Thursday, January 22, 2015
Islamic crime of the week
Here's the second installment of our new regular feature highlighting outrageous, violent aspects of mainstream Islam that are incompatible with civilization. Last week featured Saudi Arabia's sentencing of Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for unapproved blogging that happened to offend Muslim clerics. Happily the continuation of the flogging has again been postponed. He's not dead yet.
This week we have not one but two offenses. The first comes from The Islamic Republic of Iran, the center of Shia Islam. Iran's parliament is considering a bill that would punish anyone owning a dog as a pet with 74 lashes and fine of up to $3,700. I have been unable to learn if the law passed.
The "Islam Question and Answer" site, apparently a major outlet for explaining Islamic thought,explains that owning a dog is haraam in Islam, and if you do keep a dog your qiraats will be deducted from your hasanaat. (I.e. it's anathema, and you'll lose brownie points in heaven...why do Muslims refuse to translate their beliefs into plain English?) The rationalization for this is that keeping a dog in the house in unclean. Oh? In fact, keeping a Muslim in the house is a much greater disease threat -- humans share the same diseases; you won't catch a cold or flu from a dog. You can more easily catch diseases from any human, Muslims included.
Shaykh al-Munajjid also tells a recent convert to Islam that she must get rid of her dog of eleven years. Oh? If you adopt a dog, the dog becomes dependent on you, psychologically and physically. It's plain cruelty to suddenly abandon it. Islam is cruel. That's not my contention, that's al-Munajjid's position.
Perhaps in the grand scheme of things giving someone 74 lashes for owning a dog isn't as bad as shooting them for drawing cartoons or being Jewish (although if more than 50 lashes would likely kill Raif Badawi, 74 sounds like a death penalty). But it is crazy, outrageous, and unacceptable. I live with a dog. I love dogs. I do not trust people who do not like dogs. If someone doesn't want to have a dog, that's his or her business, but if I choose differently. Dogs and humans evolved together; a good human-canine team is something special. If Islam doesn't approve of dogs, to hell with Islam.
But wait, there's more! Our second crime comes from Sunni Egypt. According to Al Bawaba News, Egyptian authorities are waging war on people who decide they just don't buy arguments for God. I know that some atheists in the United States claim to be persecuted, but I don't know of anyone who received a three year prison term for blasphemy, as Karim El-Banna did.
Iran and Egypt are Muslim countries. The "Islamic Q & A" site is mainstream Muslim. Mainstream Islam is illiberal, authoritarian, despotic.
Photo: Chief blogger Charles N. Steele and canine companions Chaos and Luna in the backcountry of South Cottonwood Canyon, Hyalite Range, southern Montana. Click for bigger view.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
There's no question at all that Islam gets special treatment. You should ask yourself why.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
The anemic Republican rebuttal
Almost no politician at the national level is capable of speaking in terms of fundamental principles, or of facing genuinely difficult problems. (One of the few exceptions is Senator Ted Cruz, no wonder everyone in both parties hates him.) Expect nothing good from politics at the federal level.
"Let's destroy community colleges"
But what about content? Obama's "middle class economics" is, in effect, nothing but a demand for a cradle-to-grave welfare state that covers everything, including providing from child care, setting wages, mandating maternity leave and sick leave... proposal after proposal to increase the cost of hiring people and thus increase unemployment. These would have the added "benefit" of ultimately putting government in charge of providing services and making us dependent on i.e. subservient to, our government masters. Ugh. Karl Marx lives. Lots of gloating over a "recovery," complete nonsense in that "low unemployment" has been heavily driven by people dropping out of the labor force, especially young people, and exploding deficits which will grow faster than the economy...no serious analysis, just dishonesty and propaganda. Plus there was so much whiny emotionalism, an entirely phony pretense to being reasonable, feigning a "reaching out" to his opponents.
And then there was blather about how successful the Obama foreign policy has been. It's hard to know what to say here, until you realize that perhaps he's completely right, if one chooses the definition of "success" (i.e.whose side one is on) accordingly. Lots of other yammering on climate change, gay rights, Muslim peacefulness, and -- remarkably -- an assertion that he is strengthening civil rights against government spying!!! Where was the guy who shouts "you lie!" when we need him so badly? I miss him.
But as I'm an academic, one proposal really caught my attention: free community college for all. What a great idea! Almost as good as perpetual motion or cold fusion, certainly every bit as effective, "almost" as good only because perpetual motion and cold fusion never did any harm, so far as I know. Obama's proposal will likely go nowhere, at least for now. But why isn't this a great idea? After all, community colleges are much cheaper than four year colleges, and isn't education a good thing that can improve peoples' lives and increase their productivity? Yes, and that's why this is a terrible idea. Obama's proposal would destroy the community college system as a source of inexpensive, valuable education. Bear with me and I'll explain.
It's public knowledge that the financial cost of a four year college education has grown far faster than the rate of inflation. It's less widely known why this has happened, but it's no mystery to those who study it. It's a completely predictable result of increased government subsidization of higher education, primarily through federal student loans and Pell grants, but also state level programs. It's basic economics that if government subsidizes something, the demand for it will increase and consequently so will the price. The education industry is subject to this law. Colleges and universities have proven particularly adept at siphoning off these subsidies, in particular by increasing administrative staffs and programs, most of which have no real purpose other than maximizing college revenues. Students sign up for classes and government pays the bills. Colleges find ways to make the bills bigger and bigger, and they are very good at it. Unfortunately, in the process they deliver less and less each year. Teaching is increasingly farmed out on adjuncts, and the content of courses, at least in the humanities, has suffered a reduction in rigorous analysis and an increase in plain political partisanship and propaganda. Here are some of the consequences of government subsidy of higher education:
1. Costs have risen sharply, and so has worthless administration.
2. Students have taken on enormous and often unsustainable loads of debt. Note that interest rates on student loans do not take majors into account. Student loan programs do not differ in rates or amounts loaned between a student who majors in, say, chemical engineering (the major with the highest average starting salary and a rate of unemployment that is effectively zero) and a student majoring in, say, feminist art criticism. No wonder it's not sustainable.
3. Students who are really incapable of handling college level academic work face increased incentive to enter college, and colleges have incentive to admit them and retain them. The effect is grade inflation and the dumbing down of courses. Anyone following academia knows that these problems are rampant.
So... what might "'free' community college for everyone" do? Clearly, by reducing the financial cost of college of enrolling to zero, government would greatly increase the incentive for people to enter community colleges, whether it is economically or academically wise or not. And by promising to cover 100% of the tab, government would give community colleges incentive to push "costs" through the roof. No student debt, at least... it would be directly transferred to taxpayers, instead of indirectly as it is now. But given the long run growth path of deficits, how we are supposed to pay for this additional expense?
Obama's proposal is a terrible idea, not because community colleges are a bad thing, but because community colleges are generally a good thing. They ought to be made more market-based, not less, and the federal government has absolutely no legitimate role in them. Obama is a thug and a skunk. May this idea, and his others, and the scoundrel himself, come to naught.
Monday, January 19, 2015
1. Obama will attempt to oppose some form of gun control by executive fiat. This is most likely to come via some sort of international treaty, or possibly through federal regulation. To get a hit on this one, new federal regulations restricting the sale of firearms (as defined by law, i.e. receivers and frames) or ammunition will have to be imposed, or Congress will have to act to stop it.
2. Obama will attempt to normalize relations with Iran. This will stop short of recognition, but he'll try to establish some sort of liaison with Tehran, something akin to what he's doing with Cuba. Congress might or might not scuttle this, I'd guess the former, but that's not part of my prediction.
3. The Republican leadership seems to have the idea that this is their chance to show they can govern reasonably. They'll fail. They will fail to pass important legislation on any "big" issues (e.g. health care) and most notably will not come close to producing a balanced budget. On the one issue on which they might be able to do something, immigration reform, they'll follow the Democrats' example of legislating against the will of the people and pass an amnesty bill. Oops, that's two predictions...
4. Congress will pass an immigration reform bill and Obama will sign it. It will be alleged that it does not put illegal aliens on a fast track to citizenship, but it will have the usual provisions for appropriate federal regulations to be written, and will be a de facto amnesty and citizenship bill.
5. Benyamin Netanyahu's Likud will win in the upcoming Israeli elections, returning Netanyahu to power.
6. Shortly thereafter, Israel will fight a war with Hezbollah and win. This will actually be an attack on Iran, and it will be supported by Sunni states, most notably Saudi Arabia. The entire shambles in the Middle East comes down to a fight between Sunni Arabs and Shia Persians and Arabs, with none of them much liking the Sunni Turks. If this mess is ever fixed it will first involve stopping the Iranian regime, and after that killing off the Sunni Islamic radicals. But that's longer term and not part of my prediction.
7. Russia will suffer a strong recession. The damage will greatly weaken Putin's popularity, and he'll resort to increased authoritarianism at home and aggression abroad in order to protect his position.
8. Ukraine will push back the Russian invasion. By the end of 2015 Russian forces will still be in Ukraine, but they'll hold less territory. Yes, predictions 7 and 8 together mean I think Putin is on the way out, but not this year, unfortunately.
9. China will go into recession. This is a perennial prediction of mine. Supposedly a stopped clock is occasionally right. One implication is that oil prices will be further depressed. Another is that demand for U.S. debt will fall. Janet, are you paying attention?
10. The discovery of extraterrestrial life, or evidence of it, will be announced. This one is usually my wild card. Why now? It think the substantial work being done with SETI and with the search for planets in other star systems is bound to pay off soon. I have no particular insight that says it's this year, but it must be close, so I guess sooner rather than later.
There it is... up before Obama's State of the Union address, when he'll no doubt confirm all I've said here!
Friday, January 16, 2015
Correcting two oversights
The first is Maya's Corner, a blog from regular and longtime reader Maya M. in Bulgaria. I've occasionally had exchanges with her in the comments section of UC and have known about her blog for quite some time, but haven't kept up. I just read several of her recent posts, and I am quite impressed.... careful, thoughtful, insightful argumentation, and very well written. Take a look.
(I'm also honored that she has continued to follow Unforeseen Contingencies, even though for the past year my posting was sporadic at best and quality of my posts has tended to be poor.)
Second, who says leftists can't be rational? I Want a New Left is the blog of an anonymous professor of philosophy, a left winger, who has come to realize the emptiness of contemporary left-wing progressive thought. His blog features extremely perceptive commentary on the craziness of today's academic left, plus soccer. He's extremely critical of socialism, radical feminism, multiculturalism, Islam and Islamism, environmental extremism, and all the rest of contemporary leftist nonsense. What then makes him a leftist? He's a radical egalitarian and his sympathies lie with the poor and the working class -- he just understands that capitalism and freedom are more likely to improve their lot than anything else. I came across this blog two years ago, I think. I'm finally giving it it's due.
Both are now in the Unforeseen Contingencies blogroll. I should note that I likely differ strongly with both authors on a number of issues. The point in listing and following them is not that I always agree, it's that the quality of their analyses tends to be particularly high. These are both thought provoking and worth reading.
Announcing a New Feature! Islamic Crime of the Week!
Unfortunately, it's also clear that that these are minority variants. In addition, it's clear that among today's major religions Islam is by far the least tolerant, most violent, and most totalitarian; no other broad set of beliefs comes close. It is only mad people largely on the left who seem not to be able to recognize this. Egypt's President al Sisi, a Muslim, made a very clear statement on this matter in a New Year's Day appeal to Muslim clerics, calling for a revolution in Islamic thinking, because Islam has gone off the rails, because the entirety of Muslims have become "a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world." He accused Muslims of "antagonizing the entire world" and repeatedly called for a "religious revolution" that discards violent doctrines.
I think al Sisi's points are obvious to almost everyone, save for a large share of the contemporary Left. Driven to insanity by political correctness, they are going to absurd lengths to deny there are any problems at all in Islam, hence the various bizarre convolutions of Obama and his administration to avoid terms like Islamic terrorism, or Duke University's decision to institute the Muslim call to prayer on campus as a way of responding the the Charlie Hebdo attacks (a decision that has, fortunately, been repealed, at least for now).
Well, the problem is not terrorism. It's not even Islamic terrorism. It's Islam.
It would be a waste of time to argue that terrorism or Islamic terrorism are bad; anyone uncertain of this is beyond reason, and there's no fun in making arguments to the deaf. On the other hand, there is some sport to be had in maximizing cognitive dissonance among politically correct leftists. Towards this end, Unforeseen Contingencies excitedly announces a new feature: The Islamic Crime of the Week!
Every Friday -- the Muslim holy day -- we'll highlight an unambiguously Islamic action of mainstream "civilized" Muslims that is outrageous and violent. Of course, if Islam really is a religion of peace, as we're repeatedly lectured, this will be impossible, so the politically correct need not worry.
Here's this week's entry: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is postponing the continuation of the public lashing of Raif Badawi for a week, for "medical reasons" (they suspect another 50 lashes this week will kill him outright). Badawi received a sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for insulting Islam by establishing a blog -- Liberal Saudi Network -- that some Saudi clerics and officials disliked.
President Obama, Eric Holder, Josh Earnest, and the entirety of the politically correct left are welcome to go ahead and explain that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is not Islamic, and that this brand of Islam has anything to do with peace.
Terrorist attacks: "It's not Islam!"
Q And will you speak about the battle against Islamist extremism?
MR. EARNEST: Well, all forms of violent extremism would certainly be discussed in the context of this summit. But obviously the threat that we see from violent extremism in which individuals invoke the name of Islam, an otherwise peaceful religion, as they carry out these attacks would certainly be obviously a priority in the discussion here.
Q Josh, why wouldn’t you use the phrase right there, that we are going to take on Islamist extremism? You said all forms of violent extremism.
MR. EARNEST: She asked me what the summit would discuss, and all forms of violent extremism would be discussed, and obviously the most potent and certainly the most graphic display that we’ve seen in recent days is, again, motivated by those individuals that seek to invoke the name of Islam to carry out these violent attacks. And that’s certainly something that we want to work very hard to counter and mitigate, and we’ve got a strategy that we’ve been discussing for some time to exactly do that.
Q So if it’s the most potent form, according to you, of extremism, why isn’t the summit on countering Islamic extremism?
MR. EARNEST: Because violent extremism is something that we want to be focused on, and it’s not just Islamic violent extremism that we want to counter; there are other forms of --
Q The recent cases in Paris, Australia, Canada -- isn’t the thread through them that it’s Islamic extremism?
MR. EARNEST: Well, certainly the examples that you cite are examples of individuals who have cited Islam as they’ve carried out acts of violence. There’s no arguing that.
Attorney General Eric Holder agrees:
I certainly think we are at war with those who would commit terrorist attacks and corrupt the Islamic faith to try to justify their terrorist actions.
For many on the left, refusal to recognize that Islam itself is the problem likely stems from political correctness and the extreme cognitive dissonance they must be feeling. But that can't explain the carefully constructed positions and language taken by the Obama administration. This is not mere confusion or stupidity, but something calculated. I cannot say what (because I am uncertain) but it is sinister and dangerous.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
Views on blasphemy: a comparison
On the other hand, "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies find this second picture, and the brutal religious doctrines behind it, to be outrageous, blasphemous, and well beyond the limits of civilized thought and behavior:
The left and Islam
Sunday, January 11, 2015
Is the Left waking up?
My first encounter with anarchic Charlie Hebdo
How can anyone make sense of the Charlie Hebdo killings?
The roots of the battle for free speech
Of course, Muslim enemies of Western values, such as freedom of speech and freedom of thought, are unimpressed with the outpouring of anti-terrorism sentiment. The BBC piece below by Hugh Schofield details such things as "Je ne suis pas Charlie" and "Je suis Kouachi" memes in France. Unfortunately, Schofield cannot help but try to see it from "their" point of view.
France divided despite uplifting rallies
Towards the end of his piece, Schofield hits one nail on the head with this: