their decision, I certainly can't say.  Many people evidently see no alternative in this life, despite the threat of going to eternal torment for it.  Furthermore, suppose someone is having a really difficult time, or is perceived to be suffering (or about to suffer) by one of their friends or family?  Would it not be an act of mercy to murder them, and hasten their entry into paradise?  Surely, releasing someone (even without their permission) from physical pain and/or mental agony would be an act of altruism.  But of course, murder is a sin and damns the murderer in the afterlife .  Nevertheless, in some people’s twisted mind, this "benevolent" act is a selfless sacrifice by the murderer.  You give up your own ticket to heaven (and book a ticket to hell) for the noble purpose of sending the sufferer to immortal joy, relieving them of their anguish.

We see reports of this sort of "benevolent murder" all too often – it's pretty obvious that such people have a very twisted view of right and wrong.  Most would agree that the perpetrators are mentally ill, and such a diagnosis is probably correct.  But these murderers believe they’re doing good, not evil.  Mainstream religion has provided them with this vision of neverending paradise that they believe not only justifies their crime, but ennobles it!  The vision itself likely isn't the root cause of their murderous deeds, but it's a way that a sick mind can “rationalize” what they do.  The prospect of paradise for the victim is a ready-made excuse, and the hope for gaining paradise is preached by religious clergy all the time.

To what extent does such a justification affect the frequency of murder among believers versus non-believers?  I haven't done the work to give a proper answer to that and know of no work done on this subject.  But I can virtually guarantee that no atheist will ever justify a murder for such a "reason".  What might these sick minds have done without the vision of their deeds as help, not harm?  No one can know that, of course.  They might have found a different excuse for their murder, or they might not have done the murder at all.  We can only speculate on what might have been, but we do know for a fact that the allure of a heavenly paradise was used as the reason they gave for their actions.  If they didn't actually need the excuse, nevertheless they used it rather than something else.

In a related vein, the religious concept of the "end of times" includes the sweeping up of all the righteous into paradise and the eternal punishment of all the unbelievers and unrepentant sinners.  I find it worrisome that some people actually look forward to this "end of times" evolution, with its "settling of all the accounts".  Rather than seeking to make the Earth a better place, such people are provided with a ready-made excuse to do nothing to improve our lives in this life.  And I've even heard people say that if they could hasten the day of the world's end by doing something, they'd gladly do so. That is, in my view, a sick person, deluded by religion in the arrogant, narcissistic belief that they surely would be selected for paradise.

Paradise in an afterlife has some pretty worrisome implications as a concept, if you think about it – it puts a benevolent face on an otherwise evil deed.  Suicidal terrorists often justify themselves this way, as well - they're sacrificing their lives for the sake of advancing their (religious) aims, and so will be guaranteed an eternity in heaven.  The paradise concept  doesn’t cause mental illness and murder, but it does make it possible for sick, deluded people to justify horrific acts.  In the absence of the belief in a paradise (and/or an anti-paradise), mentally ill people might find other excuses, but this one is so widely disseminated and accepted, it falls readily into their hands.  It is concept that provides fertile ground for diseased minds.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Take a Dose of Empathy and See If It Helps you Feel Better

I spent the years of my life before college in DuPage County, IL, a nearly homogeneous bastion of white, conservative Middle America.  The spectrum of ethnicity we had was dominated almost entirely by the choice of religion.  We didn't have blacks or Hispanics or even Asians living in our communities and attending my schools - if there were any, I never knew of them or saw them.  As a boy, I seem to recall being told a  story that a middle-class African-American couple wanted to buy a home in one of my hometown neighborhoods.  All the neighbors were so horrified, the story goes, they offered to buy the property from the homeowners rather than letting a black couple live in their precious paradise.  I don't know if the story is true.  But it's safe to say that I grew up in lily-white America, and it was very much like that in my university experiences, as well.  Yes, there were diverse ethnicities at the Universities of Wisconsin and Oklahoma in the 1960s (especially on the football teams!), but not in the circles within which I circulated.  I was taking mostly math and physics and such, after all.

In July of 1969, I was drafted into the Army and even spent a tour in Vietnam.  Needless to say, the Army wasn't too proud to take anyone in as cannon fodder in Vietnam, so I was suddenly tossed into a world where cultural and ethnic diversity was light years beyond anything I'd ever experienced.  I was rather startled by it all ... but all of us enlisted draftee swine had a common enemy:  the Army!  In the military, you make friends quickly or you'll have no friends at all.  Via the vehicle of marijuana, I suddenly found myself amidst a very different group of people than at any time before:  blacks from all over the US, Latinos, even southern rednecks!!  And a few of us actually respected the Vietnamese rather than dismissing them as contemptible, subhuman "gooks".  The "heads" were my primary group affiliation, although my best friend in the military was a white farmer from Oregon - and he hung with the same group I did!  Lo and behold.  After the shock wore off, I found it relatively easy to get along with pretty much any cultural or ethnic group.  I realized by actually talking with them that they valued mostly the same things I did.  They disliked many of the same things I did.  We had much in common and I found the cultural differences interesting, rather than threatening.

That experience stayed with me, but when I left the military and returned to the civilian world, I re-entered those circles that traditionally have been sparsely-populated by non-whites.  Hence, my group affiliations once again reflected a relative minimum of diversity.  Recently, though, there has been some progress.  Circumstances once again have conspired to let me know real people who don't share my skin coloration and ethnic background.  Lo, and behold! - they've had very different experiences from mine!  When they share their experiences, I sometimes find myself being embarrassed for those who share my ethnicity but not my attitudes.  It's not my fault that some people I know are racists, but it's difficult to interact comfortably with my non-white friends when some awful example of racism becomes front page news.  I guess I shouldn't expect comfort when confronting these issues, eh?

Here's what I think is the key to eventually defeating the poison of racism in our nation:  empathy.  If people just try to imagine what the world looks like to someone different from themselves, then perhaps we can begin to see why they do what they do, and think like how they think.  It doesn't necessarily mean that they're right in their thinking (nor does it mean I'm right in my thinking), but it helps to understand them better.  If you take advantage of any chances to speak with someone different and thereby have a dialog about things, perhaps you will learn things you never imagined to be so.  How does the world look to someone else?  You'll never know if you don't listen and don't ask - if you never talk with them and at least try to imagine their point of view. True empathy is when you've experienced precisely what they've experienced, but the next best thing is hearing about their experiences directly from them.  Then at least you can imagine what it might be like for them.

I can make an argument that empathy is the wellspring of morality ... but this is not the time or place.  As we approach the Christmas holiday season, I wish I could give everyone a big dose of empathy.  I suspect many people would feel better in a lot of ways if I could do that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Lengthy, Point-by-Point Response

A while back, I posted a blog about the atrocities perpetrated by Communist dictatorships.  Someone has attempted to discredit one aspect of the arguments therein, so I created a point-by-point response.  The result was rather too lengthy for this blog format, so I posted it on the web, here.  Short comments can be offered via this blog, but lengthy, detailed commentary should be sent via email using the address provided in the essay.

Giving Up the High Ground in the War on Terror

The recent Senate committee investigation of the use of torture on prisoners in the "war on terror" has confirmed what seemed obviously to be the case several years ago:  the USA has been using terrorist methods on their prisoners.  The Senate investigation concluded that little or nothing was gained in terms of useful information by resorting to torture, so the only substantial outcome of the process has been the validation of terrorist claims that the USA is an immoral international bully.

I've repeatedly said that violence only leads to more violence, and that terrorism is a tactic resorted to primarily by militarily weak opponents, who can't possibly win a "set piece" military confrontation.  The terrorists can't hope to win a purely military victory, so they're smart enough not even to try to do so, but if they can instill fear in us and use that fear to cause us to adopt fascist tactics to fight terrorism (e.g., giving up personal freedom in the name of security), then they'll have succeeded in their limited aims.  By giving up the moral high ground in this battle between some fanatic religious sects and a world superpower, we hand them a cheap victory.  We confirm their "great satan" claims about us, and expend our resources in a vain effort to kill enough of the terrorists to get them to stop their actions.  Can we not see that religious fanatics will never give up?  Can we not see that for each one we kill, making them into martyrs, we only create more terrorists?  Can we not see that "collateral damage" to noncombatant citizens from our war on terror makes new terrorists every day?  Can we not see that the primary beneficiaries of our massive military expenditures are the big defense corporations?  Are we not smart enough to see that a purely military victory is impossible?

I know there are many Americans out there who advocate giving the terrorists a taste of their own methods.  There are many Americans who say that terrorists have no rights and deserve whatever pain we can inflict on them, by whatever means.  Clearly, many Americans prefer vengeance over morality, despite their "christian" upbringing.  Treating our enemies in the way they treat us removes any substantive difference between us and them!  Do many Americans fail to see this?  Evidently so.

This nation was founded on the basis of high moral principles:  freedom and justice for all, in particular.  Due process.  Probable cause.  Innocent until proven guilty.  Everyone entitled to legal representation.  Habeas corpus.   Speedy trials by jury.  Humane treatment while in prison.  Cruel and unusual punishment forbidden.  If the GWB administration was so certain about the correctness of their actions in employing torture on prisoners, then why did they feel compelled to lie about it?  When someone says one thing and does the opposite, that's generally called hypocrisy.  And, as often observed by my friend R.J. Evans, the hypocrisy always reveals the lie.  Americans like to point to themselves as the standard bearers for freedom and justice in the world, but the facts lately seem to contradict that claimed status.  Many people in the world have reason to see us a bullies, using our military might to serve mostly selfish ends (like "protecting" oil for the big energy corporations to enrich themselves and use the wealth to influence the political process), paying lip service to our ideals.

It's hard to live up to those lofty ideals, it seems.  Many Americans apparently are all too ready to discard those ideals in order to wreak vengeance on our terrorist enemies.  They simply can't see that such actions ultimately reveal that we don't have enough faith in our own ideals to defend our moral high ground simply by resisting the temptation to resort to tactics like torture.  We should show the world by our example that it's not us but the terrorists who are immoral, violently evil fanatics, willing to do anything to advance their political/religious cause.  We should re-confirm our claims that our nation is the embodiment of high ideals for the world to emulate rather than descending into the same slime pit the terrorists occupy.  We should defend personal freedoms and personal justice for all (even accused terrorists) even more vigorously, rather than giving them up in the forlorn hope of defeating terrorism by rooting terrorists out and killing them.

I have no love for terrorists.  I don't mourn the deaths of their leaders (but neither do I celebrate their deaths).  They are evil fanatics!  But I maintain we can't "win" a military victory over terrorism.  The "security" we've gained by sacrificing our rights as human beings in this war on terror is an illusion.  Terrorists will always be able to find holes in that security - no security plan is impenetrable.  Not only is that security ultimately ineffective against terrorism, but it's expensive!  We're bankrupting ourselves with our tactics, including fighting unwinnable wars on foreign soil and maintaining the very same military-industrial complex about which outgoing President Eisenhower warned us.  Can most Americans not see this?  Evidently not.  That just plays into the terrorists' hand.

What we can do to limit the effectiveness of terror is stay true to our principles and show that they're wrong about us and our ideals, thereby marginalizing them and limiting their power of fear over us by restoring our lost freedoms and once again supporting justice for all