Bruce Momjian

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Faith The Future of the Church

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

This first 18 minutes of this video calls for a dramatic change among Christians to focus on discipleship. While it does not diminish the importance of the church and church leaders, it says Christians have become overly reliant on the professionals and have lost focus on living out Christian teaching and discipleship. This largely matches what I have seen.

 


Safety Maskaholics

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Comparing areas with and without mask mandates, this article clearly shows that masks were ineffective and reducing Covid infection and deaths. The report goes on to say that it was known that mask policy was ineffective, but that they were promoted as a way of doing something.

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Russia The Russia I Grew Up in Doesn't Exist Anymore

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

After the invasion of Ukraine, the world is still adjusting to the new normal, and Russians are too. For example, this Russian just moved to Georgia and in this video explains his radical but realistic view of the new Russia:

All the illusions and all the hopes of being an open and free and worldly country one day — they're gone. I don't think a lot of Russians really realize how much of a tragedy this is. (Mentions Ukraine suffering.) [Invasion supporters] do not realize how much of a tragedy this is. I am not even talking about the sanctions and everything. I am not even talking about the fact that everybody is going to be poor, there is no decent food or anything, the airplanes won't even work — I am not even talking about that — I am talking about the hope for this country to be happy and free, it's gone. It's not there anymore. It probably will not happen now in maybe 20 or 30 years.

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Thoughts Critical Race Theory

Friday, April 1, 2022

This 18-minute video about critical race theory clearly explains how "equity" (equality of outcome) is in conflict with the U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal opportunity and protection. I assume this will fade like previous movements.

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Government The Bad Guys Are Winning

Friday, April 1, 2022

With the invasion of Ukraine, there is renewed soul-searching about how the world got into this mess. This article from the Atlantic has some great analysis of why western democratic values are not always embraced:

Today, the most brutal members of Autocracy Inc. don't much care if their countries are criticized, or by whom. The leaders of Myanmar don't really have any ideology beyond nationalism, self-enrichment, and the desire to remain in power. The leaders of Iran confidently discount the views of Western infidels. The leaders of Cuba and Venezuela dismiss the statements of foreigners on the grounds that they are "imperialists." The leaders of China have spent a decade disputing the human-rights language long used by international institutions, successfully convincing many people around the world that these "Western" concepts don't apply to them. Russia has gone beyond merely ignoring foreign criticism to outright mocking it. …

Impervious to international criticism, modern autocrats are using aggressive tactics to push back against mass protest and widespread discontent. Putin was unembarrassed to stage "elections" earlier this year in which some 9 million people were barred from being candidates, the progovernment party received five times more television coverage than all the other parties put together, television clips of officials stealing votes circulated online, and vote counts were mysteriously altered. …

At the extremes, this kind of contempt can devolve into what the international democracy activist Srdja Popovic calls the "Maduro model" of governance, which may be what Lukashenko is preparing for in Belarus. Autocrats who adopt it are "willing to pay the price of becoming a totally failed country, to see their country enter the category of failed states," accepting economic collapse, isolation, and mass poverty if that's what it takes to stay in power. …

The widespread adoption of the Maduro model helps explain why Western statements at the time of Kabul's fall sounded so pathetic. The EU's foreign-policy chief expressed "deep concern about reports of serious human rights violations" and called for "meaningful negotiations based on democracy, the rule of law and constitutional rule"--- as if the Taliban was interested in any of that. Whether it was "deep concern," "sincere concern," or "profound concern," whether it was expressed on behalf of Europe or the Holy See, none of it mattered: Statements like that mean nothing to the Taliban, the Cuban security services, or the Russian FSB. Their goals are money and personal power. They are not concerned — deeply, sincerely, profoundly, or otherwise — about the happiness or well-being of their fellow citizens, let alone the views of anyone else.

There was an assumption that western democratic values would be adopted if the population was only exposed to them — that has not worked out very well.

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Russia Putin's Miscalculations

Saturday, March 12, 2022

This article has the most susinct summary of Putin's miscalculations regarding the Ukraine invasion:

The CIA director said Putin premised his war on four false assumptions:

  • Ukraine was weak
  • Russia's military had been modernized and would fight effectively
  • Europe was distracted and wouldn't mount a strong response
  • Russia's economy was prepared to withstand sanctions

Update: Some have suggested that Putin expected these problems. 2022-04-01

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Flight Foreign Incarceration

Monday, February 21, 2022

As someone who travels often, I am well aware of the risks. Perhaps surprisingly, a major risk is not flying, but simple things like crossing the street and being out late at night.

One thing I was never able to quantify until recently is the risk of being incarcerated in a foreign country. It could happen because:

  1. I do something that is legal or common in the United States but is illegal in a foreign country
  2. I do something illegal but get a much more serious punishment because the foreign country wants to punish or extract concessions from the United States
  3. I am incarcerated for no cause for the previously stated reason

Probably the most recent high-profile case of unwarranted incarceration was Andrew Brunson, who was released from a Turkish jail after the United States imposed punishing sanctions on the Turkish economy. But Brunson was just one of many, and this article says there currently are about sixty Americans either held hostage or wrongfully detained.

Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed have been in Russian jails since 2018 on charges the U.S. says are fabricated. I have been to Russia many times since 2018 and never had any problems. For some reason, in 2018 the Russian government decided they wanted someone to trade for two Russians jailed in the us, and I guess Whelan and Reed, both former U.S. military, were chosen. The U.S. State Department now mentions this risk in its Russian travel advisory:

U.S. citizens, including former and current U.S. government and military personnel and private citizens engaged in business, who are visiting or residing in Russia have been interrogated without cause, and threatened by Russian officials and may become victims of harassment, mistreatment, and extortion. All U.S. government personnel should carefully consider their need to travel to Russia.

Russian security services have arrested U.S. citizens on spurious charges, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and have convicted them in secret trials and/or without presenting evidence.

How do you reduce this kind of risk? It seems so random, but the impact is so serious. You can avoid countries where this has happened in the past, but how do you know which countries will do it in the future?

Update: This might be a case of #2. 2022-03-06

Update: New warnings 2022-04-02

Update: Trevor Reed freed 2022-04-27

Update: More analysis of hostage options 2022-07-07

Update: U.S. tries to end hostage taking 2022-07-25

Update: Seems there is another #2 person in Russia. 2022-07-30

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Faith America Without God

Saturday, January 29, 2022

It is well known that religious involvement generally decreases as per-capita income increases. The United States is unique as a country with high per-capita income and a high level of religious involvement.

However, in the past two decades, religious involvement in the United States has declined, and this article questions its impact on maintaining unity and fostering common goals. This paragraph captures its sentiment:

But if secularists hoped that declining religiosity would make for more rational politics, drained of faith's inflaming passions, they are likely disappointed. As Christianity's hold, in particular, has weakened, ideological intensity and fragmentation have risen. American faith, it turns out, is as fervent as ever; it's just that what was once religious belief has now been channeled into political belief. Political debates over what America is supposed to mean have taken on the character of theological disputations. This is what religion without religion looks like.

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Safety The Battle for the World's Most Powerful Cyberweapon

Friday, January 28, 2022

This interesting article is about an Israeli firm that makes mobile phone hacking software that is sold to foreign governments, and how those sales advance Israeli national security interests.

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