Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Moral clarity, one way or the other

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Benjamin Netanyahu:

Who wants civilian casualties? Who wants to accelerate and escalate? We’re forced to do it. And what would you do? What would anybody do? You know, you just have to put yourself in Israel’s place. And if you’re a leader, put yourself in my place. And ask a simple question, what would you do?

If you look at the historical antecedents, the answer is very clear. Israel is acting with great restraint because there’s no other country that’s been rocketed like this, with thousands of rockets. We’ve just had close to 2,000 rockets and mortars in the last few days, on every — just about every one of our cities…

Well, the only parallel, history parallel is Britain, rocketed by the Nazis in World War II. I don’t — you know, if we start drawing parallels, what Britain did compared to what we do, we’ve been showing a hell of a lot of restraint. So if there is any complaints, and there should be, about civilian deaths that they belong, the responsibility and the blame belongs in one place, Hamas. I don’t think anyone should get that wrong…

you know, in the Middle East, it takes two to tango, sometimes three and maybe four. The point is that there’s one side that is clearly bent on escalation and one side, that is Israel, that is bent on defending its people, as any country would under similar circumstances…

I’ll tell you what my experiences have been. I’ve been in war. I’ve been in battle. And when you take a surgical operation, you can’t guarantee when your soldiers are being fired from Hamas homes, that is, Hamas is targeting people with — from private homes. And you hit them back. Of course, some people are going to be hurt. That’s totally different from deliberately targeting them. We asked these civilians, before we went in, we said, please leave. We text them. We call them on cell phones. We drop leaflets. We told them where to go. And those who left were safe.

Now, those who didn’t leave, you know what they didn’t leave? Because Hamas told them to be there, because Hamas, while we try to avoid Palestinian civilian dead, Hamas wants Palestinian civilian dead. The more the better, so they can give you telegenic fodder. So this is the cruelest, most grotesque war that I’ve ever seen. I mean not only does Hamas target civilians, ours, and hides behind their civilians, theirs, it actually wants to pile up as many civilian deaths as possible.

Meanwhile, you have the NYT (HT: Noah Pollak), Code Pink, and many others — ah yes, the anonymous “youths” have reappeared — arrayed against Israel. Strange times indeed to find ourselves, Alan Dershowitz and Bill Maher on the same page.

Check back in 2016

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Commentary:

almost everyone agrees that there is very little chance of the Taliban’s capturing any Afghan city, let alone Kabul, after the departure of ISAF forces later this year. They do control large areas of certain provinces, but they lack the capacity and perhaps even the desire to take any of the country’s cities.

Okay then, that’s settled. But just to be on the safe side, let’s check back in 2016, which will be ten years after this story.

Another charming fellow

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Ibrahim al-Asiri:

The 32-year-old, originally from Saudi Arabia, is a leading figure in the Yemeni-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and has been the brains behind a number of high-profile aircraft bomb plots. These have included the so-called “underpants bomber” who tried to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit airport on Christmas Day 2009, and the ink cartridge bombs uncovered at Dubai and East Midlands airport the following year…

Asiri’s fanaticism is such that he even blew up his own brother, Abdullah, in a failed attempt to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s head of security. Asiri built a device that was concealed in his brother’s rectum and detonated by remote control from a mobile phone. Abdullah was killed instantly, although the Saudi official suffered only minor injuries.

Intelligence officials believe Asiri is now trying to develop a device that will escape detection by even the most sophisticated scanning equipment. His latest technique is to use an explosive known as pentaerythritol tetranitrate, or PETN, which has no odour, and therefore foils sniffer dogs and X-ray machines.

Telegraph: Travellers at Heathrow were subjected to “vigorous” body searches…It is feared that Western jihadists fighting in Syria and Iraq, including hundreds of Britons, have been recruited as would-be suicide bombers.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

Monday, June 30th, 2014

NYT

More on WWI

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Max Boot:

The 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, has come and gone, prompting a lot of reflections on the significance and implications of World War I. Even if Gavrilo Princip’s shots were only the excuse, not the real cause, of the Great War, it is hard to exaggerate their significance.

The conflict swept away the entire Ottoman and Habsburg empires along with the governments of Germany, Austria, Turkey, Russia, and other states. It led to the creation of the modern Balkans and the modern Middle East. Nazism, fascism, and Communism – all the great ideological ills of the 20th century – would never have become as virulent as they did absent the devastation wrought by the 1914-1918 conflict. There would have been no Stalin in power, no Hitler, and there would have been no World War II – and hence no Korean War or Vietnam War

Today’s bad guys are on the march and the West dutifully fails to notice. Ah well.

Lightning speed, from nowhere

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

WRM: “The rise of ISIS/ISIL is a disaster that must be examined and understood. How could the U.S. government have been caught napping by the rise of a new and hostile power in a region of vital concern? What warning signs were missed, what opportunities were lost — and why?” No one had heard of these people a month ago, and all of a sudden they’ve taken over half a country and have a major social media powered PR machine. They’ve even got branded clothing lines as well as snuff films. It’s hard to believe that no one saw this coming. (BTW, what’s up at the State Dept?)

Fiddling would be an improvement

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

A lunch in DC:

It’s a great, great honor for us to welcome, as our luncheon keynote speaker, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco. I want to begin just by congratulating – we have a chance to meet and talk for a little while here this morning privately, and one of the things we talked about was the fact that he is the, as I mentioned this morning, only head of state who’s been to both the South Pole and the North Pole, the Antarctic and the Arctic. And we talked a lot about the Arctic and Antarctic because the United States assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council next year, and we’re already beginning to think hard about that agenda, which will be even more critical given some of the things we’re talking about here today. So I wanted to thank him for his leadership in making those two journeys, which are an important statement about his commitment…

In 2009, when scientists first began to discover that carbon pollution was dramatically disturbing the chemistry of the ocean and causing it to acidify, Prince Albert brought together a group of 150 scientists from more than two dozen countries to alert policy makers around the world about the troubling findings. Thanks in part to his commitment and sense of urgency, last year the International Atomic Energy Agency established a new international coordination center in Monaco in order to better understand the global impacts of ocean acidification…we have long considered Monaco a critical partner in the effort of protecting our ocean, thanks to Prince Albert’s leadership, everything from acidification to marine protected areas.

More of this at PJ. Meanwhile, on the other coast: “nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t there, or that it was made of cheese.” For response to the latter, see this.

Oh yeah, and as for the rest of the news…..

Final point: both Bret Stephens and Mark Steyn, and even in a way Doug Schoen note that the pace of the disasters in the real world is speeding up markedly (and will continue to do so in our view over the next two years).

Now

Friday, June 6th, 2014

TIME:

“It’s better to kidnap one person like Bergdahl than kidnapping hundreds of useless people,” the commander said, speaking by telephone on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. “It has encouraged our people. Now everybody will work hard to capture such an important bird.” The commander has been known to TIME for several years and has consistently supplied reliable information about Bergdahl’s captivity…

Those close to the leadership and the detainees are feasting on “whole goats cooked in rice” — a special meal usually reserved for celebrations. “I cannot explain how our people are happy and excited over this unbelievable achievement.” (He too has been known to TIME for several years). “This is a historic moment for us. Today our enemy for the first time officially recognized our status.” The news of the detainees’ release, says the commander from Kandahar, spread like a wildfire. “Besides our field commanders and fighters, our leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is so happy and is anxiously waiting to see his heroes,” he says.

No comment.

The pneumatikoi of today

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Reading Steyn this morning (here and here) and various things the other day reminded us of something from a long time ago. We have today a modern reincarnation of the Gnosticism of old. The pneumatikoi have knowledge that lesser beings do not possess. Perhaps Wikipedia should be updated.

The current crisis, writ small

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Krugman, echoing another Timesman or two:

It’s hard to see what could reverse this growing hostility to inconvenient science. As I said, the process of intellectual devolution seems to have reached a point of no return.

Taranto has other examples of the same disdain from the MSM. Is Lindzen a fool and intellectually devolved, even if he turned out to be wrong?

We think this sarcasm and contempt and loudness are the most interesting issue of the day. In our view they are manifestations of denial and perseveration as reality takes a long walk away from the standard issue leftism of the academy and the media. Wretchard has meditations on this of course. We tried for a moment to find a pithy comment from the 30′s, but didn’t find one. No matter; there’ll be plenty of future opportunities.

Perseveration

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

There are real and serious problems in the world (here and here and here for example). And yet there are fairly sizeable groups focused on nuttiness and/or matters that affect a vanishingly small number of people — and they’re often very loud about these things. It reminds us of head-banging or a fellow running around shouting with his ears covered; all the better to block out unpleasant realities. But it doesn’t work for very long…

The Spectator has a pessimistic take on all this.

Meanwhile…..

Friday, April 18th, 2014

We have been very busy on business and other matters so these days we mostly just link to the thoughts of others who opine and write for a living these days. After all, in matters of religious wars, catastrophic AGW, China’s economy, US foreign policy, and the way you organize the US to maximize GDP growth, we have engaged many sides of the arguments and are now, after much research and discussion, pretty settled in our views. Doesn’t mean we can’t be wrong; hence doesn’t mean we won’t change our views. We’ve been doing this for 12 years, and seen stories come and go. But it’s boring the way the HCL (hard core left) have become so obviously rigid and reactionary (as Roger Simon describes them). Dialogue and debate, which seemed attractive a decade ago, are passé. So now it is very idiosyncratic what appeals on a current day: e.g., we saw the sad Everest news and it reminded us of Jim Whittaker’s talk at the 1964 Boy Scout Jamboree in Valley Forge (at which Lady Baden-Powell also spoke). Probably not much of interest to the broader world. We read Krauthammer and Will and also the smart fellows at Powerline and so forth, but what’s the point of ditto-ing these things? We’re all apparently “immoral, unethical, and despicable” in the eyes of our betters. Why bother responding? Perhaps better to take the advice of Thomas Kuhn, Charles Darwin and Max Planck, and just wait out the fools……

Let there be blight!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

AP:

if greenhouse gases continue to rise, the world is looking at another about 6 or 7 degrees Fahrenheit (3.5 or 4 degrees Celsius) of warming by 2100 instead of the international goal of not allowing temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.2 degrees Celsius). The difference between those two outcomes, Princeton’s Oppenheimer said, “is the difference between driving on an icy road at 30 mph versus 90 mph. It’s risky at 30, but deadly at 90″…

more than 100 governments unanimously approved the scientist-written 49-page summary — which is aimed at world political leaders. The summary mentions the word “risk” an average of about 5 1/2 times per page.

Here’s a mental exercise. Picture the Princeton fellow wearing sandals and a sandwich board, standing at the corner of 53rd and Park in NYC. He’s saying: “the world is ending! the world will be 7 degrees hotter in 86 years! it is written! the computer has said so!” You might ask, what about Hide the Decline? What about a little skepticism? We all know that there has been some warming, and recently some cooling, and we all know that, on balance, CO2 should favor the former over the latter. But really, 7 degrees in 86 years because some guys’ computers said so? (Maybe you missed the subprime meltdown: GIGO from the smart guys.)

Let’s see. 100 governments unanimously approved this thing about what’s definitely going to happen 86 years from now if we don’t give those guys trillions of dollars today. Hmmmm. That’s reason to pause, right there. What would governments have predicted in 1913 about wars over the next 86 years? How about in 1 year from 1913? 86 years ago was 1928. If you were a stockbroker in NYC then, what might you have predicted about 2014, or 1929? Thanks, experts!

Final point. Gallup shows AGW is 14th out of 15 concerns of ordinary Americans. We’ll just have to see who is right.

Science, religion, etc.

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Fred Singer:

tipping points occur quite frequently in science. I have personally witnessed two paradigm shifts where world scientific opinion changed rapidly — almost overnight. One was in Cosmology, where the “Steady State” theory of the Universe was replaced by the “Big Bang.” This shift was confirmed by the discovery of the “microwave background radiation,” which has already garnered Nobel prizes, and will likely get more. The other major shift occurred in Continental Drift. After being denounced by the Science Establishment, the hypothesis of Alfred Wegener, initially based on approximate relations between South America and Africa, was dramatically confirmed by the discovery of “sea-floor spreading.”

Thomas Kuhn: “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. The transfer of allegiance from paradigm to paradigm is a conversion experience that cannot be forced.” Precisely.

Then and now

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

Spengler quotes Bottum on the Catholic world pre-1965, in a fascinating discussion of the secular religion of today:

The embroidered arcanery of copes and stoles and albs and chasubles, the rituals of Holy Water blessings, the grottos with their precarious rows of fire-hazard candles flickering away in little red cups, the colored seams and peculiar buttons that identified monsignors, the wimpled school sisters, the tiny Spanish grandmothers muttering prayers in their black mantillas, the First Communion girls wrapped up in white like prepubescent brides, the mumbled Irish prejudices, the loud Italian festivals, the Holy Door indulgences, the pocket guides to scholastic philosophy, the Knights of Columbus with their cocked hats and comic-opera swords, the tinny mission bells, the melismatic chapel choirs— none of this was the Church, some of it actually obscured the Church, and the decision to clear out the mess was not unintelligent or uninformed or unintended.

It was merely insane. An entire culture nested in the crossbeams and crannies, the nooks and corners, of the Catholic Church. And it wasn’t until the swallows had been chased away that anyone seemed to realize how much the Church itself needed them, darting around the chapels and flitting through the cathedrals.

That’s the Catholic Church that’s been lost, but most of Bottum’s book is about the today’s post Christian Puritans in America: “We live in a spiritual age when the political has been transformed into the soteriological. When how we vote is how our souls are saved.”

Indeed. A major dividing line is how we think about the past. We have high government officials who believe the past is outdated and, it follows, irrelevant. We think they’ve been beguiled by the metaphor of technological progress, as well as their own good fortune in life. Is there a way back from this fantasy world? Of course, but it is highly unlikely to be pleasant.

(On the lighter side, we offer examples of outlandish but fashionable idiocy, here, here, and here, which suggest that maybe, just maybe, things might right themselves without cataclysm.)

News flash from 13,978,000,000 years ago

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

Telegraph:

the Bicep2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation) telescope at the Amundsen-Scott polar base in Antarctica has found conclusive evidence for the existence of gravity waves, colossal ripples in space-time that pervade today’s universe and which were formed when the cosmos was just 10 to the minus 35 seconds old – a length of time shorter than it would take the Starship Enterprise to cross from one side of a grain of sand to another.

If this is confirmed, it will be the final experimental vindication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. It will show once and for all that the notion that our universe began with a colossal explosion of matter and energy 13,978,000,000 years ago – the Big Bang – is correct. But the implications are more profound even than that. The existence of gravity waves is the “smoking gun” for the controversial theory of cosmic inflation, the idea that right at the start of the universe, nearly 14 billion years ago, everything underwent a colossally fast period of expansion – the “B of the Bang”, if you like.

If cosmic inflation, which we need in order to explain several weird facts about our universe, is correct, then this provides strong support for the notion of the “multiverse”; the idea that what we see when we look up at the night sky is but a gnat on the back of the elephant that is the true totality of creation. The existence of gravity waves is strong evidence that “our” universe may not only exist alongside an infinite number of parallel worlds, but may itself be infinite in extent, containing endless copies of our galaxy – and indeed our world and you and me – located countless trillions of light years apart…

why do we need inflation? It was first proposed in the early 1980s by cosmologists led by Andrei Linde and Alan Guth (who were at the press conference yesterday, looking very happy) to explain some problems with the original Big Bang idea. The main one is that deep space looks much the same in every direction. There are no gigantic “gaps” – no galaxies in some places and agglomerations in others – which is what you would expect if you had a simple explosion of matter and energy. Instead, the idea behind inflation is that right at the start of the “Bang”, a period of unimaginable, hyper-fast expansion, billions of times faster than light-speed would smooth out the unevenness, much in the way that pulling on a crumpled sheet will make it flat and even.

The implications of inflation are mind-boggling. Few cosmologists believe that if inflation happened it would have produced a universe only as big as the one we can see. The observable “edge” of our universe, the so-called “Hubble Volume”, is a sphere of space about 93 billion light years across, containing maybe half a trillion galaxies, each containing roughly the same number of stars (altogether about as many stars as there are grains of sand on all the beaches of Earth). A magnificent entity.

But that vast ensemble only encompasses the parts of our universe close enough for light to have reached us since the Bang. Inflation suggests that the original expansion created a volume of space-time much, much bigger – according to some equations, infinite. And the most extraordinary thing about inflation is that as you rip apart space you create matter and energy. Not only is our universe probably infinite in size, but it is studded with an infinite amount of stars and galaxies.

Wretchard has lots more. This is quite a decade. It was only two years ago that the existence of the Higgs boson was confirmed.

Through a glass darkly no more

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Scott Johnson has a Tough Guy vs. Wimp visual that is pretty funny but misses an important point. The so-called wimp can be a tough guy — here and here are evidence as to whom he despises and is more than willing to act against. This is consistent with the standard religion of leftism by the way, that the US is an imperialist bad actor that has created enemies abroad and repression at home. Exactly what the faculty lounge is all about, but quite a bit more intense and ruthless. (BTW, these fellows and gals are often seriously lacking in historical knowledge, but they fill in the blanks with ideology; after all, truth isn’t about truth, it’s about a technique to get power to enforce equality of outcomes.)

Ah, but how did we get so far away from the America many of us know in our bones? The answers are the university and the media. 3% of Yale donations went to Romney, which is pretty good, by the way. The media are 12-1 against conservatives, which we think slightly understates the case. Still, it’s kind of shocking that things have gotten this bad this fast; yet we only have to look back to the cases of Iran and Honduras to see that the pattern was fully formed and evident years ago. But still, this far this fast? Well, citizens, pause to consider a breathtaking exercise in projection from five years ago, and consider what, unfettered, this level of narcissism has wrought. And there you have it, this far this fast…

News from the insurance world

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

Warren Buffett:

“I love apocalyptic predictions on it, because you’re right, it probably does affect rates. The truth is that writing U.S. hurricane insurance has been very profitable in the last five or six years. Now, the rates have come down very significantly, so we aren’t writing much, if anything, in the U.S.,” he said, adding that when it comes to weather impacts on Berkshire, “it hasn’t been true so far.”

He also likes Keystone. And in a weird moment, he revealed he bought his first stock just after Pearl Harbor.

Strange yet again

Monday, March 10th, 2014

Were the Italian and Austrian stolen passports of MH370 used by Asians? There’s more to learn here: Wretchard has some good links to twitter feeds and pilots that are interesting.

AA587, TWA800, ValuJet 592, Alaska 261, Swissair 111, Egyptair 990, that Air France flight from a couple of years ago: the list is so short that we know the flight numbers of many incidents. And a forgotten incident from nine years ago, when an Egyptian was arrested in Memphis with a uniform and a DVD telling airline pilots how they should act in public.

Fatal air incidents have become so rare in recent years due to technological improvements that suspicions are warranted when aircraft just disappear. We’d be very surprised if the B777-200 in the Malaysia case turns out to be anything other than foul play.

21st century thinking

Sunday, March 9th, 2014

AFP:

In his first department-wide policy guidance statement since taking office a year ago, he told his 70,000 staff: “The environment has been one of the central causes of my life.” “Protecting our environment and meeting the challenge of global climate change is a critical mission for me as our country’s top diplomat,” Kerry said in the letter issued on Friday to all 275 US embassies and across the State Department. “It’s also a critical mission for all of you: our brave men and women on the frontlines of direct diplomacy,” he added in the document seen by AFP. He urged all “chiefs of mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem….We’re talking about the future of our earth and of humanity. We need to elevate the environment in everything we do,” he said. It was, he said “our call to conscience as citizens of this fragile planet we inhabit.”

WRM also notes the tragic and morally inverted worldview of the self-styled intelligentsia.