Monday, October 30, 2006

Stern Report on global warming

Andrew Leonard in Salon has a brief gloss of the Sir Nicholas Stern "The Economics of Climate Change" report on global warming: The Cold War of global warming

Now, as I've probably said in the past sometime, I'm politically inclined to be dismissive of global warming. The image of failed socialist wackademic revolucionarios re-inventing themselves as environmental activists, seeking to shut down the means of production that they failed to win state ownership of, fits my mental template of the Left pretty snugly.

But, as voracious a devourer of popular science as I've always been, I must also admit that there seems to be more than a little something to global warming. I'm a big believer in the power of aggregate knowledge. If independent findings in many different scientific fields point to the same conclusion, then you've gotta take that seriously, the political coattail riders notwithstanding.

That said, I call pish-tosh on this:

Pollution, as seen through an environmental economics lens, is another example of market failure. If it costs less for a company to dump toxic waste in a river than to comply with government regulations, then the market is not providing the correct behavioral incentives. The Stern Review, by depicting climate change as market failure, is making a strong environmental economics case that governments need to rejigger markets to create different incentives.

But as has been discussed here before, there is another school of thought that holds that environmental degradation, climate change, species extinction, etc., are a consequence of market-based capitalism, rather than just strong hints that the engine powering the global economy needs a tuneup. In this perspective, global warming is the Day of Judgment for humanity's current system of self-organization and the threat of global devastation is rated as the most compelling possible rebuttal to a philosophy of unending economic growth. Seen this way, it is little wonder that conservatives fight so hard against even acknowledging that there is a problem. For them, a stance of skepticism about climate change is a holdover from the Cold War. If Lenin was alive today, he's be pushing a carbon tax. He must be stopped!


Mr. Leonard might have a skim through an old book called The Spoils of Progress: Environmental Pollution in the Soviet Union, among many other documentations of runaway environmental destruction in totalitarian countries. It's glaringly apparent, to anyone who thinks about it for a moment, that pollution has been, is, and will be worse in industrialized totalitarian countries than in industrialized free countries. (And unlike Mr. Leonard, I see no need to put sneer quotes around the word "free". Freedom in the West is as much a fact as a blessing.) In a free society there are multitudinous voices pulling this way and that. Concerned citizens can successfully organize and right wrongs, including pollution.

By definition, in a totalitarian country, the citizenry is bound and gagged, and there is no effective brake on what the government can perpetrate on them. That's why, in the Soviet Union, the Aral Sea shriveled up, why prime farmland was ruined with addle-pated heavy industrial projects, and so on. This is also why, to an extent (since China is not a simple culture), even though smokestack scrubbing technology is decades old, and carbon emission reduction technology is also out of its infancy, the Chinese aren't bothering to use them very much. If you're willing to go along with starving to death an eight-digit number of your countrymen, or massacre your own young people live on international television, then you're not going to get overly anguished over effluvia in some fisheries.

And if you're a civilization-loathing intellectual, who can't quite mentally process the fact that it is the above-named tyrannies plus his sainted Third World who are ruining the environment the most and the fastest, then the factor of freedom is likely to escape your cogitations. When people are free to take polluters to court, and elect environment-friendly politicians, then market-based capitalism can indeed be the blessing its boosters claim.

That's part of why I, at least, persist in being skeptical about global warming. I don't trust the Wise Head approach to solving this problem. I still remember sitting in college symposia, years ago, listening to experts predict an overpopulation-induced "die-back", which was also supposed to occur some years ago. A market failure? Maybe so. But if a dictatorship of intellectuals is the answer, then I'll stick with the market. It's like G. K. Chesterton once said:

The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.

Friday, October 27, 2006

New Jersey gay marriage ruling

So, apparently the NJ Supreme Court has ordered the state to create gay marriage in all but name. The First Things blogger deplores the ruling here, mostly on legal grounds.

But what's especially jaw-dropping to me is the hypocrisy of former governor Jim McGreevey:

And just two years ago,
Jersey's Legislature passed, and Gov. Jim McGreevey signed, the Domestic Partnership Act. This equalized some of the economic and social distinctions between marriage and same-sex unions but not all - and, as the court admits, it "explicitly acknowledged that same-sex couples cannot marry."


Yet,

McGreevey To Wed If N.J. Lawmakers Allow Gay Marriage


So this means he was governing in bad faith all along. What chumps the "values" activists who lobbied him must feel like now.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

How amazing are space telescopes?

So amazing, that we can not only see ancient galaxies, inconceivably far away, but also measure how old they are, and what their mass is. This thanks to the Spitzer infrared space telescope, the diameter of which's lens is only half your humble blogger's physical height.

NASA's Sun Glasses

We've been observing the sun with inter-planetary spacecraft since what? The Pioneer missions? Well, now NASA's sent up a twin set of spacecraft to monitor the sun for solar eruptions. They'll function as a set of giant 3-D glasses, orbiting the sun fore and aft of the earth, and enabling astronomers to more accurately gauge the size, shape, and direction of solar flares. You've gotta admire the number-crunching, that went into calculating the launch trajectories of these gadgets, too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ted Kennedy - KGB connection?

I'm inclined to doubt it. Actually, I don't believe it. The ultimate source for this seems to be an article by Herbert Romerstein in Human Events from December 8, 2003 (found through a periodicals index; it didn't come up in HE's own archive search)

Romerstein was involved with the VENONA intercept decrypts, which was an invaluable service to historians of the Cold War, and to the truth in general. For instance, VENONA confirmed that Alger Hiss really was a Soviet operative.

But Romerstein was guilty of jumping to conclusions in another matter during the early 90s, when excitement about the newly opened Soviet archives was at a peak. He accused left-wing journalist I. F. Stone of working for the Sovs. This charge was swiftly proven to be untenable, if not outright debunked. A fair-use excerpt from The New York Times, Sep 26, 1992. pg. 1.20:

Always let the K.G.B. pick up the lunch tab or risk posthumous vilification. That is seemingly the moral in the sad controversy over I. F. Stone, the left-wing Washington journalist who died in 1989.

Writing in the journal Human Events on June 5, Herbert Romerstein quoted a former K.G.B. agent, Oleg Kalugin, as saying that a well-known American journalist had been a Soviet agent. The journalist, according to Mr. Kalugin, had stopped taking K.G.B. money only after the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Mr. Romerstein added that another former K.G.B. "source," unnamed, had told him the journalist Mr. Kalugin had been referring to was Mr. Stone. The Romerstein account was taken up with unseemly glee by other conservative publications, including The New York Post. But Mr. Kalugin now says: "Never did I mention Stone as a man who was paid as a Soviet agent." So reports Andrew Brown, author of the original article in the London newspaper The Independent that inspired the controversy.

In the current issue of The New York Review of Books, Mr. Brown quotes Mr. Kalugin as saying that his comment about the journalist's refusal to take "any money from us" after 1968 referred solely to the journalist's refusal to allow him to pay for lunch.


1992 was a long time ago, but I'll believe this when someone else provides a lot more corroboration.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nice things said about Jews, pt 10

Let me tell you a story. In the early Fifties, polio was a nightmare for parents. Lots of children clunked around in braces or sat forever in wheel chairs. In summer, the epidemic season, our mothers wouldn't let us go to public swimming pools because they were thought to be focuses of infection.

One day a fellow named Salk came out of a laboratory somewhere and said, "Hey, I've got this vaccine…." A bit later, a guy named Sabin came out of another laboratory, and said, "Hey, if we do thus and so and put it on sugar cubes, see, it will be oral…." You can't imagine how welcome that vaccine was. Parents grabbed their children by the hair and sprinted through doors, sometimes not bothering to open them, to get to the clinic. Polio just flat disappeared.

Hint: Salk and Sabin were not Rastafarians. ("Jews Destroy American Iron Lung Industry.")

Does none of this count for anything?

-- Fred Reed, "Letters About Jews"

Nice things said about Jews, pt 9

There, in the Mediterranean lands, life, liberty, morality, science and art begin their higher development. There we find first and foremost the children of Israel, a people still mocked by the nations and, in some countries, treated as outcasts. Yet they were the benefactors of us all. ...

In Asia, in the legends and traditions of the Chinese, Hindus, and Persians, individual heroes emerge as abstractions, as mythical beings endowed with superhuman powers and properties. They appear and disappear like glittering but empty phantasies. How different is the story of the Hebrew! ...

Here we come to the scene of original beauty, where mortal man communicated directly with God and his angels and where yet those with the highest gifts, an Abraham, a Moses, a David, an Isaiah, remain firmly rooted in the ground of reality. Here we find, for the first time in history, personality endowed with divine rights, the full majesty of the human figure and of a moral world. ...
-- Ernst Moritz Arndt, Versuch in vergleicher Völkergeschichte, 1843, in Joseph L. Baron, Stars and Sand: Jewish Notes by non-Jewish Notables, 1943

Nice things said about Jews, pt 8

For the exercises of strength and skill, for the achievements and for the enchantments of wit, of eloquence, or art, of genius, for the imperial games of politics and war--let us seek them on the shores of Greece. But if the first among the problems of life be how to establish the peace, and restore the balance, of our inward being; if the highest of all conditions in the existence of the creature be his aspect towards the God to whom he owes his being and in whose great hand he stands; then let us make our search elsewhere. All the wonders of the Greek civilization heaped together are less wonderful, than is the single Book of Psalms.
-- William Gladstone, "Place of Ancient Greece in the Providential Order", Gleanings of Past Years, 1879

Nice things said about Jews, pt 7

In the pantheistic religions there is only an eternal present. The generations confuse with rather than succeed each other. What can be expected of the future in such societies? Why call upon it, why fear it? Is not God shackled by fate, man by caste? Where is hope amidst these chains which no Messiah is to come and break? It is only among the Hebrews that the genius of futurity truly shines forth, for their God is free. With them, that which has been ceases to be the inflexible rule for that which shall be. [...]

The spirit of equality was rooted in the Law, even when the example of the rest of the Orient opposed its scrupulous translation into practice. Where will you find a more striking contradiction to the whole spirit of antiquity than in the words of the lawgiver, addressed to his people: "And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God brought thee out thence"? From that day on, the Hebrew people considered itself the possession of Jehovah; it could not deliver itself into the hands of any other master.
-- Edgar Quinet, Le Génie des Religions, 1851

Nice things said about Jews, pt 6

One of the greatest advantages of the Hebrew religion over every system of paganism was the peculiar excellency of its precepts and the means of acquiring moral and religious instruction which it afforded to every class of the people. The pagans never appointed instructors to deliver moral precepts in the name of the gods. The people frequented the temples and attended the solemn rites of religion as well as other public shows; but they did not receive any moral or religious instructions from their priests, who never considered it as any part of their duty to enlighten the minds of the multitude. Among the Israelites the case was totally different. The Scriptures were read and explained in the synagogue every Sabbath day and thus became intelligible to the meanest capacity. The same laudable plan, being adopted by the Christians, has diffused a moral and religious illumination over a great part of the world.
-- John Bigland, An Historical Display of the Effects of Physical and Moral Causes on the Character and Circumstances of Nations, 1816

Nice things said about Jews, pt 5

No people ever felt so strongly as the people of the Old Testament, the Hebrew people, that conduct is three-fourths of our life and its largest concern. No people ever felt so strongly that succeeding, going right, hitting the mark in this great concern, was the way of peace, the highest possible satisfaction...

Then there is the practical force of their example; and this is even more important. Everyone is aware how those who want to cultivate any sense of endowment in themselves must be habitually conversant with the works of people who have been eminent for that sense, must study them, catch inspiration from them. Only in this way, indeed, can progress be made. And as long as the world lasts, all who want to make progress in righteousness will come to Israel for inspiration, as to the people who have had the sense for righteousness most glowing and strongest; and in hearing and reading the words Israel has uttered for us, careers for conduct will find a glow and a force they could find nowhere else.
-- Matthew Arnold, Literature and Dogma, 1873

Nice things said about Jews, pt 4

The degree of a nation's humanity may be definitely gauged by the nature of its gods. A people whose deities are the authors, directors, and protectors of civil law and order, of justice and wisdom, of grace and propriety, testifies thereby that it belongs to the noblest race, and it cannot avoid being ever more ennobled by such a religion as long as it remains effective.
-- Christoph Martin Wieland, Agathodamon, 1799

Nice things said about Jews, pt 3

When the Semitic question raised such a commotion in Europe, there appeared a pamphlet on that subject which concluded with the suggestion that, in order to remove the difficulties involved, the Jews ought to be civilized.

My personal observations have led me to a different conclusion: the Jew, as a people, has reached the highest point of human development as comprehended by Mosaic law.

It seems to me that the problem now is how to civilize and Christianize thoroughly the peoples among whom the Jews live, so that the latter may, if not love them, at least respect them. Let the Jew be witness to the fruit which this civilization may bear, let hatred and contempt give way to mutual good will, and the Jew will be happy to recognize a brother in the Christian...

I wish that, instead of devoting themselves to trace the faults of Jews, Christian nations would seek to imitate them in their social qualities and religious loyalty. Now, that the Jews' first task, to spread monotheism on earth, has been accomplished, should not their presence in our midst serve the purpose of revivifying moral sentiment and familial affection, attributes that are fast disappearing among
us?...

Oh, if the Jews had only a fraction of our vices, even their name would long since have been effaced from the earth!

-- Russian princess and intellectual Nathalie Gortshakov-Uvarov, Juifs et Chrétiens, 1887, collected in Stars and Sand: Jewish Notes by non-Jewish Notables, 1943

Nice things said about Jews, pt 2

The Hebrews have done more to civilize men than any other nation. If I were an atheist, and believed blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations.
-- John Adams

Nice things said about Jews, pt 1

[Jewish poetry] stands completely above all the rest; it is as far beyond the next best as German music is beyond French music, or French painting beyond English painting, or the English drama beyond Italian drama. There are single chapters in the Old Testament that are worth all the poetry ever written in the New World and nine-tenths of that written in the Old. [...]

A race of lawgivers? Bosh! Leviticus is as archaic as the Code of Manu, and the Decalogue is a fossil. A race of seers? Bosh again! The God they saw survives only as a bogey-man, a theory, an uneasy and vexatious ghost. A race of traders and sharpers? Bosh a third time! The Jews are as poor as the Spaniards. But a race of poets, my lords, a race of poets! It is a vision of beauty that has ever haunted them. And it has been their destiny to transmit that vision, enfeebled, perhaps, but still distinct, to other and lesser peoples, that life might be made softer for the sons of men, and the goodness of the Lord God--whoever He may be--might not be forgotten.
-- H. L. Mencken, Damn! A Book of Calumny, 1918

Thursday, October 19, 2006

More political taxonomy humor

It's been a while since I've seen anything worthwhile on a geocities website (not that I've been searching or anything) but this is cute: THE SATIRICAL POLITICAL BELIEFS ASSESSMENT TEST

Example:

7: The Center for Public-Health Dietary Self Control releases a study that says eating just one jelly donut is as harmful to human health as smoking 10,000,000 cartons of cigarettes. Do you...

CONS: keep eating jelly donuts.

LIBL: demand that jelly donuts be removed from vending machines, and public school cafeterias.

LBRT: hoard jelly donuts before they are regulated off grocer's shelves.

COMM: hoard jelly donuts so you can sell them on the black market.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The further wussification of American children

Breaking: Blue state schools put fear of lawsuits above healthy development of children in their charge:

ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- Tag, you're out! Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.
-- "Not It! Mass. Elementary School Bans Tag", The Washington Post, October 18, 2006


Expatriate curmudgeon Fred Reed had this take on a similar egregiousness a few years back:

There is a totalitarian strain in the female psyche. It isn't evil, at least not in intention. Quite the oppposite -- in intention. Women as a sex want to impose security, stability, and conventionality, at all costs, on everything. They want a tyranny of the safe and comfortable. [...]

When the female drive for security ceases to be a useful brake on male energy, and becomes instead the dominant principle of existence, the effect is stifling. That is what we have. A guy principal, unless gelded, will let girls be girls and boys be boys. A gal principal wants them both to be girls. A man will not try to force girls to play football. A woman will try to force boys to stop playing it.

Because what is instinctive seems reasonable, few women have the foggiest idea what makes men tick. (Or, God knows, vice versa.) Some do. Some women scuba dive, jump out of airplanes, shoot competitively. The average teacheress doesn't. She can't imagine why boys like roughhousing, or hard-played basketball, or guns. When she says tag is too rough, she means that it is too rough for her.

And with an intolerance peculiar to the sex, she believes that anything she can't understand must be reformed.
-- Fred Reed, "Children in shards on the ground"


UPDATE: A passing commenter points out that, although this incident is in Massachusetts, it is a general phenom; not particularly blue-statish or even political in nature. He's right, on further thought. I've seen the same thing happening around here.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

So what's not to love about Grameen bank? You tell me!

[Crossposted from Protein Wisdom]

The poor we have always with us, and the purpose of the Lord in providing the poor is to enable us of the better classes to amuse ourselves by investigating them and uplifting them and at dinners telling how charitable we are. The poor don't like it much. They have no gratitude. ... But if they are taken firmly in hand they can be kept reasonably dependent and interesting for years."
-- Sinclair Lewis in the short story "Things", first published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1919


So this time a really deserving person won the Nobel Peace Prize. Muhammad Yunus and his micro-capitalism (though the newsies & punditry much prefer the term "micro-credit") promoting bank Grameen Bank have helped untold thousands get out of destitution and into the small business and trades class. I have a soft spot for this program, because it has the same philosophy if not quite the same financial arrangements as Habitat for Humanity: a hand up, not a handout. What could be better than, quietly and without a big publicity airhorn, helping people become productive stakeholders in their own societies? Well, if that detracts from the ego massage of bleeding hearts who would rather keep the Third World poor as mascots, who view them as an anonymous mass of little brown people, as simple symbols of Western sin, plenty. "Microcredit is a good thing, but it is nowhere near a panacea for global poverty" harrumphs Daniel Davies in--where else?--The Guardian.

"The main effect of the microfinance revolution has been the rebranding of agricultural development banks as "Microlenders". This has happened because although a loan to buy a tractor or provide working capital for a harvest season isn't microcredit, calling it microcredit will bring in a lot more grant money. That's probably good news, because agricultural development banks usually do good work."


There's also some economic counter-theorizing presented, appealing to that profound reader of human nature, John Kenneth Galbraith. Something about giving development aid only to people who don't plan on remaining stuck in poverty. Mr. Davies "suspects" that Grameen's impact has been largely on those people who were just barely on the good side of hopelessness.

Well, I don't know if Mr. Yunus's vision has any overtly spiritual aspect. But I have seen up close how hopelessness can be turned into hope. The human spirit can be broken, and few things do a more merciless job of that than grinding poverty. People forget, if indeed they ever even knew, that a better life is possible. But, somebody has to revive their spirits, give them inspiration along with information. They turn themselves from dead-enders into people with hope. And no sociological study is ever going to be able to accomodate its pigeonholes, to track the transformation.

Thomas Sowell once said that anything can be termed a success if judged by low enough standards, just as anything can be termed a failure if judged by high enough standards. Our Guardian pundit is in danger of being guilty of the latter fault. Mr. Yunus can answer his critics with the words of Thomas Carlyle:

Between vague wavering Capability and fixed indubitable Performance, what a difference!
--Sartor Resartus, 1833

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Foleygate

The other day Tony Blankley, the editor of the Washington Times, was on a local Atlanta radio show, explaining his surprising editorial calling for Dennis Hastert to resign (no transcript, sorry). Blankley believes that Fordham is telling the truth, that he was made the designated fall guy after he had already agreed to be a good team member and resign his post over something else (IINM. No transcript, remember). Blankley said that Hastert's office had not intervened as strongly as his predecessors had in previous cases. Blankley surely wants this scandal to go away before election day, but the case he presented did seem like the high road.

If it were a Dem that was the malfeasant party here, we'd likely never hear about it at all, from normal media avenues. And if we did, it would be nothing but how those eeeeeevil judgmental Republicans were once again invading the private life of a Democrat public servant.

That said, I say get rid of everyone who let this Foley stuff go on, no matter who it is. "Everybody does it" is a teenager's argument.

Friday, October 13, 2006

New UN Sec-Gen Ban Ki-moon -- the U. S. connection!

He got his picture taken with President Kennedy, when Ban was in high school, in the VISTA program.



Photo is from the Chosun-Ilbo newspaper; too lazy to hunt up the link, sorry.

Clayton Cramer disputes the Lancet Iraqi casualty numbers

Via Instapundit:

Either the news media have been ignoring hundreds of days with 1000 or more deaths--or tens of days with 10,000 or more deaths--or the Lancet article is utterly wrong.


He's worth listening twice to. Cramer is the one who, several years ago, busted Emory professor Michael Bellesiles' bogus gun research.

I am often asked, "Did [Michael] Bellesiles really think he was going to get away with [fabricating research about colonial firearm ownership]?" I don't know. My suspicion is that Bellesiles assumed
that people that disagreed with him about gun control wouldn't know where to find The Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut or where American State Papers: Military Affairs would be in the library.

One of the hazards with the political homogenity of the professoriate at the first rank schools is that they don't get a chance to find out what people outside their narrow circle think, and they tend to underestimate their political opponents.

I suspect that Bellesiles and his fellow professors think of the NRA as a small number of educated conmen in Fairfax, Virginia, leading an organization of four million guys in flannel named Billy Bob. A recurring theme of gun control advocates is that we are a bunch of toothless rednecks who marry our sisters. The reality is that the average NRA member is a registered Democrat, is better educated than the general population, and tends to work in a technical or engineering position.

It must have been a real shocker to Bellesiles to discover:

1. LOTS of NRA members have graduate degrees in history.

2. A surprising number read 18th and 19th century primary sources. (You wouldn't believe how many tips I received from "gun nuts" who pointed me to very useful documents.)

3. Some of us know the early Republic primary sources well enough to recognize when Bellesiles was altering quotes.

4. Some of us can even write.

Nobel Peace Prize goes to Bangladeshi microcredit pioneer Muhammad Yunus

Good. It's about time the prize went to someone who deserved it, and not to a Leftie mascot.

"Every single individual
on earth has both the potential and the right to live a decent life. Across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development," the Nobel Committee said in its citation.


May his tribe increase.

Humor's not my schtick, at all, but...

...I have to say I'm a bit proud of having thought this one up. It's a spoof of the Army's new slogan search.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The journalist and the jihadi

Cross-posted, with some revisions, from Protein Wisdom.

Suzanne Fields has an op-ed in the Washington Times today, on the new HBO biopic of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He would have been 43 this week.

I remember how shocked and outraged I was when I learned of the manner of his murder. It turned into sheer hatred when I found out that the monsters had actually videotaped it, and were selling it in bazaars and filesharing it around the ‘net. Not least of what I hate the jihadists for, is the fact that I’m now more or less numb to civilized people getting their heads chopped off by medieval holy warriors, to the applause of vast swathes of our nominal allies. Because of the numbingly numbing numbingness of being numbed by the numbing numbers of beheadings these vipers have perpetrated ever since.

An important point for libs to remember from the Fields article:

The film documents how the Islamists, miserable in their distorted faith, live off a culture of despair born of manufactured misery. Omar Sheikh was privileged. He was born and grew up with middle-class parents in London, attended the London School of Economics where he studied applied mathematics and economics, and played a good game of chess.
“He was not an illiterate jihadi whose mind had been captured by the mullahs; he was a very bright, Oxford-material boy, overturning the notion that education is the solution to terrorism,” says Ahmed A. Jamal, one of the two directors of the documentary. “In his case, he was a formidable terrorist precisely because he was so well-educated.” Indeed, he had the wealth to support his alienation, the reasoning power to rationalize his resentments and the mind to accentuate the negative with cunning, converting his abilities into a perverse nihilism.


Get it, you Voices Of Compassion®? Not everything can be blamed on globalization, or on American hegemony, or on the existence of the Jews--I mean, Israel. The Wahabists don’t have any IMF debt to be forgiven. You can’t erase the threat they pose by treating their threats as grievances. You can’t abase yourself--or us--into their good graces. Your materialist worldview is inapplicable here, in this conflict. It ain't that kind of disagreement.

In honor of Danny, go click around the Daniel Pearl Foundation, and be amazed at the charitable attitude of his widow. And the wonderful sort of fellow Pearl himself was. I’d trade any given busload of multicultists--and any stadium full of jihadists--for one of him back again.
Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman (live)

Random Rock Bloggage

Only this time its country! I've always loved this song, with its haunting bottom-string guitar solo.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bombings on Mindanao in the Philippines

Muslim insurgents are on a bombing spree, it looks like. Keep an eye on The Belmont Club for informed bloggage on The Jihad in that country, is my recommendation.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What are liberals like?

A long, laudatory list of what liberals are like is here in the Chicago Tribune today, courtesy of law Professor Geoffrey R. Stone. I and other Protein Wisdom regulars chew it over here.

One thing I would add is that this list seems to be more like a list of ideals, than of attributes, as the author himself states:

Undoubtedly, not all liberals embrace all of these propositions, and many conservatives embrace at least some of them.


This seems like it would sort well with those conservatives who insist that they are the "real" "classical" liberals, while the modern liberals are all a bunch of flag-burning, pot-smoking, mother-cursing, trust fund-supported, etc., etc. It would also give an out to magnaminous liberals, willing to grant that not all conservatives have to pick gravel out of their knuckles.

Apart from that, his weaselly disclaimers do not mask several holes in his list. For instance:

Liberals believe courts have a special responsibility to protect individual liberties. It is principally liberal judges and justices who have preserved and continue to preserve freedom of expression, individual privacy, freedom of religion and due process of law. (Conservative judges and justices more often wield judicial authority to protect property rights and the interests of corporations, commercial advertisers and the wealthy.)


Since when are property rights not a liberty? This is the voice of someone who views a citizen's wealth and property as merely a funding source for liberals' vote-buying government handout programs. (Remember the Supreme Court's Kelo decision? How all the liberals on the bench voted for it?) If people are secure in their homes and possessions against the depredations of government, they are free to take care of themselves and go about their lives as they see fit. If they can be and are expropriated at any time, then they need high-level patronage--which vote-hungry politicians are always ready to provide, in exchange for dependence on government. So once again we can see the truth in the adage, that liberalism is a disease masquerading as its own cure.

And since when are judges suppose to stick up for the little guy against the big guy? They are supposed to uphold the law. The little guy is as likely to be in the wrong as anyone else.

Have a quote:

It seems doubtful that an effective modern economy can be created without adopting capitalism, as was demonstrated by the failure of the command economies of the Soviet Union and China. The Soviets could get rockets into orbit, but they couldn't reliably get onions to Moscow. As for China, millions had to die to prove that collectivized agriculture is unproductive. Today, with capitalism thriving in many nations recently freed from Soviet oppression, and with the Chinese having taken to heart that they have long been outproduced by Taiwan, both China and Russia now seek to build capitalist societies. It remains to be seen whether either nation can provide freedom, without which effective capitalism is impossible. Indeed, for want of both
freedom and capitalism, Islamic nations remain in semifeudalism, incapable of producing most of the items they use in daily life. Their standard of living require massive imports paid for with oil money, just as Spain enjoyed the fruits of other nations' industry so long as it was kept afloat by gold and silver from the New World. Without secure property rights and substantial individual freedom, modern
societies cannot emerge.
-- Rodney Stark, _The Victory of Reason_, 2005

Closing in on another astronomy milestone

We soon may have photographs of an extra-solar planet, thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope. What a durable, useful old crate it's proving to be.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Maple Syrup Urine Syndrome"

Clicking around out of curiosity about the Amish, in light of the events of last week, I found quite a lot of medical literature about them. Apparently they're so inbred, pinched in such a genetic bottleneck, that they are prone to a lot of rare diseases and deformities. Sad.

But the price of a simple life can be high. The Amish in Lancaster County are descendants of about 200 Swiss Anabaptists who emigrated in the mid- 1700s (other groups of Amish settled elsewhere in Pennsylvania and other states). The Amish church forbids marriage outside the order and few outsiders have joined, so the community has been essentially a closed genetic population for more than 12 generations. Thus, intermarriage has brought to the fore certain genetic mutations that were present in the initial genetic pool (as they are in any population), making the Amish host to several inherited disorders. These mostly stem from recessive traits and include forms of dwarfism and mental retardation, as well as the diseases that interest pediatrician Holmes Morton--a collection of treatable metabolic disorders including Bartter's. The Amish have twice the risk for certain diseases than people in the general population. The Mennonites have also passed down particular genetic diseases, including maple syrup urine disease, so named because patients' urine and earwax contain a metabolite that smells like maple syrup. The disease can cause irreversible brain damage in days; if untreated, it claims the lives of infants within the first week of life.

"I juggle about 50 different disorders like this," explains Morton, an instructor in pediatrics at Hopkins, as he bounces through the Lancaster countryside in his Jeep following his visit to the Stolzfus family. "Most of them are poorly defined. It really is experimental medicine to figure out what to do. It's all a learning experience."

Friday, October 06, 2006

What the forgiveness of the Amish is not

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make them appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as natural; and he may be forced to take ever more violent means to get his vision across to this hostile audience. When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal ways of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the blind you draw large and startling figures.
-- Flannery O'Connor, 1957



For once, we were spared the too cheap exculpations of secular society, in which crime is simultaneously everybody's fault and no one's fault, and in which every criminal is innocent until proven crazy. No spineless non-judgementalism, no creepy grief counselors, outfitting survivors with prosthetic feelings. Instead, we had as shining an example of the Christian ideal of forgiveness as it was possible to produce.

Some people misunderstand the seemingly easy acceptance of the Amish in the face of this horror. The Amish do wrestle with hate and anger, the same as anyone else would. They are human beings, after all; and being robbed of their children's lives savages their hearts as much as anyone else's. However, they are not simply taking the stoic way out, simply switching off their emotions. So schooled are they in Christ's example of returning good for evil, that it doesn't take as much agonizing for them to offer that hand of reconciliation as it might for any of us.

The Amish have not only forgiven the killer, but forgiven the killer's family, and asked that some of the spontaneous outpouring of donations from around the country to the Amish be shared with them. (Contrast that with, say, the Columbine murders, which were almost immediately litigated by all against all.) How can they do this? A quick trawl through some online sermons on forgiveness comes up with this nugget:

When we go through an inexplicable trial, when we feel forsaken by those in whom we had placed our trust, we can be surprised to find a violent reaction welling up in us. Sometimes we feel the need to get some distance, to allow some time to pass. Then we realize that forgiveness is not a natural attitude for human beings. But in such moments of crisis we can also discover that living a life of forgiveness means first and foremost letting the Risen Christ forgive within us.

All who choose to let Christ pray in them "Father, forgive" remain free of violence and bitterness. Free of distances, of an indifference that gives the illusion of protecting them, like armour, against a suffering which has become too unbearable. The heart remains alive: it can begin to hope anew.


Here's hoping for renewal in their hearts, in the years to come.

Footnote: Mister Ghost is wondering where are the Iraqi Amish? The parallel is misdrawn, as I said at his blog. A surprise attack by a lone crazy is not the same as deep-rooted emnity between rival sects. If anything, the Iraqis have a much harder job of reconciliation than do the Amish, in that there is more to forgive, and less of a basis for forgiveness in the Islamic faith.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Amish and forgiveness

You know what's astounding? The Amish forgave the killer and his family. And, if those creepo phoney Baptists at Westover had actually disrupted their daughters' funerals, the Amish would have forgiven them, too. There's the best and worst of American Christianity for you, right there in one easy-to-swallow tableau.

Whoah, look what just popped up!

I posted that Mother's Finest video a good while ago, and it didn't go through. I tried again, and ditto. Now here it is twice! Must have been some congestion at YouTube or something. I think I'll leave them both up--MF deserves to be heard in stereo!
Mothers Finest Live in Rockpalast, Germany 1978

Random Rock Bloggage:

The opening act of the first rock concert I ever went to was this rambunctious party band, Mother's Finest. Everyone else further up the bill gave an energetic performance, too--but I still wonder how much of that was because these guys were lighting a fire underneath them.
Mothers Finest Live in Rockpalast, Germany 1978

Random Rock Bloggage:

Mothers Finest was the opening act of the first rock concert I ever attended. They gave a thrillingly kinetic performance, and it seemed to rub off on the other bands on the multi-act show. In particular, Foreigner. This was that band's breakout tour, and the singer was bounding all over the place. I saw them again the following year, and he sort of stood there and crooned, by comparison.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tempest-toss't icebergs

Here's a story about an Alaskan storm that generated a sea swell, that apparently broke apart a giant iceberg in Antarctica.

That's something I haven't seen predicted in the global warming models. Some have predicted increased storminess, but I don't think anyone ever expected this kind of consequence.

Tiny ocean swells may seem too small to break an iceberg, but the crew of Captain Cook's Endeavour knew well their hazards. The Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef near Australia on a calm night in 1770. "But there was just enough swell to pick up the Endeavour and pound it relentlessly against the coral heads," MacAyeal said. Until his crew lightened the ship, Cook feared it would be pounded to smithereens.

And just like the Endeavour, the iceberg had run aground near Cape Adare and the Possession Islands in Antarctica before the swell hit. "We think that B15A was in the right position where these waves would be fatal to it," MacAyeal said. "The iceberg shattered like a gracile wine glass being sung to by a heavy soprano."



We study and learn...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Andrew Sullivan and Fundamentalism

Andrew Sullivan voices the "fundamentalism is a mental disorder" meme.

Whatever it is, fundamentalism is also a reaction. Seventy years ago, H. L. Mencken nailed the point of disaffection that contributes to the growth of fundamentalism:

It is my belief, as a friendly neutral in all such high and ghostly matters, that the body of doctrine known as Modernism is completely incompatible, not only with anything rationally describable as Christianity, but also with anything deserving to pass as religion in general. Religion, if it is to retain any genuine significance, can never be reduced to a series of sweet attitudes, possible to anyone not actually in jail for felony. It is, on the contrary, a corpus of powerful and profound convictions, many of them not open to logical analysis. . . .What the Modernists have done . . . [is] to get rid of all the logical difficulties of religion, and yet preserve a generally pious cast of mind. It is a vain enterprise. What they have left, once they have achieved their imprudent scavenging, is hardly more than a row of hollow platitudes, as empty [of] psychological force and effect as so many nursery rhymes. . . . Religion is something else again-in Henrik Ibsen's phrase, something far more deep-down-diving and mud-upbringing. Dr. Machen tried to impress that obvious fact upon his fellow adherents of the Geneva Muhammad [i.e., Calvin]. He failed-but he was undoubtedly right.
-- H. L. Mencken, "Dr. Fundamentalis", an obituary of Rev. J. Gresham Machen, Baltimore Evening Sun (January 18, 1937), 2nd Section, p. 15



In other words, fundamentalists want the living water that's been turned into wine, but Christian libs can only offer a load of pink lemonade. In the fundamentalists' conception, I should say. I'm not a fundie, but I don't despise them the way all those open-minded, tolerant Voices Of Compassion© do. People who imagine themselves to be the brains or conscience of the country ought not to hate on people who are the country's backbone.*

*Except when they get up to idiocies like Intelligent Design, that is.

Wisconsin, Amish, School Shootings

How horrible.

These murder-suicides...why don't the crazies skip the first part, and just kill themselves?

Monday, October 02, 2006

I Only Said...And Then The Librarian Slugged Me!

Some library humor found online, in honor of Miriam the Librarian's interview.

"Can't you just look it up on the computer?"


"Why don't you buy better copiers?"


"I wish I was a librarian, so I could read all day."


"I know you want to go back to your coffee and magazine, sweetie, but I'm in a hurry."


"I'm a taxpayer!" [This declaration being repeated every third sentence on a routine problem resolution] [Correct response: "What a coincidence--so am I!"]

"I know you can't give legal advice. I'm not asking for legal advice. I just want your opinion of what it says here in the code."


"I know you can't give tax advice. I'm not asking for tax advice. I just want to know which tax form I need, and how to fill it out."

Hope For European Victims of Sex Trafficking

An encouraging story in the Beeb. The Catholic Church in England is setting up safe houses to rescue Slavic women who've been sold into sexual slavery in Western Europe.

It's "a tiny drop in the ocean", says Sister Margaret of her project. The women "need time to recover, because they have been through terrible, terrible trauma".

Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking Across Europe (Chaste), an inter-denominational charity with which Sister Margaret is working, is creating a further 24 places. And the Poppy Project charity, which gets government funding, has up to 35.


The website of the project:

http://www.chaste.org.uk/

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Compare And Contrast

1.
An offer of free heating oil from a critic of President Bush will be rejected by four remote Alaska villages.

Leaders of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said Thursday that they will not accept oil for residents of Nelson Lagoon, Atka, St. Paul and St. George offered by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez out of loyalty to Bush and the country.

Chavez last week called President Bush "a devil" and made other inflammatory comments about the United States.

"Despite the critical need for fuel in our region, the Unangan (Aleut) people are Americans first, and we cannot support the political agenda attached to this donation," leaders of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association said in a prepared statement Thursday.


2.
On Sunday, September 24, 2006, Ahmed Bedier led a delegation of Muslims from his organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), in a visit to the St. Paul’s Catholic Church of St. Petersburg, Florida. At the end of the visit, Bedier handed a check for $5000 to the pastor of St. Paul’s for the repair of churches that had been damaged recently in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, over one sentence spoken by the Pope. The money was for a good cause, but accepting the money came with a price. [...]

At a press conference, on Thursday, September 21, Ahmed Bedier, the Director of CAIR’s Tampa office, and Rev. Robert Gibbons, the Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg, held aloft a large poster-board check for $5000 bearing CAIR’s insignia. The money was said to be for the half-dozen churches that had been attacked, five of which were firebombed and shot at, the other doused with gasoline and set aflame.

It was a disquieting scene as Ahmed Bedier stood side by side with a high-ranking Diocese official. Exactly two months prior to the event, Bedier hosted a radio show where all three of his guests lauded Hezbollah, a group that is found on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. One of the guests went as far as to label the group “heroic.” One must question if Rev. Gibbons was aware of this fact.


Hint: It's the same sort of thing as this old juxtaposed happenstance:

A few weeks ago, a Saudi prince
sent Rudy Giuliani a check for $10 million, to be used for post-9/11 relief efforts. It turned out that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal was trying to buy a megaphone with his donation. [...]"At times like this one, we must address some of the issues that led to such a criminal attack," Talal said. "I believe the government of the United States of America should reexamine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause."

Giuliani returned the money immediately.

The mayor's reasoning was simple. First, Talal argued that the attack on the World Trade Center was the result of America's policy toward Israel. Whether that's true or false doesn't matter (it's mostly false). To suggest that there was a good or legitimate reason to murder innocent Americans is morally and politically absurd — and especially to the mayor leading the recovery effort. As Giuliani said, "there's no excuse for murder, and to suggest otherwise is unacceptable."


And then...

Take [Cynthia] McKinney's pandering letter to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in which she apologized for the valorous actions of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. [...] McKinney, in a ludicrous letter, apologized to the prince for Giuliani's actions, accusing Giuliani of denying the prince's "right to speak and make observations about a part of the world you know so well."

Huh? [...] McKinney's letter was so disgusting, even her Georgia Democratic colleague, Senator Zell Miller called it "disgraceful" and denounces her on his website. [...] McKinney's new buddy, Prince Alwaleed, is the sixth richest man in the world, according to Forbes. Giuliani showed him that even the wealthiest of scoundrels cannot buy respectability with their blood money. Unless they're buying Congresswoman McKinney.




Okay, time's up. Pencils down. Close test, and pass your answer sheet to the front.