Archive for the 'Religion' Category

Today’s reading

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

Alan Dershowitz again. Jon Voight. Questions for journalists. And a writer at The New Yorker, of all places, takes on Rashid Khalidi. What a world. Meanwhile, did you know that the Gaza tunnels were a jobs program? Or that Andrew Jackson was a “genocidal maniac“? Or that if you think illegal immigration is bad now, soon “millions of people are driven north from the parched landscapes of a world degraded by intensifying climate change?” (Must be why they’re sending the kids to Alaska!) Finally, on some station that shows vintage TV, there today was an episode of Flipper from 1966. Almost every minute features something that is unacceptable or illegal now.

History lesson

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Here’s an extended piece on the Hamas Covenant by Jeffrey Herf. It covers a lot of territory apparently foreign to our government until recently; you know, about that “largely secular” group of guys. Gosh, it’s been over ten years since even the NYT did a long article on Sayyid Qutb and the MB, whose vetting for fanaticism and loyalty is truly impressive. Santayana and so forth……

An explanation

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

We talked about the possibility of serious realignments on the world stage, noting a particularly sharp piece in Haaretz the other day. Turns out we didn’t know the half of it, if this report is true.

Inverted world redux

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Bret Stephens:

Israel is culpable because (a) it won’t accept a Palestinian government that includes a terrorist organization sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction; (b) it won’t help that organization out of its financial jam; and (c) it won’t ease a quasi-blockade—jointly imposed with Egypt—on a territory whose central economic activity appears to be building rocket factories and pouring imported concrete into terrorist tunnels. This is either bald moral idiocy or thinly veiled bigotry. It mistakes effect for cause, treats self-respect as arrogance and self-defense as aggression, and makes demands of the Jewish state that would be dismissed out of hand anywhere else.

Jonathan Chait: “I still find myself far more sympathetic to Israel than to Hamas.” That’s nice. VDH has more.

Inversions

Monday, July 28th, 2014

How strange. We now live in a world where the editorial line of the Washington Post is more or less unfit to appear in the HuffPo when it comes to Gaza. More at the WaPo and at PL on our inverted world. BTW, we thought Wretchard was getting a little too dramatic when he transitioned from the various wars to Ebola — then we saw that the CDC is stonewalling USA Today regarding the failures of its medical “do not board” rule for airlines. That’s reassuring! Have a nice day.

Era of potential realignments

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Haaretz, of all places:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

The document recognized Hamas’ position in the Gaza Strip, promised the organization billions in donation funds and demanded no dismantling of rockets, tunnels or other heavy weaponry at Hamas’ disposal. The document placed Israel and Hamas on the same level, as if the first is not a primary U.S. ally and as if the second isn’t a terror group which overtook part of the Palestinian Authority in a military coup and fired thousands of rockets at Israel.

On Saturday, the State Department distributed photos of Kerry’s meeting with Qatar and Turkey’s foreign ministers in Paris. The three appear jovial and happy-go-lucky. Other photographs show Kerry carousing romantically with the Turkish foreign minister in the pastoral grounds of the U.S. ambassador’s home in Paris, as if the Turkish official’s prime minister didn’t just say a few days ago that Israel is 10 times worse than Hitler.

The secretary of state’s draft empowered the most radical and problematic elements in the region – Qatar, Turkey, and Hamas – and was a slap on the face to the rapidly forming camp of Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, who have many shared interests. What Kerry’s draft spells for the internal Palestinian political arena is even direr: It crowns Hamas and issues Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with a death warrant.

It’s not clear what Kerry was thinking when he presented this draft. It’s unclear what he had in mind when he convened the Paris summit. It can only be seen as surreal. Along with foreign ministers from Europe’s major nations Kerry greeted with regal honors Hamas’ Qatari and Turkish patrons, ignoring what Israel, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority might have had to say.

Wow, Israel’s NYT slams the administration hard. And in other news, the crazed illegal immigration situation draws large protests in Massachusetts, and elsewhere among traditionally loyal D’s. In some ways our current situation is a disaster, but it does open the door for realignments among people who can think like adults.

Bonus fun: Netanyahu goes off on the nutty Presbyterians.

Why not promote them………and other matters

Friday, July 25th, 2014

Jim Fox, the leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111:

The scouts and their leaders were on a 21-day trek from Iowa to Alaska – a trip that had been three years in the planning. As their vans were moving through a checkpoint into the United States, one of the scouts snapped a photograph. Agents stopped the van and ordered all the passengers to get out. They told the underage photographer that he had committed a federal crime. It was unclear which agency with the Department of Homeland Security’s CBP agency was involved in the incident. “The agent immediately confiscated his camera, informed him he would be arrested, fined possibly $10,000 and ten years in prison,” Fox told Des Moines television station KCCI. During the search, one of the scouts tried to retrieve a bag from the roof carrier. When he turned around, Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the child. “He heard a snap of the holster, turns around, and here’s this agent, both hands on a loaded pistol, pointing at the young man’s head,” Fox told the television station. The scoutmaster wrote a detailed account of the incident on his Facebook page. He said he tried to watch the agents search the van but was ordered to return to his vehicle. An agent followed him and told the youngsters “that the next one to leave the van would be handcuffed and detained.” “The agent in charge informed me of the potential charges against (the) scout and informed me it is a violation of federal law for any American to take a picture of a federal agent or any federal building,” Fox wrote. Fox said he and another member of the troop were interrogated by agents – forced to answer questions about their background. They also wanted to know why the Boy Scouts were hauling “excessive amounts of lighters, matches and knives,” Fox said. After a lengthy delay, the Scouts were released

Too bad they were released, or we’d might recommend that the agents be promoted 1500 miles south to stem this disaster. And in other news, “killing bald and golden eagles remains a felony punishable by a $250,000 fine and prison time…In 2009, the agency first instituted a permit system to allow exemptions from prosecution—for five years—for wind farms and certain other projects that inadvertently harm or kill eagles. Last year, it extended the duration of permits for ‘non-purposeful take of eagles’ to 30 years.”

Final thoughts: Joan Rivers, and in lighter fare, “By Grabthar’s Hammer…what a savings.”

Tranquility Base

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

No, not that Tranquility Base of 45 years ago. (Amazing how quickly going to the moon made for boring TV.) Bob Tyrell describes our new tranquility base, and the twist is that he’s actually a little hopey changey himself, certainly more than Mark Steyn, who sees endless violent cycles of Lather, Rinse, Repeat ad infinitum. (BTW, he displays a picture that really is worth a thousand words.) Bonus fun: Roger Simon discusses the lovely UN that gets $6-7 billion or more a year from us. Bonus question: how many refugee camps can you name that are older than the states of Alaska and Hawaii, and the countries Tanzania and Republic of Congo? Is the number more or less than the total number of countries in Africa? Guess first then peek.

Final comment: Baba Booey!

Let’s change the subject

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Jalopnik:

On assignment for the Wall Street Journal, I was in San Francisco to drive the original Bullitt chase scene in a new, 2011 Ford Mustang V6. In the passenger seat was Loren Janes, the fabled Hollywood stuntman and McQueen double who had driven the movie’s most exciting scenes. Loren had graciously flown up from Burbank for the day to take the ride. What’s more, I had a CD of the Bullitt soundtrack to set the mood. The result is in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal.

Loren is a very level-headed guy who spent years doing crazy things for a living. Really crazy things. He pulled off hair-raising stunts in more than 500 movies-nearly all of them household names. He also has added excitement to more than 2,100 TV episodes. You realize that without guys like Loren, movies over the past 50 years would be rather static. When I asked Loren if anything scares him, Loren said matter-of-factly: “Not really. I’m asked that often. I’m not really afraid of anything, and I’ve never broken a bone. I’ve been a gymnast, a Marine, a diver and Olympic athlete, which was great preparation for stunt work. I was always comfortable in the air.”

Today’s post isn’t about jazz, but it’s certainly about cool. For those who share my fascination with Bullitt or have always been curious about stuntmen, especially those who began their careers in the early 1950s, here’s what Loren said to me during our conversation leading up to our drive on Sunday:

“I first met Steve McQueen while working on the TV show ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive.’ Steve was the star. Apparently, there had been two stuntmen there Steve didn’t like, and they were both fired. They called me because they had scenes to film and I lived about five minutes from the studio.



“When I showed up on the set, I walked past Steve, who was sitting around. We were both taken with how much we looked like each other. He asked me to get him a coffee. I wasn’t happy that he was treating me like a gofer. I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m going to make you look better than you can make yourself look. Just don’t blow my close-ups.’



“As I walked away, I could hear him scream to the director or someone, ‘Fire him.’ Apparently they had said to him in response, ‘No, no, he has to do the stunt first. We’ll fire him after if you want.’ 



“When it was time to do the first stunt, the coordinator told me Steve wanted it done as athletic as possible — meaning realistic and seemingly impossible. The stunt called for me to go through a low window in a barn, roll off the ground, leap up, vault over two horses, land on Steve’s animal and ride off.

“I spent some time walking the set to make sure the ground was clean and that there were no surprises. I moved the horses a little closer together and moved a rock that I could use to spring off to go over the horses.



”When the director yelled, ‘Action!,’ I went through the window, did my somersault, ran 15 feet to the horses, leaped over two of them, landed on Steve’s horse and took off. Steve couldn’t believe it. I worked out daily on parallel bars and other gymnastic equipment in my backyard, so vaulting over the horses wasn’t a problem.



“On my way back, I brought him a coffee, and he laughed. From that day forward I worked with him on every movie he made, including his last, The Hunter, in 1980, where I had to hang off the Chicago elevated train traveling at 55 mph.

Bullitt is on TCM today, and TCM is one of the few best hopes for a revival of the American values of several centuries. What would you prefer, VDH links to the upending of obvious choices between good and evil?

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.