Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Earth Day

"We" here at Unforeseen Contingencies do not celebrate "Earth Day."  Every day we experience is Earth day; we live on Earth and depend on Earth for our sustenance.  It's "our" home, and "we" love it.  We consider ourselves environmentalists.  But "Earth Day" is a leftwing, anti-capitalist anti-human (apologies for the redundancy) invention, and the entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies opposes it.  Why?  "Earth Day" is all about opposing human attempts to modify our environment, to make it more hospitable and more livable.  We're supposed to favor that which is "natural," which means anything that isn't human...we're to favor those things self-defined "environmentalists" decide are in the interests of "the environment."  "The environment" itself is the reification or hypostatization of non-manmade things, hence favoring it over things human is rather odd since the concept of "the environment" is itself a manmade distinction.

But we here at UC recognize that to make any sense, "the environment" simply refers to the circumstances in which we live, and we are just as much a part of nature, i.e. reality, as anything.  So is anything we do.  So, for a real environmentalist like us, the only relevant question is whether a change makes our circumstances more livable or not, that is, it's a matter of costs and benefits.  Every action has good and bad points.  The relevant question: is the net effect positive or negative?

The accompanying photos do a nice job of capturing the distinction between our brand of rational, pro-human environmentalism, and the anti-human leftist environmentalism of Earth Day.  Both photos are taken from space and show the Korean peninsula and China at night.  The economies where activity is conducted in markets, China and South Korea, are lit up, a sign of life.  North Korea is nearly as dark as the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan.  North Korea comes very close to the ideal system prescribed by the leftist enviro.  There's next to no light pollution, for one thing.  There's very little energy consumption per person.  North Korea is certainly not an important contributor to greenhouse gases.  North Korea consumes very little in the way of Earth's resources.  North Korea comes very close to being what leftwing enviros prescribe as being ideal.  North Korea is also very close to being hell on earth.

That's leftwing "environmentalism" for you...development is bad.  Technology is bad.  Human well-being counts zero in their calculus, and humans themselves are expendable.  But for us real environmentalists, this is all nonsense.  The advance of civilization under capitalism makes the environment better.  Want some evidence?  Check out this BBC article on the arrival of the first electric refrigerator in a poor Indian village.  Life becomes radically better.  The environment becomes better.

If we really want to devote a day to celebrating an improving and sustainable environment, we need a day devoted to celebrating capitalism and technology. Earth is for humans, it's not for hell.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

John Pepple: The Islamic Crime of the Week

John Pepple has an interesting observation.  And it's just in time for our Friday Day of Prayer.  .

Pepple:

"There are no Christians who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Jews who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Baha’is who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Hindus who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Sikhs who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Jains who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Buddhists who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Daoists who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Confucians who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
There are no Shintoists who want to kill me because I won’t convert.
But there are Muslims who want to kill me because I won’t convert.

In fact, not only are there Muslims who want to kill me if I won’t convert, there are different groups who want me to convert to their group’s type of Islam and who will each kill me if I don’t convert to their type."

I guess in the Islamic long run, we're all dead


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bill Whittle and Charles N. Steele

Regular readers might know I am something of a fan of Bill Whittle's video work, especially his "Virtual President" series, and have featured him on this blog several times, such as here and here. Thanks to one of my former students, Nathan L., who is now with PJTV, on 10 March I had the opportunity to participate in a panel/interview session for Bill Whittle's PJTV special "Made in China," a three-part series of videos addressing U.S.-China relations and China's role in the world.  I greatly enjoyed the experience of speaking with Bill Whittle and the other guest, Scott Ott.  I thought it was a great discussion.  I would post the video here, or link to it, but it currently seems to be available only to subscribers, although I've watched it at least half a dozen times, as recently as a couple of days ago.  Try this link, click on the first video, and you might get it.  Regardless, for about 6.00 USD, PJTV will sell you the three videos in the series on DVD... or better yet, you should go whole hog and subscribe to PJTV.

I am not an experienced TV interviewee (I believe the last time I was interviewed on television was with CNN at Ben Bernanke's address at the 2009 AEA/ASSA Conference, and before that my 1999 interview in Beijing by China National Television) but I am very happy with my presentation.  I could be a bit more polished, I suppose, but given that I'm averaging 8 years between appearances, I'm pretty darned polished.  To me, the oddest thing about my performance is that only five days before I had had eye surgery, and my right eye was completely dilated, unfocused and blood red (usually not apparent) and the (non-PJTV) camera operator told me to look straight into what I understood to be the camera, but instead I was looking at a slight angle; the whole visual gave me what I think is a rather deranged look.  (OTOH, maybe I simply do have a deranged look.)

Anyway, I am pleased with the interview and think it's worthwhile.  For that matter, I think all of Whittle's guests on all three videos were on target, save for Marion Smith in the second video, who seems to argue that China is an unreformed unrepentant Marxist system.  That's wrong.  If it were true, China's "economic miracle" would be a literal miracle -- for it really has been the greatest lifting of people out of abject poverty to a reasonably decent, or at least adequate, living standard, in history.  Today average incomes in China are more than 30 times greater than they were at the beginning of transformation in 1978, and that's happened for more than one billion people.  No, that miracle was accomplished by substituting the market for Marxist central planning.

A quick word...

I seem to have survived my recent cold/bronchitis.  It was incapacitating; I was down for four days. Typically I'd at least expect to feel up to reading or writing or working on lecture notes or something, but I achieved very little this time around.  However, "very little" is not the same as nothing.  I have a rough draft of what I fear is the increasingly timely "The Inevitability of Nuclear War, Part 2" ... and am still unsure whether this deserves a question mark at the end.  I increasingly fear it doesn't.  Nuclear war may well be Obama's foreign policy legacy.  But we'll get to that soon.

I also have analysis of Ukraine & Putin, plus a few other interesting pieces that are upcoming.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Contradictions

I had supposed that I had dodged the plethora of hacking coughs, pneumonias, and similar complaints that my students have been suffering all semester, after all, they seem to have died out.  But I am out sick today with bronchitis.  Ironically, me being taken out means Unforeseen Contingencies is back in action.

How is it that human thinking can suffer what appear to be complete disconnects, apparently with zero cognitive dissonance?  Two cases in point:

Indiana has just passed a law that prevents a Christian baker from being subject to criminal proceedings, civil lawsuits, and loss of her business license should she refuse to bake a homosexuality-themed cake, given the teachings of Leviticus 20:13 or Romans 1:26-28.  AppleTM CEO Tim Cook is outraged, as is the entire left.  How can this be?  Would they really say that a baker or pizza shop owner should lose their livelihood if they refuse to participate in something that is, for them, a mortal sin?  What of a minister or church if faced with a demand to perform a same-sex wedding, when such is utterly contrary to their religion?  Apparently so.  But Cook and similar hypocrites can drum up no similar outrage when it comes to, say, Saudi Arabia, where homosexuality is punishable by sentences up to and including beheading.  I'm hardly the first to observe this disconnect, of course.  And of course, this hypocritical disconnect may not be such a disconnect after all, when one considers it is ginned-up knee-jerk pseudo-outrage in the service of lefty politics, or, for that matter, AppleTM  marketing.  Keep in mind that I donated $200 to the "Defeat Proposition 8" campaign in California, and support the right of same sex couples to marry.  But I similarly support the right of Christians and others to refuse to participate in any way, and to not be persecuted for it.

Here's another: Obama's deal with Iran over nuclear development, should it come to pass, is supposed to leave the Iranian regime with only the capability of developing nuclear reactors for power.  Oh, great.  Never mind whether such a deal would be enforceable, why would it be considered desirable that nuclear reactors be built in a seismically unstable region of the world by a regime that is not particularly responsible in a country that is not particularly developed.  Why doesn't this "solution" itself strike observers as a formula for disaster?  Keep in mind that I'm not opposed to nuclear power, but I'm skeptical of the ability of third world theocrats in earthquake zones not to make a disaster of it.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Starbucks... *not* endorsed by Unforeseseen Contingencies


Op-Ed from Yemen

Yemen is in chaos.  Civil war and an Al Qaeda insurgency, a coup by the Shiite Houthis, and now bombings of two Shiite mosques that murdered at least 46 people.  So what is on the mind of Yemen Observer op-ed writer Hasna’ Abdulmaji? Follow your passion!  "To be of service to others, we must give life to our positive inclinations. And the only way to obtain true life is to get back in touch with our innermost self and take risks that resonate with that part of us. When we are not true to ourselves, and when we are far removed from our inner self then most likely we are not growing."

What???!!! Yemen is coming apart with religious and political violence, and the most important thing this op-ed writer can think of is to tell readers to "get in touch with their innermost selves?"  Does this make any sense at all?

Well, yes.  Frankly, I'm not sure there's any more important or appropriate message in the midst of such a mess.  After all, how do you remain sane in the midst of the collapse of your society? If you are not true to something, if you aren't singlemindedly dedicated to some set of principles, you'll have no chance of retaining your equanimity.  You'll be confused and lost and helpless, and others will be in charge of you and your soul.  You'll be swept away by events around you.  Sure, you might be swept away anyway, but at least it will be as someone in control of himself or herself.

The only people who are rock solid are those grounded in principles,  But too often, the set of principles chosen is dedication to one theology or other, something supposedly greater than one's self.  Yeah, great, that's what's getting us things like churches and mosques bombed, women burned to death for offenses against "holy" books, and similar insanity.  Far better to be true to ourselves.  This will be increasingly important; one can slide along just following the current in normal times and do OK.  But the world is going to become much more tumultuous before it gets better.  If you hope to keep your head about you when everyone else is losing theirs, remember that this is the only way to do it.  Be true to the best within yourself.  And to do that, you'd better learn what that best self is.

A few more excerpts from Abdulmaji:

"In stagnation, we can hardly be of benefit to ourselves, never mind others besides. True growth is not merely learning by taking in knowledge, reading what experts have said, understanding the ways of great men. This is helpful only if it then directs us to ponder over our own experiences, to enhance what needs to be enhanced and to make changes so that we can be express our true self. Too often it is we who stand in the way of reaching our maximum potential. We cannot allow others to influence our perspective and to stand in our way either physically or with limiting ideas."

I agree.  I wish I'd said this.  Well, I'm saying it now!

I suppose Abdulmaji could have laid out a brilliantly crafted solution to Yemen's crisis.  None of the warring parties would have paid any attention and nothing would come of it.  Instead he (she?) wrote something that will really have the effect of making the world better.  Abdulmaji only has to remind one person of these truths to have been successful.  If you are reading this, and act on it, Abdulmaji has been successful at least twice.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Obama loses election

Despite sending Democrat campaign operatives, Democrat funders, and State Department funds provided by American taxpayers, Obama lost.  Despite Obama's sabotaging of Netanyahu's speech to the U.S. Congress with the lie that the administration had not been informed, Obama lost.  Despite having Joe Biden and John Kerry meet with Isaac Herzog, Benyamin Netanyahu's main opponent, while insisting on a complete administration boycott of Netanyahu, Obama lost.  Good.  A Likud victory is a victory for free markets (it's largely been missed in the U.S. that a major issue in the Israeli election was over whether or not to expand the welfare state and increase state control of the economy) and for a non-appeasement foreign policy.  Thank heavens Likud seems to have come out on top, and netanyahu will have a chance to form a government.

It's very telling that so much of the media narrative, in both the United States and Israel, has been that returning Netanyahu to the post of Prime Minister "damages relations between the United States and Israel."  Telling, in that it exposes the bias in the media in both countries.  In fact, Netanyahu is quite popular in the United States, among Republicans, for one, and even more among conservatives and sane libertarians (such as yours truly).  The bad relations are between Bibi and Barack Hussein, his administration, and that part of the foreign policy establishment that sides with him.  They certainly are not the totality of "the United States," and once Obama is gone from office it's hard to see why the alleged bad relations between the two countries would persist.  The media definition of  appears to count the majority party in Congress and a substantial share of the American electorate as "not part of the United States."  That's par for the course, since we live in a world where the administration can declare there's no reason to talk of Islamic extremism, and but regularly declares his political opponents "extremists" and sets the IRS and DHS after them.

One of the things I most appreciated about Netanyahu's campaign is that, at the end, he declared that if he returned as P.M., he would block the establishment of a Palestinian state.  I appreciated this for two reasons.  First, a Palestinian state under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas is unacceptable, since Abbas declares his goal of eliminating Israel.  (So much for a two state solution.)  The more likely scenario, a Palestinian state under the murderous Hamas, would be even worse.  Second, how refreshing to hear a politician take a firm stance on a controversial position.  One can imagine a Jeb Bush, a Chris Christie, a Hillary Clinton, or a Barack Obama, trying to frame a position that appeals to a wide swath of voters, by basically speaking mush.  It's good to hear a politician take  strong position, and actually think that he means it.  These days, that kind of moral certainty too often comes from the likes of ISIS or a Putin.  It's great that one of the good guys publicly takes such a stance... and then wins.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Obama on extremist Islam

Quite a number of people -- mostly critics -- have noted Barack Obama's steadfast and explicit refusal to recognize such a thing as "Islamic terrorism," and his insistence that extremists are not really Islamic, but follow a false, perverted ideology that is not Islamic. This argument has become standard for White House and State Department spokesmen who have followed suit, often to the point of absurdity as they trip over themselves trying to explain why ISIS, say, isn't Islamic.  Anyone who follows Unforeseen Contingencies knows that "we" think it glaringly obvious that there's such a thing as extremist Islam and that it's incompatible with civilization.  So how to account for Obama's strange position?

One argument, usually from supporters, is that this is actually well-considered strategic policy.  This account on the Beirut to Beltway blog is the most reasonable defense of this I've seen.  But I don't buy it.  If that's it, there are plenty of other things often labeled "Islamic" that he seems quite comfortable with, e.g. the Muslim Brotherhood.  For another, it requires us to impose an interpretation on his words.  But, as I'll argue, it makes more sense to simply take them at face value and assume he means what he says.  He's consistent, after all.

So consider the critics.  Some critics -- Sean Hannity, for example -- argue that Obama is incredibly naive.  That's hard to believe.  It's not as though the rest of us have access to better information than the president does, and even a superficial glance shows that Boko Haram, Al Shabab, ISIS, and the many incarnations of Al Qaeda all claim Islam as their inspiration and Sharia as their goal.  Naivete seems a weak explanation at best -- it really seems to be "steadfast refusal" rather than confusion.

Another explanation is political correctness.  Blogger "Lorenzo from Oz" has a particularly insightful analysis of this phenomenon.  I think this goes a long way to explaining why leftist academics sympathize with Islamism, and probably explains a good part of the machinations of the Obama administration and foreign policy establishment.  (That, plus "following orders" is darn near a complete explanation.)  But "political correctness" and the philosophy behind it is another argument that ultimately amounts to a failure on the part of those who insist that Islam is blameless to really understand the nature of Islamism.

I don't think these explanations explain Barack Obama's position, and I'd like to offer a different one -- one that is based entirely on taking his own words at face value.  Barack Obama has repeatedly called violent extremism and terrorism done in the name of Islam to be a perversion of Islam.  In doing so, he is taking a theological position, and it is one that has been made by a number of people and groups that are Islamist -- that is, who believe political systems should be Islamized, made into compliance with the Koran and Sharia, but that terrorism is the wrong -- and even immoral -- route to this.  I first encountered this position in 1989, in the discussion with my Pakistani friend I've occasionally mentioned.  He made the point to me not that the ultimate goals of jihadi terrorists were wrong (the spread of Islam, including Sharia, throughout the world), but that their methods  -- terror and violence -- were wrong.  As I understand it, many others, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, make the same argument: terrorism is unIslamic.  But political Islam and the imposition of Sharia is Islamic.  This is a theological position, based on particular interpretations of of the Koran and Hadith.  When Barack Obama argues that violent extremism is unIslamic, he makes exactly this point.  I have never heard him suggest that Islamism is in any way a perversion of the Koran, nor, for that matter, in any way objectionable.  To the contrary, his statements suggest he is supportive of Islamism, at least mildly.

Given all that we've seen in his presidency, his speech in Cairo in 2009 seems much less bizarre.  Whether he's secretly a Muslim or not I neither know nor care (I suspect he has no serious religious beliefs at all and is a de facto atheist), but he knows Islam, I think well, from "three continents," and think of it with a great deal of sympathy and respect -- hence his references to the "holy Koran," "the prophet Mohammed," and "the revelation of Islam."  Given his background, he surely must understand Islam better than most Americans (I cannot fathom how he could be naive on Islam) and his pointed refusal to say anything at all against political Islam is telling.  I think he is sympathetic to Islamism.  Hence:
If one takes everything Obama has said, along with his actions, all of it is consistent with him being quite sympathetic to Islamism.  This is perfectly consistent with his condemnation of Al Qaeda, ISIS, et al., and willingness to bomb them.  He's quite clear, it is violent extremism he opposes -- not political Islam.  And those really are not the same thing.

So what to make of all this?  Based simply on his own words and action, Barack Obama is sympathetic to authoritarian -- totalitarian -- political Islam. He's also hostile to the American founders' principles of strictly limited government.  Rudy Giuliani recently said Barack Obama does not love America and was widely criticized.  But Giuliani is right.  What America is, fundamentally, is a set of ideas -- individual rights as the fundamental political value, government that exists and governs only with the consent of the citizens, and strict constraints on the powers of government.  These are completely incompatible with his progressivism and his leftism, as well as with Sharia and Islamism.  This is an extremely dangerous thing.  We should regard Obama the same way a president would have been viewed during the Cold War had one publicly defended Marxism-Leninism, criticized America's Constitutional system, and acted as a fellow-traveller.  He'd have been considered an enemy infiltrator, even if he had not been recruited by the KGB.  So too Barack Obama.  Again, I think he's not a Muslim, but his words and actions are more sympathetic to Islamism than to American political values.  He ought to be regarded as infiltrator.  His own words suggest this interpretation.

In this light, reconsider the following lines from his 2009 Cairo speech: 

"I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons."

He certainly failed in  promoting nuclear disarmament.  But given this, what's his "second best?"  No single nation -- e.g. the United States -- should choose who has nuclear weapons and who does not, and it's unfair that  some nations -- e.g. Israel -- should have nuclear weapons  while others do not.  Is that an unfair reading?  I don't think so.  This is chilling.

It's not just a few actions here and there, a few cherry-picked comments taken out of context.  If one  one considers the broad picture, there's a long train of actions, pursuing invariably the same object that evinces a design. Barack Obama is an enemy of the American system, and it's remarkable to me that so many people fail, or refuse, to see it.

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