22 October, 2007

New Wineskins

Thanks to everyone for reading and sustaining this blog these past three years. It's time to move on. Go here to find out why and join me on the next stage of the journey.

11 October, 2007

Rolling Over

March 17, 624. Battle of Badr. Green lights. Empire State Building. Last night of Ramadan. Dhimmitude. If you don't know what these things are or how they're connected, you should.

This coming weekend on October 12-14, for the first time ever the Empire State Building in New York City will be bathed with green lights, the color closely associated with Islam, so as to commemorate Eid ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan... Contrary to what one might expect, however, the last day of Ramadan does not celebrate the actual date of the earliest revelations of Allah to Muhammad but rather the Battle of Badr, the first significant military victory by the forces of Muhammad.
All religions are not the same. Tolerance without truth is tolerance of falsehood.

H/T: The Merry Widow

Cure for Global Warming: Canadian Free Trade with Colombia

...authorities [in British Columbia, Canada] have benefitted [sic] from a 2006 law allowing BC Hydro, the area's main power company, to share its residential power consumption records with local officials... scanning residents' utility bills to determine who is using a lot more power than the average homeowner... Armed with that information, local authorities cut the power off to the home of the suspected offender... [homegrown pot is] collectively worth nearly seven billion dollars each year, account for a whopping six percent of this province's power consumption.
And folks complain about civil liberties encroachments down here!

10 October, 2007

Bundle o' Bits

Short week. Busy day. Pardon the cryptic style--and apologies in advance for 72 hours of radio silence starting tomorrow night as I depart for an intensive faith-formation retreat. A few items:

  • 17.6 of professors in the social scientists consider themselves Marxists. Only academics doing a survey of other academics could possibly think that this is low (actually, the authors use the term "rare"!). The next time someone tells you that conservatives avoid academic positions in the social sciences because they believe in nonsensical superstitions with no empirical or logical support, while liberals believe in the scientific method, remember that 17.6% figure.

  • As if awarding the Nobel to Yasser Arafat hadn't done enough, this will do more to damage the prestige of the prize than it will help Al Gore and his cause. The (London) Times puts it nicely: "Al Gore is being tipped as a favourite to win the Nobel peace prize in Oslo this Friday in a controversial move that could place saving the planet above saving people from war and conflict." (Last I checked, his environmental jihad was highly divisive, not peace- inducing.) Modest proposal: award him a science Nobel in 100 years... if his theories can be proven correct at that time.

  • Just finished Lawrence Wright's "The Looming Tower" over breakfast. I read a lot. I thought I knew a lot about Islam, Al Q'aeda, 9-11 and American dysfunction in intelligence and response to this threat. I didn't. This one goes deep--absolutely packed with facts but with a literary flair for character and story-telling. (Liberals will find plenty to chew on also.) Over 500 original interviews. Dozens of pages of end-notes. Read it.

  • "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday [called] for a full Israeli withdrawal from all territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war." (A war that would have ended in Israel's destruction had they not acted pre-emptively against the five nations massing on their borders.) Meanwhile, American Indians asked for a withdrawal to pre-1492 borders, Brits asked for a withdrawal to pre-1775 borders, and Osama bin Laden asked Europe for a withdrawal to pre-1683 borders. It's a thin cover for what Palestinians and other Arabs really want but won't get: an instant multi-century 'fix' of cultural and socio-economic self-esteem and a reversal of the public humiliation and castration they woke up to in June, 1967. It's about as likely as my neutered dog having puppies. Meanwhile, other Islamists called for Israel to return to its pre-1948 borders.

09 October, 2007

She is a Nice Person!

File this one under dispassionate and objective, hard-hitting news... or not:

Don Schwartz, who describes himself as "a super-Deaniac progressive type," decided to back Hillary Clinton - whose centrist views, he concedes, do not necessarily match his own - for a simple reason. He wanted, finally, to be with a winner.
Either that, or he knows--as is patently obvious--that she's not really a 'centrist' at all but well to the left of even Mr. Dean. Only in Boston-Globe-Land and northward (i.e., Vermont and its socialist environs) would she be considered as such with a straight face.
When Schwartz, the vice chairman of the Londonderry Democratic committee, started to contact his neighbors, with a goal of reaching 100 people per week, he thought he would have to appeal to their respect for her rather than their affection.
Respect for what? Her role as consigliere of her husband's administration? For her gutsiness in proposing the wholesale socialization of the largest share of this country's GDP? (healthcare) For her willingness to stick around through her husband's many affairs? For her ability to weather a list of financial scandals and shady dealings that would have killed a lesser mortal? For her flip-flops on the war? For her boldness in taking money from a shady Chinese national and a former hedge fund operator well to the left of Vladimir Lenin who made his money speculating on the U.S. dollar?
"I was actually surprised how many people said they were for Hillary," Schwartz said. "Now, they're getting to know her, and they're starting to like her. She is a nice person!"
Well, now that's a great reason to elect someone president. (Reminds me of the logic used when Jimmy Carter got elected.) This is why I dropped a subscription to my hometown newspaper long ago. What's frightening is that around here, many take their entire world view exclusively from its pages, thinking it to be both centrist and comprehensive. Hillary doesn't need to send them a check. They already know what to write.

05 October, 2007

Ted Nugent at Whole Foods

Just got back from picking up a few things at our local Whole Foods Market. (For those who don't know, it's an upscale organic-oriented grocery chain founded in Austin, TX). The main reason I go there is not for the opportunity to spend wads of cash to feel good about eating vegetables fertilized with cow poo and meat from animals who did yoga and got daily massages, but because our other local grocery store has slid the point that someone transported from Bulgaria during the heyday of Communist rule would complain about poor service.

So I'm standing in the dry goods aisle when I notice it: Ted Nugent's signature tune, "Cat Scratch Fever", with all of the suggestive lyrics intact, playing far louder than the typical background Musak. This all at 10:30 in the morning. I'm not complaining--just observing.

Something has changed fundamentally in our culture when this is seen not only as non-controversial (do they know what the song is about?) but commercially advantageous. In an environment where the apples and bell peppers all seem to have been scrubbed to pristine perfection with a toothbrush, one can't help but musing: in another place and time, that toothbrush would have been applied (along with a bar of soap) to Mr. Nugent's mouth.

Call me a fuddy-duddy if you like. I actually like the song and am not objecting to its being played (WFM can do what it likes). It just seems weird that somehow we've gotten to a place where what was once on the far far fringe* of outrageous culture is now perfectly mainstream.

*(Mr. Nugent once graced the cover of 'High Times', fronting an article about how he had soiled himself and failed to bathe for two weeks in order to avoid the draft. Don't ask how I know that.)

UPDATE:
Here's another critique of a different kind of music and its ostensible 'progress' in the 20th century.

04 October, 2007

In Search of Eco-Salvation

Great piece by Frank Furedi over at Spiked on how, like a stinking sewage effluent pipe, global warming-as-religion is spilling over into, and fouling the clear waters of traditional religion.

In recent years, some in the church have sought to gain the public’s ear through the greening of traditional doctrines, and Christ the Saviour is fast becoming Christ the environmental activist... Church leaders have embraced the rituals of eco-morality to demonstrate their commitment to a higher good. Absolution through carbon offsets appears to be the way forward... As far as some Vatican leaders are concerned, offsetting carbon emissions plays a role analogous to that of fasting or self-mortification in previous times... Through an implicit reinterpretation of classical dogma, the sanctity of nature and all creation displaces the traditional focus on the sanctity of human beings.
His criticism is not limited to the Catholic church, or even to Christianity, as the following anecdote illustrates (WARNING: swallow coffee before reading).
Eco-spirituality is also seen as a moral resource that can transcend cultural and religious differences. This summer, the 9th Islamic Fayre in Bristol promoted an eco theme. ‘Islam is a religion of peace but is also known as a religion of nature’, stated Rizwan Ahmed, the event’s organiser. And Farooq Siddique, community development officer of the British Muslim Cultural Society noted that the ‘event is also about bringing communities together’. The hope that the appeal of eco-spirituality could counteract the influence of radical jihadist sentiments has encouraged British officialdom to support such initiatives. [emphasis added]
Well, wouldn't that be nice... if it were remotely connected to reality. The over-arching ethic Furedi depicts calls to mind this.
...many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
It's interesting, now that I think about it, how misplaced worry about things getting warm (and therefore more friendly to life) goes hand-in-hand with peoples' love for God growing cold.

Furedi concludes forcefully:
...eco-spirituality cannot really compensate for the loss of traditional moral authority. Indeed the very embrace of the environmentalist agenda can only accelerate the decline of institutions that cannot give meaning to the religious doctrines on which they were founded. The shift away from God towards nature inevitably leads to a world where the pronouncements of environmentalist experts trump those of the priesthood. It will be interesting to see what will remain of traditional religion as prophecy and revelation is displaced by computerised climate models.