Book Burning Morons

Here is the Nazi book burning scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Good thing we don’t have idiots in this country who go around burning books.

sjsu_bookfire

Those must be a couple of teabaggers, the sort of idiots who go around burning books that challenge their narrow, ignorant view of the world. Oh wait. I found this picture on the blog Watt’s Up with That. It turns out that these two people are from the San Jose State University Meteorology Department.

From the Fahrenheit 451 department comes this indictment of California’s higher education’s “tolerance” for opposing views. When I first got the tip on this, I thought to myself “nobody can be this stupid to photograph themselves doing this” but, here they are, right from the San Jose State University Meteorology Department web page:

The caption from the SJSU website reads:

This week we received a deluge of free books from the Heartland Institute {this or this }. The book is entitled “The Mad, Mad, Made World of Climatism”. SHown above, Drs. Bridger and Clements test the flammability of the book.

Maybe they just can’t help themselves, note the pictures on the wall.

Here is a screencap of the website relevant section:

SJSU_book_burn

SJSU Meteorology page is here: http://www.sjsu.edu/meteorology/

Fully archived here:

http://www.webcitation.org/6GJvAbb2t

This is the link for book:The Mad Mad Mad World of Climatism

I think Drs. Bridger and Clements have proved the point of the book quite well.

I am shocked that tolerant, liberal academics would burn books and suppress dissenting points of view. I thought that universities were centers of open inquiry. I guess we know who the real book burning morons are.

 

Cinco de Mayo

Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of...
Charge of the Mexican Cavalry at the Battle of Puebla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today is Cinco de Mayo, or the Fifth or May. Contrary to what is commonly believed, (including myself), Cinco de Mayo is actually more of an American, or at least a Mexican-American, holiday than a Mexican one. Cinco de Mayo is only celebrated regionally in Mexico, Primarily in the state of Puebla and Vera Cruz. Schools are closed on this day, but it is not an official national holiday in Mexico.

 

Cinco de Mayo celebrates the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of  Puebla on May 5, 1862. In 1861, the Mexican government was bankrupt and President Benito Juarez suspended payments on Mexico’s foreign debt. In response Britain, France, and Spain sent naval forces to occupy the city of Vera Cruz and demand payment on the debts Mexico owed them. Juarez managed to come to an arraignment with Britain and Spain, but the French, ruled by Emperor Napoleon III had other ideas.

 

Louis Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon I Bonaparte. He had somehow managed to get himself elected as president of the Second Republic of  France in 1848, but he decided that president was not a grand enough title for a Bonaparte and in 1851 he seized dictatorial power in France and named himself Emperor. In spite of being the nephew of Napoleon I, Napoleon III was not a particularly aggressive Emperor and was mostly content to have France at peace with other European powers. With the crisis in Mexico, however, Napoleon III saw an opportunity for France to gain an empire in Latin America. The United States was involved in the Civil War and was in no position to try to enforce the Monroe Doctrine. In fact, an additional benefit to French occupation of Mexico would be to give France a base with which to send aid to the Confederate States, keeping the nation divided and unable to resist the French conquest.

 

The French army invaded Mexico with 8000 men under the command of General Charles de Lorencez late in 1861. This army marched from Vera Cruz in April of 1862 and defeated Mexican forces led by Ignacio Zaragoza Seguin on April 28. Seguin retreated to the city of Puebla where the Mexicans had two forts. Seguin had only 4500 badly armed and trained men to defend the city. It seemed likely that the French would crush the Mexicans and march on to Mexico City without and further resistance.

 

On May 5, Lorencez attacked the forts with 6500 men. Against all odds the Mexicans successfully defended the forts against three assaults. By the third assault, the French artillery had run out of ammunition, so the infantry had to attack without artillery support. They were driven back and the French had to fall back. Then, Seguin attacked with his cavalry while the Mexican infantry outflanked the French on both sides of their positions. The French were routed with 462 men killed, while the Mexicans only suffered 83 dead. This unlikely victory has been an inspiration for Mexican patriots ever since.

 

The victory was a short-lived one. Napoleon III sent reinforcements to Mexico and the French were able to conquer the country. Napoleon III placed the Austrian Hapsburg Maximilian as the first Emperor of the Mexican Empire. He was also the last Emperor, since as soon as the United States was finished with the Civil War, the U S government made it clear to Napoleon III that it would not tolerate a French colony on the southern border. Since Napoleon III did not want to fight a war against battle hardened Civil War veterans, he removed the French troops. Maximilian, despite the fact that he sincerely tried to govern Mexico well, was quickly overthrown and executed.

 

Although Benito Juarez declared that the anniversary of the Battle of Puebla would be a national holiday, Cinco de Mayo was first celebrated by Mexicans in the American Southwest, the territories the US gained in the Mexican War. The former Mexicans began to celebrate Cinco de Mayo both as a way to express their Mexican identity and to show their support for the North in the Civil War. It may seem odd that these unwilling Americans would care about a war half a continent away, but the Mexicans were against slavery and Hispanics insisted that California enter the United States as a free state. Cinco de Mayo gained in popularity in the 1960s with the rise of Latino activism and still more in the 1980s when beer companies realized that the celebratory nature of the holiday would be a good marketing tool to sell more beer.

 

So happy Cinco de Mayo, or should I say feliz Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

 

 

 

The Religion of the Samurai

Cover of "The Religion of the Samurai: A ...
Cover via Amazon

 

The Religion of the Samurai by Kaiten Nukariya is somewhat misnamed in that this book does not really deal with the religious beliefs or practices of Japan’s warrior class. Rather, this is a book about the Buddhist sect known as Zen that many of that class followed. There are many Buddhist sects or denominations practiced in Japan and the Zen Buddhism has had a wide following beyond the Samurai, yet somehow Zen has become especially associated with the Samurai and with Japan generally.

 

Zen Buddhism is part of that branch of Buddhism known as the Mahayana (Great Vehicle) or Northern school, as opposed to the Theravada (Teaching of the Elders) or Southern school of Buddhism. Zen Buddhism is distinguished from other Buddhist sects by the belief in sudden, inspired enlightenment through meditation and personal instruction from a teacher. Zen Buddhist deemphasizes the study of scripture and doctrine, holding that enlightenment cannot be truly described by dead words in books. Even the instructor does not so much teach truths or beliefs as encourage the student to experience enlightenment on his own.

 

The Religion of the Samurai is a short book, only about 160 pages in print, but it covers the subject fairly well. The book was written a century ago, but the basic facts about Zen Buddhism haven’t changed and the book does not seem to be out of date, except for a few expressions here and there. The author begins with a quick and very general survey of both major schools of Buddhism before moving to the beginnings of Zen or Ch’an in China, placing the origins within the Mahayanist context. He goes on to tell of the transmission of Zen to Japan and the sect’s influence on Japanese history and culture.

 

The bulk of this short book is taken up with an attempt to explain the teachings of Zen. I say attempt not because the author is unsuccessful, but because by Zen’s own teachings, it is impossible to fully understand Zen without experiencing it. Still, Mr. Nukariya does an adequate job explaining Zen’s views on the nature of the universe, human nature, good and evil, and Enlightenment and its attainment. There are a few faults, though. The Kindle version of this book is not well formatted and the footnotes are interspersed in the main text. This problem may have been corrected in later versions of the ebook. I also noticed that the author tends to disparage other Buddhist sects; especially those of the Theravada school, which he, along with many other Mahayanists refer to as Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle). This is not really a fault, but it should be noted that Mr. Nukariya was promoting Zen with this book, not providing an unbiased account.

 

 

 

I can recommend this book to anyone wishing for an introduction to this fascinating religion.

 

 

 

A Boy and His Atom

This has to be the coolest thing I have seen for a long time. This video is a stop motion film created by moving individual atoms around.

Here is more information about this project.

We’re having a hard time getting our heads around just how astoundingly small the scale is, here. Each frame of the IBM video measures a paltry 45 x 25 nanometers. A single inch measures 25 million nanometers across. Putting that into perspective, one nanometer is a thousandth of a thousandth of the size of a piece of rice. So, it would take about 1,000 frames of the film laid side-by-side to extend across a single human hair. Needless to say, this video is HUGELY magnified.

In light of the achievement, Guinness World Records has certified the 250 frame film as the “Smallest Stop-Motion Film.” The project showcases IBM’s efforts to design advanced data storage solutions based on single atoms.

IBM did it by moving atoms with a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). The computer-controlled device weighs two tons, operates at a temperature of -268 degrees Celsius (to make the atoms hold still), and magnifies surfaces over 100 million times. The microscope allows scientists to control temperature, pressure, and vibrations at extremely exact levels, thus making it possible to move atoms with great precision.

When making the stop-motion film, the researchers used the STM to control a super-sharp electrically charged needle along a copper surface. The needle was positioned a mere one nanometer away from the surface, from where it could physically pull atoms and molecules to an exact location. At such a close distance to the surface, the charge can “jump the gap” — an effect in quantum physics called tunnelling.

Interestingly, the atoms made a unique sound when they were moved, allowing the scientists to know how many positions they actually moved.

As the process moved along, the researchers rendered still images of the individually arranged atoms, creating the remarkable 242 frame movie. It took the IBM team two weeks of 18-hour days to complete.

“This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world,” said IBM’s Andreas Heinrich. “The reason we made this was not to convey a scientific message directly, but to engage with students, to prompt them to ask questions.”

I don’t know if there is any practical use for this technology, but then as Benjamin Franklin said when asked what use was electricity, “What use is a newborn baby?” I think that the fact that the scientists at IBM have learned to move individual atoms around like blocks is absolutely amazing.

They Want Sharia

It has long been an article of faith among many in the West and especially among our learned elites that the vast majority of Muslims are essentially moderate people who want freedom and democracy just as the people of the West do. Terrorists such as Osama bin Ladin and the Tsarnaev brothers who held to be part of a tiny minority of extremists who twist and distort the peaceful teachings of Islam. The problem with this view is that it is simply not true. While the great majority of Muslims are not terrorists and would prefer to live in peace with their neighbors, the truth is that the doctrines of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood are a lot closer to the mainstream of Islamic teachings than many in the West would like to admit.

There is a recent public opinion poll of the citizens of various Muslim countries which suggests that a large number of people in these countries would prefer to live under Islamic law or Sharia. Here is the story in Yahoo News which was originally published by Reuters.

Large majorities in the Muslim world want the Islamic legal and moral code of sharia as the official law in their countries, but they disagree on what it includes and who should be subject to it, an extensive new survey says.

Suicide bombing was mostly rejected In the study by the Washington-based Pew Forum, but it won 40 percent support in the Palestinian territories, 39 percent in Afghanistan, 29 percent in Eygpt and 26 percent in Bangladesh.

Three-quarters of respondents said abortion is morally wrong and 80 percent or more rejected homosexuality and sex outside of marriage.

Over three-quarters of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia want sharia courts to decide family law issues such as divorce and property disputes, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said on Tuesday.

Views on punishments such as chopping off thieves’ hands or decreeing death for apostates is more evenly divided in much of the Islamic world, although more than three-quarters of Muslims in South Asia say they are justified.

To be fair, it is likely that many of those who support the implementation of Sharia may not realize some of the implications of such rules. It is likely that after a decade or so of living under Sharia, many would come to detest it.

Those punishments have helped make sharia controversial in some non-Islamic countries, where some critics say radical Muslims want to impose it on Western societies, but the survey shows views in Muslim countries are far from monolithic.

“Muslims are not equally comfortable with all aspects of sharia,” the study said. “Most do not believe it should be applied to non-Muslims.”

Unlike codified Western law, sharia is a loosely defined set of moral and legal guidelines based on the Koran, the sayings of Prophet Mohammad (hadith) and Muslim traditions. Its rules and advice cover everything from prayers to personal hygiene.

Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist who was special adviser for the project, said Muslims in poor and repressive societies tended to identify sharia with basic Islamic values such as equality and social justice.

“In those societies, you tend to see significant support for sharia,” she told journalists on a conference call. By contrast, Muslims who have lived under “narrow if not rigid” Islamic systems were less supportive of sharia as the official law.

Unlike Western law codes which leave a wide space of private actions, Islamic law tends to be totalitarian, in the sense that even private actions and beliefs are covered by the law. If a Man’s home is his castle in the West, under Sharia his home and his life belongs to Allah.

More than four-fifths of the 38,000 Muslims interviewed in 39 countries said non-Muslims in their countries could practice their faith freely and that this was good.

This view was strongest in South Asia, where 97 percent of Bangladeshis and 96 percent of Pakistanis agreed, while the lowest Middle Eastern result was 77 percent in Egypt.

The survey polled only Muslims and not minorities. In several Muslim countries, embattled Christian minorities say they cannot practice their faith freely and are subject to discrimination and physical attacks.

The survey produced mixed results on questions relating to the relationship between politics and Islam.

Democracy wins slight majorities in key Middle Eastern states – 54 percent in Iraq, 55 percent in Egypt – and falls to 29 percent in Pakistan. By contrast, it stands at 81 percent in Lebanon, 75 percent in Tunisia and 70 percent in Bangladesh.

In most countries surveyed, Muslims were more worried about Islamist militancy than any other form of religious violence.

I am sure that if a pollster had asked Whites in the Jim Crow South whether the Blacks were content with their lot, the great majority of Whites would have answered, sincerely, yes. No where in the Islamic world are Christians free to worship as they please. At best they can hope for a grudging tolerance. I have to wonder just what the respondents mean when they talk about democracy. It is no good if they are thinking democracy is a way to vote away other people’s’ rights and liberty.  Freedom is more than just having regular elections, even if they are free and honest. In order for a people to be truly free, they have to learn to respect the rights of others. No one wants to be oppressed. The trick is not wanting to oppress other people, especially the despised minority. So far, the human rights situation throughout the Middle East does not lend much support for the idea that the people of that region really understand this. The article ends on a slightly optimistic note.

Views on whether women should decide themselves if they should wear a headscarf vary greatly, from 89 percent in Tunisia and 79 percent in Indonesia saying yes and 45 percent in Iraq and 30 percent in Afghanistan saying no.

Majorities from 74 percent in Lebanon to 96 percent in Malaysia said wives should always obey their husbands.

Only a minority saw Sunni-Shi’ite tensions as a very big problem, ranging from 38 percent in Lebanon and 34 percent in Pakistan to 23 percent in Iraq and 14 percent in Turkey.

Conflict with other religions loomed larger, with 68 percent in Lebanon saying it was a big problem, 65 percent in Tunisia, 60 percent in Nigeria and 57 percent in Pakistan.

A section of the survey on U.S. Muslims noted they “sometimes more closely resemble other Americans than they do Muslims around the world”. Only about half say their closest friends are Muslim, compared to 95 percent of Muslims globally.

So American Muslims are assimilating. That’s good as far as it goes. I hope there is never any sort of religious revival among our Muslim population.