Monday, May 1, 2006

John Kenneth Galbraith, 97

Those of us who came of age in the sixties will recall John Kenneth Galbraith and his entertaining debates with Bill Buckley every presidential election season. Galbraith, a physically imposing man at 6'8" or thereabouts, was a liberal of the Hubert Humphrey school and the hero of many Democrats during the sixties and seventies. He was perhaps the most influential economist of his era.

I remember going to hear him speak at my alma mater and sitting close to the front, just behind a couple of middle-aged women who were apparently on the faculty. When Galbraith, in his seventies at the time, strode out onto the stage, both women gasped and sighed like two thirteen year-olds favored with a smile from Mick Jagger. One of the women turned to the other in a half swoon and proceeded to make invidious physical and intellectual comparisons between the magnificent liberal demigod on the stage and the pipsqueak conservative who was currently the president of the university. They both smirked acidly at how poorly the president fared in the comparison. It was as pathetically childish as it was cruel.

Anyway, J.K. Galbraith has passed away at the age of 97.

Just One Bubble in the Bath

VOA News has an article about the debate among some scientists as to whether there is just one universe or whether there are an infinite number of universes, like bubbles in an enormously vast bubblebath. It's an interesting question, I guess, but even more interesting is the reason why some scientists would seriously entertain a proposal that cannot be tested and which certainly contravenes the conventional preference for simplicity and parsimony in our explanations.

The driving motive for such speculation is that there are really only two live options from which we can select an explanation for the exquisite fine-tuning of the cosmos: Either there are a near infinite number of universes or this universe is the product of intentional design. If the latter option is metaphysically repugnant, which naturalists find it to be, then the first must be true.

Why are these the only two options? Scientists have realized over the last twenty five years that the parameters, forces, constants, and other physico-chemical and geo-physical properties of our cosmos are so incredibly precise that were just one of hundreds of values different in the slightest degree either our universe wouldn't exist, or, if it did, complex life would never have arisen. The universe looks as if it is a pre-planned home for living things like ourselves. This is called the Anthropic Principle and in the last decade a number of authors have been published in support of the argument that our universe is strongly teleological.

This, of course, is like finger nails drawn across a blackboard to materialist scientists who every morning before breakfast retreat to their prayer closets to meditate on the immortal words of Carl Sagan who assured us that "The universe is all there is, all there ever was, and all there ever will be." The problem is that the impression of apparent design is overwhelming, and unlike the case of biological design which can be dismissed with a wave of a copy of the Origin of Species, evolution cannot rescue the materialist from the appearance of a designed cosmos.

There's only one escape from the conclusion that there is an intelligent designer lurking about in the cosmic bushes. If there are an infinite number of universes then all possible universes would exist. Our universe is certainly possible, if highly, even ridiculously, improbable, therefore our universe must exist, regardless of how unlikely it is. Since this allows materialists to evade the conclusion that the religious rabble would have them accept, it appears to them, like an ugly woman to a sailor who's been at sea for six months, ravishingly attractive.

Since there's no evidence of other universes and no way to test the hypothesis that they exist, to talk about them is to speak the language of metaphysics rather than of science. This would incur the censure of such as Judge John Jones and the ACLU were it not for the fact that the "multiverse" serves such a noble purpose, i.e. it allows materialists an escape hatch through which they can wriggle away from the conclusion that the universe has a designer. There will, therefore, be no parents in Dover bringing lawsuits against teachers who discuss the multiverse in their science classrooms. Not all philosophical ideas, after all, are equally unsavory.

We'd like to pose some questions to those who promote the idea of a multiverse: If these hypothesized universes transcend our own does that make them supernatural? If so, then aren't the scientists who talk about these things actually dabbling in religion? And if not, then why must a designer which transcends our universe necessarily be supernatural? Just wondering.

The Hunt For Al-Zarqawi

Here's a fascinating story from the Marine Corps Times that suggests that being a friend of the Sheik of Slaughters makes for a disappointingly short-term relationship:

Just nine days before al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi released his latest video, a special operations raid killed five of his men, captured five others and apparently came within a couple of city blocks of nabbing Zarqawi himself. Then, the day Zarqawi's video debuted, special ops forces killed 12 more of his troops in a second raid in the same town.

The raids in Yusufiyah, 20 miles southwest of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, were the latest battles in a small, vicious war being waged largely in the shadows of the wider counterinsurgency effort.

It is a war fought by a secretive organization called Task Force 145, made up of some of the most elite U.S. troops, including Delta Force and SEAL Team 6. They have one goal: hunting down Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted man, and destroying his al-Qaida in Iraq organization. Zarqawi's escape in Yusufiyah was not the first time special ops troops have nearly had him. In early 2005, they came so close they could see the Jordanian's panicked face as he fled.

The first of the two Yusufiyah raids began at 2:15 a.m. April 16 when SEAL Team 6 operators and Army Rangers approached a terrorist safe house, a U.S. special operations source said. A U.S. Central Command news release said "coalition forces" - the usual shorthand for Task Force 145 elements - were "searching for a wanted al-Qaida associate."

When the U.S. troops arrived, the enemy opened fire with small arms. In the fight that followed, the special ops troops killed five terrorists, three of whom wore suicide belts, according to Central Command. "Two of the suicide bombers were killed before either could detonate his vest, and the third detonated his body bomb, killing only himself and injuring no one else," the news release said.

A woman in the house also was killed. Three other women and a child were wounded and were medically evacuated to the 10th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. U.S. forces detained five other occupants, one of whom was wounded. One of the five was later confirmed as "the wanted al-Qaida terrorist for whom the troops were searching," according to Central Command.

"The terrorist, whose name is currently being withheld, was involved in the planning and execution of improvised explosive device attacks and allegedly was associated with al-Qaida foreign fighter operations," the command said. The other four suspects are being "assessed for knowledge of and involvement in terrorist activity," the news release said.

Yusufiyah is Zarqawi country. Indeed, intelligence later suggested the terrorist kingpin "was probably 1,000 meters away" at the time of the raid, a special operations source said.

In addition to the suicide vests, U.S. forces recovered four AK-series assault rifles, a pistol and several grenades. In an indication of the intensity of the close-quarters, indoor battle, "one grenade was found with the pin pulled, but not yet expended, in the hand of a dead terrorist," according to Central Command.

Five U.S. troops were hurt in the raid, but they have either returned to duty or are expected to shortly.

Among items recovered from the safe house, the special operations source said, was a video showing Zarqawi at various times in "black pajamas with New Balance running shoes on."

The source said the video seized in Yusufiyah was the same one released April 25. One section of the video shows Zarqawi firing an M249 squad automatic weapon outside, and another depicts him sitting inside next to an M4 assault rifle. In the video, Zarqawi mocks President Bush, and makes clear his fierce opposition to attempts to establish democracy in Iraq.

Produced by al-Qaida in Iraq's "Media Committee," the video reflects "Zarqawi's number one thing ... the information campaign," said the special ops source.

But on the same day that video was released, "coalition forces" killed 12 other fighters at another Yusufiyah safe house "associated with foreign terrorists," according to Central Command.

The special operations source confirmed that this was another TF 145 raid. The news release said "multiple intelligence sources" led troops to the safe house. As they approached, a man ran out brandishing what Central Command described as "a shoulder-fired rocket," which he was attempting to launch when the operators shot and killed him.

More fighters appeared and exchanged fire with the special ops troops, who were supported by helicopter machine-gun fire. The U.S. fire killed another four terrorists outside the safe house. When those inside continued to fire, the special operators called in an airstrike that destroyed the building. A search of the rubble revealed the bodies of seven men and a woman. Each man wore webbing holding two loaded magazines and two grenades.

"The troops also discovered suicide notes on one of the terrorists [and] body bombs," Central Command said. U.S. forces believed two "wanted terrorists" were operating from the safe house. At press time, Central Command was still trying to identify those killed.

There's more at the link on the team tasked to hunt Zarqawi. Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the tip.

Did He Really Say <i>That</i>?

Tapscott has an astonishing quote made by Senator John McCain during a recent appearance on the Don Imus show. McCain said that he would dispense with the first amendment if he could get "clean government" in return. His exact words were:

"He [Michael Graham] also mentioned my abridgement of First Amendment rights, i.e. talking about campaign finance reform....I know that money corrupts....I would rather have a clean government than one where quote First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

Given the choice between preserving the constitution and eliminating government corruption McCain would sacrifice the constitution. His desire to rid the government of the sleaze of venality and greed is praiseworthy. His willingness to jettison the constitution to get us there is abhorrent. The senator votes as though he were generally conservative, but no Burkean or Reagan conservative would ever dream of letting such a thought make it past his lips. One wonders if he realized what he was saying and how much damage these words will do to him in 2008.

Thanks to Captain's Quarters for the tip.