Archive for the ‘What’s Happening’ Category

Former Trump Supporter

February 1, 2016

I would have thought that John Hawkins of Right Wing News would have had more sense than to ever be a fan of Donald Trump, but we are all subject of the delusions and follies of the popular mood and at least Hawkins was able to see through Trump and change his mind, as he writes in this column at Townhall.com.

I understand why people like Donald Trump because I was a big fan of his as well.

I loved the fact that he’s a charismatic, politically incorrect fighter and a successful businessman. I am also genuinely grateful to him for changing the debate on immigration and starting a conversation about Muslim immigration that we should have had a long time ago. I don’t believe a ban on Muslim immigrants would ever pass

Congress nor do I think it’s practical (How would you realistically implement it?), but I do think blocking future refugees and immigrants from countries where Al-Qaeda and ISIS hold sway is more doable because of Trump. That’s a little ironic because he was initially in favor of bringing in Syrian refugees, but it’s true. Additionally, after years of being ignored, scorned and poorly represented by Republican leaders in Congress, it’s nice to have a politician who actually goes overboard to pander to conservatives.

So far, I agree with what Hawkins has to say. I can understand the appeal of Trump too. He is saying all the right things, including a good deal that needs to be said. The problem is that when I look over Trump’s past history, I get the impression that he is willing to say anything his audience wants to hear. I don’t think Trump is for anybody but himself and if he is elected, a lot of his current supporters are going to be very disappointed in what he actually does.

And there is this.

When you have genuine affection for someone, it’s easy to block out his faults. In Trump’s case, this is being taken to such an extreme that it’s starting to feel like we’re in Jonestown a few days before the Kool-Aid is handed out. Tell me I’m wrong if you like, but even Trump made reference to that when he said,

“And you know what else they say about my people? The polls! They say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters. It’s incredible.”

Since when do conservatives engage in this type of blind loyalty towards ANY politician?

I did not like the creepy cult of personality that some of President Obama’s supporters seemed to be following. Trump’s supporters haven’t gone quite so far in hailing him as their messiah, but I don’t think that the sort of blind faith some of them seem to have in this man is a good idea.

But here is where I start to disagree with Hawkins.

Similarly, Donald Trump talks incessantly about polls that are favorable to him, but the polls have also nconsistently shown that he loses to Hillary Clinton. Worse yet, his favorable/unfavorable ratings are 33/58. That’s the same as Jimmy Carter in early 1980. It’s WORSE than Walter Mondale. Trump even has a higher unfavorable rating with the general public than Nixon AFTER Watergate. It would be easier to rehabilitate Enron’s image than to make Trump President with those poll numbers.

Saying that a candidate with those poll numbers couldn’t win an election without a miracle is something that anyone who knows something about elections would normally agree on.  Yet, with Trump, many people seem unfazed. Basically, they think he’s going to use some kind of “Trump magic” that will guarantee a victory.

I am not so sure this polling matters so much anymore. Trump is very good at getting what he wants and if he really wants to be president, I think that he will be president. He is not playing by the same rules as regular politicians and he has shown extraordinary skill in managing the media to promote himself. Most politicians are afraid to say or do anything that might lead to negative coverage. Trump seems to realize that it doesn’t matter what the reporters and pundits are saying about him, whether positive or negative, so long as they are talking about Trump. The outrageous things that he sometimes says do not hurt him because they keep him in the public eye.

Trump is not a fool. I am sure that he is aware of his high unfavorability in the polls and he is undoubtedly considering ways to win over the people who currently view him negatively. Whether he is successful or not is unknown, but it would be unwise to underestimate him.

The problem with that is that successful though Donald Trump may be, he fails all the time. He’s had four bankruptcies. Then there’s Trump steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump the Game, Trump Magazine, Trump Mortgage, Trump Airlines, Trump University, Trump Casinos, the New Jersey Generals and happily, he also lost a lawsuit and was unable to take a widow’s home via eminent domain so he could build a limo parking lot. Trump has been a successful businessman, but an awful lot of investors who put money into his ill-advised projects because they just assumed he’d find a way to win have gotten burned doing business deals with him.

Trump’s failures could actually be spun as a point in his favor. Notice that despite the many unsuccessful ventures he has been in, Trump is still one of the richest men in America. Trump has learned to manage his failures in a way that leads to greater success, at least for himself. We learn more from our failures than our successes and this ability to manage failure is more impressive than an unbroken string of successes.  The fact that Trump doesn’t give up but keeps on trying new things speaks well of his character  and determination.

I am still against a Trump presidency though, for much the same reasons as Hawkins.

Since Trump is first and foremost a dealmaker, what makes you think you’d like the deals someone who doesn’t share your principles would cut on your behalf any more than you liked the deals John Boehner made? What makes you think Trump would be any different than another celebrity like Arnold Schwarzenegger who talked a good game and then ended up governing from the left-of-center once he was in office?

Also, as entertaining and successful as Trump may be, he doesn’t have the right temperament to be President. It’s a serious, sober job and even if you like him, you have to admit that he’s crude, mean-spirited, narcissistic, unpredictable and conspiratorial. Would you consider any other candidate who trashed POWs, “I like people that weren’t captured,” made fun of the disabled (He’s done this more than once), said he never asked God for forgiveness and keeps making creepy comments about how he’d like to date his daughter, “(Ivanka) does have a very nice figure. I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her?”Even if you’re willing to overlook those comments because you love Trump so much, people who aren’t Trump fans will not give him a pass. That will be doubly true after the Democrats hammer him with a billion dollars’ worth of negative ads that he won’t be able to effectively respond to because even Trump admits that hedoesn’t know how he would finance his campaign in a general election.

If we nominate Trump, we’ll have our third straight lose/lose election where most conservatives will have a candidate who doesn’t truly represent their views as the GOP nominee. Of course, if Trump is our nominee, I will vote for him and I will try to do what I can to help him win, but it would be easier to ski uphill than to get a wildly unpopular Rockefeller Republican like Trump into the White House.

I will not vote for Trump. If he is the Republican nominee, I will either not vote for president at all, or vote for the Libertarian candidate, which amounts to the same thing.

 

 

 

Have We Found Aliens?

January 25, 2016

It is just barely possible that we have discovered the first evidence for some sort of extraterrestrial intelligence. At any rate, astronomers have discovered a star that is something of an anomaly, according to this article.

Three months ago, news broke that a giant “alien megastructure” could exist around a bizarre-looking star 1,500 light-years away.

While the prospect of aliens was first launched by Penn State astronomer Jason Wright, almost everyone in the astronomy community agreed that the chances that this was the case were “very low.

Now, the latest investigations into this strange star by Louisiana State University astronomerBradley Schaefer have reignited the alien theory, New Scientist reported.

What makes this star, KIC8462852, so bizarre is the drastic changes in light we see from it over time. Many stars experience temporary fluctuations in brightness, increasing and decreasing in luminosity over time, but KIC8462852’s changes are severe by comparison.

Astronomers refer to stars that experience those fluctuations in luminosity as variable stars. A star can change in brightness either because something occasionally blocks the star’s light, usually a companion star or perhaps a planet, or because the internal processes of the star cause variations in luminosity. Probably every star is at least a little variable. The Sun has its eleven year sunspot cycle, for example. Whether the cause of a star’s variability is external or internal, its cycle of variability tends to be regular. That does not seem to be the case with KIC8462852.

Between 2009 and 2013, astronomers using the Kepler space telescope discovered that it would sometimes lose up to 20% of its brightness. What’s more, the changes didn’t follow any obvious pattern.

That would suggest something gigantic must be blocking the light at random times, meaning that it couldn’t be a planet or other regular orbiting object because that would generate a distinct pattern of dimming light. It must be something that changes shape over time, thereby blocking different levels of light at random intervals.

Could the cause be artificial?

An alien megastructure, called a Dyson swarm, was suggested as one explanation for what scientists have observed, but the most likely reason astronomers came up with was comets — a giant family of them.

But Shaefer says not so fast.

“The comet-family idea was reasonably put forth as the best of the proposals, even while acknowledging that they all were a poor lot,” Schaefer told New Scientist. “But now we have a refutation of the idea, and indeed, of all published ideas.”

To make his discovery, Schaefer had to dig deep down into the astronomy archives at Harvard. It turns out, astronomers have data on KIC8462852 dating back as far as 1890.

By analyzing over 1,200 measurements of this star’s brightness taken from 1890 through 1989, Schaefer found that the irregular dimming of KIC8462852 has been going on for over 100 years. Schaefer published his findings in the online preprint server arXiv.org.

What’s more, he explains in his paper that this “century-long dimming trend requires an estimated 648,000 giant comets (each with 200 km diameter) all orchestrated to pass in front of the star within the last century,” which he said is “completely implausible.”

By killing the comet theory, Schaefer has brought us one step closer to finding out what is really happening around KIC8462852.

At the same time, he’s also reignited the possibility that the source could be an alien megastructure that an advanced alien civilization has been slowly building over time. One thing’s certain for Schaefer: The bizarre dimmings are probably caused by a single, physical mechanism that’s undergoing some type of ongoing change.

“The century-long dimming and the day-long dips are both just extreme ends of a spectrum of timescales for unique dimming events, so by Ockham’s Razor, all this is produced by one physical mechanism,” Shaefer said in his paper. “This one mechanism does not appear as any isolated catastrophic event in the last century, but rather must be some ongoing process with continuous effects.”

Schaefer isn’t the only one interested in learning more about KIC8462852. Late last year, astronomer Doug Vakoch and his team at the new organization called SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International — not to be confused with the SETI Institute — went hunting for aliens around KIC8462852.

They searched for signals that an alien civilization might be beaming toward Earth either in radio or visible wavelengths, but ultimately they came up empty handed. So, if it is aliens, then they’re being awfully quiet.

Is it aliens? If this is some structure created by an extraterrestrial civilization, we shouldn’t expect to be receiving any sort of messages from them. They would have no reason to believe that there is any intelligent life here on Earth since any radio waves we have emitted cannot be farther than about 100 light years away by now. Any message to or from KIC8462582 would take 1500 years to reach its destination. They may have sent a message last year but we won’t get it for a long time.

I tend to think, however, that the explanation for the strange behavior of KIC8462582 will turn out to be due to an entirely natural phenomenon.I think that as we begin to explore the universe we will find that life is fairly common. The elements and compounds that make up the basic components of life are found throughout the universe and if the current understanding of the earliest history of the Earth is accurate, it seems that life arose on this planet as soon as it was physically possible. Scientists do not know precisely how life began on Earth, but I think that they will find that where ever the right conditions are found, there will be life of some sort. I think, though, that most of the life we find in the universe is going to be simple and primitive, some equivalent of terrestrial bacteria. Bacteria were the only form of life found on Earth for most of its history. Intelligent life must be still rarer. Human beings have only been around much less than 1% of the Earth’s history and we have only had to capability to communicate by radio for a little over a century. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that the development of intelligent life or a technological civilization was inevitable and considering the strange twists and turns of the history of life it  may not be very probable. I think then, that we will find some few worlds with alien plants or animals, but that we are probably the only intelligent form of life in our galaxy.

Even if there are extraterrestrial civilizations, our relations with them will not be like Star Wars or Star Trek in which there are a number of different races at about the same level of technology. It is more likely that if two civilizations make contact, one civilization will be millions of years ahead of the other. Any space wars are likely to be short and decisive with the more advanced civilization quickly overcoming the more primitive. With that in mind, maybe we shouldn’t be trying to draw attention to ourselves. I would hate to think that there is a fleet of conquistadors from KIC8462852 heading this way.

Drop Out Jeb

January 19, 2016

That is the advice Glenn Reynolds gave to Jeb Bush in his column in USA Today last week.

Jeb Bush’s campaign is going nowhere, and that’s bad news for Jeb, but it’s good news for America. Now he just needs to perform one final service by dropping out. As a first step, he could follow Rand Paul out the door and skip Thursday night’s debate.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote in these pages that Jeb shouldn’t run.

I wrote: “There’s nothing really wrong with Jeb Bush. By all accounts he was a good governor in Florida. He seems like a nice guy. And I have no doubt that he’d make a better president than, say, Barack Obama, though at this point in Obama’s term that’s setting the bar pretty low. Even the National Journal, which called Obama’s past year ‘pretty awful,’ might agree.”

I continued: “But nice guy or not, he’s old blood. Leaving aside the matter of the Bush name — though neither his 2016 opponents nor his 2016 supporters will — he last ran for political office back in 2002. He’s fresh only insofar as he’s George W. Bush’syounger brother. Meanwhile, the GOP has a lot of actual fresh blood out there.”

Since then, Jeb’s campaign has never really gotten off the ground. Despite raising vast sums of money — and enriching various consultants in the process — Jeb hasn’t had a message that resonates with the American people. He has come across as entitled, expecting the nomination to just be handed to him because of his last name (Who does he think he is? Hillary?) and unwilling to make the sale.

I don’t know why Jeb Bush decided to run for the presidency this year. It has been more than a decade since his last political campaign and he is obviously out of practice and out of touch. I have never heard or read of anyone who is actually excited about the idea of Jeb Bush being the next president, except perhaps for a few big donors that make up what is called the Republican establishment. Bush himself doesn’t seem to know just why he is running.

But it is the last four paragraphs of Glenn Reynold’s column that I think are worth remembering.

 

But there’s another bright spot. Jeb’s trump card was supposed to be the money. He raised a lot of money, and he has spent a lot of money. But it didn’t help. And that undercuts all the money-in-politics talk we’ve been hearing for years.

Concerns about the impact of money on politics assume that if you buy enough ads, you can elect anybody. If that were true, Jeb would be the front-runner. Instead, he’s running way behind other candidates who, in different ways, have done a better job of addressing voters’ concerns.

It turns out that addressing voters’ concerns is more important than slick TV spots. And that means the only campaign finance “reform” we need is for candidates (and donors) to quit tossing money at consultants and instead to speak to the American people about what the American people care about.

If nothing else comes from Jeb’s candidacy, that’s a valuable lesson indeed. Let’s hope that we learn it.

 

If anyone wants to know the reason that Donald Trump is currently the front runner in the Republican while Bernie Sanders is running a remarkably successful insurgent campaign against Hilary Clinton, they need to understand that Trump and Sanders are, in different ways with different audiences addressing real concerns that many Americans really have about the future of their country in a way that more mainstream candidates have not been able to match. I get the impression that the members of our political establishment have begun to believe that they rule by some divine right rather than at the sufferance of the people. I don’t have much liking for Donald Trump and still less for Bernie Sanders, but they are providing a badly needed shakeup in both parties.

 

Al Jazeera America Shutting Down

January 17, 2016

I was a little surprised to learn that Al Jazeera America is shutting down its cable news network. Here is the story from the BBC.

Al Jazeera America will shut down its cable news channel despite spending heavily to break into the US market.

CEO Al Anstey said the business model “is simply not sustainable in light of the economic challenges”.

Al Jazeera America launched in 2013 vowing to be a more serious and in-depth alternative to CNN and Fox News.

The Qatar-based broadcaster spent millions of dollars hiring top US journalists but struggled to bring viewers to its news programmes.

Al Jazeera promised to expand its coverage of the US online after the channel shuts down in April.

The network replaced Current TV, a network founded by former US Vice President Al Gore.

The Qatar-based broadcaster bought Current TV for around $500 million (£308 million).

Al Jazeera America was available in about 60 million American homes. Politiconotes that the channel reached an average of 19,000 viewers each day in 2015, far fewer than its competitors.

The channel struggled with internal turmoil, as well, including multiple discrimination lawsuits that ended up ousting its founding CEO.

I wonder why Al Jazeera found it so difficult to break into the US market. Part of the reason might be that many American viewers did not believe that a news network funded by the Qatari government to be a trustworthy source of news. The Arabic name might not have helped. Al Jazeera sounds as if it could be the Osama bin Laden News Network. I think, though, that Al Jazeera’s main difficulty was simply that the North American market for TV news is saturated. We already have Fox, MSNBC, CNN, not to mention ABC, NBC, and CBS, and the BBC from across the Pond. There is probably simply not enough room for another news network. I also believe that the audience for TV news is declining, just as it as been for newspapers. I am too lazy to look up the ratings right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a shift towards the internet as the major source of news for many people, particularly for younger people. I notice that Al Jazeera is maintaining their online activities.

In a way it’s a shame, though. American news badly needs more diversity of viewpoints. Most of the news we get here in America is increasingly superficial and celebrity oriented, not to mention biased to the left. Fox is perhaps more evenhanded than most, with a bias to the right, but one right center network and a host of leftist networks, all based in the US hardly makes for much diversity. At least, we have the internet.

Four New Elements

January 16, 2016

Despite all the problems and tumult in the world, the progress of science marches on. According to this article in Yahoo News, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has officially added four recently discovered elements to the periodic table.

Four new elements have been permanently added to the periodic table, after their discoveries were verified by the global chemistry organization that oversees the table. The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) last week announced that elements 113, 115, 117, and 118 have met its criteria for discovery, making them the first elements to be added to the periodic table since 2011. Their addition also completes the seventh row of the periodic table.

All four man-made elements currently have placeholder names, and will be officially named over the next few months. Elements 115, 117, and 118 were discovered by a team of scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. The Russian-American team had also claimed discovery of element 113, currently known as ununtrium, but IUPAC credited a team from the Riken institute in Japan. Element 113 will therefore be the first element to be named by researchers in Asia.

“Greater value than an Olympic gold medal.”

Discovering superheavy elements has proven difficult because they rapidly decay. But research has revealed slightly longer lifetimes for more recent superheavy elements, raising hopes that scientists may eventually discover the so-called “island of stability” — a group of elements that are both superheavy and stable. Kosuke Morita, who led research on element 113 at Riken, said in a statement that his team will now “look to the uncharted territory of element 119 and beyond.”

“To scientists, this is of greater value than an Olympic gold medal,” Ryoji Noyori, the former president of Riken and Nobel laureate in chemistry, tells The Guardian.

 

As the article states, the IUPAC gives temporary, or placeholder, names to newly discovered elements until there is some consensus on the official names. This naming can be contentious if more than one team makes a credible claim to be the discoverer of the element. The placeholder name is simply the atomic number of elements expressed in Latin or Greek with “-ium” added. Thus, element 113 is ununtrium. Elements 115, 117, and 118 are ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium.

The-Periodic-Tables-4-New-Elements

These elements are spoken of as being discovered, but it would be more accurate to say that they have been created or synthesized since no element with an atomic number higher than 92, uranium, is found in nature. Elements with higher atomic numbers are radioactive with half-lives too short to have survived since the creation of the Earth and solar system. Every element has unstable, or radioactive, isotopes but every element with an atomic number up to 82, lead, with the exception of technetium, atomic number 43, has at least one staple isotope. I am not sure if scientists know precisely why some isotopes of some elements are stable while others are unstable, but it seems to have something to do with the proportions of protons and neutrons in an atomic nucleus. Thus carbon-12 with 6 protons and 6 neutrons is stable while carbon-14 with 6 protons and 8 neutrons is radioactive. Uranium-238 with 92 protons and 146 neutrons is weakly radioactive with a half-life of over four billion years, but uranium-234 with 92 protons and 142 neutrons is slightly more radioactive with a half-life of 246,000 years.

Periodic table with elements colored according to the half-life of their most stable isotope.   Stable elements: Elements which contain at least one stable isotope;   Slightly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope is very long-lived, with half-life of over two million years;   Moderately radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between 800 and 34,000 years;   Highly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between one day and 103 years;   Significantly radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life between one minute and one day;   Extremely radioactive elements: the most stable isotope has half-life less than a minute. Very little is known about these elements due to their extreme instability and radioactivity.

For elements with atomic numbers higher than uranium’s, there is a tendency to be more radioactive with  shorter half-lives. Americium with an atomic number of 95 has a half-life of around 7370 years. Fermium with atomic number 100 has a half-life of 100 days. Dubnium, atomic number 105, has a half-life of about 28 hours. Elements with higher atomic numbers have half-lives measured in hours, minutes, or seconds. The most stable isotopes of the four new elements, 113, 115, 117, and 118 have half-lives of 20 seconds, 220 milliseconds, 51 milliseconds, and .89 milliseconds, respectively. Strangely, this decline in the length of the half-life does not seem to be as great as expected and it is hoped that at some point there will be the Island of Stability mentioned in the article, where larger atomic nuclei will have the right configuration of protons and neutrons to permit some degree of stability, though whether such atoms will last for seconds, days or years is unknown. Since the processes by which these super heavy elements are created generally only makes a few atoms at a time and these decay quickly the hope is that the elements in the island of stability will be stable enough to permit some research into the chemical and physical properties of super heavy elements.

I don’t suppose there is much practical use for these discoveries, though you never know, but it is a refreshing change to read about people who are adding to humanity’s store of knowledge about the world as opposed to those intent on tearing everything down.

Muslims Beaten Mosques Burned

January 10, 2016

That is the claim made by a recent e-mail I received from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

Last week, a Muslim store owner in New York was beaten by a man yelling, “I kill Muslims!” A pig’s head was left outside a Muslim community center in Philadelphia. And in California, a mosque was set on fire while people prayed inside, and a woman threw hot coffee on Muslims praying in a park.1

And that’s just a partial list of the hate crimes directed at Muslims—and those mistaken to be Muslim because of the color of their skin—sweeping the country.

The only way to stop it is for all of us who reject hate to speak out. Loudly.

That’s why we’re helping jumpstart a nationwide campaign called “Hate Has No Business Here.” We’re organizing small-business owners, community centers, libraries, schools, town halls, places of worship, and others to stand up against Islamophobia.

Will you chip in $3 and help stand up against anti-Muslim hate crimes?

Yes, I’ll chip in.

The wave of Islamophobia since the Paris attacks is terrifying, and the FBI was reporting a disturbing rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes even before Paris.

And with Republican presidential candidates whipping up fear, things could get out of control fast.

That’s why we were so inspired by a couple of small-business owners in Minnesota who launched a nationwide campaign with a simple gesture. They put a sign in their window saying, “Hate has no business here.”

Now we’re teaming up with them and the Main Street Alliance to get these signs posted in businesses all over America.

Your donations will allow us to distribute thousands of posters—and expand the campaign to public spaces across America. We’ll collect stories and photos and drive media coverage to push back against the stories of hate and violence.

Will you chip in $3—and help stand up against anti-Muslim hate crimes?

Click here to chip in.

In the wake of our “We Are Better Than This” ad campaign in The New York Times, we’ve all been looking for more positive steps we could take, together, to turn the tide against hate and religious, racial, or other profiling. “Hate has no business here” is right in that spirit.

Thanks for all you do.

Anna, Erica, Robert, Jo, and the rest of the team

There are many among the progressive left who have a heavy emotional investment in the idea that the American people are racist, intolerant, ignorant rednecks who have to be restrained from going on a murderous frenzy against the Muslims. I suppose this gives them a pleasant feeling of superiority over their countrymen.

The fact is, despite a supposed surge in hate crimes against the Muslims, Jews are far more likely to be the victim of hate crimes than Muslims. It’s not even close. According to the article at snopes.com I linked to:

Hate crimes of all types are, thankfully, fairly rare. And it is true that hate crimes against Jews outnumber the number of hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims. The FBI reported that in 2014, there were 609incidents of hate crimes against Jews and 154 against Muslims.

Case closed? Not quite. This could, after all, be an example of lazy reporting. Sure, the raw number of hate crimes against Jews is higher, but national crime statistics are typically reported as a rate: number of crimes per 100,000 population.

Although estimates of the Jewish population in the U.S. were fairly stable across various websites, estimates of the Muslim population varied dramatically – anywhere from 2.1 million to 6.7 million. The Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study seemed to offer the most reliable and objective statistics on religious affiliation in the United States.

According to the Pew study, Jews and Muslims both represent fairly small proportions of the U.S. population, coming in at 1.9% and 0.9% of the U.S. population as a whole. With a total U.S. population of 318.9 million as of 2014, there are approximately 6.1 million Jews and 2.9 million Muslims in America.

Easy math tells us that although there are roughly twice as many Jews in the U.S. than there are Muslims, hate crimes against Jews occur four times as often. Expressed as more official rates per 100,000 population, Jews suffer from hate crime incidents at a rate of 10.05 incidents per 100,000 population while the Muslim rate is roughly half as much, at 5.37 incidents per 100,000 population.

Meanwhile in Europe, there has been a significant rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes over the past few years, with the rapidly increasing Muslim immigrant population largely responsible. Added to that the fact that there is no place in the majority-Muslim Middle East, outside of Israel, where a Jew can expect to live in peace, and it begins to seem as if the Muslims are far more often the persecutor than the persecuted.

These facts do not excuse hate crimes against Muslims, but they do shatter the narrative of the poor, persecuted Muslims suffering at the hands of the bigoted, Islamophobic Americans. When you consider the number of terrorist attacks against the United States and its allies committed by Muslims over the past decades, American people have shown a remarkable degree of patience and tolerance. If some Christian terrorist organization had been committing attacks like 9/11 in any Middle Eastern country, by now there would not be a Christian alive throughout the entire Middle East. Even now, Christians in the Middle East are in serious danger of extermination for the heinous crime of existing.

As that article points out, hate crimes are rather rare in present day America. Hate crimes make the news precisely because they are something out of the ordinary. If America was really the nation steeped in bigotry that Move0n.org imagines us to be, hate crimes would be a daily occurence, hardly worth mentioning in the news. In fact, in many ways the United States is among the most tolerant nations and Western nations generally are more tolerant than non-Westerners. Yes, we do have a history which includes slavery, segregation, imperialism, etc, but these sort of things are the norm in human history. We are the exception in that we decided such things are wrong and should be stopped. If Moveon.org is concerned with the ill-treatment of religious minorities, their efforts would be better focused in places like the Middle East.

 

Mein Kampf in Germany

January 3, 2016

Hitler’s best-selling book Mein Kampf, or My Struggle, will soon be published in Germany for the first time since the end of World War II. After Hitler’s death at the end of that war, his estate, including the German copyright to Mein Kampf, was taken over by the Bavarian government and it, along with the federal government of Germany has not permitted the publication of Mein Kampf in Germany. It is not actually illegal to own a copy of Hitler’s book, but the German government has tried its best to limit its availability.

As German copyright law permits a book to pass into the public domain seventy years after the death of the author, Mein Kampf will soon be available for publication once more and some scholars are taking advantage of this development by releasing a new, annotated version to the German public.

For 70 years since the Nazi defeat in World War II, copyright law has been used in Germany to prohibit the publication of “Mein Kampf” — the notorious anti-Semitic tome in which Adolf Hitler set out his ideology.

That will change next month when a new edition with critical commentary, the product of several years’ work by a publicly funded institute, hits the shelves.

While historians say it could help fill a gap in Germans’ knowledge of the era, Jewish groups are wary and German authorities are making it clear that they still won’t tolerate any new “Mein Kampf” without annotations.

Under German law, a copyright expires at the end of the year 70 years after an author’s death — in this case, Hitler’s April 30, 1945, suicide in a Berlin bunker as the Soviet army closed in. That means Bavaria’s state finance ministry, which holds the copyright, can no longer use it to prevent the work’s publication beyond Dec. 31.

The book has been published in several other countries; in the U.S., for example, Bavaria never controlled the copyright.

In Germany, many argue that holding back “Mein Kampf” merely created mystique around the book. The idea of at least a partial version with critical commentary for the German market dates back as far as the late 1960s. The Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History, which is behind the new version, sought and was denied permission to produce the book in the mid-1990s when it published a volume of Hitler’s speeches.

Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” — or “My Struggle” — after he was jailed following the failed 1923 coup attempt known as the Beer Hall Putsch. Millions of copies were printed after the Nazis took power in 1933.

The rambling tome set out Hitler’s ultranationalist, anti-Semitic and anti-communist ideology for his National Socialist German Workers Party, or Nazi party, airing the idea of a war of conquest in eastern Europe.

“The book should not be underestimated as a historical source and also as a key to understanding the history of National Socialism,” the director of the Munich institute, Andreas Wirsching, said ahead of the new edition’s mid-January publication.

“Among serious historians in Germany, you won’t find one who is against a commented edition and hasn’t been calling for one for years,” said Sven Felix Kellerhoff, a journalist with the daily Die Welt and a historian who has written about “Mein Kampf” himself. “That goes from conservatives to the left.”

Jewish opinion varies. The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, says that knowledge of “Mein Kampf” is important in explaining Nazism and the Holocaust — so “we do not object to a critical edition, contrasting Hitler’s racial theories with scientific findings, to be at the disposal of research and teaching.”

One of his predecessors is more critical. Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor who heads Munich’s Jewish community, says she trusts the expertise of the institute’s researchers but doubts that the new edition will achieve its aim of “demystifying and taking apart ‘Mein Kampf.'”

It is likely to awaken interest “not in the commentary, but the original — and that remains highly dangerous,” Knobloch said. “It could still have an impact because both of the core ideas are timeless: ultranationalism and racism.”

 

This shouldn’t really be controversial. Mein Kampf did play a role in recent German history and I don’t think there is any real harm in publishing an annotated edition of the book. In general, I think that trying to ban a book or a movie only draws attention to the material the censor is trying to ban. Human nature being what it is, that which is forbidden automatically becomes more attractive. Since private ownership of Mein Kampf was never illegal and since Germans could find copies online for the last two decades, making a fuss over Hitler’s book seems counterproductive.

Anyway, I doubt if this new and annotated version of Mein Kampf, will lead to a revival of Nazism in Germany. I don’t imagine that many of the Germans who originally joined the Nazi party were convinced by reading Mein Kampf. Hitler wasn’t a particularly original political theorist, though he did prove to be a genius in propaganda and mass psychology, and most of the ideas presented in Mein Kampf were similar to views held by many educated Germans. Hitler himself did not take Mein Kampf all that seriously. Writing the book was largely a means to get needed income while he was in prison. The rise of Hitler was due more to his charisma and the economic and social conditions of Weimar Germany. For many Germans, it seemed as if the more mainstream political parties did not care about their welfare and were eager to sell Germany out to its enemies. If the German authorities are concerned about the rise of extreme nationalist movements in Germany, they might want to study the lessons of Hitler’s rise to power and take care not to make the same sort of mistakes the Weimar authorities did with Hitler.

  • Switzerland Asserts its National Identity in Right-Wing Election Victory (safehaven.com) We are going to see more of this in the next few years. If the mainstream French, German or British political parties cannot convince their people that they care about France, Germany, or Britain than foreign refugees or the increasingly unpopular and unworkable European Union, the people will turn to the extremists.

By the Book

December 19, 2015

In recent years there has been a fierce debate over whether Islam is inherently more violent than other religions and whether the perpetrators of such atrocities as the attack on 9/11 and the shootings at Paris and San Bernardino are extremists who have distorted the peaceful teachings of Islam or devout Muslims who are obeying the precepts of their god and prophet. I lean very heavily towards the idea that Islam is an evil and violent ideology, responsible for more misery and destruction than such comparable ideologies as Nazism and Communism. I shouldn’t have to add that I do not believe that all, or even most, Muslims are evil and violent. There is about the same proportion of good and evil among individual Muslims that there is among any population. The problem is not that individual Muslims are worse than other people. They are not. The problem is that they follow a religion which encourages violence and Islamic supremacy.

This could perhaps be illustrated by this article I read from something called the TSEC Network, which I found courtesy of Jihad Watch.

Are Muslims who live in Canada living in a state of war with their host country?  Should they see other Canadians as the enemy?

The Ottawa Public Library (St. Laurent Branch) is currently holding books by Mohamed el-Ghazali, one of the most extreme of Islamcist writers who preaches violence and hate towards non-Muslims and Muslims who do not live according to his extremist view of Islam.

One of the books has the title “One Hundred Questions about Islam.”  The book has several insights such as:

  1.  If you are a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country, then you are in a state of war against your host country.
  2.  If you are a Muslim living in a non-Muslim country, then you are living with the enemy.
  3.  Only a caliphate is an acceptable form of government.
  4.  If you kill the takfir (non-Muslim/apostate) then you will go to paradise.
  5.  Women cannot work.  Nor can they leave the home without permission.
  6.  You must kill those Muslims who leave the faith.
  7.  Christians have no rights and cannot be allowed to construct churches etc.

Of note, a search of books on Islam at the St. Laurent branch revealed more violent texts including others by el-Ghazali.  There were no books there that expressed a historical view of Islam nor any books on the modernization of Islam.

It is not known if this book was purchased by the Ottawa Public Library or if it was donated by an individual or a group.  An informal conversation with a staff member suggested that books that were donated were subjected to a specific process and were approved for use by staff.

Mohamed el-Ghazali is the author of more than 90 books.  He became best known in the press for his public defense of the assassins of Dr. Farg Fouda.  Dr Fouda was a secularist who spoke out against Islamacist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and was killed because of this.  El-Ghazali stated at trial that anyone who opposed the full imposition of Islamic law was an apostate and should be killed either by the government or by devout individuals.

El-Ghazali, who died in 1996, was a well respected author in Islamicist circles such as the Muslim Brotherhood.  He was a life long friend to the current senior cleric of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusef Qaradawi.

I have no doubt at all that the vast majority of Muslims in Canada and America do not subscribe to El-Ghazali’s views. Indeed, I suspect that many of them emigrated to North America to get away from people like El-Ghazali or at least from the consequences that his viewpoints have on any society in which they are widely adopted. The problem is Islam is that it doesn’t matter what they think. El-Ghazali’s views are in accordance with Islamic law. As far as Islamic law and doctrine are concerned, El-Ghazali is in the right, and the moderate Muslims of North America are in the wrong, even if they happen to be a majority. The tenets of Islam, like the tenets of every other major religion, are not based on democratic votes or opinion polls, but on what the adherents of that religion believe to be divine revelation of one sort or another.

As it happens, Islamic law does not encourage Muslims to live in countries not ruled my Muslims. The ideal seems to be that Muslims should either be the majority or a ruling minority. Islamic law and tradition does divide the world between Dar al-Islam, the House of Islam or Submission, and Dar al-Harb, the House of War. This does not mean that every Muslim should be at war with the non-Muslims or that there should be a state of perpetual war between Muslim and non-Muslim states. It does suggest a sort of with us or against us mentality that perhaps can be traced back to the origins of Islam and the period of time in which the Law was codified.

In many ways, the advent of Islam was a beneficial and civilizing influence on the people of the Arabian peninsula. Among other things, Islam taught the people to look beyond the narrow interests of tribe and clan and work for the welfare of the entire Islamic community or Ummah. Unfortunately, Islam did not, like Christianity under the influence of the Greeks, come to consider the entire human race as one community. Instead, Islam just pushed the boundaries of us and them out to include the Ummah, and no one outside the Ummah. To this day, there is still a strong feeling among Muslims that they are the best people, blessed by God.

If that is the case, then it follows that relations with those outside the Ummah, however friendly and profitable, must be viewed with a degree of wariness. They are potential enemies. Living in a state ruled by outsiders must then be rather like living in an enemy camp in time of war, at best opportunistic and at worst treasonous. It also follows that leaving the Islamic faith, apostasy, is akin to switching sides in a time of war, or again treason. If soldier deserts to fight for the enemy, it is very likely he will be executed. An Apostate is a traitor to God and so deserves execution.

It is important to stress again, that few Muslims in North America, and perhaps not that many in other parts of the world, share the views expressed by such “extremists”. They are simply following the religion of their fathers without much thought, just as many modern Christians do not give much thought to the relationship between God and man in Christ’s nature or the relationship of faith and works. In fact, many Muslims may not know very much about the nature of their faith. Only about twenty percent of Muslims speak Arabic as a native language, and given that the Koran is written in rather an obscure and archaic dialect of Arabic, few can understand the verses they have memorized by rote without some sort of commentary. This is why hostility and discrimination against Muslims, even in the wake of such horrors as the recent attacks may not be a good idea. Hatred will only encourage the us against them attitude and confirm the idea that non-Muslims are infidel and the enemy. Instead, perhaps we should speak candidly and without hatred or malice about our beliefs on the errors of their system and try to show them that the way of Christ is a better way.

Bless This Abortion Clinic

December 15, 2015

I wish that I could say that this news story from Breitbart.com surprised me, but the liberal, mainline protestant churches have drifted so far from anything that might be considered traditional Christian teachings that nothing representatives of the more liberal denominations is truly surprising.

Some ordained ministers are throwing their support behind abortion providers. Last week, for example, clergy for Episcopal and Methodist churches were among religious leaders who gathered in Cleveland to bless an abortion clinic.
“I’m here today standing alongside my fellow clergymen and clergywomen to say: thank God for abortion providers,” said Rev. Harry Knox, president and CEO of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC) which supports abortion rights and what it refers to as “abortion care.”

Knox, who is in a same-sex marriage, was the founding director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, the first program director at Freedom to Marry, and executive director of Georgia Equality.

The Very Rev. Tracey Lind, dean of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, blessed the abortion clinic, saying, “Bless this building. May its walls stand strong against the onslaught of shame thrown at it. May it be a beacon of hope for those who need its services.”

The blessing event outside the Preterm abortion clinic was arranged by Rev. Laura Young, a United Methodist minister who is executive director of RCRC’s Ohio chapter, reports theColumbus Dispatch. Young calls herself a “progressive theological thinker and a feminist,” and says her goals include urging more clergy members to advocate for organizations that provide abortions and contraception.

At the abortion clinic, clergy members held up signs that read, “Pro-Faith, Pro-Family, Pro-Choice.”

Chrisse France, executive director of Preterm said, “At a time when abortion care providers are under attack, we are so thankful to be surrounded by the faith community as they share their powerful voices in saying no to the shame and stigma.”

I can understand praying for the safety of the people who work in abortion clinics considering that there is a lunatic fringe that does not quite understand the concept of being pro-life, but how can anyone who considers themselves a Christian possibly ask God to bless a an institution that exists for the sole purpose of murdering innocent human beings? Isn’t this more than a little like clergy blessing a Nazi concentration camp? Ought they not rather pray that the people in the abortion clinic see the error of their way and repent of the evil they are doing? Why shouldn’t abortion providers feel shame and stigma? They are doing something truly detestable. Even if one takes the position that abortion is a sad necessity because of adverse conditions, surely it is blasphemous to ask the Lord of Life to bless an abortion clinic. Executions may also be necessary, but no priest or minister would bless a gallows or electric chair.

It comes as no surprise that one of the clergymen involved in this event is in a same-sex marriage. I have long held the position that any church or denomination that permits or endorses same-sex marriage is in a state of apostasy and cannot be considered to be Christian. It is not so much that the issue of same-sex marriage is important in itself, although it is, or that the issue alone determines whether a church is truly Christian, it does not, but rather, I believe that if a church rejects Biblical Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality, they are very likely to reject other Biblical Christian teachings such as the death and resurrection of the Son of God, or the supreme value of human life and dignity.

These Episcopal and Methodist clergy men and women seem to have rejected the Gospel of Jesus Christ and replaced it with the gospel of leftism. They have ceased to follow the standards of Christ in favor the standards of the world and have decided to bow down to the golden calf of political correctness. They have chosen to worship Baal and to sacrifice infants in the fire rather than the Living God. May God have mercy on them for leading their flocks astray. It would be better for them to have had millstones hung around their necks.

Handwritten King James Bible Proves the Bible Not Inspired

December 7, 2015

That is the claim made by this article from the website addicting info. Judging from the content I’ve seen, addicting info seems to be the sort of website with a pronounced leftwing bias that thrives on sensationalistic headlines, so it is probably a waste of my time to pay much attention to any article there, but this particular article is interesting.

The earliest known version of The King James Bible, perhaps one of the most influential and widely read books in history, has been discovered mislabeled inside an archive at the University of Cambridge. The find is being called one of the most significant revelations in decades. It shows that writing is a process of revising, cutting, and then more rewriting. The Bible is no different in this regard, even though some conservative Christians claim it is the divine word of God himself. Perhaps God, then, is a revisionist. This find certainly seems to suggest that.

The notebook containing the draft was found by American scholar, Jeffrey Alan Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who announced his research in an article in The Times Literary Supplement. The New York Times didn’t take long to pick up the story. They ran an article about it, HERE. Mr. Miller was researching an essay about Samuel Ward, one of the King James translators, and was hoping to find an unknown letter at the archives. While you can say he certainly accomplished that end, he definitely wasn’t expecting to find the earliest draft of the King James Bible — which is now giving new insights into how the Bible was constructed

He first came across the plain notebook not knowing what it was — it was incorrectly labeled. That’s why no one has found it until now. It had been cataloged in the 1980s as a “verse-by-verse” Biblical commentary with “Greek word studies, and some Hebrew notes.” When he tried in vain to figure out which passages of the Bible the commentary was referring to, he realized that it was no commentary at all — it was an early draft of part of the King James Version of the Bible.

Ward’s draft seems to indicate the people were assigned individual sections of the Bible and then worked on them almost entirely by themselves — a massive undertaking with little guesswork. You would think this would cause people to become more error prone. In fact, quite hilariously, Professor Miller noticed that the draft suggests that Ward was picking up the slack for another translator. This really shows how human the entire job was, according to him.

“Some of them, being typical academics, either fell down on the job or just decided not to do it. It really testifies to the human element of this kind of great undertaking.”

This is sure to piss off a lot of religious conservatives who claim that the Bible is the “actual word of God.” While this finding certainly doesn’t disprove God, it does show that the translators of the Bible didn’t get a finalized product the first go around — it wasn’t a walk in the park with an angel over their shoulder telling them what to write. It took many different individuals, working separately — and they often suffered from man-made struggles, like meeting deadlines. You know, now that we think of it, doesn’t sound that much different from the writers of today’s workforce.

To begin with, no one believes that the King James Version of the Bible is anything but a translation made by fallible men, with the exception of a small fringe of people. The original manuscripts of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek were inspired but the copies and translations were not. We do not have these original manuscripts. They were lost centuries ago. We do have copies of the original manuscripts. Because these copies were made by fallible men, they contain errors, such as words out of place, words misspelled or ungrammatical sentences, variant wordings etc. The scholars who translate the Bible into modern languages take great pains to find the oldest copies available and compare the many copies in order to determine the precise wording of the original manuscripts. This is difficult but not impossible, since the sort of errors made by copyists are well known and can be analysed. It is no great surprise that the King James translators had trouble with their work, especially considering the difficulty of translation from a language no longer spoken from a quite different culture.

KJV

The word “inspiration” is taken from the Latin ” inspiratio”, literally “breathed in”, which is a translation of the Greek word θεοπνευστος (theopneustos) meaning God breathed. The idea behind the word inspiration is that God breathed His word into the Biblical writers, or as it is written in 2 Timothy 3:16:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

There is a range of opinions of just what inspired or God breathed actually means, particularly among Protestants. At the more conservative or literalist end of the spectrum is the Dictation Theory, which is that God dictated the contents of the biblical manuscripts word for word with the human authors acting as recorders or stenographers. This is not a theory which has much appeal. The books of the Bible are written in different styles and genres. If every word were dictated by a single intelligence then you might expect a greater uniformity of style. Verbal dictation is really more of an Islamic idea, with the angel Gabriel dictating every word of the Koran to Mohammed, than a Christian one.

Verbal plenary inspiration is the view that the words written in the Bible are those of the human authors, with their various cultural backgrounds, personalities, and literary styles, but that God had arranged matters so that these authors would be His tools and their words would be His words. In other words, they may have chosen the words to write, but their choices had be foreseen and predestined to be the ones God wanted to use. This isn’t really very far from actual dictation, but it does a better job of explaining the different writing styles of the Bible.

Dynamic inspiration gives more credit to the human writers. The words of the Bible were theirs but the thoughts and basic ideas are inspired. So, when the Apostle Paul wrote one of his letters, the Holy Spirit gave him the theological ideas but the but the words used were his own.

The Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches also believe that the Bible was inspired, though not dictated word for word, however, they also believe in the continuing work of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in sacred traditions and the teaching authority of the Church. Scripture is important to Catholicism and Orthodoxy as the primary source of doctrine, but not the only source as it does in Protestantism with its solo scriptura doctrine.

More liberal Christians tend to downplay the role of inspiration in the writing of scripture, tending to view the Bible as a primarily, if not entirely, human creation. They may reject the role of scripture entirely or attempt to separate out the truly divine elements from the human elements derived from the culture and background. This is a convenient approach for those who would like to support the latest progressive, politically correct causes, like gay marriage, but don’t want to be bothered by inconvenient passages in scripture.

So, despite what the writer might believe, the discovery of an early draft of the King James Bible with corrections does not, in the least, show that the Bible is not the Word of God. He is attacking an idea that no one actually holds, which is the definition of a strawman argument.

If I only had a brain.

If I only had a brain.

 

It seems to me that it would be better to learn something about a religion or ideology because trying to portray its adherents as being ignorant, rather than show one’s own ignorance about the matter.


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