Sunday, 30 December 2012

"Islamists’ Harsh Justice Is on the Rise in North Mali"

"... You must read the Koran to see that what I say is true. This is in the Koran. That’s why we do it.”
So says Moctar Touré after cutting his brother's hand off, for theft.  And he's right.  It's Sharia.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Mega trends

I see three, at least:

One: gas and oil from fracking. Making the US and other countries (the UK, if it wants, Australia) independent of Middle East Oil.  Seems Israel also has exploitable resources, that it could export to Europe.  Imagine that as a game changer!  The savings in carbon dioxide emissions from this technology already outweigh all those from renewables.

Two: a new spaceplane, with revolutionary engine that is both jet and rocket: the Skylon.

Three: the Arab winter (aka "spring"), which is bringing Islamism ever more widely and deeply to the Middle East, and will be a key challenge to the west.   And depress even further economic growth in those benighted countries.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

"The voodoo maths of nuclear energy opponents"

After the loss of 10 million American lives in the Three Mile Island calamity in 1979, the death of two billion in the Chernobyl holocaust in 1986, and now the abandonment of all of northern Japan following the death of millions in last year's Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, it is hardly surprising that the world's biggest users of nuclear power are shutting their plants down.
Oh, wait a minute … nobody died in the Three Mile Island calamity, some 30 people were killed and 15 others subsequently died of thyroid cancer in the Chernobyl holocaust, and nobody died in the Fukushima catastrophe. In fact, northern Japan has not been evacuated. But never mind all that. They really are shutting their nuclear plants down.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

"Calls to End Child Marriages in Malaysia After 12-Year-Old Weds "

You see, Sharia it is, that allows the underage marriage of girls in Muslim countries.  I wrote about that in more detail here.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The marriage of a 12-year-old Malaysian girl has outraged advocates for children and women, who called Monday for a ban on child marriage.
In Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, the legal marrying age is 16 for Muslim girls and 18 for Muslim men. However, they can marry before those ages with the permission of their parents and the Shariah courts.
The girl, Nor Fazira Saad, married her boyfriend, Mohammad Fahmi Alias, 19, on Nov. 17 and the groom’s family held a celebration last Saturday, according to local news media reports.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

'Islam changed life of terror suspect'

Well, yes, it did change his life.  It made him plan to "...  to join al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their plot to kill Americans and bomb US bases abroad, including the Philippines."
Crazy story here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Two views on Gaza and Israel

I post these links with no comment -- for the moment -- both in today's International Herald Tribune, under the titles "Gaza I" and "Gaza II", respectively:

Hamas left Israel no choice.  Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States.
What can the Arabs do? Patrick Seale, author of "The Struggle for Arab Independence"

Who are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?

You've got to hand it to the Islam apologists, they hold on to their cognitive dissonance to the bitter end:  "Islam is a religion of peace", despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  Here, for example, is Mustafa Kuko, commenting on the four Muslim charged with planning terrorist acts in the US:
Kuko said he is frustrated whenever Islam is linked with terrorism.
“Sometimes when people see this in the media, people will say, ‘This is Islam,’” he said. “Then they won’t believe what we say when we say Islam is a religion of peace.”
Gee, why don't we believe that Islam is a "religion of peace"?
  • Maybe because 94% of terrorist acts in the US are by Muslims.
  • Maybe because of the underwear bomber, the shoe bomber, the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood bomber, etc, etc, are all pious Muslims.
  • Maybe because other jihad terror plotters such as Adbulhakim  Muhammad, Khalid Aldawsari, Baitullah Mehsud and Roshonara Choudhry, among many others, reference Islamic teaching to justify violence against unbelievers.
  • Maybe because 98% of religious terrorist organisations, are Islamic.
  • Maybe because we see Saudi Arabia -- a Sunni theocracy -- export murderous radical Wahhabi doctrines worldwide.
  • Maybe because we see Iran -- a Shia theocracy -- provide weapons to terrorists and try to develop the bomb, to wipe Israel off the map.  And Hamas' charter calling for the killing of all Jews. [Article 7].
  • Maybe because we see how other Islamic countries -- Pakistan, Sudan, Egypt, Libya  -- treat women, homosexuals, apostates and non-Muslim minorities: treatment that ranges from simple suppression to death by stoning.
Do you think, Mr Mustafa Kuko, that this might have something to do with why we "won't believe what [you] say when [you] say Islam is a religion of peace."?

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

"The sheer wilful stupidity of official inaction on pollution" in Hong Kong

The single most effective thing the government could do to ensure it can meet
its future health care liabilities would be to cut local pollution levels
. SCMP
The always worth-reading Tom Holland, a few days ago in the South China Morning Post, makes the best case for action on pollution.  Hong Kong's a great place to live, but the single biggest drawback, mentioned by literally everyone living here, is pollution.  Direction from the top, and things could be done.
Tom's article is below the fold.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

... Islam, peace and concessions

The summary paras of Peter Hitchens' [brother of the late Christopher] blog in the Mail: 
My guess is that, as the Muslim population grows [in the UK], this process [Islamisation] will continue more strongly. The moment at which we might have said ‘Yes, you are welcome but this is and remains a specifically Christian society’ seems to me to have passed. It will be very interesting to see how this is dealt with at the Coronation of our next monarch - which must inevitably come, sad as it is to contemplate the loss of our present Queen.
Likewise, the moment at which we could have limited the levels of migration has probably gone. It would now be politically far easier to leave things as they are than to place new limits of migration. This means that the current arrangement, under which more or less wholly Muslim communities now exist in several parts of the country, into which there is continued migration of young husbands and wives from these communities’ ancestral countries, will continue indefinitely. To some extent this will mean that these communities always remain at least partly first-generation.  
Read it all here.

8 Viral Obama photos

These are kind of cool....

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Battle over Christmas in Denmark

From "How one local decision created a national 'War on Christmas'"....

Christmas is typically such a festive time, but for one housing association in the Zealand town of Kokkedal, it has, thus far, been anything but.
It all started when the association’s nine-person board, five of whom are Muslim, voted against having a Christmas tree this year. They apparently balked at the estimated 7,000 kroner of the tree, but had earlier had no qualms about spending some 60,000 kroner on a party celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid. 
On BBC radio yesterday, they interviewed some Danish citizens on the issue.  The first one said that this was a matter of "democracy".  If the association voted this way, then that was democracy and he was fine with it. I thought, "huh??"  What if they voted to institute Sharia in Kokkedal?  Would that be fine too?  Fact is, no association, no organisation, can vote to contract themselves out of the laws of the country.  This case clearly was, in its discrimination against Christian beliefs.

On the plus side, it does appear to be a wake up call to Danes, about Islamic supremacism and separatism.


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Anti fascism march in France, and thoughts on "high dosage affirmative action" for French Muslims



Meantime, another French related story: the mainstream media finds out that Islam is nasty!  John Vinocur's "French Estrangements".

Vinocur suggests that what is needed to overcome the anti-white racism of the Muslims in France is "massive investment -- call it high dosage affirmative action -- on the newcomers' future education and employment".

A few points on this:
1.  When I arrived in Australia in the mid fifties, I spoke only Italian and so was sent to what was then called  a "migrant's class" to learn English.  I, like the millions of southern Europeans then migrating to Australia, learnt English quickly and integrated into Oz society. The same is true for later floods of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Greek and Chinese migrants to Australia. Neither they, nor I, needed "high dosage affirmative action". Why should Muslims?  And if they really do, surely that begs the question of why let more into the country, when they are so high maintenance.
2.  Wouldn't "high dosage affirmative action" lead to resentment by the other groups in society that have made an effort to integrate, to assimilate into society, and made a positive contribution to it?  In other words, isn't this a classic case of the oil going to the squeakiest wheel, in this case "squeak" being the violence and supremacism of Muslims in France (and elsewhere in the west, for that matter).  That is, giving this "high dosage affirmative action" would be rewarding the very anti-social behaviour that we're seeking to prevent.
3.  There is no connection between poverty, unemployment and terrorist violence.  All the terrorist attacks since 9/11, in the UK, in Spain, in Indonesia, and elsewhere, have been carried out by educated and well-employed Muslims.  Muslims, in other words, who are well-versed in the Trinity of Islam.

Friday, 16 November 2012

"What about Xi Jinping's election"

That's the question from an occasional reader....
"What about Xi Jinping's election?".  That is as the new supreme leader in China, the head of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, Xi Jinping.
My answer: "Long predicted; I don't expect anything new from him".
Question: "Fair enough, but what new things would you want?"
Answer: about four:
1.  A real move against corruption.  In particular a move against confiscation of people's property.  This is such a sore point in China that there are literally tens of thousands of demonstrations against it every year; but little done.
2.  Make the Yuan fully convertible. So that it floats and allows free flow of capital in and out of China.
3.  Full media freedom.
4.  Independent Judiciary

And I guess I ought to add a fifth: move to democratic selection of the leadership

But I don't expect any move on any of these, even the first four, let alone the fifth.  Not with the current line up, which leans to a conservative "business as usual" crowd.  Some are really tough-line, anti change. And some are old-line big state enterprise types.  Not hopeful.  (and why would they change?  It's much safer to carry on as is...).

The best of the articles I've read so far is "Beijing's dangerous self-protection" in the International Herald Tribune (NYT) today.  The South China Morning Post has been the best of international press coverage on the leadership change, with regular daily in-depth articles on all the candidates for top leadership. And even they find little of comfort in the new leadership, save that they're going to be a safe pair of hands... or seven safe pairs.... But not visionary.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

The coffee shop fallacy

This is the "coffee shop fallacy": you're in a coffee shop, an outdoor cafe somewhere.  In a pleasant square, maybe Taksim Square in Istanbul, or the Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh, or even in a non-Muslim country, Piazza Navona in Rome, say. And you get into a friendly discussion with the folk at the next table.  Turns out they're Muslims, they invite you to join them, maybe, or even dine with them.
And you come away thinking "goodness me, I never knew Muslims before and I always suspected them; now I find they're regular people.  That business about Islam being violent and dangerous: it must be wrong...".
Here it is in the latest incarnation in "The Stories of Our Fathers", by Aman Ali, IHT Global Opinion, 9 Nov.
Ali, a sometime stand-up comedian, gives a performance in Berlin, after which a fellow named David comes up to him:
“I’ve never met a Muslim before.”
He continued: “And I’ll be honest with you, I’m really afraid of you guys. I hear about all this stuff in the news, and the idea of Muslims living here really used to scare me. But then I saw your performance and learned about who you were, and I realized I forgot that we are all human beings. Now I feel ashamed to have ever been afraid.
You see this version of the "coffee shop fallacy"?  David meets one Muslim, the first one he's ever met (!), finds him pleasant, and so overturns his previous views. Now, I'd say that David ought to have been "ashamed to have ever been of afraid"; for that's not the proper reaction to resurgent Islam.  And it's probably the case that his previous views of Muslims and Islam were bigoted, to the extent that they were ignorant, based on no research. 
No, the correct reaction to resurgent Islam ought to be self-education. To learn about the Islamic Trinity; to find out about the ideology of Islam (even the BBC has implicitly acknowledged that Islam is an ideology). And then to take whatever action seems to be appropriate for one's circumstances: which at the very least ought to be to resist the Islamisation of western countries: whether it be more Sharia Courts, sexual segregation, promotion of Sharia Finance, muffling of freedom of speech and freedom to criticise for the sake of "sensitivity" to this one faith -- a sensitivity only to this one faith -- or of any other special treatment of the religion of peace over other religions.
In short, the reaction to resurgent Islam ought not be be "fear", on the one hand, or "the coffee shop fallacy" on the other ("this is a nice Muslim comedian, therefore Islam must be fine").  
The reaction should be knowledgeably robust resistance to the expansion of a uniquely intolerant religion.  
Andwe ought to try to stop its expansion if we care for the rights we have fought so hard for, in the west, over centuries. Western Enlightenment rights. 
The rights to freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and equal rights for women and minorities.
That ought to be the minimum -- resistance -- if this backward, anti-enlightenment and profoundly problematic religio-ideology is to be stopped.

See also my earlier post on this topic, here.

What is a "moderate" Islamist?

I've been hearing that term a lot lately on BBC Radio here in Hong Kong: "moderate Islamist".
Just what is this creature?  Interpolating from the context of BBC's reports, I'm inclined to think that a "moderate" Islamist is one who's in power (Morsi in Egypt), or one who may be about to ascend to power (Mouaz al-Khatib in Syria).  That way, by labelling these fundamentalist Muslims as "moderate", they become, by the magic of terminology, people that -- as the BBC has it -- we can "welcome" to power.
But the definition of Islamist, wherever you look on the internet, would seem to preclude their being "moderate".  Unless by "moderate" you mean that they will try to instil Sharia law only step-by-step, say, rather than all at once; or to expand the Islamic caliphate by stealth rather than by terror.
For any Islamist, whether "moderate", or "extreme", or anything in between is committed to:
  • Implementing Sharia in their country;
  • Promoting introduction of Sharia in the west;
  • Expanding Islam worldwide, by force or by stealth; and...
  • Re-establishing the Islamic caliphate: initially in Muslim countries, and ultimately globally.
And if any of these aims are those that you can consider "moderate", well.. I guess we'll just have to differ on that one...

As a by-the-by, the key element of Islamism, is that it's an ideology that holds Islam is as much a political system as a religious one.  Now that's patently true, if you read the Islamic Trilogy.  Yet, if a non-Muslim is to suggest that Islam is a regio-politico ideology (instead of simply a "religion of peace"), they will be labelled "Islamophobes".
So, is the BBC -- now freely using the terms "Islamism" and "Islamist" --  Islamophobic?  Or is it fine  and acceptable now for us to talk of the reality of Islam: that it is a expansionary political movement more than it is a peaceable religious faith.

"To slow global warming, tax carbon"

This article by Dieter Helm strikes me as rather sensible.  He notes, inter alia, that the numbers for wind farms just don't add up.  Nor do they for all the other present-day renewables. And that nuclear must be a part of any mix of lower-carbon futures.
Another significant trend just starting to seep into public consciousness: that the US may soon be energy independent, and have oil output greater than Saudi Arabia.  And, btw, that  US carbon emissions are dropping faster than in any other developed country (move to gas, and better efficiencies), and way better than China.
Anyway, read the article; it's a good one.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

In defence of the Diplomatic Service

In today's South China Morning Post

Saturday, 10 November 2012

"Respecting Islam"

This article covers in some detail the question I've often asked myself: "why would anyone convert to Islam?".
I mean, I understand why people remain Muslim who are born Muslim: it's a social and cultural thing.  And in many countries, leaving it is very bad for one's health.
But as to why you'd convert, assuming that you did your due diligence, which must at the very least  involve a reading of its core documents -- the Trinity of Islam -- that one's always puzzled me.  You read of the violence inherent in that Trinity, its supremacism, homophobia, misogyny, anti-semitism, and deep-down hate of anyone not Muslim, and then you say to yourself "yup, that's the religion for me".  That truly puzzles me, unless you buy into all that horrid stuff.
Professor Joseph Spoerl's essay is a learned look at the question and well worth the read.

Shaken, not stirred...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Obama by a landslide (my prediction)

I thought months ago that he'd win by a landslide and still think that.
The polls have him pretty even with Romney.
But I'm betting people will think again when they enter the voting booth...
Let's see...
LATER (10 NOV): well, I got it exactly right: Florida's gone to Obama and that makes 331 (I think) electoral votes for Obama, vs 203 for Romney, plus win on popular vote to Obama, which pretty well makes it a "landslide", I reckon..

Monday, 5 November 2012

Knowing nice Muslim folk doesn't mean Islam is benign

I have overcome my own prejudice by getting to know Muslims.  [In "Is the New York Times Review of Books  afraid of Islam?"]
This is such a common comment: you get to know Muslims, your neighbours, or those on a trip to the middle east, or Africa, and they're just like ordinary folk! And so, by extension, there's nothing to worry about in Islam.
It's also nonsense. It makes no more sense than meeting nice folk in the old Soviet Union and concluding that there was nothing to worry about in Communism.
I have myself met many very nice and friendly Muslims: in all my travels in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, so many, so friendly.  I had a Muslim colleague I was doing business with in Egypt, a fine man, we planned to joint venture with; nothing to worry about with him.  Indeed, I can safely say that I've not met one, not one Muslim anywhere in my travels, who's given me cause for concern about Sharia, the caliphate, Islamic supremacism, let alone terrorism.
But that's not led me to conclude that Islam is benign. Because clearly it is not: not in its Trinity of core documents: the Koran, the Hadith and the Sirah, the life of Muhammad.  Nor in its practice by the many many of that so-called "minority" of extremists.  They're many; just that I haven't met them.  It would be the grossest naive mistake to conclude from one's nice Muslim friends that there's nothing to worry about in the ideology of their religion.
BTW: one of Weiss' key points is that it's "Islamophobic" to suggest there's an aim in Islam to create a caliphate. He should get out more; or read more. The caliphate is a core aim of Islam.  Of that there is no doubt, as many pious Muslims will confirm.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Dopey article....

In the Huffpo, naturally: "What Would America's Founding Fathers Say About Islam?"
I had this to say, in a quick comment, awaiting moderation:

But John Adams' son, John Quincy, the 6th President had this to say about Islam:
"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."

Why do you suppose that there is such a thing (allegedly) as "Islamophobia", but not Hindu-phobia, Buddho-phobia, Catho-phobia? Quite simply because Islam is sui generis: unique amongst religions in having a developed doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates warfare against unbelievers.

Considine's last para is correct: "...both sides must dedicate themselves to the principles expressed by the Founding Fathers."

But there are too many representatives of the Islamic community, including the Council of American Islamic Relations, who wish to see Sharia supplement the Constitution. If that changed, and all were committed to the Constitution and spirit of the Founding Fathers, there'd be no such thing as Islamophobia.

Tunisia, a sad year later

The New York Times finally twigs. This is what the counter-jihad movement was warning about all along, for which they get labelled cynical and "Islamophobic"....
A year later, we have no democracy, no trust in elected officials, no improved constitution. Human rights and women’s rights are threatened. The economy is tanking....
The rest is here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Mali in the grip of that "tiny minority" of extremists

You know how it's supposed to be just a "tiny minority" of extremist elements in Islam who have "hijacked" or "twisted" the "Religion of Peace"?  It's just that there are so damn many of them..... All over the Arab world, into Pakistan, and increasingly in those "moderate" havens of Malaysia and Indonesia.  So many in the "tiny minority"....
This article in significant as it's Germany's Der Spiegel usually left of centre and therefore usually blind to the atrocities done in the name of Islam....  And, below, such is Sharia:
Northern Mali is virtually inaccessible to journalists at present. Sharia law has been in effect there since last spring, when fundamentalists took control of a large part of the country, which had been considered a model nation until then. The fundamentalists stone adulturers, amputate limbs and squelch all opposition. Read the rest of "Daily Life in Islamist Northern Mali"

"Anti-Wilders Mob Goes Mad"

The always worth-reading Bruce Bawer:
So much fury!  So many men bullying women in the name of human sensitivity!  It’s all supposed to be about “Islamophobia,” of course – about defending innocent, put-upon Muslims from their racist oppressors.  But scratch these self-styled friends of Islam and what you’ll find is the heirs to Europe’s most poisonous, dehumanizing dreams – men and women who are the sworn enemies of that messy, imperfect thing, human freedom, and who’ll never shake off their dangerous, blind faith in the utopian promise of authoritarian ideology.  So it stands, alas, in much of Europe in the year 2012.  To know anything about the history of the last few generations on this beleaguered continent is to realize that none of this insanity is new – and that every bit of it is, shall we say, profoundly inauspicious.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A friend who acts like an enemy is an enemy

The always worthwhile read, Barry Rubin, discusses a friend who acts like an enemy, mainly Pakistan, here.
See also the excellent Christopher Hitchens' article, "From Abbotabad to worse", of July 2011, in which he argues the same as Rubin: what's the use of pumping billions into a country that acts against the interests of the west at every turn?
Rubin's difference is that he notes the bind of an American President: just how can the US extricate itself from the obligations, without making things worse.  As Hitchens would counter, how can it be worse?

Monday, 29 October 2012

"Islamic finance's ethical base...", now hold it right there!

Letter to South China Morning Post:
Haslinda Amin retails the usual feel-good features of Sharia finance: prohibition of usury, "ethical" bonds that don’t invest in gambling and alcohol, and so on.  ("Islamic finance's ethical base leaves customers less exposed to needless risk", 29 October).
That's not the whole story.  Many Islamic banks promote a ban on usury as being "interest-free".  But no bank can work for free, so deals are structured with sale and buyback of artificial "assets" with profit margins at levels equivalent to prevailing interest rates.  They are an elaborate ploy of form over substance, and inefficient because of that structure: Sharia-compliant mortgages have fees up to 20% higher than standard.
The preeminent Muslim scholar of Sharia Finance, Timur Kuran, notes that all Islamic banks actually give and take interest routinely, using “ruses” to make interest appear as a return to risk.  He says the significance of Sharia banking lies in its symbolism and in the boost it gives to the global movement of Islamism.
Sharia compliant bonds (or sukuk) ban not only alcohol and gambling: they also ban investments in companies that benefit non-Islamic religions; that promote equal rights for women and gays; investments in any western books, films, media, and in any company linked to Israel.
And no, Ms Amin, we do not -- at least I do not -- make the mistake of considering this method of banking to be "archaic".  For I know that Sharia Finance was first promoted by the Pakistani Islamist Sayyid Al-Mawdudi, founder of the radical Jamaat-e-Islami, in the 1960s. Until that time, Muslims had made do perfectly well with standard finance.  Thus Sharia finance is a modern construct specifically to conjoin economics with religion.  It is promoted today by Islamists like Al-Qaradawi as being “Jihad with money” [fn1].  According to Professor Kumar again, "Mawdudi’s aim … was to reassert Islam’s importance … [to] defy the common separation between economics and religion…, to invoke Islamic authority.... [fn2].
Finally, as for Sharia finance's alleged success, I would direct Ms Amin to the Wall St Journal article "Sharia-compliant banking products a 'huge flop' in the UK". The reason for that is that it is innately inefficient and some people, at least, have twigged to this.
I don't for one minute suggest that Ms Amin has Islamist tendencies in her incomplete and glowing overview of Sharia finance.  Just that she hasn't read fully around the subject, its history and how modern Islamists view it.
Yours, etc,
Peter F. Hong Kong

"I like to call it Jihad with money, because God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives and our money." [towards the end of the article]

[fn2] Timur Kuran, “Islam and Mammon; the economic predicaments of Islamism”.  Princeton University Press, p. 52.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

"The European Left and Its Trouble With Jews"

Yay!  The "paper of record" and of the Left at that, notices...

Where is the shame and outrage over Malala?

Letter to South China Morning Post:
Hari Kumar says "This silence on their part is one reason a twisted image of the religion persists in the minds of sceptics." (Where is the shame and outrage over Malala?, October 23)
But what exactly is this "twisted image" to which Kumar refers?  Could it be the very failure of "moderate Muslims" to demonstrate against atrocities done in the name of their religion, whereas they are so quick to take offense at cartoons, teddy bears, burnt Korans and inept videos?  In which case, is this not a case of "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes"?
Surely Kumar's statement is belied by his own thesis and its headline.
As the late, great Christopher Hitchens said: "What is needed from the supporters of this very confident faith is more self-criticism and less self-pity and self-righteousness."
Peter F
Hong Kong

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Sean Carroll: Particles and the Meaning of Life

I really like Prof Sean Carroll. Below vid is from his blog, here.
Really worth a quiet half-hour's watch.  After all, didn't you always want to know the meaning of life?


From his blog post (the comments are educated, informative and interesting...):

There are actually three points I try to hit here. The first is that the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood. There is an enormous amount that we don’t know about how the world works, but we actually do know the basic rules underlying atoms and their interactions — enough to rule out telekinesislife after death, and so on. The second point is that those laws are dysteleological — they describe a universe without intrinsic meaning or purpose, just one that moves from moment to moment.
The third point — the important one, and the most subtle — is that the absence of meaning “out there in the universe” does not mean that people can’t live meaningful lives. Far from it. It simply means that whatever meaning our lives might have must be created by us, not given to us by the natural or supernatural world. There is one world that exists, but many ways to talk about; many stories we can imagine telling about that world and our place within it, without succumbing to the temptation to ignore the laws of nature. That’s the hard part of living life in a natural world, and we need to summon the courage to face up to the challenge.

I cook, therefore I think

According to a new study, a surge in human brain size that occurred roughly 1.8 million years ago can be directly linked to the innovation of cooking.  More....

"Working with the Muslim Brotherhood"

The on-again, off-again Roger Cohen, this time off again in his "Working with the Muslim Brotherhood". (NYT, 23 October)
The title gives it all away: get in cahoots with this gang of west-haters.
A couple of sentences jump out:
To keep doing the same thing when it does not work is one definition of madness. [para 6]
But what is the "same thing" that's been done that is the "definition of madness"?  Is he referring, perhaps, to the support of some unsavoury dictators over the last several decades and more?  If so, then at least they held a sort of peace and balance; moreover it's far from certain that their replacements will be any less unsavoury, with the admixture of virulent anti-westernism to boot.  Morsi is a case in point.  I wonder if he'd go quietly, if the electorate decided he'd done a bad job.  Somehow I think not.
But when aid is cut off, and American attention turns elsewhere, and future generals start getting their training in Saudi Arabia rather than Kansas, we know the result: Pakistan. [para 10]
This one is superficially attractive.  A version of "better have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in."  But what if they're inside the tent pissing in? The most important Muslim Brother of them all (founder Hassan al-Banna aside) is Sayiid Qutb.  He went to America in the fifties, and instead of being energised and inspired by it, this cramped little creep was revolted by what he saw in the US, repelled by his friendly hosts.  His was clearly a deeply repressed sexuality, which, when confronted by the open norms in the US, found outlet in spite and spittle.  This cramped, repressed, vitriolic little shit went back home to become the voice of the Brotherhood, revered to this day by Muslims worldwide.  I suggest a reading of the fellow to get a feel for what the MB is all about.
Now, what if the "future generals" were to go for training in the US and instead of going home inculcated with the values of freedom and democracy, return more Qutb-like. For the failure of Pakistan is not due just to their having training in Saudi; they too, were subject to training in the US.  Didn't help much, did it.  See the late Christopher Hitchens on this, in his "From Abbottobad to Worse".

Friday, 26 October 2012

Gangnam, Ai Weiwei style



Our very own dissident artist, Beijing's Ai Weiwei..
Pretty cool, and some nice chicks....
(or view on YouTube)
Trivia: "Gangnam" means "South of the River"...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Read the "Islamophobes"!

A catch-up post, from a Daniel Pipes article.  He refers to a 65-page pamphlet from the Muslim Public Affairs Council, naming some 25 so-called "Islamophobes".

I've read works by most of these below. They are solid and knowledgable on Islam. In other words, according to MPAC, those who speak critically of Islam, but from a sound basis of knowledge and personal experience, are "Islamophobes".

My suggestion: make this a list of people to get to read....

They are:
Andrew Bostom, William Boykin, Stephen Coughlin, Nonie Darwish, Steven Emerson, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, David Gaubatz, William Gawthrop, Pamela Geller, John Giduck, Sebastian Gorka, John Guandolo, Tawfik Hamid, David Horowitz, Raymond Ibrahim, Zuhdi Jasser, Andrew McCarthy, Walid Phares, Patrick Poole, Walid Shoebat, Robert Spencer, Erick Stakelback, David Yerushalmi and Daniel Pipes
Related: "Stop calling criticism of Islam 'Islamophobia'"

"A Year of Blasphemy"

An interesting article.

It's done a survey of how nations have treated blasphemy in the past year, with a methodology set out and aimed to be neutral.
The results in sum, re actions taken against perceived blasphemy:

  • Islam: 42 cases
  • Christianity: 5 cases
  • Other: 1 case

In the non-Islam based cases of blasphemy charges, actions taken were either denunciations or a fine.
In the Islamic cases, the actions included: arrest, firebombing, attempts to down an airplane, beheading, indictment of priests, enactment of laws to make blasphemy punishable by death.  And of course, one should include the Taliban shooting of the young Malala.

The point is rather made by that litany of insane actions against perceived criticism of one's prophet.

And yet, there are those -- exclusively of the Left -- who call for suppression of free speech to "yield to other values" and "international norms" about "hate speech".

Shame on them.  The US, and others in the west, must resist the attempt to criminalize "blasphemy".  The last time someone was executed for the "crime" in the UK, was in 1697.  And if it were on behalf of Christianity that call for introduction of anti-blasphemy laws were invoked, it would be laughed out of court.  Only because it's Islam, the "Religion of Peace", with all its bullying threats and deadly actions, is it promoted and, sadly, considered by governments in the west.


Monday, 15 October 2012

UK Muslims insist Google follow Sharia law...

... Sharia law, that is, against blasphemy: defined as any criticism of Muhammad.
If Google gives in to this, it'll be more inroad of Sharia in the west.
Story here.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The legacy of a prophet

This is quite one of the most duplicitous videos on the life of Muhammad that I've seen.  Complete apologia. This is to be expected from the Council on American Islamic Relations.  But the problem is that CAIR is seen to be the "moderate" voice of Muslims in America, the go-to outfit for the US Government, and therefore seen as representative.  Few know of its links to the terrorist organisation Hamas, and of its shady past and present.
The duplicity of the video is mostly of omission than commission, in what it misses out rather than what it says.  For the benign qualities of Muhammad they quote may well be true: that he was charismatic, a good husband, father, leader and warrior. But then so were Stalin, Mao and Hitler. What they miss out is that he was also deeply sectarian, homophobic, misogynist, murderous, polygamous and pedophiliac (the last, at least in today's terms).  These are all affirmed in Islamic sources: the Trinity of Koran, Sirah and Hadith.
It's for those reasons that child brides, polygamy, death for apostates, Jihad holy war against infidels, the demeaning of women, killing by stoning and beheading, the push for Sharia, and so on and so bloody forth, are all very much part of modern day Islam, throughout the Muslim world.  Because the are the example of the "perfect man".
Those are the real "legacy of the prophet".

The New York Times advises Romney how to win...

Wow, this was amazing. In one day's edition, a few day ago, no less than three articles on the Op-Ed page seem to be coaching Romney on how to seal his debate win, with a win in the election.  At least that's what it looks like from these three articles:
"Romney's Missing Foreign Policy", by Danielle Pletka: advising on foreign affairs.
"Can I phone a friend?", by Thomas Friedman, on how Romney should govern.
"It could be his party", by Ross Douthat, on how to handle internecine intra-party battles.

Buttocks must have been tightening in the Democratic Party when they saw the Op-ed page of a friendly newspaper virtually taken over by pro-ish Romney pieces....

Saturday, 6 October 2012

"Rebels Say West’s Inaction Is Radicalizing Syria"

If the West continues to turn its back on Syria’s suffering, he said, Syrians will turn their backs in return, and this may imperil Western interests and security at one of the crossroads of the Middle East.
Right, just like Libya where the west's interests and security were protected by intervening.....
Article here.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

"The Neurotic Middle East"

I thought this was a great article.
I don't know who to give the hat tip to, as I'm not sure how I came across it...

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

"Return of the Organic Fable"

And here he is again, the on-again, off-again Roger Cohen.  This time on GM foods, and on this one he's right (meaning, of course, that I agree with him....):
Life is a journey full of discoveries and I have added at least one important fact to my store of knowledge this year: Hell hath no fury like an organic eater spurned. [Read the rest...]

"The Foreign Policy Divide"

Roger Cohen, again.
To his credit, Obama has supported the transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and elsewhere. In the end it has to be in America’s strategic interest to support societies that are not breeding the frustrations that turn young people into anti-Western killers. It has to be in America’s interest to have Islamic parties like the Muslim Brotherhood dealing with Islamic extremism: The lessons of power will prove sobering.
But: I don't recall that in any of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia there were festering anti-American movements before they were sprung in the "Arab Spring".  While now they are openly anti-American, anti-free speech, murderously attacking US Consulates and Embassies.  Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia -- an alleged ally -- is the source of the worst "anti-Western killers" in the 21st century.  And yet there's no sign of an "Arab Spring" to overthrow a truly obnoxious regime and odious culture.
So, the above quote is nonsensical at best.  And is not reality, surely. This is not a paean of praise for the earlier dictators, but surely it can't be good for the US or the West to have Muslim Brotherhoods in power, given their virulently anti-western beliefs.

Monday, 1 October 2012

"Living with criticism graciously"

Have had a number of emails in support of my letter of 23 September. And yesterday, a supportive letter was published in the South China Morning Post. I must say, kudos to the SCMP, for publishing not one, but two letters critical of their Editorial, which is, after all, the official view of the paper.  In the meantime, though, they did publish another editorial, yesterday, essentially calling for shouting down of what they call "bigoted and intolerant" voices.  But one person's valid criticism is another person's bigotry, to engage in a bit of my own moral equivalence.... The letter below the fold.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

What's your tipple?

Very cool!  Photos of different alcohol at 1000 x magnification..... More here.

White Russian

Tequila
H/t SCMP

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Swell Times...

 Click to enlarge.... Photo: Reuters
Great photo in today's South China Morning Post, with the caption: "Surfers and dolphins at play in the waves off Bondi Beach in Sydney, Australia.  Dolphins are a common sight along Sydney's beaches, as they hunt for small fish, and waves suitable for surfing add to the attraction of venturing close to shore.  Surfers like their presence, too, as they are thought to keep the sharks away.  Australia tops the world in terms of shark-attack fatalities, with more than 200 deaths based on latest figures by a local conservation society."

Sweet Gigi marries her girlfriend. Dad offers 500 mill to break it up...

Gigi Chao (right), and her girlfriend, Sean Eav. Photo: SCMP pictures
What a honey, what a story!
Daddy Chao boasted that he'd bedded 10,000 women and that was by 2000.  How many more since?....
From today's South China Morning Post...

It's a story for a TVB soap opera - but it's happening in real life. Hong Kong's pre-eminent playboy tycoon has gone public to denounce his eldest daughter's plan to settle down with her - female - long-time lover.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Muslim group in US presses for restrictions on freedom of speech

On thing that all sides seem to agree on, about "that video" -- The Innocence of Muslims -- is that it's an astonishingly poor production.  It's been variously described as "crappy", "shitty", "incompetent", "risible", "incoherent", "silly", "crude", "disgusting", "tawdry" and so on.  One charge not levelled at it -- at least that I've seen -- is that it has "incited violence".  Sure lots of violence has resulted from it. But not because the video has incited it (indeed, kind of ironically, one of the messages in the confused mess was that Islam is violent...).
Rather, to Muslims in particular -- as to Obama and Clinton -- it's been seen as "denigrating", or "insulting" to their prophet, and for that they feel "humiliated".  And it's in reaction to that perceived slight and humiliation that Muslim outrage has spread throughout the world.
Now we have a petition by a Muslim Group in the US seeking to criminalise free speech and reported at "Leaders of Kansas City Muslim group petition Obama to limit free speech of American citizens".
Note a key line in the petition:
"... but when the allowance of "free" speech incites violence it should be banned".
Given that the crappy video did most emphatically not incite violence, what this line really means is:
 "You, the United States, must criminalise any speech which may lead we pious Muslims to murder innocent people and go on uncontrolled rampages".  
In short, you, the US, must limit your speech according to the agenda of we Islamists.

Note, btw, the quotes around "free". What does that mean?  That they don't really believe it's free? or what?

LATER: more pressure to restrict freedom of speech, from the most senior levels of Islamic representatives, here.

H/T: JW.

Monday, 24 September 2012

"The Satanic Video"

Oh Dear.
There are some reasonable points in Keller's piece.  But even more moral equivalence and nonsense.
The worst para:
Like the fanatics in the Middle East and North Africa, our homegrown hatemongers have an interest in making this out to be a great clash of faiths. The Islamophobes — the fringe demagogues behind the Koran-burning parties and that tawdry video, the more numerous (mainly right-wing Republican) defenders against the imaginary encroachment of Islamic law on our domestic freedom — are easily debunked. But this is the closest thing we have to a socially acceptable form of bigotry. And their rants feed the anti-American opportunists.
 "...fringe demagogues": refers to Terry Jones and the makers of "that tawdry video".  Terry Jones is not a demagogue by its definition ("a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument"), since he's not a political leader and in fact some of his arguments are indeed rational.  But I'll grant he's a bit of a loony and as much of a homophobe as the most pious Islamists, because of his fundamentalist Christian religion.  And the makers of the "tawdry video" (agree with that), are even less "demagogues".
As for the "imaginary encroachment of Islamic law", what of the Muslim Brotherhood in America's mission statement which is "eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers..."?
And the representatives of this MB in America include the go-to representative of Muslims in America, the Council of American Muslim Relations. (Learn about CAIR)
In the UK, we have the latest news of UK Sharia courts marrying girls as young as five....
Or what about the calls to criminalize "Insults to Islam"?
And meantime, the Muslim Public Affairs Council, in a broad-brush ad hominem, calls all (but one: Daniel Pipes) critics of Islam "pseudo-experts", when all the ones I know on the list -- and I've read most -- are very knowledgeable indeed.
None of this seems imaginary to me....

Sunday, 23 September 2012

"Suppressing criticism not the answer"

Well, somewhat to my surprise, the South China Morning Post ran my letter today in full, and at the top...

Suppressing criticism not the answer
Your editorial ("Outrage at video was predictable", September 16) proposes a moral equivalence: that the video Innocence of Muslims bears equal responsibility for deaths as do those who did the killing.
What you are saying in effect is that a video, made legally in the United States, is the same as the illegal killing of embassy personnel - that video producers are the same as murderous mobs.
In defence of this moral equivalence you say that there are limits to free speech "such as the sensibilities of the audience, that must be taken into account".
But what a slippery slope that is.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

"The innocence of White People"

Even this picture, which fronts Knight's article, gainsays his point, that
there is nothing in Islam that's not replicated in other religions.
In fact, of course, there is: violence.
I came across this article by one Michael Muhammad Knight, who was a guest on BBC radio that I listen to here in Hong Kong.
He's a convert to Islam, and that always gets me wondering.  How could you read the core documents of Islam, the Trinity of the Koran, Hadith and Sirah, and convert?  I mean, it's like the only document in Christianity was the Old Testament (not the New), and it was made clear that you could not question it and that you had to abide by it fully:  stonings, crucifixions and all; and you said "yup, that's the religion for me".  I don't get it.
This fellow Muhammad Knight is a charlatan and a dope.
Below are my comments on his article.

"A 21st Century Islam"

Ibrahim Alaguri/AP
Grrrr... that Roger Cohen! A maddening columnist in the New York Times.
One week he writes something like "Our Man in Benghazi", that makes your teeth hurt.
And the next week an eminently sensible one, like "A 21st Century Islam".
In the first he attacks  "...the worst of an American bigotry whose central tenet is that Islam is evil, a religion bent on the takeover of the world and followed by people who are all violent extremists, Jew-haters and sexual predators.  As if these were not indeed central tenets of Islam, voiced on a daily basis by leaders and imams in the Islamic world, and in the west. (e.g. on child marriage in the UK; MB "Mastership of the world").
In the latter he starts off with "The Muslim world cannot have it both ways".  Says an Islamic republic as an oxymoron. And that freedom of speech cannot be compromised: supporting even the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.  There's bits of the usual moral equivalence -- the blame lying equally on the makers of a film as on the murderers -- but on the whole, given it's Cohen, it's not too bad.
As for his thoughts about that parts of Islam are "malleable and debatable" implying that it might be reformed, well good luck with that.  I'm not holding my breath.  In some parts of the Islamic world, like Pakistan and Iran, debating "prescriptions of Islam" can end you up very dead.


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Islam über alles? Nein; but better get cracking....

In China's Taoism, there's a saying: "Wu Wei" (無爲) which means "do nothing" and things will sort themselves out.  Well, here's another case of it: I was going to write a piece about the video-rage in the Muslim world, something along the lines that it didn't matter what the video was about, how crappy its production; what mattered was the right to say it, offensive and all that it might be.  And that Obama ought to state that principle forcefully. That with the many religious and government leaders in the Muslim world calling for the arrest (or killing) of the makers, calling for banning any "disparagement" of their "prophet", now was the time to face down those thuggish threats, forcefully and robustly.  To reiterate the basic values of free speech in the US (and the west).
Anyway, I didn't get around to it, and now Sam Harris has done it.   In a much more felicitous way than I could have, as the man has an elegant and incicive pen.  Sharp, cogent, and -- one might add -- courageous, for there are not many on the secular Left who have the insight and knowledge and guts to say what he does....
So, once again, Wu Wei helps out: I do nothing and Sam nails it.  Here he is on the VideoRage issue:
The latest wave of Muslim hysteria and violence has now spread to over twenty countries. The walls of our embassies and consulates have been breached, their precincts abandoned to triumphant mobs, and many people have been murdered—all in response to an unwatchable Internet video titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Whether over a film, a cartoon, a novel, a beauty pageant, or an inauspiciously named teddy bear, the coming eruption of pious rage is now as predictable as the dawn. This is already an old and boring story about old, boring, and deadly ideas. And I fear it will be with us for the rest of our lives. [Read on...]

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

An Open Letter to Aussie Muslims: SMH

Screenshot from the Sydney Morning Herald story here.
Or click on picture to go to video and story
The Open Letter's not bad.  But as one observer suggests: not even close to strong enough.
And it's true that there's some prevarication in the Open Letter.  Still, the SMH is a reliably lefty member of the MSM and this counts as pretty strong rebuttal of the shenanigans by followers of the Religion of Peace....

Monday, 17 September 2012

What's going on here? Censorship of pictures from the Muslim demo in Sydney on 15th September.

This picture was here in the Herald Sun.


And this picture was here, in the Sydney Morning Herald
Question: why does the SMH feel the need to blank out the face of the kid, when it's freely available online?  Does the fact that it's a paper of the Left have anything to do with it?  That their buttocks tighten at the prospect of revealing the full horror of young Aussie Muslim kids calling for murder of innocents ("insulting" the "prophet" is not even a crime in Oz, let alone a capital one...)

Later: reader PS sends link of Ray Hadley on 2GB radio, discussing the issue, here.

Ghosh and Logan on Charlie Rose

Bobby Ghosh on Charlie Rose
Lara Logan


I thought this interview on Charlie Rose was quite good, considering [it's the very liberal Charlie Rose].... Bobby Ghosh, editor-at-large of Time Magazine and Lara Logan of "60 Minutes".
Ghosh says the riots in the Middle East were not about the video, but were "anger stored up", not spontaneous responses to a video, but "provoked outrage", provoked by the likes of Al Qaeda and Ansar al Sharia.  Logan talked of the mosques doing the provoking; that the riots are part of jihad, not simply reactions to a dopey video; in Afghanistan of the Taliban being the same as Al Qaeda, the same ideology, tactics and aims. Of the Taliban and Al Qaeda being as strong as ever (cf US military views that progress continues; shades of Vietnam disinformation).  These views are pretty much grist for the mill on counter jihad sites, but straight and true talk like this is a bit rarer in the mainstream media.
Mind you, Ghosh does get a touch "moral-equivalence-y" in his article "The Agents of Outrage"...

Billy Connolly - A laugh at Islam


I wonder if Billy would still do this piece today?  I hope so...
H/T: PS.

"Outrage at video was predictable"

My letter to the South China Morning Post, in response to its editorial on 16th Sept:

Your leader “Outrage at video was predictable” (16 Sept) proposes a moral equivalence: that the video “The innocence of Muslims” bears equal responsibility for deaths as do those that did the killing. 
What you are saying in effect is that a video, made legally in the US, is the same as the illegal killing of Embassy personnel.  That video producers are the same as murderous mobs.
In defence of this moral equivalence you state: “there are limits [to free speech], such as the sensibilities of the audience, that must be taken into account.”
But what a slippery slope that is!  For the “sensibilities” which you say ought to be taken into account are those of the more extreme fringes of the Muslim world.  The attacks in Libya were well planned by Al-Qaeda and affiliates Ansar Al Sharia.  The video was just an excuse.  And 9/11 was a “nice” time to do it.
Bobby Ghosh the Editor-in-Chief of Time Magazine has said  that the attacks were not spontaneous, but were “provoked outrage”.
Moderate Muslims have been saying that no matter what the video “offence”, there is no excuse for random killings.
Yet your Editorial takes the side of those radical elements. If you support the “limits” to free speech for the “sensibilities” of Islamists, do you imagine that censoring a silly video will be enough? Surely not. There will always be something on the Internet to which they can take offence, should it suit their agenda.  By contrast, while this video is lambasted for “denigrating” Islam, there was nowhere in the world criticisms of productions such as “The Book or Mormon”, “The Passion of the Christ” and the like. 
Suppressing incompetent criticism of Islam will only encourage further demands for censorship of any criticism of Islam as being “offensive” or “blasphemous”.   That will lead to the suppression of fair critique of the more troublesome elements of Islamic doctrine.  Already we have seen self-censorship of a scholarly documentary  “Islam the Untold Story”.
Making a moral equivalence between an Internet video and murderous Islamists renders us mute to discuss Islam in any form at all. 
We must not come to this end, for Islam must surely be subject to the same examination and debate as all other religions in the world.