2017-10-02

Israel, Syria, Iran, Turkey

Jonathan Spyer: Israel, Syria, Iran. 'The title is hyperbolic and not mine,' cautions Jonathan in a social media post, but it is true that Israel and Iran are headed for a direct confrontation, with Syria being the battlefield. The Iranian regime seeks to form a land bridge through Syria (which scarcely exists as a state today) in order to attack Israel directly. (They currently do this through proxy militias like Hezbollah.) The rise of Daesh (Islamic State) temporarily put these plans on hold, but with that distraction soon to be out of the way ("the period of Arab unrest in 2010, during which Islamist and Salafi forces, seemed briefly ascendant, is now a spent force," writes Spyer) the situation resembles the pre-2010 picture - but now with the additional factor of a strong Russian presence.

Al-Monitor: Putin, Erdogan pleased after Ankara meeting. Al-Monitor's Yekaterina Chulkovskaya writes that the Russian and Turkish leaders seemed satisfied with the outcome of last week's meeting in Ankara. Significantly, other participants in the meeting included Russian leaders representing the Energy Ministry, Gazprom, and Rosatom. While it's not clear whether all the issues announced ahead of time on the agenda were discussed (Russian S-400s, for example), it did stress energy cooperation, Syria policy - and the recent Kurdish independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan.

2017-09-29

Gmar Chatimah Tovah

An easy and meaningful Yom Kippur fast to all who observe.

Identity

Liberals often think that conservatives are obsessed with guns, flags, and bibles. But the truth is there's a place for bibles, there's a place for flags, there's a place for guns. As Natan Sharansky understood, a cultural identity and a shared set of moral values can give you the strength to defend your individual identity.

2017-09-28

Donald Trump UN Speech

Donald Trump's speech at the United Nations is magnificent.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/19/remarks-president-trump-72nd-session-united-nations-general-assembly

'The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based. They respect neither their own citizens nor the sovereign rights of their countries.

If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph. When decent people and nations become bystanders to history, the forces of destruction only gather power and strength.

No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. It is responsible for the starvation deaths of millions of North Koreans, and for the imprisonment, torture, killing, and oppression of countless more. ...

It is far past time for the nations of the world to confront another reckless regime -- one that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing death to America, destruction to Israel, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.

The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. The longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are, in fact, its own people. ...

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program. (Applause.) The Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it -- believe me. ...

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protestors, and imprison political reformers.

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed, and terror? Or will the Iranian people return to the nation's proud roots as a center of civilization, culture, and wealth where their people can be happy and prosperous once again? ...

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. (Applause.) From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems.

America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests, and their wellbeing, including their prosperity. ...

Patriotism led the Poles to die to save Poland, the French to fight for a free France, and the Brits to stand strong for Britain. ...

The true question for the United Nations today, for people all over the world who hope for better lives for themselves and their children, is a basic one: Are we still patriots? Do we love our nations enough to protect their sovereignty and to take ownership of their futures? Do we revere them enough to defend their interests, preserve their cultures, and ensure a peaceful world for their citizens?

One of the greatest American patriots, John Adams, wrote that the American Revolution was "effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people."

That was the moment when America awoke, when we looked around and understood that we were a nation. We realized who we were, what we valued, and what we would give our lives to defend. From its very first moments, the American story is the story of what is possible when people take ownership of their future....'

Ambassador Friedman: "Settlements Are Part of Israel"

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/236102

'David Friedman, the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said on Thursday that he believes Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are part of Israel.

“I think the settlements are part of Israel,” Friedman said in an interview with the Hebrew-language Walla website.

“I think that was always the expectation when Resolution 242 was adopted in 1967. It remains today the only substantive resolution that was agreed to by everybody,” he added.

“The idea was that Israel would be entitled to secure borders,” said Friedman. “The existing borders, the 1967 borders, were viewed by everybody as not secure, so Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank, and it would return that which it didn’t need for peace and security.” ...'

AfD and the Jews

Tuvia and Isy Tenenbom at Arutz Sheva:



Orit Arfa visits a German AfD victory party:

'So, it was not out of character for me to enter an AfD victory party on the eve of elections, at a Munich beer hall no less, and find Nazis to expose and challenge. After all, the AfD is widely considered the neo-Nazi party. Take a walk inside with me into the lion’s den…'



[English captions available at Settings control in lower left.]

2017-09-01

Jonathan Spyer on Ukraine's Jews

Jonathan Spyer:
In summer, Kiev is a charming city, filled with cafes and light. But the peaceful atmosphere is deceptive. History has not departed. Ukraine has been shaken in recent years once again – by revolution, and its handmaiden, war.

The ‘Euromaidan’ revolution toppled the pro-Russian government of President Victor Yanukovych in March, 2014. Yanukovych’s departure was followed by the Russian seizure of Crimea, and then the outbreak of a Russian-supported ,separatist insurgency in the Donbass – the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. The ill-equipped, rusty Ukrainian forces moved to crush the insurgency, but were then met by the entry of conventional Russian troops in August. The Ukrainians suffered bloody setbacks in the battles of Iovitsk and Debaltseve, before a ceasefire agreement was signed in Minsk on February 11, 2015.

The war is not over, and the issues that led to its outbreak have not been resolved. Today, the Ukrainians and their Russian enemies face one another along a static 400 kilometer front line. Observers from the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitor the ceasefire. This reporter spent several days in the warzone of eastern Ukraine, and shooting across the lines is a nightly occurrence. Not just rifles. RPG, self propelled grenades and machine guns too. 10,090 people have died in this largely forgotten conflict over the last three years. Over 2 million people have been made homeless.

The war has impacted on Ukraine’s Jewish community in two central ways. Firstly, Jews resident in eastern Ukraine have suffered the direct physical effects of the fighting. Most of Donetsk and Luhansk’s Jews fled westwards as the frontlines approached their homes in 2014. The provisions offered by the Ukrainian authorities to those made homeless by the war are minimal. Efforts are ongoing by a variety of Jewish organizations to provide for those Ukrainian Jews made refugees by the events.

The second impact is a little less tangible. The war of 2014 was an important moment in the ongoing development of national identity in independent Ukraine. ...

Melanie Phililps on Liberal Rabbis and Trump

Melanie Phillips:

'In America, four liberal rabbinic organizations have scrapped their participation in the annual conference call in which the president traditionally offers his greetings for the Jewish New Year.

Their reason? President Donald Trump’s statements about the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville were “lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred.”

After that rally, which gave rise to a violent counterprotest and the murder of a young woman when a white supremacist driver plowed his car into a group of “antifa” (or anti-fascist) protesters, Trump provoked widespread fury by observing there had been violence on both sides. ...

There is now ample evidence of the hatred, intimidation and violence these supposed anti-fascists direct – not just against far-right extremists, but against all conservatives and white people, and Israel, too.

Last weekend on the Berkeley campus, more than a hundred antifa members attacked a small number of Trump supporters, injuring six, while screaming their true intention – to destroy the USA.

If anyone is “lacking in moral leadership and empathy” for the victims of hatred, it’s surely those liberal rabbis.

Faced with left-wing aggression and bigotry, many American Jews display a high degree of cognitive dissonance. That’s because they think not as Jews, but as leftists – not least because they can’t discern the difference. ...'

2017-08-27

Special

People tend to want to believe things that are flattering to themselves.

If you believe that most of the people around you are ignorant, racist bigots, then you get to be special and enlightened just by virtue of not being a bigot. Slandering the masses is a great way to feel good about yourself.

If, on the other hand, most people are not particularly prejudiced, then not being a bigot doesn't make you special - it just makes you normal.

.

Covenant Lands: Updates

I moved back to Portland at the beginning of 2014, after living in San Francisco for a few years for family reasons. At the beginning of 2017, I moved back to my old building in downtown Portland, and I'm working full-time in IT these days.

So I've been away from blogging for a while, but I mean to find time to start posting regularly again. When I first started posting at this blog (then called Dreams Into Lightning) some thirteen years ago, the big stories were chiefly in the Middle East, specifically Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.

A lot has happened in those thirteen years. I still follow the Middle East closely - in fact, I had the opportunity to visit Iraqi Kurdistan in April of 2015. I'm now also following events in Africa, and I visited Kenya and Uganda in 2016.

But I'm also paying a lot of attention to events closer to home. The election of President Donald Trump unleashed a wave of destructive and sometimes violent leftist riots in many left-leaning cities, including Portland and San Francisco. Conservatives and their allies - including the Patriot Prayer organization - responded with rallies in those same cities. It is, literally, a battle for control of the streets, and it's still ongoing.

I joined the pro-Trump patriots in the June 4 rally in Portland; my friend Andy Ngo covered the rallies for National Review, and reported on Chadwick Moore's appearance at Portland State University.

There's a lot more that I want to write about politics and free speech, and about how my understanding of the world has developed and evolved since I started blogging in 2004. (I also post at Lightning Times, formerly Dreams Into Lightning 2, on current news items.) But for now I'm going to leave you with Liberty Wolf on the cancelled San Francisco rally:

Today my beautiful old hometown San Francisco celebrated mob rule and the death of freedom of speech. Congratulations San Francisco! On the urging of your corrupt political class, including Mayor Lee and Nancy Pelosi, you ran a ragged bunch of black men, Latino men, a white woman, a Muslim woman, a Samoan, and assorted other “white supremacists” out of town. How brave, how courageous, how righteous. What a very sad day and what a silly bunch of people. ...

2017-06-18

The Rally

So, I went to the June 4 rally at Terry Schrunk Plaza in Portland.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1927691894133941/

Short version first: It was an amazing experience. I saw Andy there, and finally got to meet Athena and Leo and a number of other local people that I'd only interacted with online. Marco and Harim came up from Cali and I got my picture taken with Harim. A street preacher talked about sin and forgiveness, and a trans activist stomped on a communist flag. This big, friendly Polynesian guy named Tiny started the whole thing off with a warrior dance.

The folks on the other side tried to make trouble for us, but they didn't even make a dent. The Portland police did a good job of keeping order. I had been a bit apprehensive about the event, and didn't decide until the last minute that I was going to go at all. But it was incredible, energizing, and a great chance to build bonds with people I hadn't met before but needed to.

I've already posted (without much context) a few pictures from the event. I'll have more to say soon, both about the rally itself and events leading up to it. But I've had a super busy day and I need to be turning in soon.

Originally posted here: http://asher63.livejournal.com/653076.html

UPDATE: The Federalist has photos.

2017-06-17

Trump

The people who formed a caricatured, cartoon-villain image of Trump based on his persona are deeply invested in their perception. At stake is the validity of their whole system for categorizing people based on speech, mannerisms, and other markers of "sophistication". Threaten this, and a whole world-view comes crashing down in ruins.

Religion and Politics

Maybe you think my religion is stupid. That's fine - sometimes I think my religion is stupid too.

I like being free to explore, question, and re-affirm my beliefs from one day to the next. I love being able to discuss and debate these things with others without fear. One of the great achievements of Western civilization has been the creation of a broad cultural consensus, enshrined in law but deeply rooted in hard-won social norms, that makes possible the free and open discussion of matters of faith without fear of reprisal or persecution.

We are in danger of losing this.

No one will be burned at the stake or imprisoned for attacking Christianity in any Western country. Well and good. But today's self-styled "liberals" who are so proud of their indifference to Jewish and Christian doctrine will bend over backwards to defend Islam against any perceived slight, and to smear and silence those who critique the Muslim faith.

I am under no moral obligation to have a good opinion of Islam, and I don't. Maybe I'm wrong, and you're certainly welcome to debate me on the matter; but I reserve the right to form my own opinion. That doesn't mean that I'm blind to the fact that there are people who are fine, beautiful human beings, and also devout Muslims. It does mean that I'm capable of judging individual human beings by their character - and also of forming judgments about the belief systems that influence the behavior of millions of people.

On my coffee table at this very moment sits a slim, attractively bound paperback titled 'Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment'. Edited and translated by Caroline Warman and others, it's an anthology of the founding texts of the European Enlightenment.

The book was conceived and produced in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders as a tribute to the highest ideals of the French Republic. A far nobler and more constructive gesture than lighting candles and posting "Je Suis Charlie" on social media - and yet, still tragic. Because in the end, the jihadis unequivocally won. Charlie Hebdo continued publishing, but never again dared incur Muslim wrath with cartoons of Mohammed.

"Can Islam be reformed?" This is a question asked by many well-meaning Westerners. Personally I think it is only answerable by the Muslim world as a whole. Whether Muslims "reform" their religion or abandon it altogether is of no concern to me; what I care about is the practical outcome.

I do not entirely understand the solicitude of Western non-Muslim liberals for the well-being of Islam. They want to defend it from criticism and even save it from itself. It's almost as if, having abandoned church and synagogue themselves, they remain in the grip of an unacknowledged craving for religion.

What I do know is that I care about my relationship with the Creator and with the sacred tradition that I (however imperfectly) follow. I care about the freedom to use my gift of reason to investigate the meaning of the Scriptures and the findings of science. I care about living in a world where people treat one another with the kindness and dignity befitting beings made in the image of G-d.


Originally posted here: http://asher63.livejournal.com/655133.html

Senate Democrats Snub Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani

Andy Ngo in the New York Times:

On Wednesday, Democratic senators appeared to ignore Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani after they gave brief testimonies on the ideology of Islamism at a U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing, sparking a social media outcry.

It was the first time a Senate hearing was devoted to discussing the ideas motivating both violent and nonviolent Islamist movements around the world, but, through a strategy of deflection and demonization, the Democratic senators — mostly women — ignored the scholarly and lived expertise of Hirsi Ali and Nomani.

Viewers in the Twittersphere took immediate notice as they watched the live stream on C-SPAN. ...

Go to the link for the rest. Great reporting by Portland's Andy Ngo, who clearly has gone on to bigger and better things since leaving the Vanguard.

2017-06-08

US vs Iran in Syria

Nicholas Blanford at CSM (via Jonathan Spyer):
US-backed forces announced Tuesday that they had begun the long-awaited assault on the northeastern Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called Islamic State's main stronghold in the country and its self-declared capital.

But some 170 miles to the south, in a remote corner of Syria’s southeastern desert, another clash is brewing that is pitting the strategic objectives of the United States against those of Iran, and that could soon bring US troops and Iranian-backed forces into direct military confrontation.

Both US and Russian warplanes have been deployed, and some shots have already been fired, including by US-backed coalition forces on Tuesday, the US military said.

The clash is over a military garrison at Tanf, located near a border crossing on a highway that cuts through hundreds of miles of flat desert. It was captured from jihadist forces more than a year ago and is being used by US Special Forces and allies to train Syrian militias to fight ISIS, which controls territory to the northeast. ...
Read the rest at the link.

2017-06-07

Andy Ngo on Free Speech in Portland


Andy Ngo in Conservative Review:

After Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler referred to two upcoming conservative political rallies as “alt-right demonstrations” peddling “hatred and bigotry,” the event organizers are pushing back.

“I am calling on the federal government to immediately revoke the permit(s) they have issued for the June 4th event and to not issue a permit for June 10th,” Wheeler wrote on Twitter. He cited the deadly knife attack police say was carried out by suspect Jeremy Christian, a homeless man with a violent criminal history, as reason for the proposed free-speech bans.

The ACLU of Oregon also weighed in on the controversy, pointing out that Wheeler’s call for censorship is unconstitutional. ...

Read the rest at the link. More on the rally to follow soon.

2017-05-12

The Right to Openly Discuss Ideas Must Be Defended

2017-05-09

Jonathan Spyer on Syria


https://jonathanspyer.com/2017/05/09/assads-hollow-crown/

The old city was tense, behind a veneer of strained normality. There were checkpoints every hundred meters or so. These were maintained not by the army, but by the National Defense Force (NDF), an Iranian-sponsored paramilitary force created to fill the gap presented by the Assad regime’s lack of loyal manpower. Young men mostly, with a sprinkling of older types and a very few girls. Supervised by Mukhabarat officers with pistols in their belts. They were suspicious of foreigners. There had already been a number of suicide attacks by members of the jihadi organizations in regime-controlled areas.

For the most part, though, the atmosphere of strained normality held. Undoubtedly, fear of the regime played its part in the exaggerated professions of loyalty and love for Bashar that one would hear. But there was also justified fear of the Islamist rebels, and what their advance would mean. And, of course, there was mainly fatigue, and the desire of people to live in their own private circle, and willingness to cope with any governing authority which appeared able to provide for that. The Syrian pound had plummeted in value since the start of the war – from 48 pounds to the US dollar in March 2011 to 625 to the dollar now. There were long queues each morning to buy subsidized bread at the state bakeries. The traffic was on the roads, the shops were open, pictures of the dictator and his family were everywhere. But all was far flimsier and more brittle than it initially appeared.

I should explain first of all how I came to be in Damascus. I have been writing about Syria now for over a decade. I have visited the country numerous times since the outbreak of its civil war in mid-2011. My visits, though, were always to the areas controlled by the Sunni Arab rebels or the Kurdish separatist forces. This was a notable gap in my coverage. I wanted to remedy it. ...

Read the rest at the link. At JS's Facebook page, here is the 'Aleppo is in our eyes' billboard.

2017-05-08

Portland's Riot Problam

Bill Currier (Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party) at The Oregonian:

On Monday [May Day], protesters all over the world marched on behalf of world socialism, communism, and a bunch of other causes popular with the political left. In Portland, they rioted. To be fair, many protesters did not riot, but the ones who did showed that they rule the streets of Portland. The rioters were clad in black with scarves covering their faces, burning things, breaking windows, damaging property, and terrorizing afternoon commuters just trying to get home.

In other words, it was a Parade for Rioters. ...

Chadwick Moore at Portland State University

Via my friend and fellow Viking Andy Ngo, here is gay activist turned free speech activist Chadwick Moore at PSU:
https://www.facebook.com/AndyCuongNgo/videos/10106927703987496/


2017-04-09

US Airstrike on Syria

Stratfor:
The United States has opted to send a message to the Syrian government that it will not tolerate chemical weapons attacks. Washington launched approximately 50-70 precision-guided missiles April 6 at the Shayrat air base. The base, located southeast of Homs city, houses the two squadrons of Syria's Su-22 ground attack aircraft that carried out the April 4 attack in northern Syria — an attack that killed at least 88 civilians.
U.S. President Donald Trump said the targeted strikes were in the "vital national security interest" of the United States. He gave the statement at Mar-a-Lago, where he is meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said in a statement that Russia failed in its 2013 promise to dispose of the Syrian government's chemical weapons, saying that Moscow was either incompetent or complicit. Syrian state media responded to the U.S. strikes, called them an act of aggression. ...
Lee Smith at the Standard:

...That is, the Trump administration enforced the redline against the use of chemical weapons that the previous White House ignored. Further, by citing the possible "spread" of those unconventional arms, Trump was alluding to the organization that is the likeliest recipient of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal—Hezbollah, Iran's praetorian guard in the eastern Mediterranean. ...
Genevieve Casagrande at ISW:
The U.S strike against an Assad regime base in northern Syria on April 6, 2017 opened the door to a reorientation of American strategy in the Middle East. President Trump’s action could reset the terms of America’s confrontation of other hostile states, such as North Korea. President Trump may be shifting away from a narrow focus on the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) as the strategic priority in Syria and toward a new approach. It remains unclear whether he will take additional action against the Assad regime, but his statement after the strike appeared to signal an emerging anti-Assad policy. Responses from major international powers and key regional actors indicate that these parties perceive the strike represents a possible strategic inflection rather than an isolated incident. President Trump has the opportunity to exploit the effects of his limited action to pursue America’s strategic goals.
Regional actors responded as if a wider American reorientation against Assad is possible. Traditional U.S. partners in the region like Saudi Arabia and Jordan supported the strike. Turkey also praised the strike and called for additional U.S. action against the Assad regime. These reactions indicate that the strike created an opportunity for President Trump to repair America’s relationships with traditional partners, which had begun to reorient toward Russia or to act unilaterally in dangerous ways in the absence of American leadership. European states under Russian pressure also supported the strike ...

2017-04-02

World Today: 2017-04-02 Sunday

Russia:  Navalny-inspired protests more widespread than expected.  Economist:
And yet on March 26th, 17 years to the day after Mr Putin was first elected, tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets in nearly 100 cities to demonstrate against corruption, in the largest protests since 2012.The protests began in Vladivostok and rolled across the country to Moscow and St Petersburg, which saw the largest crowds. Riot police arrested more than 1,000 people in Moscow alone. ... The marches came in response to a call from Aleksei Navalny, an opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner who wants to run for president next year. Despite the government’s crackdown on activism, Mr Navalny has doggedly continued publishing exposés of corruption on social networks and YouTube, and expanding his volunteer organisation. His latest target is Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister.
Stratfor

There will be more demonstrations this weekend in Russia, following protests last week that were the largest in five years. As details emerge about the demonstrations and their organizers, a new picture of Russian discontent is materializing. Unsurprisingly, the Kremlin is choosing to respond with crackdowns rather than by addressing the underlying issues causing the dissent.  Last weekend's protests were organized by opposition heavyweight Alexei Navalny, who traveled through half a dozen Russian cities to promote his anti-corruption campaigns against Kremlin elites....

Both articles cite the broader geographic range of this year's protests as compared to previous years, the focus on corruption and economic issues, the role of social media, and the youth of the participants.

Africa / USA:  Security issues likely to dominate Africa relations under Trump.   Reed Kramer at AllAfrica:  'On 30 March, the Pentagon announced President Donald Trump's approval of revised combat rules for U.S. forces fighting the Al Queada-affiliated Al Shabaab in Somalia, reducing protections for civilians as the U.S. military launches an intensified assault in east Africa. Earlier this month, the White House announced a budget blueprint that includes a $54 billion rise in overall military spending, alongside deep cuts for the State Department and international assistance.'  Kramer also notes that White House National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster has chosen Rudolph Atallah to be the National Security Council's Senior Director for Africa.

Germany:  Government probes suspected Turkish spy network.  Patrick Poole at PJM reports that investigations into the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) reveal Turkish intelligence activities through Turkish-controlled mosques in Germany.  German authorities have raided the homes of DTIB officials.

History:  US enters the Great War.  One hundred years ago, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.

*

2017-03-26

Socialism is a conspiracy of losers against achievers ...

... and so is anti-Semitism.

The fliers use Pew Research Center data in an attempt to validate the statement, including that while Jews make up 2 percent of the population in the United States that “44% of these Jewish Americans are in the top 1%.”

“Is the 1% straight, white men? Or is the 1% Jewish?” the flier questions.

2017-03-14

Obama's Legacy: Nuclear Iran

Emily Landau at Middle East Quarterly :
There is little doubt that Barack Obama deems the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015 to be his crowning foreign policy achievement and an important pillar of his presidential legacy. To his mind, the deal is a shining nonproliferation success story achieved via peaceful diplomacy and an important catalyst to improving decades-long, moribund U.S.-Iranian relations.
But, Obama's assessment is wrong....
Read the rest at the link.

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2017-03-12

US Attorney Preet Bharara

Jonathan Spyer on the post-Daesh ME

Jonathan Spyer:
The Islamic State is on its way to ceasing to exist as an entity controlling significant territory.  This process is set to continue many months.  But IS, having lost tens of thousands of fighters and with the flow of new recruits drying up, facing enemies with complete control of the skies and vast superiority in numbers and equipment, has no means of reversing the trend.

In Assad’s war further west, meanwhile, the rebellion is in retreat and its eventual eclipse seems a near certainty.  The regime, with its Iranian, Russian and Hizballah allies, is currently seeking to reduce and destroy isolated rebel held enclaves in the midst of regime-held territory in western Syria.  Hence the attacks on  eastern Ghouta, and on Wa’er in the Homs area.  Once this is done, the pro-regime forces may well turn their attention to south west Syria, and eventually also to rebel-held Idleb province in the north.

The regime is also now engaging in the war against Islamic State.  Government forces  reached the Euphrates River this week, after sweeping through IS-held territory in the east Aleppo countryside.
As the direction of events becomes clear, so the possibility emerges of the Iran-led alliance achieving an overall victory in the Syria and Iraq wars...
  For more on what such an outcome might look like - and how it might be prevented - go to the link.

*

"'The twilight of Saudi oil dominance has arrived."

Belmont Club:
Just as the US won the Cold War not because federal government agencies outwitted the Reds but because American society out-competed the Soviets, the frackers may have bankrupted the Sunni Jihad.  But in doing so the oil men have created a potential power vacuum even bigger than which resulted from the Arab Spring.  Technology often creates new power relationships which officials only belatedly respond to.  The consequences of American oil power have not yet been fully assimilated by the political system. Turmoil in the Kingdom and the Gulf might trigger a tragedy that would make events in Syria and Libya seem trivial by comparison. ...

Sarah Hoyt: Conservatives and Libertarians Come Out

Sarah Hoyt posts life in the liberal-controlled media culture:

We did such a dance to test both the reliability and discretion of the other before revealing ourselves that we might as well have developed a hanky code. [Blue for true blue Conservative, white for pure Libertarian, red for the blood of our heroes, brown for OWL (older, wiser libertarian), purple for squishy conservative, powder blue for Brad Torgersen. (The powder blue care bare, with the bleeding heart… and the flame thrower.)]
Conventions were nerve wracking because I watched myself ALL the TIME.  And you never knew how much you had to watch yourself.  Suddenly, out of the blue, at a World Fantasy the speaker, a well known SF/F writer went on about Dean Howard, our next president. The room erupted in applause, some people stood to clap, and I sat there, frozen, unable to actually fake it to that point but too shocked to even put a complaisant expression on my face.
This is one of the instances where I think if I didn’t give myself away I gave them the impression I was not very bright and therefore untrustworthy.  Another would be the letter exchange with a gentleman who went after my first Analog story.  Another instance would be that I actually could not help myself and defended Heinlein at all possible occasions.
They were never sure enough that I was a – dropped voice – conservative, but they were sure enough that my books had the strangest issues with distribution and marketing....

All this was justified, you see, because in the minds of the establishment and establishment hangers on, conservatives are creatures shown as “right wing” on movies and tv (none of whose writers would know a true conservative, much less a libertarian if one bit them in the fleshy part of the *ss [and libertarians might.]  They give conservatives (which again is everyone to the right of Lenin) informed attributes never found in the real creature: conservatives, in their crazy little heads, are people who are racist, sexist, homophobic, ultra-religious in a medieval fashion or a crazy-evangelical (there are some, but not many) one.
 Go to the link for more on "informed attributes".  I think that's one of the key points here, where "everybody knows" that group X are attribute Y without having any basis for "knowing" this in real-life experience.

Ahmed Daqamseh, 'the Amalek of today', released in Jordan

Arutz Sheva:
Ahmed Daqamseh, The Jordanian terrorist who murdered seven girls in the Naharayim attack and was released Sunday after serving his sentence of 20 years imprisonment stated after he returned home that he would "stay a soldier in the Jordanian armed forces," adding that "I went into jail as a soldier and now I consider myself and my sons soldiers in the armed forces." He was given a jubilant reception in the village where he lived after his return.
Meanwhile Yaffa Shoukroun, an Israeli seriously injured in Daqamseh's murderous attack, referred in an Arutz Sheva interview to the terrorist's release.
"I heard this morning about the release and I feel that they ruined our Purim celebrations," she said. "The Jordanian government did not coordinate with us the decision to release him," said an indignant Shoukroun. ...
 Read the rest at the link.

2017-02-22

Milo Yiannopoulos

Milo:  A young guy with an English accent, a Greek name, and a French handbag.  He looks like a gay version of Billy Idol.  For about 24 hours, he was going to be the keynote speaker at CPAC.

Here is Milo in his own words:



Sarah Hoyt:  If they take Milo down, you're next.
The charges against Milo are contrived from a) video editing and b) rumor and innuendo and c) pretending no one ever used the word “boy” to mean man, thereby meaning playboy is for 10 year olds and “playing with the big boys” means middle schoolers.
IF the attack on Milo were about, say how outrageous he got before the election (he’s been walking it back since.  I suspect he gets a little battle mad as I tend to.) I’d shrug and say “whatever”.  However this is a contrived and false attack and one that apparently came from the right but is teaching the left the way to take every one of us down.  You might not like Milo or his lifestyle, but you should not under any circumstances, applaud this means of taking him down.  And if you do, I hope you experience likewise and get to experience what you like so much.  There is a good chance you will.  They’ve tasted blood with Milo.  We’re next. ...

And idiotic socons are piling on, telling us that “Milo doesn’t belong on the right” and that his (rather effective, frankly) talks about his private life are “disgusting.”

Maybe they are, but if you’re going to kick out everyone who isn’t middle class US, blond, Southern Baptist, you’re never again going to hold power in this country.  Which is exactly what the left wants, and what you’re preparing.

Because NONE of you are clean. ...

Dystopic at The Declination:  Milo, lies and videotape.
Did Milo kiddy-diddle? No. No evidence of this has ever surfaced, so far as I am aware. There are no chat logs of him discussing how he wants to rape his 8 year old cousin, such as in the case of Sarah “Butts” Nyberg. There are no accusers coming forth to say that he molested them. There are no convictions, or even court cases. Nothing. So the insinuation that he, himself, is a pedophile has no basis in fact, no evidence whatsoever. The insinuation is a subtle lie.

Did Milo defend pedophiles? No. Evidence exists that he did the exact opposite. He has exposed multiple pedophiles in the past, including the aforementioned Nyberg. Salon, one of the publications attacking Milo for this supposed behavior, has published many articles defending pedophilia, calling it a sexual orientation (something Milo has absolutely never done). People like Meryl Streep have given standing ovations to convicted pedophiles, like Roman Polanski. Do you really think any of this is based on principle? That the media has suddenly developed a conscience when it comes to molesting children? ...

Did Milo defend the practice of pedophilia in any way? No. I’ve reviewed the unedited video [the video has since been taken down – can’t imagine why] and Milo’s response. In both, it is clearly and emphatically stated that he has no problem with the age of consent, and does not condone pedophilia. Yes, in the same video he is purported to be supporting this behavior, he denies supporting it.

So what did Milo do wrong?
Well, he did make a mistake. In fact, he made several mistakes. Again, let’s be honest here.
First off, he went into too much detail about something that, quite honestly, we don’t want to know about....

But let’s be crystal clear, because I suspect even my readers are divided on this issue: you have done or said something that can be used to assassinate your character.
Again, for clarity: you have said things that the press could assassinate your character with. I guarantee it. Every single person reading this right now has said something which the press could twist into a knife and plunge into your gut. All of you.
 Sundance at The Conservative Treehouse  Milo's existential threat:

Take this guy Milo out of the picture and replace him with any politically incorrect name you choose, and you’ll see the concerted effort to remove his influence is not about him, it’s about the underlying threat he represents.

Those who control the levers of the DC Swamp municipal system are determined to defeat the highly outlined objectives of a President Trump administration.  Milo is merely a concentric circle outlier of their real target.  The transparent objective here is to isolate, ridicule and marginalize Mr. Milo to create a door to the next circle.

Pass through the door that is Milo and proceed to the door that is Breitbart Media.  Deploy detonation devices….. open door.  Pass through the door that is Breitbart Media and proceed to the door that is Steve Bannon. Deploy same detonation devices (same approach)….

And when the UniParty GOPe want to utilize the useful tools of the religious right, they know just the right triggers to begin their onslaught.  Quick, to the bathroom drums…. the bizarre thing is how many people don’t realize the stagehands are the Marxist left greasing the skids to reinforce a hate narrative and steady the divisions.   Gays, like blacks, must remain on a very specific -and purposeful- political plantation.

Freedom by it’s very nature has a rather diverse set of potential allies.  The ability to reach those allies and rally them toward a standard of effectiveness is a threat to the order of those who deploy inequity and hopelessness as tools toward the more preferred strategy of ambivalence.

2017-02-21

They said, "Be our Nazis."

How do you explain self-proclaimed "liberals" and supposed "feminists" becoming eager apologists for radical Islam?  I don't think I can do any better than Dystopic at The Declination in this post on Cenobites.  Don't worry if you don't get all the Hellraiser references.

In the manosphere, the various hodgepodge collection of sites emphasizing a return to masculinity for men, I encountered a comment some years ago which stuck with me. In it, a man who had been banging a number of women lamented that every woman he encountered was a Cenobite, one of Clive Barker’s seekers of pain through pleasure. They would say “choke me until I pass out, hit me, spank me until I bleed, cut me…” They would demand ever-greater excesses, because they were unable to feel pleasure if it did not include pain. He didn’t care — all he wanted was to get laid, so he’d do whatever they asked of him — but he didn’t understand why women were this way, or why he could find so few who weren’t like this. He seemed to have a sense that things were not always this way. ...

As that commenter lamented, so I’ve seen first-hand. These SJWs, the radical feminists who spend their lives fighting the Patriarchy? They come to my clubs to be beaten senseless on crosses, chained to them by men dressed in uniforms very reminiscent of the Nazis. Yes, it’s a thing, as anybody who has ever been to a Goth club can attest. They demand to be tied up, burned, bruised, and battered. ...

I see it everywhere. I see women spurning “lesser” men, finding the most intimidating, scarred, barbaric thug on the dance floor and making out with him all night, and it hits me. I see barbaric men starting fights over stupid shit, and everybody drinking until they can’t see or walk straight, filing out of the club at 3AM to try and crawl their way home. This is our entire civilization right now. These people are in power, and are doing on a meta level exactly the same sort of thing I see from my DJ booth.

They scoured the world for the most barbaric and twisted belief systems they could possibly find, and said “come to our home. Beat us. Be our Nazis.” Islam, certainly, can do that well enough. It is more than willing. ... These RadFems don’t want less Patriarchy, they want more Patriarchy. They don’t want less Nazis, they want more Nazis. A civilization full of weak-minded fools has broken them, somehow. Deprived of any form of constructive masculinity, people have gone out to seek it among the barbarians. ...
 Now go read the whole thing at the link. 

.
.

Sweden

Look at what's happening in Sweden.

President Trump's words were, of course, intentionally misunderstood by the media. But if you listen for yourself to what he said, it's clear what he is talking about: a wave of violent crime that has swept Germany, Sweden, Belgium, France, and other countries in Europe and elsewhere that have admitted large numbers of Muslim migrants.  And Trump is inviting us to "look at what's happening" and consider carefully.


Gateway Pundit has a roundup, with video. 

Gatestone Europe cites the case of Swedish cop Peter Springare, whose candid words on migrant crime got him in trouble with his higher-ups.
“Here we go; this is what I’ve handled from Monday-Friday this week: rape, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, rape-assault and rape, extortion, blackmail, assault, violence against police, threats to police, drug crime, drugs, crime, felony, attempted murder, Rape again, extortion again and ill-treatment.”
“Suspected perpetrators; Ali Mohammed, Mahmod, Mohammed, Mohammed Ali, again, again, again. Christopher… what, is it true? Yes, a Swedish name snuck in on the edges of a drug crime. Mohammed, Mahmod Ali, again and again.”
 Read the rest at the link. Want more video?  Here's a 60 Minutes segment where their own film crew was attacked:


And while the elites were chortling to themselves over Trumps non-existent reference to a non-existent terrorist attack, another wave of riots broke out in Sweden.

Having spent the entire new cycle trying to ignore the immigrant crisis facing Sweden, and pin the ignorant tail on Trump, both Dagbladet and Expressen reports riots breaking out in the highly immigrant concentrated Stockholdm borough of Rinkeby, Sweden with police firing warning shots as 100s of young people throw stones and burn cars.

During the evening hundreds of young people gathered in the center of Rinkeby, well known for its high concentration of immigrants and people with immigrant ancestry. ...
 Read the rest at Zero Hedge.

2017-02-19

Toni Morrison

American novelist Toni Morrison has celebrated her 86th birthday. Toni Morrison's politics are not necessarily mine (it would be an understatement to say that I do not share her admiration of the Clintons), but I am a great admirer of her work.

I've read (and am now re-reading) all of TM's eleven novels to date, from 'The Bluest Eye' (1970) to 'God Help the Child' (2015). You can read my reviews of the first four at my LiveJournal page:

The Bluest Eye
http://asher63.livejournal.com/520790.html

... The book begins with a flash-forward to the fall of 1941, when marigolds failed to grow; how those marigolds came to be planted is revealed in the story. This is our first hint of TM’s non-linear narrative style. The narrative voice alternates between a third-person voice and Claudia, who is 9 years old at the time of the story and would have been the same age as TM; her name phonetically evokes TM’s birth name, Chloe. Later in the book, some of the back story is filled in by Pecola’s mother Pauline (“Polly”).

The Breedloves’ perception of their own “ugliness” is intimately tied to their awareness of their dark skin in a racist environment, and to the tragedy of Pecola’s story. As TM explains in the foreword,


The novel [written during the height of the ‘Black Is Beautiful’ movement] tried to hit the raw nerve of racial self-contempt, expose it, then try to soothe it not with narcotics but with language that replicated the agency I discovered in my first experience of beauty.

When I first read ‘The Bluest Eye’ as a young adult, I did not understand the centrality of Pecola’s baby to the story. This baby is the reason for the marigolds mentioned cryptically at the beginning of the story and not explained until near the end. It is concern for this baby - conceived in an act of rape and incest - that draws Claudia and her older sister Frieda out of their shells and propels them toward emotional maturity.


Sula
http://asher63.livejournal.com/521417.html

... Where youth sees “hypocrisy”, maturity often sees pragmatism. Where youth sees the “unconventional”, maturity may see the dysfunctional. I think Toni Morrison succeded in conveying a great truth in ‘Sula’, but perhaps not the one she intended. “Outlaw women are fascinating,” Morrison writes in the foreword, but the consequences of irresponsible acts are painful and exceedingly dull. If there is a moral insight to be gained from reading ‘Sula’, it is the danger of romanticizing the ‘rebel’ - both in literature and in life.

Song of Solomon
http://asher63.livejournal.com/529120.html

’Song of Solomon’ (1977) is Toni Morrison’s third novel, and it’s the one that put her on the literary map, winning the National Book Critics award, getting chosen for Oprah’s book club, and inspiring at least two collections of critical essays and the name of a punk-rock band. Written following the death of Morrison’s father, it is her first book to feature male leading characters. The first part of the book is set in an unnamed city in Michigan. The part of the city called ‘Southside’ - i.e. away from the desirable lakefront property to the north - is implied to be the black neighborhood. (The geography is somewhat ambiguous, as some of the landmarks named in Chapter 1 are consistent with Morrison’s native Ohio.) And like Pecola Breedlove in ‘The Bluest Eye’, its chief protagonist, Milkman Dead, is born in the same year as Morrison herself - in fact, one day after TM’s own birth date. The main action of the story takes place in September 1963, in the days following the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. ...

Tar Baby
http://asher63.livejournal.com/625442.html

Who or what is the 'Tar Baby' of the title?

Apparently it refers to Jadine, whom Son calls a "tar baby" (along with a string of other colorful terms) during a fight in their New York apartment. As TM explains in the Foreword, the tar baby legend implies a love story: "Difficult, unresponsive, but seducing woman and clever, anarchic male, each with definitions of independence and domesticity, of safety and danger that clash."

I wonder, though, if there is another level to the role of the tar baby - the feminine, irresistible image that first seduces, then traps the rabbit. Both Son and Jadine are drawn toward the island by inexorable, almost supernatural forces: Son by the ocean's current in the prologue, Jadine by the mysterious figure of the African woman in the yellow dress. And it is Jadine who becomes trapped in the island's black, tarry mud in chapter 5. So I wonder if the 'Tar Baby' of the title also refers to the island itself.


I want to come back to politics for just a moment. There are some ideologues, on both the right and the left, who feel they need to read everything through a political filter. I am not among them. I'm a registered Republican and I vote Republican, but I don't submit my favorite writers to a litmus test, and I don't require that my books be on Dennis Prager's or Hugh Hewitt's reading list.

Good literature is a braid woven of three strands: the universal, the cultural, and the individual. What good writers do well is to observe human relationships: between a person and society, or between individuals, or between a person and himself. I don't have to admire Toni Morrison's diatribe against Donald Trump to respect her talent in doing what she does best: creating vivid, memorable characters that help us understand ourselves.

*

2017-02-16

Urban Visitor Attends LVF Rally in John Day, Oregon

Free Range Report:

LaVoy’s memorial on January 28 was given the title, “The Meeting that Never Happened” because the gathering would fulfill the aims of those who traveled with LaVoy Finicum on January 26, 2016, to meet with local folks, and talk about the constitutional rights to life, liberty and property which he came to Oregon to defend. The Meeting that Never Happened was attended by around 500 people, many from other states, who wanted to tell the story that LaVoy Finicum simply wanted to share when he was gunned down; the story of a rancher who loved his God, his family, his country, and his freedom, more than life itself. ...

Following are the reflections of Macon Richardson, a 41 year-old technology professional from Bellingham, Washington, which is located about 9 hours north of John Day, Oregon.

FRR: Please share your impressions of eastern Oregon. How is it different than Bellingham?

Driving south to John Day from Bellingham, I thought to myself just how far away from the urban setting eastern Oregon is. Not just far in the sense of distance but far in the sense that people out here live a different life than most people in America. Out here folks care about each other, they know each other. They look out for each other. They have to, if they don’t look out for each other, who will? Without all of the comforts of large emergency service infrastructure and a grocery store on every corner the people of eastern Oregon have to be there for each other.

FRR: Being unfamiliar with the people out here, what did you expect after hearing media accounts of the Oregon Standoff? Did anything surprise you about your interactions with them?

A day in eastern Oregon made it clear to me that these folks are good, hardworking, caring Americans. I don’t understand why have some of them been deemed terrorists by the media. Why did a small group of ranchers decide to form a protest in such a remote part of Oregon? Why not protest in a big city like normal protesters? Why didn’t they burn things and assault people like the “normal” protesters that we’ve seen throughout America? I wanted to take a good look at it first-hand. There has to be more to the story than it just being some fringe group taking over a federal building with guns, as CNN reported.

FRR: What did you know about the background of the story, and the motives of the Oregon Standoff protesters before tonight?

I knew a little. The Harney basin has been a real hotbed of land deputes and outright destruction of natural resources for decades. By reading the news about the protest in Oregon last year you may think that all of this wrong-doing must be caused by the people who live there. But I learned that all of these transgressions and aggressions have been perpetrated by our own Federal Government. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Beyond the Hipster Ghetto

I like Portland, and I mix well with the hipsters here, culturally speaking. We can talk about books, art, music, exotic food, whatever, and it's all good. The minute we get into politics, though, everything changes. It's always the "elephant in the room" - so to speak - and there is just no getting away from the fact that I simply don't see the world the same way they do. This is what I mean when I affectionately refer to Portland as "the hipster ghetto". It's a densely populated place with a certain culture, a very rich culture to be sure, but it is a walled garden. There's this whole world of social norms, social signals, social codes, that you have to navigate. And politics is very much a part of that world. Deviate from the codes at your own peril.

Go outside of that walled garden, though, and the picture changes rapidly. A hundred miles to the east, across the Cascades, lies another Oregon entirely. It's a land of ranchers and Tea Partiers and Three Percenters; travel east from Bend and you're in John Day, the site of a recent memorial rally for LaVoy Finicum where they held a teach-in on why ordinary Americans should care about LaVoy. And to the north, across the Columbia River, you're in Vancouver, Washington, a town I've so far only briefly visited but which seems more moderate and down-to-earth than my beloved Portlandia.

In the coming year, I'm looking forward to exploring the West (which lies east of the West Coast) and in particular that other Oregon.

2017-02-14

Downs No Barrier for Designer Isabella Springmühl

"These protestors have convinced themselves that they are 'anti-fascists'."

Out Like Flynn

You don't have to be an admirer of Michael Flynn, or even of his (now former) boss, to have concerns about the way he was forced out of his role as national security advisor.

Here's Eli Lake at Bloomberg:
Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do.

In the past it was considered scandalous for senior U.S. officials to even request the identities of U.S. officials incidentally monitored by the government (normally they are redacted from intelligence reports). John Bolton's nomination to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was derailed in 2006 after the NSA confirmed he had made 10 such requests when he was Undersecretary of State for Arms Control in George W. Bush's first term. The fact that the intercepts of Flynn's conversations with Kislyak appear to have been widely distributed inside the government is a red flag. ...
And Damon Linker at The Week:
The whole episode is evidence of the precipitous and ongoing collapse of America's democratic institutions — not a sign of their resiliency. Flynn's ouster was a soft coup (or political assassination) engineered by anonymous intelligence community bureaucrats. The results might be salutary, but this isn't the way a liberal democracy is supposed to function.
Unelected intelligence analysts work for the president, not the other way around. Far too many Trump critics appear not to care that these intelligence agents leaked highly sensitive information to the press — mostly because Trump critics are pleased with the result. "Finally," they say, "someone took a stand to expose collusion between the Russians and a senior aide to the president!" It is indeed important that someone took such a stand. But it matters greatly who that someone is and how they take their stand. Members of the unelected, unaccountable intelligence community are not the right someone, especially when they target a senior aide to the president by leaking anonymously to newspapers the content of classified phone intercepts, where the unverified, unsubstantiated information can inflict politically fatal damage almost instantaneously.
... Those cheering the deep state torpedoing of Flynn are saying, in effect, that a police state is perfectly fine so long as it helps to bring down Trump. ...

 It's a little bit perplexing why the President sacrificed Flynn so readily.  Perhaps Flynn was only ever a sacrificial offering, meant to draw enemy fire.

Roses are red, violets are blue. You and me, we are gonna be yuge.

Israel / India Relations at 25 Years

Legal Insurrection:

This week, India and Israel celebrate 25 years of bilateral diplomatic ties. On January 29, 1992, foreign ministers from Israel and India signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Jerusalem in June or July to highlight the significance of this growing bilateral relationship, India’s envoy to Israel Ambassador Pavan Kapoor confirmed.

“The time is ripe for our two countries to explore the full potential of commonality and the complementary nature of our respective economies and work in tandem for the mutual benefit of our peoples,” Indian Embassy in Tel Aviv said in a statement marking this occasion. ...
 Read the rest at the link.  The relationship is bearing strategic fruit, for example the Israeli-made Heron XP drone that will help India keep an eye on Pakistan:

While the Israeli-made Heron 1 is already in service with the Indian armed forces, India is looking for a longer endurance drone. Enter Heron TP XP.

The XP variant of the drone will make its global debut at the upcoming Aero India at Yelahanka air base located outside Bengaluru. The MALE (medium-altitude long-endurance) drone can loiter over the designated target area for more than 30 hours at a stretch and can send back live images from a height of 45,000 feet. ...



2017-01-09

Artists and Moral Authority

The basic conceit - and I mean that in every sense of the word - is that artists and creative people have a heightened sensitivity to the nuances of human nature, and are privy to truths not immediately apparent to the rest of us. In their own minds, this gives them a great moral stature, by virtue of which they can make their pronouncements with solemn authority, unencumbered by facts or reasoning.

2017-01-08

Dear Hollywood Celebrities

"You exist for my entertainment. Some of you are great eye candy. Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes. Some of you can scare the crap out of me. Others make me laugh. But you all have one thing in common, you only have a place in my world to entertain me. That’s it. You make your living pretending to be someone else. Playing dress up like a 6 year old. You live in a make believe world in front of a camera. And often when you are away from one too. Your entire existence depends on my patronage. I don’t really care where you stand on issues. Honestly, your stance matters far less to me than that of my neighbor. You see, you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again. I don’t care that you don't like Mr.Trump. But I bet you looked cute saying it. Get back into your bubble. I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood for something blue and shiny. And I'm also supposed to care that you will leave this great country if Trump becomes president? Ha. Please don't forget to close the door behind you. We'd like to reserve your seat for someone who loves this country and really wants to be here. Make me laugh, or cry. Scare me. But realize that the only words of yours that matter are scripted. In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment."

- anonymous, via Facebook

Donald Trump mocks ...

... everybody.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/09/14/did-trump-really-mock-reporters-disability-videos-could-back-him-up.html

http://www.newstandardpress.com/did-trump-mock-that-disability/

https://www.catholics4trump.com/the-true-story-donald-trump-did-not-mock-a-reporters-disability/

Same gestures, voice, and mannerisms. He's imitating the contortions of somebody trying to deny what they said in the past. Serge Kovaleski was one of numerous targets that Trump ridiculed in this manner, but the mainstream media would have you believe he was the only one. To this day, large numbers of Americans are convinced that Trump mocked a man's disability out of spite.

Religious / Secular Encounters in Israel

Rami Livni, Ha'Aretz:  Why Israelis abandoned secularism.
...  It’s secular Israelis who have changed.

What used to irritate, inflame and drive them to revolt two decades or even a decade ago, they now greet with a nonchalant shrug, forgivingly, all in the name of openness, tolerance and, of course, “Jewish identity.”

It is doubtful whether it is possible to fill a school with the number of secular parents who are disturbed by the fact that their children are delving deeply into topics like laying tefillin (phylacteries), kashrut laws and prayers in the context of “Jewish-Israeli culture.” Veteran religious functionaries at the Education Ministry must be rubbing their eyes in disbelief: How have we been able to achieve this blessed occasion when secular folk are retreating of their own free will – and even asking for more? ...

Peter Berkowitz, RealClear Politics:  Teaching Enlightenment liberalism to Israeli haredim.
... Having established that the responsible exercise of political judgment involves the blending of competing principles and that Israel is founded on the conviction that political freedom is an inseparable dimension of the Jewish state, we turned to our main topic. We explored the foundations of political freedom in John Locke’s “Second Treatise”; the constitutionalization of freedom in “The Federalist Papers”; the tensions that arise between democracy and freedom in Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”; and liberty of thought and discussion in Mill’s “On Liberty.”

The students were particularly intrigued by the limits on the exercise of individual rights that Locke grounded in God’s sovereignty, the priority that the U.S. Constitution gives to the protection of religious freedom, and Tocqueville’s insistence that religion makes a surpassing contribution to political stability in America by remaining separate from politics.

Passions flared when we turned to Mill. Students readily appreciated the importance of a public sphere—newspapers, broadcast media, and parliament—in which the condition of their freedom of speech was the freedom of speech of all others. After all, the ultra-Orthodox too have interests to advance through the political process. At the same time, they immediately grasped the danger to their way of life posed by the vigorous promotion within the private sphere, embracing their families and communities, of Mill’s core conviction—indeed the conviction at the core of all moral and political education worthy of the name—that “he who know only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Exposing their sons and daughters to Mill’s case for the sovereign individual, they justly feared, might weaken their children’s attachment to the stringent ultra-Orthodox interpretation of God’s commandments. ...

What's interesting to me about Rami Livni's kaddish for Israeli secularism is that he sees secular culture, not merely in terms of freedom from religious compulsion, but as an explicitly anti-religious force.  Any gain by religion is a loss for secularism.  Livni's tug-of-war metaphor is telling:  for this writer, it is a zero-sum game.

Berkowitz, by contrast, believes that "both the ultra-Orthodox and broader Israeli society stand to profit from rapprochement."  While the motivations may be pragmatic (Israel's growing haredi, or ulta-orthodox, population will at some point need to come to terms with the rest of Israeli society), the philosophic premise of the Tikvah Fund lecture is that free inquiry can co-exist with religious faith.

Linkage

2017-01-01

Fantasy Battle

The younger generation of "feminists" and "liberals" feels cheated by history, deprived of their chance to fight the glorious civil rights battles they read about in books. So instead of seeking out the real battles of our age - which might involve some real danger - they fight yesterday's battles on a fantasy battlefield, like Civil War re-enactors.


Let's blogroll!


Richard Fernandez (Belmont Club) on technology and magic.

When the last cellphone in the Caliphate is destroyed or worn out no one will know how to make another. Their 8th century is capable of producing fanaticism but probably couldn't make a ball point pen. Objects in the ISIS universe are "magical" -- put there by Allah in the possession of the infidel for holy warriors to plunder and enjoy until the power which inheres in them gradually fades away.

Surprisingly much of the modern world is not very different. Many people treat technology like magic even in the West. How does a cell phone work? Dunno. Where does it come from? The store. Civilization depends on the knowledge of a small fraction of the world's 7.5 billion population. The know-how to make pharmaceuticals, complex devices, aircraft, computers, industrial chemicals from scratch is probably confined to a few million people concentrated in North America, Europe, Russia and North Asia. The rest of us are end users. ...

Neo on celebrating the New Year.


Back then each year had seemed almost endless, and the punctuation of that last day, with its celebrations and dramatic turning of the number of the year into one we’d never seen before (wow! 1959! next, 1960!) was exciting and fresh. It also meant I was growing up, gaining in privilege and stature.

In high school it was still sort of fun—we went out in big packs, once or twice to Times Square to watch the whole thing in person. In college it became more problematic because I went home for Christmas vacation and was away from the boy friend de jour.

Then later on I was married. What do married people do on New Years? Parties still happened, but they were starting to end earlier and earlier (New Englanders don’t tend to be nightowls or wild partygoers, I’m afraid). For me they functioned mostly as an excuse for getting dressed up. It doesn’t help that I don’t drink much. Watching others get drunk has been an interesting spectator sport over the years, but not really my favorite activity.

As for that “growing in privilege and stature” thing—well, I’m kind of on the other side of that particular slope. ...

Erin Palette at Lurking Rhythmically has a Firefly dream. Go to the post for details.