Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"Free Excercise of Religion? No, Thanks"

I often find myself wanting to refer to this article by Christopher Hitchens, on the taming and domestication of religious faith, so here it is for ease of reference, beginning with a quote:
Now to Islam. It is, first, a religion that makes very large claims for itself, purporting to be the last and final word of God and expressing an ambition to become the world's only religion. Some of its adherents follow or advocate the practice of plural marriage, forced marriage, female circumcision, compulsory veiling of women, and censorship of non-Muslim magazines and media.

Fr. Richard Neuhaus on Islam and reform

A great question facing Islam–and for us as we face Islam–is whether there are authentically Islamic sources that can religiously legitimate democracy and religious pluralism. 
From the beginning, Christianity has had the great asset of what some derisively call its “dualism” – the conceptual resource for distinguishing between spiritual and temporal authority, which has given it enormous flexibility in relating to different political and cultural circumstances from Theodosius to Hildebrand to the religion clause of the U.S. Constitution. Islam is emphatically monistic. That is a great asset when joined to military and political power in the course of conquest, but a disabling weakness under the conditions of postmodernity.
The rest here.

"Why the Japanese aren't looting" -- Cruise Ships vs Ferry Boats

This is a few weeks ago now, but I it's still interesting for the insight into the exemplary way the Japanese have been seen to act in the wake of the devastations of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.  It's by Thomas Lifson, who spent some time in Japan as visiting professor at the National Museum of Ethnology.
Many years ago, a worldly and insightful Japanese business executive offered me an analogy that gets to heart of the forces keeping the Japanese in line, that has nothing to do with culture. "Japanese people," he told me, "are like passengers on a cruise ship. They know that they are stuck with the same people around them for the foreseeable future, so they are polite, and behave in ways that don't make enemies, and keep everything on a friendly and gracious basis."
"Americans," he said, "are like ferryboat passengers. They know that at the end of a short voyage they will get off and may never see each other again. So if they push ahead of others to get off first, there are no real consequences to face. It is every man for himself."
Full story here. [political leaning note: the American Thinker is a magazine of the Right, pro Palin, guns and all that.  But it has some interesting contributors, some good insights, like the story here, and is sound on the issue of Islam and Israel]

The World's smallest political quiz

Try this one!  You may be surprised how accurate it is!

"Alien life, coming slowly into view"

Courtesy: New York Times, 29 March 2011
Astronomy and astrophysics professor, Ray Jayawardhana says he remembers "the first time the concept of another world entered my mind."....
I also remember the first time I heard of "The Drake Equation".  And I've thought of it often since.  Without going to Google to check it out, this is what I remember of it: that it's an equation worked out by an astronomer professor, Frank Drake, for a symposium in the US on extra terrestrial life, perhaps sometime in the seventies.  It goes something like this: the number of extra terrestrial intelligent Lifes out there (let's call that "N") is equal to....

Monday, 28 March 2011

Will Islamists benefit?

New York Times, 8 March 2011
The letter at the left was on the 8th March.  Two weeks later and it's looking to be rather closer to the likely outcome in Egypt et al than all the rosy pictures painted at the time by the likes of Roger Cohen, the Beebs, the Guardian and others --  who, implicitly or otherwise, expected the ouster of Mubarrak to lead to establishment of a secular liberal democracy.
All the reports now are of the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on the post-ousting outcome.  Ditto in the east Libya, aka Cyrenaica.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Of Triumphalism and Hypocrisy: letters on Israel

I've had a bit of a to-and-fro in the letters section of the South China Morning Post, on the ever-disputatious  issue of Israel, US support of same, land, settlements and security.

There's been a lot else about Israel recently, not least around the murder of a young Jewish family, the beheading of their 3-month old baby, and I'll post those [PS: here are some, at Melanie Phillips blog.  PPS: and another about BDS, here, from Andrew Roberts]  Meantime, just posting for the record the corro with a Mr James Quinn of Lamma Island.

Earthquakes, of politics and geology. Waves, of unrest and destruction....

Cyrenaica: "an epicenter of anti-American Jihad"
My goodness what a year....
We almost forget that it started with monster floods in Queensland.  Worst in recorded history.  Then the earthquake in Queenstown.  Queens and Queens, enough to make one a republican.
Roiling away in the foreground: the Arabian revolutions -- "jasmine" for some reason I haven't noted and am too lazy to google; perhaps we've run out of colours, though I seem to recall that some of the early East European ones were "velvet".
Then the crunch in Japan, the triple whammy, biggest earthquake recorded, 15 metre tsunami and the melt-down of nuclear power stations.
A few random items:

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

"Peter King's Obsession"

Poor Peter King.  He’s the Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security [ref]. He has announced hearings into why so many young Muslims in the US become radicalised and he’s copping it from both Left and Right.  From the Right because they reckon he’s not speaking to enough experts known for expertise in radical Islam – eg Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Muslim apostate and prolific author.  From the Left because they abhor the very thought of such hearings – victimising one minority, the rebirth of McCarthyism, and so on.

"Bashir says charges against him equate to ban on Islam"

Bashir on charges of funding para-military training, faces the death penalty.  Photo: Jakarta Globe
“The paramilitary training is recognised by Shariah, and I say the religious teachings should not be violated,” Bashir said in response to the prosecution’s statements.

If the implementation of Sharia was banned, it would be that the government had banned Islam in Indonesia.”...

So says Aussie's favourite Islamic cleric, Abu Bakir Bashir, in the Jakata Globe. (h/t JW).
Do you see what's happened here? Do you see the significance of these words?

Monday, 7 March 2011

"Is Islam the problem?" Or "post Islam, ergo propter Islam"....

An unusually open and frank piece about Islam from Nicholas D. Kristof, more usually in an apologist mood when he discusses the Religion of Peace. [PDF].
Kristof quotes Professor Timur Kuran of Duke University, which is good, for Kuran is very sound on Islamic finance.  It's pretty much a backwards-looking "con", he reckons, and he's right.  I've quoted Kuran before on Sharia finance, the Trojan horse that's insinuating itself into the body finance of the west.
At the end, though, the article disappointing, for Kristof can't quite bring himself to blame Islam for anything. It's "simply a religion", he says in his final para, letting it off the hook for all the economic ills of the Arab world.

"Wrong time to be triumphalist"

[Letter to South China Morning Post]:
James Quinn says the recent US veto of an anti-Israel resolution at the UN was “disgraceful” (“Wrong time to be triumphalist”, Letters, March 02  -- see below*).  But that veto was simply in keeping with long-standing US bipartisan policy of vetoing any resolution critical of Israel that was not also critical of terrorism or which did not appeal to all parties for a political settlement of the conflict.[**]
When you think about it, this makes sense.  

"Playing chicken with the world's resources"

Cows can change their diet...
and so can we....
Hi Tom,
As you surmise [see below]: Asian leaders may not realistically be expected to buy into Nair’s doctrine of restraint. But perhaps they could for a part of it: diet.
The US diet of Macs, Meat ‘n Milk causes huge harm, especially the epidemic of obesity: a cost on the whole of society.  The Asian diet, by contrast, is very healthy, leading to long-lived and healthy populations (I’m especially talking of North Asia here).
I’ve just read a great book on this:
The China Study, subtitled “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health”.   The basic conclusion of the study, and the message of the book, is to stick to a traditional Chinese diet with very little meat and dairy (the authors say “none”).

Sevens time again in Hong Kong

Friday, 4 March 2011

Gee, d'ya think?

".... there is a suspicion that the act was motivated by Islamism" said the German Federal prosecutors, contemplating the shooting of two US airmen in Germany.
Gee, d'ya think?
The guy was:
  • a Kosovar Muslim*
  • who had recently changed his name to a nom de guerre, Abu Reyyan**
  • who shouted "Alahu Akhbar" and
  • "Jihad, Jihad" during the attack
Gee, what could be the reason he did it??
What would it take to declare it to be a terrorist act?  Carrying an Al-Qaeda membership card?
Saying "ladies and gentlemen, this is an act of Islamic terrorism, motivated by the Koran, rather than a random act of violence"?? [even then, one wonders....]
Failure to face the facts leads to the idiocy above, where they are still wondering and scratching their heads -- "what could be the cause??" -- and more egregiously, the idiocy of the report on the Fort Hood massacre last year, which in 86 pages failed to mention Islam or Islamism even once in its "analysis" of the causes.  Which for the Fort Hood attack were as clear as for the attack in Germany, we can even rap it:
"I got Islam on ma' mind, man... 
got that bitchin' Allah on ma mind, man.... 
got ma man Mo on ma mind, man"
sung to sounds of AK47 gunfire, and the chorus: "Allahu Akbar", (alt: "jihad, jihad"....)

* Kosovar Muslims were involved in the 2007 Ford Dix attacks.
**Names like these are a big marker, according to the Super Freakonomics research.

"China reaches for the moon"

From today's South China Morning Post...

From the depths of the ocean to orbiting the moon, China's army of scientists and engineers made great strides forwards last year.

And, well, backwards, too.

China produced the world's darkest dark-matter detector, the longest long-range quantum teleporter, the deepest deep-sea exploration submarine and a superlative supercomputer that leaves overseas competitors standing. More….

This post is part of my irregular series of what China’s doing great.  Part of the effort to counter the generally negative reporting of China in mainstream press.  (But not spruiking for China, oh no...).

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

China and the World

Nearest GDP equivalents, $USbn.
Thanks to The Economist.
(Click to enlarge)
Terrific map of China's provinces, marking up each one as the country with the nearest equivalent GDP.  Guangdong the size of Indonesia.   Shandong and Jiangsu each bigger than Switzerland.

Check out our hometown, Hong Kong: the equivalent of Egypt!

From The Economist, "All the parities in China", Feb 24th.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

“British Shift on Muslims Is Ominous”

John Vinocur in today’s International Herald Tribune, the international edition of The New York Times:
Like Mr. Sarkozy and Mrs. Merkel in their assertions of the death of multiculturalism — not disputed here — the prime minister [Britain’s David Cameron] has offered nothing of sufficient size and impact to fill its notional space and deal with the scale of the problem of Muslim immigration.
A groundbreaking, daring trade of an affirmative action program packed with jobs in exchange for a zero-tolerance regime combating all manifestations of parallel societies?
Not now, not here, no way.  

Vincor’s piece is generally fine, till you get to the final para above, which seems to argue for massive government intervention to shovel money at Muslims to solve the problem of Muslim alienation in the UK. (my emphasis).

There are two problems with this.