Tuesday, July 01, 2003

P. J. O'Rourke reviews Hillary's new book. My favorite quote from the review is "Boring others is a form of aggression." It should be in Bartlett's.

Thomas Friedman has a column describing how the internet is changing the world. Old news. One thing I found interesting, however, is this:
Says Alan Cohen, a VP of Airespace, a new Wi-Fi provider: "If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."

In other words, once Wi-Fi is in place, with one little Internet connection I can download anything from anywhere and I can spread anything from anywhere. That is good news for both scientists and terrorists, pro-Americans and anti-Americans.This is the kind of hype we're all used to. You can't download anything you wish. The RIAA and other businesses will see to that. A lot of material that should be available isn't, books no longer in print have very little reason to be withheld from the internet. All their publishers need to do is scan them in and charge a reasonable price for them. In a week or two, Mr. Friedman's column will cost more to download that the entire issue of the New York Times it appeared in would have cost new. Bad idea.

But what I found most intriguing in the above quote was the claim that the internet is like God. Joseph Smith the "Mormon" prophet was given an instrument to assist him in translating an ancient record, The Book of Mormon. The instrument was called the Urim and Thummin, Hebrew words translated as Lights and Truth. It consisted of two clear stones or crystals mounted in a metal bow. It was not a magic translater, but seems to have been a tool for concentrating and enlightening one's mind. Through it, Joseph was able to study the markings on the plates and arrive at the correct meaning. As the translation progressed he became more proficient. There was a learning curve. Thus the Urim and Thumim provided a link to knowledge.

Later, Joseph made the following prophecy:
This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ´┐Żs.It has occurred to me over and over that the Internet is a beginning toward a fulfillment of that prophecy. Mormons believe that it is the Spirit of God that has led to the growth of technologies in the past 150 years and made our modern world possible. It's an unfortunate truth, however, that human beings cease to see miracles once they understand the details of the process by which they occur.

Monday, June 30, 2003

Operation Sidewinder. It's hard to be patient with this slow leak, after such a whirlwind of a military victory, but we can't say we weren't told this would be long and difficult. The biggest task is to develop local sources of intelligence we can trust and who won't be capped by the Baath remnants. That takes time, because Iraqis still don't know whether we really mean them well or not. As time goes by, I think we'll succeed in building support, but I hate these stories of young soldiers being murdered in sneak attacks and ambushes.

We have to build a sense among these people that they are entitled to a government that serves them, and a willingness to sacrifice themselves to establish and defend it. One point we should concentrate on is that such a government and the rights it ensures must come before religion, because religious leaders have proven too willing everywhere to abuse power once they have access to it. The idea of a government which serves the people is fundamentally inconsistent with the nature of religion, which is expected to constantly point and prod people to match its ideals. Political power is a dangerous to give or to hold. Americans learn this principle in grade school, but it can't be taken for granted.

Oh, no! Salt Lake City's intermodal hub is behind schedule!

Maybe, if they gave it an intelligible name like "Grand Central Station," the public would know what it is and care more. Intermodal Hub sounds like science fiction.

I've been reading Founding Brothers by Joseph Ellis. One chapter describes a debate in the House of Representatives in 1790 over two petitions which had been presented asking Congress to do away with the slave trade and slavery in the new republic. Ellis notes that this was the first discussion in public over the issue and that a compromise had been reached in private during the constitutional convention which would prohibit the new government from interfering with the importation of slaves for 20 years. Those who argued for ratifiying the new constitution then downplayed its failure to abolish slavery in the South with a specious claim that it would not last that long in any event, because it was not economically viable. The irony is gutwrenching, considering what the nation paid 70 years later when the string of similar compromises broke down.

Imagine my shock at reading Justice O'Connor's remark that she expects that in 25 years, affirmative action will no longer be "necessary." Necessity was one of the original justifications for slavery in the South. Now it is claimed as supporting reverse discrimination. You'd think that one civil war was enough for us. Let's hope we come to our senses before that.