Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nothing to see here, move along

Since we live in a busy world and there is only so much time a person can devote to the “news of the day”, it behooves us to ration our time carefully. Many people, in my opinion, glance at headlines and the first paragraph in a newspaper, form their opinions from that, and move on. Similarly, many people still get their impressions of the world from television news, a highly manipulative medium, which assaults us, simultaneously, with pictures (some of which are merely archived video), speech and headlines crawling across the bottom of the screen. I do not understand why anybody would subject themselves to this barrage – it produces shell shock in me. At the end of a broadcast I am never certain what I have learned or how I feel about it.

My preference is to search for news sources and opinion makers I generally trust on-line on the Internet. They could be found in on-line newspapers or blogs or occasionally broadcast outlets. You can take as much time as you need or is available to you. You can drill down to get the depth of material needed to understand a story and you can quickly link to other sites to give more background or different perspectives. You can bookmark them for easy access and you can save their output for future reference.

The difference between lazy reporting and thoughtful journalism shows up in today’s Toronto Sun.

Both items refer to the current scandal that has been dubbed "Climategate".

In a news story, a reporter tries to tell us that the leaked e-mails from the CRU are essentially irrelevant in the matter of climate debate. He quotes one global warming skeptic, a climatologist, with the Friends of Science organization, who thinks they are important because they show that the data on which the whole edifice of global warming is based may be false or distorted, and then immediately dismisses that person’s opinion with this sentence:

But most mainstream media and serious science groups have dismissed this interpretation of the e-mails as mischief.

Full points for identifying the MSM as a protector of the conventional wisdom, but “serious science groups”, who would they be? This reporter seems to think they include the Sierra Club and the Pembina Institute, because he cites quotations from their spokespeople. These are not scientific organizations, they are environmental advocacy groups.

What are we getting from this reporter? Is he displaying his bias by putting down the skeptics in favour of the pro global warming crowd? Or is he just ignorant?

One clue that he might not know what he is writing about is this sentence:

The e-mails, between top climate change scientists, appear to reveal top scientists were suppressing information that contradicted the widely held theory, backed up by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, that climate change is man-made.

Wrong, Mr. Reporter. It is the work of these climate scientists that back up IPCC report, not the other way around.

This is why it is dangerous to rely solely on headlines and reporters for reliable information.

Much better, in the same newspaper, to go to a regular columnist like Lorrie Goldstein who has immersed himself in the climate change file for the better part of the past year and has written numerous columns on the subject. He thinks this e-mail disclosure is far from being merely mischievous.

He has examined a set of exchanges that I have not seen covered in other media that shows the entire data base of weather information used by CRU was corrupted beyond repair. That is no small thing.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dr. Curry's honest assessment

I picked the following up from a posting on Stephen McIntyre's award winning blog, Climate Audit. It is written by a climate scientist, Judy Curry. Although it suffers from unqualified conventional wisdom that all AGW skeptics are diresputable or dishonourable people, it is still a thoughtful piece. Apparently, publishing it on McIntyre's site is not without some political consequences for Dr. Curry.

In fact, McIntyre invited the beseiged climate folks to post responses to the climategate scandal on his blog and was refused. He has reproduced the correspondence on his site. It fits right in with Curry's criticisms of the climate science cultish mentality.

Curry writes:

Having been riveted for the last few days by posts in the blogosphere on the HADCRU hack and the increasing attention being given to this by the mainstream media, I would like to provide an “external but insider” assessment and perspective. My perspective is as a climate researcher that is not involved directly in any of the controversies and issues in the purloined HADCRU emails, but as one that is familiar with this research, the surrounding controversies, and many of the individuals who sent these emails. While the blogosphere has identified many emails that allegedly indicate malfeasance, clarifications especially from Gavin Schmidt have been very helpful in providing explanations and the appropriate context for these emails. However, even if the hacked emails from HADCRU end up to be much ado about nothing in the context of any actual misfeasance that impacts the climate data records, the damage to the public credibility of climate research is likely to be significant. In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and “tribalism” in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.

1. Transparency. Climate data needs to be publicly available and well documented. This includes metadata that explains how the data were treated and manipulated, what assumptions were made in assembling the data sets, and what data was omitted and why. This would seem to be an obvious and simple requirement, but the need for such transparency has only been voiced recently as the policy relevance of climate data has increased. The HADCRU surface climate dataset and the paleoclimate dataset that has gone into the various “hockeystick” analyses stand out as lacking such transparency. Much of the paleoclimate data and metadata has become available only because of continued public pressure from Steve McIntyre. Datasets that were processed and developed decades ago and that are now regarded as essential elements of the climate data record often contain elements whose raw data or metadata were not preserved (this appears to be the case with HADCRUT). The HADCRU surface climate dataset needs public documentation that details the time period and location of individual station measurements used in the data set, statistical adjustments to the data, how the data were analyzed to produce the climatology, and what measurements were omitted and why. If these data and metadata are unavailable, I would argue that the data set needs to be reprocessed (presumably the original raw data is available from the original sources). Climate data sets should be regularly reprocessed as new data becomes available and analysis methods improve. There are a number of aspects of the surface climate record that need to be understood better. For example, the surface temperature bump ca. 1940 needs to be sorted out, and I am personally lacking confidence in how this period is being treated in the HADCRUT analysis. In summary, given the growing policy relevance of climate data, increasingly higher standards must be applied to the transparency and availability of climate data and metadata. These standards should be clarified, applied and enforced by the relevant national funding agencies and professional societies that publish scientific journals.

2. Climate tribalism. Tribalism is defined here as a strong identity that separates one’s group from members of another group, characterized by strong in-group loyalty and regarding other groups differing from the tribe’s defining characteristics as inferior. In the context of scientific research, tribes differ from groups of colleagues that collaborate and otherwise associate with each other professionally. As a result of the politicization of climate science, climate tribes (consisting of a small number of climate researchers) were established in response to the politically motivated climate disinformation machine that was associated with e.g. ExxonMobil, CEI, Inhofe/Morano etc. The reaction of the climate tribes to the political assault has been to circle the wagons and point the guns outward in an attempt to discredit misinformation from politicized advocacy groups. The motivation of scientists in the pro AGW tribes appears to be less about politics and more about professional ego and scientific integrity as their research was under assault for nonscientific reasons (I’m sure there are individual exceptions, but this is my overall perception). I became adopted into a “tribe” during Autumn 2005 after publication of the Webster et al. hurricane and global warming paper. I and my colleagues were totally bewildered and overwhelmed by the assault we found ourselves under, and associating with a tribe where others were more experienced and savvy about how to deal with this was a relief and very helpful at the time.

After becoming more knowledgeable about the politics of climate change (both the external politics and the internal politics within the climate field), I became concerned about some of the tribes pointing their guns inward at other climate researchers who question their research or don’t pass various loyalty tests. I even started spending time at climateaudit, and my public congratulations to Steve McIntyre when climateaudit won the “best science blog award” was greeted with a rather unpleasant email from one of the tribal members. While the “hurricane wars” fizzled out in less than a year as the scientists recovered from the external assault and got back to business as usual in terms of arguing science with their colleagues, the “hockey wars” have continued apparently unabated. With the publication of the IPCC 4th Assessment report, the Nobel Peace Prize, and energy legislation near the top of the national legislative agenda, the “denialists” were becoming increasingly irrelevant (the Heartland Conference and NIPCC are not exactly household words). Hence it is difficult to understand the continued circling of the wagons by some climate researchers with guns pointed at skeptical researchers by apparently trying to withhold data and other information of relevance to published research, thwart the peer review process, and keep papers out of assessment reports. Scientists are of course human, and short-term emotional responses to attacks and adversity are to be expected, but I am particularly concerned by this apparent systematic and continuing behavior from scientists that hold editorial positions, serve on important boards and committees and participate in the major assessment reports. It is these issues revealed in the HADCRU emails that concern me the most, and it seems difficult to spin many of the emails related to FOIA, peer review, and the assessment process. I sincerely hope that these emails do not in actuality reflect what they appear to, and I encourage Gavin Schmidt et al. to continue explaining the individual emails and the broader issues of concern.

In summary, the problem seems to be that the circling of the wagons strategy developed by small groups of climate researchers in response to the politically motivated attacks against climate science are now being used against other climate researchers and the more technical blogs (e.g. Climateaudit, Lucia, etc). Particularly on a topic of such great public relevance, scientists need to consider carefully skeptical arguments and either rebut them or learn from them. Trying to suppress them or discredit the skeptical researcher or blogger is not an ethical strategy and one that will backfire in the long run. I have some sympathy for Phil Jones’ concern of not wanting to lose control of his personal research agenda by having to take the time to respond to all the queries and requests regarding his dataset, but the receipt of large amounts of public funding pretty much obligates CRU to respond to these requests. The number of such requests would be drastically diminished if all relevant and available data and metadata were made publicly accessible, and if requests from Steve McIntyre were honored (I assume that many spurious requests have been made to support Steve McIntyre’s request, and these would all disappear).

The HADCRU hack has substantially increased the relevance of Climateaudit, WUWT, etc. The quickest way for HADCRU et al. to put Climateaudit and the rest of this tribe out of business is make all climate data and metadata public and make every effort to improve the datasets based on all feedback that you receive. Do this and they will quickly run out of steam and become irrelevant ☺. Gavin Schmidt’s current efforts at realclimate are a good step in the right direction of increasing transparency.

But the broader issue is the need to increase the public credibility of climate science. This requires publicly available data and metadata, a rigorous peer review process, and responding to arguments raised by skeptics. The integrity of individual scientists that are in positions of responsibility (e.g. administrators at major research institutions, editorial boards, major committees, and assessments) is particularly important for the public credibility of climate science. The need for public credibility and transparency has dramatically increased in recent years as the policy relevance of climate research has increased. The climate research enterprise has not yet adapted to this need, and our institutions need to strategize to respond to this need.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Who are the deniers now?


UPDATE: Here are a couple of the more interesting takes on this scandal, one from the Wall Street Journal which agrees with my view that the most serious charge to be laid against Jones and Mann, et al. is the manipulation of the peer review process to deny an opportunity for contrary research to be published, and one from a statistician in the National Post who plows the same soil previously tilled by McKitrick and thinks that the only international agreement that is required from Cophenhagen is an agreement that compels scientists to reveal their data for review by others.

The reverberations from the disclosure of e-mails obtained by a hacker and published on the Internet of the doings of the top AGW climate scientists still continue to reverberate around the globe.

The allegation that they cooked the global warming data to fit the AGW theory is not new and doesn’t require confirmation from these e-mails. It was first exposed about six years ago in the book: Taken By Storm: The Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming by Ross McKitrick and Christopher Essex. That exposé was followed up by official investigations and other research that confirmed the conclusions of McKitrick and Essex.

The real devastation to the catastrophic climate change side comes in under the rubric of “integrity”.

I once made a statement to a friend who is a robust advocate for drastic measures to combat climate change and a committed believer in human caused global warming that environmentalists (i.e., people like him) can do harm. He was astonished that anyone would think that a “right-minded, altruistic” environmentalist could cause harm.

Right now, over a 100 countries are meeting in Denmark to plot a course that will ultimately result in shocks to the economies of many developed countries. This is all based on a 15-year successful campaign by global warm mongers to scare the snot out of politicians and to mobilize public opinion to further cause them angst.

Other scientists and researchers have been casting doubt on the entire premise on which this is based; i.e. that humans are largely responsible for climate change. Those dissenters have been vilified as dishonest because they are allegedly being paid off by energy industries who want to derail public policy based on global warming, and they are characterized as being irrelevant for the sin of being retired, and, in the final insult, they are dismissed as unimportant because they have not contributed research papers to respected scientific journals to be “peer reviewed”. In short, unlike the pro global warming crowd, the others lack integrity.

I am always suspicious of people whose first, and seemingly only, line of defence is ad hominem attacks on their critics.

There is a special label the AGW crowd has attached to the dissenting group, which, in normal science parlance (i.e. science unpolluted by politics) would be called skeptics. They are called deniers in the hope that the opprobrium that attaches to Holocaust deniers will trickle down and discredit these people. Consistent with that below the belt tactic are statements made by a number of AGWers that such deniers should receive criminal consequences and jail terms.

Now we find that the AGW group conspired to try to prevent research that did not conform to their published views from being “peer reviewed” in scientific journals.

They have become the deniers and perhaps they should be the ones looking at criminal consequences. Their integrity is shot, even if the science of climate change muddles on.

Friday, November 20, 2009

New acronym: PWW (Policing When White)

I love new acronyms, like LOL (laughing out loud) and FYI (for your information).

As a result of series of stories a few years ago in one of Toronto’s major newspapers, the Toronto police were caught in racial profiling. The acronym that was popularized by that scandal was BWD (black while driving).

As a result of two recent decisions of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal – no, really, it is actually called that – we can add a new one: PWW (policing when white).

In the summer, the tribunal adjudicated the complaint of a black man who was stopped by a police officer while he was delivering mail in high class neighbourhood. We have community policing here, and the white officer in question did not recognize the man who was wearing a postal service jacket and who was substituting for the regular postie who was off sick. He noticed the man return to a house he had already visited, so he asked him for some identification, which was produced, without incident, and the postie was thanked by the policeman for his co-operation and everybody went about their own business.

It would appear that the postal worker went back to the shop and told his fellow workers about the incident. They proceeded to tease him about it to the point that he decided to complain to the human rights police about racial discrimination, because he was made to feel bad about being black (not by the police, mind you, but by his fellow workers). The tribunal found there was no racial discrimination involved on the part of the policeman, but that he had “racially profiled” the postie, and an award of $10,000 was given to the black man.

In a similar award, $5,000 was given to a black woman who was ticketed by a white police officer for a number of offences related to her operation of a motor vehicle. In the wee small hours of the morning the officer observed her driving erratically and confronted her. She was uncooperative and matters escalated, as they tend to do when people do not cooperate with the police when they are simply doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Apparently, she had not viewed Chris Rock’s sensitivity training video.

Again, the tribunal could find no evidence of racial discrimination on the part of the officer, but fined the police anyway, claiming there was racial profiling involved.

Would these outcomes have applied if a black police officer was involved? Can black policemen be accused of “racially profiling”?

Stand by.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Truth melts like April snow


A year ago I was having heated arguments with 9/11 Truthers, the folks who believe the conspiracy theory that the attacks on that day were not carried out by Islamic extremists, but by operatives of the Bush administration.

Now that Bush is no longer in power these sorts of accusations have melted away like April snow.

The current President has spent a good portion of his political capital making nice to the Muslims. What a political feather in his cap it would be if he could tell the Muslims how George Bush’s government was really responsible for 9/11 and how the Muslims were unfairly maligned.

It is easy for him to do this. He has made many mentions of the mess he has been left to clear up from the Bush years. He has all the agencies that Bush used to control now reporting to him. He could get any information he needs to back up the “Bush did it” theory on 9/11 and add it to his “to do” list.

Instead, he chose in his Cairo speech to tell the conspiracy people to take a hike.

What is with that?

Oh, after he looked into it he found there was no conspiracy. It actually was carried out by Muslims performing religiously mandated jihad. Who knew?

I sort of miss those arguments though. They were great fun.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NATO dhimmis -- time to go home

The traditional relationship between Muslims, when they controlled a territory, and the non-Muslims, was that the latter could continue to live and go about their business provided they openly acknowledged their dhimmi status (second class citizenship) and they paid protection money to the Muslims for the privilege of being permitted to stay alive.

If you were any doubt about the waste of time that has become the war in Afghanistan it has to be the news that has surfaced that money is being paid to the Taliban not to kill NATO troops. Canada has denied it does this, as do the French and the Italians. But the British are doing it and it appears the Americans may be doing it also. Here and here and here and here.

Paying Muslims so they won’t kill you. How Islamic can it get?

Time to get out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The value, or otherwise, of trying Islamist murderers in Western courtrooms

In today's Toronto Sun, legendary journalist, Peter Worthington, who is about 80 years old and who usually pulls no punches, writes about the value of having a trial for Major Hasan. Unfortunately, like so many mainstream media types who really don't know anything about Islam, he purveys the concept that Major Hasan's actions were a "perversion" of his religion.

This is the equivalent of writing a story about Major Hasan, if he were a Christian and had been caught distributing blankets and food packages to the homeless, claiming that this was of perversion the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Why do they invent this stuff? if you know something about the religion you would not say this. If you don't know about the religion then you should just shut up and not mislead the public.

There are something like 123 suras in the Koran that talk about fighting and killing non-Muslims in the name of Allah. Major Hasan believed these commandments from God. How is that a perversion? Here is a discussion of those suras.

Speaking of trials, Pat Buchanan asks some strong and searching questions about the value of a trial in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dr. Phil, the Islamists' answer to Lenin's "useful idiot"

If you want to know why we are losing the struggle with radical Islam you don’t have to go very much further than this little piece of national television fare.

It is a segment from CNN’s Larry King Live Show featuring an interview a few days after the Fort Hood event with Dr.Phil, a woman in the Veteran’s Affairs Administration, and a JAG lawyer.

Philip McGraw gets the head start, which means he gets to frame the discussion that follows. For him, this is a mental/emotional issue, full stop.

You can’t blame him for that, it is his field, it is the prism through which he views the world, and it is the thing he is most comfortable talking about.

I would venture to say he knows diddly-squat about Islam, from at least one comment he made.

Next up are two other split screen guests, Shoshana Johnson, who served in Iraq and was, for a brief period, a POW, and Tom Kenif (not sure of the spelling) a JAG officer and criminal lawyer who also served in Iraq.

Kenif disputes the mental explanation, believing the truth may lie in Islamic extremism. However, both McGraw and Johnson jump down his throat, accusing him of saying dangerous things that are simply untrue and ridiculous. It is also pretty clear from King’s interjections that he finds Kenif’s explanation suspect.

At various times, Dr. Phil says things like, “You can’t make sense out of nonsense” and “Well (mentally healthy) people don’t pick up a gun and kill their friends.”

Unfortunately for Kenif, in the ensuing argument he falls into Dr. Phil’s trap, agreeing that a person who murders people for religious reasons is mentally ill. At that point he loses the argument.

Wrong, Dr. Phil. That is music to the Islamists’ ears.

Go on spouting about mental illness and believing that the military should focus on stress and not religion. This was a one-off, an isolated incident, completely explained away by westernized notions of mental illness. It has nothing to do with Islam. Move along now, nothing to see here.

The Islamic Project will give you a big medal for that one.

There is no reason to think whatsoever that an Islamic radical who kills the perceived enemies of Allah, with the full knowledge that if he dies in that battle he will be guaranteed eternal life in Paradise -- the only guaranteed path in the Koran -- is mentally ill. There is nothing nonsensical about this if the religion makes sense.

The only way that could be true is if you were to say that all people who believe religious doctrine must be mentally ill. No American is going to say that, certainly not Dr. Phil.

You could possibly refine that last statement and say that only people who believe the religious dogma of Islam are mentally ill because of the violence it spawns. Again, no American in the mainstream media and establishment is going to say that.

If Major Hasan was acting out of purely religious motivation then the soldiers he killed or tried to kill were not his friends, Dr. Phil. They were his enemies. There is nothing irrational about that. Soldiers are supposed to kill their enemies.

And if you knew anything at all about Islam, Mr. McGraw, you would know that Muslims are not permitted to make friends with non-believers.

Mr. Kenif had the right idea even if he couldn’t follow it up properly on the King show.

The safest way to proceed after Fort Hood is to assume an Islamic influence and act accordingly, and revise your judgment only if subsequent evidence emerges that mental factors unrelated to religion are prevalent. This would be called an application of the precautionary principle, or, as we used to say, doing something simply out of an abundance of caution.

Unfortunately, the Dr. Phils in America control the high ground and more Fort Hood disasters can be expected in the future.

On a related note, here is a Washington Post story of the first post-Fort Hood interview with Hasan’s jihadist mentor.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

New York trial pushes Pentagon agenda

In a race against time the Pentagon has shifted some of its vast resources to step up the program to develop the H2O Follicle Enhancer and bring it to market early in the New Year, in an effort to roll it out six months earlier than originally scheduled.

“At least 200 additional specialists have been reassigned to this work in the past week as well as an additional $10 million dollars injected into its budget”, said a Pentagon spokesperson, who requested anonymity.

The HFE has been a “hush-hush” project in the basement labs at the “Pent” for the past year, administered by PROFITS, the acronym for the Program Research Office for Investigating Technology Spinoffs.

PROFITS was initially set up under the Eisenhower administration in the mid-1950s because the U.S. government was embarrassed by the amount of money it was devoting to scientific research for military and warfare purposes.

“Eisenhower, who always had a concern about the industrial – military hegemony in the economy, believed if some of the research could be turned to useful consumer use there would be a morally defensible way of supporting such expenditures and that it would have the added benefit of recouping some of the taxpayers dollars through volume sales of the spinoffs”, said the source.

It is the announcement by the Obama administration that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attack, will be brought to New York and put on trial that has the Pentagon in such a dither. The defence will discredit evidence of information obtained from waterboarding and attempt to have that evidence thrown out.

The Pentagon is concerned that public disclosure of its waterboarding techniques will harm its commercial opportunities.

“One of the exciting things we learned at Guantanamo”, said the source, “is that waterboarding can produce prodigious hair growth. You only have to look at the before and after pictures of Khalid (shown above) to see the results. In the first photo, taken at the time of his capture, you see a depressed man, losing his hair, and in the after shot is the same person -- no really -- sporting a luxuriant beard.”

“Also note the bright-eyed twinkle in the second photograph. This man has been fully restored to health and he owes it all to waterboarding.”

“You know", said the spokesperson, "We got all the 9/11 information from this guy in the first waterboarding session, within about three minutes, but the next day the guards noticed that his face fuzz had grown more than inch overnight. When that news got back to Washington, it was decided to continue the waterboarding to see if more growth would be stimulated. That was what accounted for the other 79 dunkings Khalid received. The outcome was both stunning and undeniable. The PROFITS folks at the Pentagon were very excited.”

When asked about the market possibilities for the H2O Follicle Enhancer, the source said it would likely be an export market that would drive sales, particularly in the Middle East and South Asia amongst Muslim men, and in India amongst Sikhs.

“The market for a beard growing product is just so-so in the Western Hemisphere, but face beavers are all the rage in the Islamic world. The women like them too, for obvious reasons I need not go into right now and that will not be a direct selling point in the marketing campaign, but will be understood nonetheless”, said the spokesperson. "The demographics favor strong market demand, as well, with so many of the potential buyers being under the age of 24 and unattractive to women because of difficulties in growing full beards."

Pentagon researchers have been working overtime to find the right ratio of uric acid to water that they believe is one of the keys to the stimulation of hair follicles. Uric acid is produced by human urine. They are also interested in knowing whether the cultural/racial make-up of the soldiers who emptied their bladders into the water used on Khalid is important.

“It could be a diet thing. If the soldier was Hispanic and had just consumed a burrito within the hour before he appeared at the waterboarding site the density or purity of the acid may be different from a Caucasian soldier who had a tuna sandwich.”

PROFITS has also engaged a highly-respected boutique New York marketing consulting agency to assist it in developing a marketing program, but has not made the agreement public as yet. However, it has been confirmed that the Ron Jon Surf Shop has been contracted to develop a commercially appealing waterboard.

“Something colorful and comfortable that conveys more laid back Beach Boys and less Torquemada is the goal”, said the spokesperson. "After all, who would want to be uncomfortable while they are choking?"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In praise of bigots

Carrie Prejean, Famous California Bigot

What follows is one of the more interesting responses to my recent blog postings that I have received in a while. I have set it out in italics and my reaction to it is posted below in normal font.

Anonymous writes:

This blogger (a Canadian?) is a closet Islamic bigot, hiding behind a facade of social consciousness (women's rights/homosexual rights, and protecting apostates, etc.)...substituting 'Muslim' for 'Nazi' (in his whimsical retelling of the Ft. Hood new story) really betrays this fact.

Islam is not Nazism, not even close (the write has never met a Nazi, I believe, and very few real followers of Islam). If one is calculating body counts, Christianity (which has also historically encouraged a "holy war' mentality) is at least as murderous as Islam, taken as a whole. Christianity is also anti-female, anti-homosexual (though the church has been a haven for homosexuals for centuries), and, of course, intolerant of apostates and dissenters (remember the Holy Inquisition?)---until the present age, at least (but I note the current Pope's declaration that the "true enemy" of monotheism is "secularism"--perpetuating the martial mentality towards the perceived "other").

While I do agree with people like David Brooks (recent op-ed about choice and evil)...I temper my "conditioned prejudice reflex" with (what I hope is) a deeper sense of cultural understanding. The non-judgmental "reaction" by leaders following the shooting is a sign of how far we have come as a nation from the days of instantaneous scapegoating (of the "other)...the blog writer would seem to prefer (under the guise of a word substitution exercise) that we mentally replace the foreigner term (Muslim or mole) with the modern era's most evil label (Nazi).

Here's my "whimsical" response to the "dead reckoning" blogger's post:

Yes, that's right, let's stop giving people with foreign names and beliefs the benefit of the doubt anymore...Let's encourage out political leaders to "shoot first, ask questions later"...let's foster public cries for retaliation (a slippery slope once you use the term "Nazi")...let's return to the 19th Century!...and then go through the bloody socio- evolutionary process once again...until maybe we wake up and learn and truly progress...

The blog writer routinely generalizes Islam and makes statements like "Islam is the only religion that preaches destruction of Western civilization" etc....Not distinguishing between Islamic teaching and Koranic teaching, and, in the context of discussing what the Koran preaches, he conflates the two...leaving the reader with the impression that the Koran says these things.

Here is a quote from the Koran (Sura 5, verse 13, I believe): "Be ye steadfast witnesses for Allah in equity, and let not hatred of other people blind you, that ye deal not justly."

As Dick Cheney has shown us, it is simple (minded) to "cherry pick" this or that passage to justify this or that prejudice (the bible was used to justify slavery; "All are welcome at my father's table...master and slave...." etc.)

Like most monotheistic, religious holy books, there is much content that is a reflection of the historical epoch in which the writing came about...often containing prejudices and misunderstandings...but also, admonitions like the foregoing Koranic quote (it's rough equivalent in the West: "do unto others as you would have them do unto you")...

Again, the blog writer, in my opinion is a bigot. His efforts seem little different from when Laura Bush noted the oppression of women in Afghanistan (as an additional moral justification for occupying the land) if she were a defender of women's rights (!)

...By the way, the FBI investigation into Hasan’s communication with al-Awlaki (American born, Yemeni cleric) was deemed to be related to Hasan's PTSD research (professional duties), and did not exhibit any "warning signs" or pose any threat...thus the investigation did not lead to any termination or suspension of Hasan's duties.

The recent admonition by Obama (and others) not to rush to judgment...was the ethically and socially correct thing to do.

I agree that there is such a thing as evil in the world (though I disagree with its commonly judged causes) ...but also, that we should not rush to judgment of someone based upon his/her cultural practices and beliefs. WE ALL KNOW THIS ALREADY. It is possible to believe both, despite what the pundits amongst us try to argue in favor of (this way or that, never both).

The war 'over there" has hit home once again...did you think that we were immune? Apart from the geo-political strategic reasons for occupying two Islamic nations (and a third being Saudi Arabia, with 20 K US troops stationed there)...we are fighting against extremism in all its forms (religious, social, political, economic)...our side has equally as many religious fanatics willing to kill or cry "holy war" (or "culture war")....this is the only enemy (same as it ever was)...let's find some concrete ways to combat it.....hmmm, maybe starting with
"love thy neighbor as thyself"....?

Navigator (aka bigot) replies:

Normally I am not one to dwell on the ideological language employed by the left wing and the right wing. I am more interested in the actual arguments advanced by the parties, but this piece is chock-a-block full of such leftist politico-babble that I simply could not resist commenting on that aspect of it. Is there a school somewhere that teaches the correct form for the articulation of leftist conceits 101, because they all seem to follow a common format?

We have the obligatory accusation of racism or Islamophobia; take your pick, which must always appear at the beginning of such a piece so that there is no shadow of a doubt that the subject of the accusation has no legitimacy. In this case the accusation is that I am an Islamic bigot, but not an ordinary Islamic bigot, I am a closet Islamic bigot (almost like a secret society bigot).

But the writer (who I shall hereafter designate in the masculine gender) has unmasked me, ripping away my guise of being concerned about such leftist-owned causes as women’s rights, homosexual rights and concern for apostates, to show that none of these really matter to me because I am just an Islamophobe and therefore have nothing useful or reliable to offer on any of those subjects.

We have the usual accusations of false argument, which the writer immediately employs on his own behalf with no shame of hypocrisy. For example, Anonymous wags a finger at me for the evil of “cherry picking” to bolster my argument (without identifying the example, mind you) and then proceeds to do exactly that by quoting some single sura from the Koran that fits his theme.

Likewise, it seems to Anonymous that I ought to know a Nazi or a Muslim before I write about them. He does not offer us his credentials in that respect, but is quite comfortable launching into a discussion of these matters anyway. Why do leftists feel that they command the public stage and they can play on it without abiding by the rules they seek to impose on others. The arrogance of that posture is breathtaking.

Anonymous fallaciously sets up a straw man that he attributes to me and then proceeds to knock him down (the body count thing).

The babble part is the business about the “other”. If only we didn’t think in terms of the “other” then there would be no “other” and we would have no problems, it all comes down to us to stop thinking there is an “other”. I have always thought this line is claptrap. Just because I don’t want to think there is a wolf at my door is not going to determine whether or not there is one.

But enough on the structure of Anonymous’ attack. Let me deal with the substance.

Anonymous seems to have missed the point of my satire. It was not driven by a desire to compare Islamism with Nazism. It was to compare the current climate of political correctness in speech and thought with that which prevailed amongst the military and government authorities in my father’s generation. The key to the piece was that the statements were taken as if they had occurred in the early 1940s, during a war with Germany, and, fairly looked at in that historical sense, they seem ludicrous.

I am not, by any measure, a “closet Islamic bigot”. I make no bones about the fact that I do not like Islam. Read my blog, I have almost nothing positive to say about it. If I am in a closet on that subject, it is one with three walls and a door all made of glass. Nor does the appellation of bigot stick, since by definition a bigot is an unreasonably intolerant person. I a reasonably intolerant person, or, put another way, a person who is intolerant for good reasons.

I am an atheist. I have acknowledged that fact repeatedly on my blog. I do not hide my bias. I don’t like any religion: a pox on all your holy books, as it were. But I have deep concerns about Islam above the others and for good reasons, which I will elaborate hereafter.

I don’t think it is sufficient for Anonymous to simply assert, as if it were an obvious fact, that Islamism and Nazism are “not even close”. He should at least be intellectually honest and make the case for that proposition. Otherwise it is merely a conclusion in search of a premise.

Anonymous should explain why he thinks that Islam and German National Socialism differ on the key issues – just the ones that would concern us in a pluralistic, liberal democracy. I am referring to matters such as triumphalism, the will to power, racism, treatment of Jews, treatment of non-Nazis and non-Muslims and so on. I would be curious to see how Anonymous parses the differences, if he can actually identify them.

Anonymous failed to mention that I credited Geert Wilders with the proposition that there are similarities between Nazism and Islamism, but I won’t hide behind that because I do believe there are some disturbing similarities: the hatred of Jews being one, the claim to super status in the world being another, and the idea that women are primarily breeders for the perpetuation of the race, being just another example. The list goes on.

Ah, then we have the old “Christianity is just as bad or worse” moral relativism argument. I have heard better arguments: Stalin and Mao were atheists and they killed a lot more people than all the mainline Abrahamic religious people ever did.

So what? How does that excuse Islam’s atrocities? Just because Al Capone killed more people than John Dillinger doesn’t exonerate Dillinger from his crimes or cause us to think more highly of him.

I am no apologizer for Christianity, as I have made clear in the foregoing, but it is not Christians who are blowing up and shooting non-Christians in the name of their religion. That might have been the case long ago, or perhaps not so long ago, if one considers Northern Ireland, but in the 21st century that activity is now a near monopoly of the Muslims, and it is the here and now that concerns me, not the long history of this activity.

And it also concerns me that it is not confined to only Muslim lands; would that it were, because that would be an easy out, but it is worldwide. Neither the IRA nor the Tamil Tigers ever threatened my safety and security in Canada. The same cannot be said for some of the followers of Islam.

When I must run a gauntlet of oppressive security measures at airports, have my passport checked 5 times between the checked-luggage kiosk and stepping aboard the airplane, having my ass and balls grabbed by some bored security agent, and have to partially disrobe in public, it is not because Christians have been previously caught with weapons or bombs hidden in their Bibles or shoes.

Rest assured, Anonymous, that if Christians start down this same road, I will be as equally concerned and as equally harsh about them. At my core, you will be able to say with confidence and pride that you know me to be an equal opportunity bigot.

I don’t think Anonymous’s case is helped much by laying the distinction at my door that I failed to make; i.e., what the Koran says versus Islamic teaching. This accusation would make sense if the Koran contained nothing but verses of love and kisses for all, and Islamic teaching was something quite different.

In fact, the Koran contains many suras that talk about fighting and killing non-Muslims. Additionally, the Hadith (the best example of the Muslim life as referenced by the way Mohammed lived his and what he had to say about it) is another source of Islamic religious duty, law and precedence. The world is not a better place as a result of the massacre Mohammed visited upon the Jews who rejected him as a prophet of God.

These are the sources Islamic leaders cite when they pronounce death sentences against novelists, cartoonists, publishers, movie makers, screen writers, translators, and even duly elected members of legislatures, none of whom live in Muslim lands, authorizing any Muslim in the world to kill these people. It is the source material for the justifications cited by al Qaeda leaders and their acolytes for their murderous activities and the source of justification offered by ordinary Muslims who take it upon themselves to visit death and destruction on non-Muslims.

These violent suras are no less authentic and authoritative than the sweetness and light one that Anonymous cherry-picked.

Anonymous betrays his own faulty reading skills. At no time did I make the claim, direct or implied, that the Koran teaches the destruction of western civilization.

In fact, the idea that Islam is the only religion at war with western civilization was not my proposition at all. It came from a Pakistani-born, Canadian Muslim, Tarek Fatah, who has written a book about Islam, which was the subject of another one of my blog postings.

Now I am beginning to get a sense of what Mark Steyn must have felt when he faced human rights complaints about what he had written and the Muslims were, in reality, not complaining about his viewpoint, but the fact that he merely reported what other Muslims had said.

Anonymous seems to assume I am a war-monger with respect to Islam. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

I have stated previously on my blog that I think the Afghanistan effort is wasted, that we should bring our army home when our commitment expires in 2011, and we should avoid mucking around militarily in Muslim lands in the future. I was opposed from the outset to the American invasion of Iraq. So I don’t really know how I got “conflated”, to borrow his word, with the likes of Dick Cheney and Laura Bush.

I don’t want to fight Islam; I just wish to protect my liberal-democracy society from that ideology. I am looking for an effective shield, not a sword. Is there a problem with that?

Well, there is when the top soldier in the United States professes to be more concerned about backlashes against Muslims than the future safety and security of non-Muslims. If the military cannot protect its own, perhaps it should take a leaf out of the playbook of one of the Scandinavian police forces that hired a private security firm to protect the police. And if the military cannot even safe-keep its own, then what hope is there for the rest of us on civvy street?

I am aware of the public details of the investigation by the FBI of Major Hasan’s communications with the radical Islamist in Yemen and that the investigation was suspended because the investigator concluded it was not terrorist related. It is interesting to note the response of that al Qaeda recruiter to Major Hasan’s 10 minutes of mayhem:
Anwar al-Awlakid posted a blog entry titled 'Nidal Hassan Did the Right Thing' on his web site. In the post, Awlaki calls Hasan a 'hero’, and writes:

"[Hasan] is a man of conscience who could not bear living the contradiction of being a Muslim and serving in an army that is fighting against his own people. This is a contradiction that many Muslims brush aside and just pretend that it doesn’t exist. Any decent Muslim cannot live, understanding properly his duties towards his Creator and his fellow Muslims, and yet serve as a US soldier. The US is leading the war against terrorism which in reality is a war against Islam. Its army is directly invading two Muslim countries and indirectly occupying the rest through its stooges. Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal."

President Obama referred to Hasan’s “twisted logic”. So much for the non-judgmental leaders Anonymous so admires.

There is nothing twisted about Hasan’s understanding of his religious duty. In fact, Major Hasan had suggested early on that all Muslim soldiers in the U.S. military should be granted conscientious objector status as long as U.S. soldiers were being deployed for combat in Muslim countries. That was a most sensible and logical solution to this problem. It is unfortunate that nobody took him seriously enough to follow through with it.

I make no claims about the existence of good and evil as some sort of cosmic force, I will leave the proof of that one for Anonymous. I can only distinguish actions that I would be inclined to call good from those that I would likely brand as evil. What Major Hasan did was evil, and praising what he did is evil.

Finally, a word about love thy neighbour.

In Christianity this is supposed to apply to everybody. In Islam it is restricted to only Muslims. This is a distinction Mr. Obama failed to note in his Cairo speech.

Monday, November 9, 2009

At the end of the day

Let’s have a little fun with the U.S. military and government and its most important talking points about the Fort Hood massacre.

The New York Times published this story.

I am going to take a page from Geert Wilders and assume that the Koran and Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, are equally odious in that they tell people to go out and kill other people who don’t agree with them and who belong to some identifiable class; in the case of the Koran it is Infidels, Jews and Christians, and in the case of Hitler’s bible, it is Jews, and that both books are political ideologies.

So in the Times story instead of Muslims, we will substitute Nazis, and pretend that we are back in the 1940s combating Nazism in Europe. We’ll cut out some superfluous reporting, and pretend that the shooter was a German American, and see what this looks like.

Army Chief Concerned for Nazi Troops

General George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, said on Sunday that he was concerned that speculation about the political beliefs of the officer accused of killing 12 fellow soldiers and one civilian and wounding dozens of others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could “cause a backlash against some of our Nazi soldiers.”

“I’ve asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that,” General Casey said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union. “It would be a shame — as great a tragedy as this was — it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

General Casey, who was appeared on three Sunday news programs, used almost the same language during an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” an indication of the Army’s effort to ward off bias against the more than 3,000 Nazis in its ranks.

“A diverse Army gives us strength,” General Casey, who visited Fort Hood Friday, said on “This Week.”

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said that as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee he intended to investigate the officer’s suspected motives and whether the Army “missed warning signs that should have led them to essentially discharge him.”

“If he was showing signs, saying to people that he had become a complete and committed Nazi, and not just a half-assed, laissez-faire Nazi, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance,” Senator Lieberman said. “He should have been gone.”

Asked whether he thought the Army “dropped the ball” in not responding to warning signs that the officer was increasingly radical, General Casey replied that he was encouraging soldiers to provide information to criminal investigators. But he added that the Army needs to be careful not to jump to conclusions based on early tidbits of information.

“The speculation could heighten the backlash,” he said on “This Week.” “What happened at Fort Hood is a tragedy and I believe it would be a greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty here.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, and Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, took also pains on Sunday to say that Nazis have served honorably in the military and at risk to their lives.

“At the end of the day this is not about his politics — the fact that this man was a Nazi,” Senator Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“At the end of the day, maybe this is just about him. It’s certainly not about his politics, German National Socialism.”

He added: “To those members of the United States military who are Nazis, thank you for protecting our nation, thank you for standing up against Hitler who is trying to hijack your political beliefs.”

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Obama has a near "Brownie moment"

We all remember former President George W. Bush, patting his hapless Director of FEMA on the shoulder and saying, “You are doing a heck of job, Brownie.”

In that moment, more than anything else that had transpired, he doomed his Presidency. People were prepared to give him a lot of slack on his war in Iraq because they were not sure that he was wrong about keeping America safe. But when they saw the plight of Americans in New Orleans and saw how disconnected his administration seemed to be from what was so obvious in all the media coverage, the electorate started to disengage.

It was like the late President Nixon’s famous declaration, “I am not a crook.”

These kinds of comments have a self-serving ambience about them that simply exacerbates a problem of dissonant public perception, rather than smoothing it over.

That brings me to President Barack Obama’s rather extraordinary media reaction to the events in Fort Hood. I tuned in to him when it was advertised that he would speak about it. At first, I thought I must have been misinformed. He was rambling on congratulating some Indian conference organizers and getting the audience to recognize some local hero. I was just about to move on when he brought up Fort Hood.

It was creepy and reminded me of the minutes after 9/11 when George Bush received the news in a children’s classroom and seemed not the slightest moved by it. That Obama wouldn’t start off the top of the microphone opportunity with the Fort Hood commentary was very strange.

After doing the ritual of "how our prayers and thoughts are with the wounded and the families of the deceased", he then started in about himself and his job and his responsibility. Don’t want to dwell to long on those sad Texas folks and take your eyes off the most important thing in the United States -- me.

This guy is supposed to be one of the best public speakers in America, but he is surely no Ronald Reagan when it comes to conveying the appropriate emotion.

He is busy telling us not to jump to conclusions until all the facts are in. This is code for, "Don’t start blaming Islam because I have been kissing Islamic ass for nearly a year and you will upset all the benefits to be derived from my groveling and abasement, and wreck my Presidency, and that would be a disaster for America."

OK. I won’t jump to conclusions.

Let’s add up the facts so far:

Islam preaches Jihad against non-Muslims.

The shooter’s parents are Palestinians and he is a life-long Muslim – a regular at the mosque.

The shooter has been making anti-American comments for some time, expressing his opposition to the wars in the Middle East by non-Muslims and suggesting that Muslims should fight back.

He folded up his tent in anticipation of going somewhere, saying goodbye to all his friends.

He used private weapons which he acquired just prior to the shootings and he employed a type of gun that is rapid fire, accurate, Kevlar-piercing, and can be loaded with a 30- round clip. I am not saying he used a 30-round clip, but many people found it difficult to believe he could have hit so many people with a single pistol.

He shouted "Allah Akbar" while he fired his gun; it is a common expression for those who are about to destroy non-Muslims to preface their action with cries of "Allah Akbar".

I’ll wait for more facts before coming to a conclusion, as Dear Leader asks, but, in the meantime, I am reminded of that old saw: if it walks like a duck, and it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it most probably is a duck.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Time for religious profiling in military service

Did a lack of religious profiling lead to the Fort Hood disaster?

In World War Two, the United States and Canada transported citizens of Japanese ancestry inland and kept them in camps until the war was over. This was done for several reasons.

The first was that the North American Japanese were a small, visible minority, so it was easy to do, without serious political consequences. The second was that the vast majority lived on the west coast where our forces were facing the Imperial might of Japan. The third reason was that it was impossible for the authorities to be able to determine whether these people would identify with their North American homeland or with their racial ancestry and, if the latter, would they actively attempt to sabotage our war efforts.

We will never know the answer to that conundrum because we never gave them an opportunity to show us.

After the war, when multi-culturalist politics became de rigueur and political correctness infected our English usage rules, we apologized to these people for the horrible racist manner in which we treated them. Ever since then we have gone out of our way to make sure we do not repeat our racist policies, even if those policies may have protected us.

In the usual clarity of the view through the rear-view mirror we now see the signs that Major Hasan, life-long Muslim, had openly expressed deep misgivings about the U.S. military invading the homelands of Muslims and killing them.

Had the authorities had been rigorous about religious profiling of possible military risks this man might have merited a different assignment or a mustering out.

In the Cold War, it would have been unthinkable to put an avowed communist on the front lines of the military. Why would the army propose to send a Muslim to a theatre of war in which Muslims are being killed by non-Muslims and expect him to do his duty?

I will bet, starting today, the U.S. military will begin investigating every serving member who follows the teachings of Mohammed, PC and MC be damned, and that recruitment officers will be given a new set of instructions to weed out potential religious problems.

The following are the current posted grounds for ineligibility for U.S. military service. Religious affiliation is not referenced even though the United States has been fighting in Muslim countries for 8 years, but sexual perversion (whatever that means) will definitely show you to the door.

US Military Enlistment Standards

In general, the following additional conditions will render one ineligible for enlistment, and waivers will not normally be granted:

1. Intoxicated or under influence of alcohol or drugs at time of application, or at any stage of processing for enlistment.
2. Having history of psychotic disorders or state of insanity.
3. Questionable moral character.
4. Alcoholism.
5. Drug dependence.
6. Sexual perversion.
7. History of antisocial behavior.
8. History of frequent or chronic venereal disease.
9. Previously separated for unfitness, unsuitability, unsatisfactory performance, misconduct or bar to reenlistment, with 18 or more years of active Federal service completed.
10. Military retirees (can be waived in some cases).
11. Persons unable to present written evidence (official documents) of prior service claimed, until such service has been verified.
12. Persons whose enlistment are not clearly consistent with interests of national security.
13. Last discharged or separated from a component of a U.S. Armed Force, with an other than honorable or general administrative discharge.
14. Criminal or juvenile court charges filed or pending against them by civil authorities.
15. Persons under civil restraint, such as confinement, parole, or probation.
16. Subject of initial civil court conviction or adverse disposition for more than one felony offense.
17. Civil conviction of a felony with any one of the following:
a. Three or more offenses (convictions or other adverse dispositions) other than traffic.
b. Applicants with juvenile felony offenses who have had no offenses within 5 years of application for enlistment may be considered for a waiver in meritorious cases.
18. Subject of initial civil court conviction or other adverse dispositions for sale, distribution, or trafficking (including "Intent To:) of cannabis (marijuana), or any other controlled substance.
19. Prior Service with an RE-Code of "4." (Note: The Army will sometimes waive a re-enlistment eligibility code of "4," when that code was issued by another service, and the individual's discharge characterization is "uncharacterized," or "honorable."
20. Persons with a Bad Conduct or Dishonorable punitive (court-martial) discharge.
21. Persons with prior service last discharged from any component of the Armed Forces for drug or alcohol abuse, or as rehab failure during their last period of service.
22. Three or more convictions or other adverse dispositions for driving while intoxicated, drugged, or impaired in the 5 years preceding application for enlistment.
23. Confirmed positive drug test at MEPS. (Note: The Navy, Marine Corps, and Army may waive this, after a waiting period. The Coast Guard and Air Force never waive this).
24. Persons with convictions or other adverse dispositions for 5 or more misdemeanors preceding application for enlistment.
25. Alien without lawful admittance or legal residence in the United States.
26. Permanently retired by reason of physical disability.
27. Individuals receiving disability compensation from the VA (may be waived in some cases, as long as the member agrees to give up the disability compensation).
28. Officers removed from active or inactive service by reason of having attained maximum age or service.
29. Discharged by reason of conscientious objection.

For comparison, here is a discussion of the Indian army recruitment practices on the Super Hindu website.

About the Muslim under-representation in the Indian army, the reasons are three. One was Partition. Before Independence, Muslims were around 25 per cent of the Indian army and 25 per cent of undivided India. But when India broke up and Muslim soldiers were asked to choose between India and Pakistan, they joined Pakistan en masse. So Muslim numbers in the Indian army dropped so drastically that they were only 2 per cent in 1953, according to India’s then minister of state for defence. Jawaharlal Nehru himself expressed concern that “hardly any Muslims” were left in the army. And Muslim numbers never really picked up in the last 60 years for a well-known reason.

India’s military establishment hesitates to hire Muslims as soldiers because it suspects Muslim loyalty to India. This discrimination is a natural outcome of India and Pakistan’s bitter hostility over 60 years. In similar situations, the same thing happens all over the world. The Israeli army doesn’t trust its Arab soldiers in jobs related to defence security. The Buddhist Sinhalese army under-recruits its Hindu Tamils lest their sympathies lie with the Tamil Tigers. After 9/11, US army recruiters would probably screen a Muslim American volunteer more thoroughly than a Christian American. Thanks to our four wars with Pakistan, the same anti-Muslim animus works here in army recruitment.

Proof of it lies in an enormous mass of documentary and other evidence which expresses distrust of Muslims. Otherwise, why does India have separate regiments for the Sikhs, Jats, Dogras, Garhwalis, Kumaonis, Mahars, the Nagas, even the Gurkhas, but not a single Muslim regiment? This is tragic but it’s a truth which shouldn’t be suppressed. It should be acknowledged and dealt with.

Events have consequences. Muslim under-recruitment in the Indian army is a consequence of Partition. India and Pakistan’s hostility is seen in both countries in Hindu versus Muslim terms. So it’s natural for India’s Hindu army establishment to distrust a Muslim who wants to join as a soldier.

This prejudice itself discourages qualified Muslim youths from applying, which drives down Muslim numbers even more. Another reason for Muslim under-recruitment is the relatively poor education of Muslims. When they try to enlist as soldiers, they are simply out-competed by better-educated Sikh, Hindu, and Christian youths. So Muslim leaders are quite right that Muslim under-recruitment in the army deprives the community of a good, life-long source of employment. It’s a sad situation not so easy to correct.

The author of this piece clearly has a better opinion of the sagacity of American military recruiters than the available evidence would support.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Religious flowchart -- what a concept

This is as useful a guide to religion as I have come across in a long time. I really value the simplicity and comprehensiveness of flowcharts.

Thanks to a correspondent for this -- I preserve privacy on this blog, but he knows who he is because he is a regular reader.

Random thoughts on God and religion

Whilst walking my Labrador Retriever this morning I found myself ruminating on the arguments for God. I wondered if my dog is cognizant of God. I think not.

As I walked through the forest I considered the old question of whether a tree that falls in the forest when nobody is present makes a sound. The correct answer is no. Sound requires something to propagate waves in the air and something to receive those waves and interpret them. Both things are essential for the existence of a sound.

So, here is the thing.

If no humans existed, ever, would there still be an argument to be made for the existence of God? If yes, then who would make it? Does the existence of God depend entirely on the existence of humans?

The Abrahamic religions tell us that God created humans to worship and obey him.

We know that the Universe is about 10 billion years old. We know the Earth is about 4 billion years old. We know that modern humans first appeared about 100,000 years ago. We believe on the best available evidence that the modern human brain functionally capable of contemplating God first came into being about 50,000 years ago.

So, here is the thing.

What caused God to create a creature capable of knowing of his existence 50,000 year ago? Why not 100,000 years ago? Why not 100 million years ago? Pick any time frame. What was the burning need in God to have a creature capable of contemplating him and worshipping him and why did this need arise only 50,000 years ago?

Questions. Always with the questions.

And here is another one.

We know that Islam discourages the graven images of humans, and that Muslims get very angry at depictions of Mohammed. Yet I have never heard of Muslims creating a ruckus over depictions of Allah, of which there are many in the history of art in Western civilization.

Why is that? How is that Mohammed takes precedence over God? Why does he get to have urban riots in his name because of pictorial representations, but not God? I was in the Sistine Chapel a couple of months ago and noticed a few Muslims gazing up at Michaelangelo’s painting of the Almighty. It did not seem to ruffle them.

And yet another one.

This one I have to attribute to Melanie Phillips in The Spectator.

Why all the fuss over the Jewish settlements in the lands claimed by the Palestinians? Just take the necessary steps to inaugurate the state of Palestine and let the Jews who live there become citizens of the Palestinian state. After all, the Jewish state has a significant number of Arab citizens. If the settlers don’t like that prospect, and I am confident they would not, then they can move to Israel and free up the settlements for Arabs.

In short, it is a self-correcting problem and making into the kind of deal-breaking condition precedent to peace is a red herring.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fairness, the lost value in our justice system

Sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmingly angry at officialdom and those we elect or appoint to public office. They seem to be so out of touch with what the public thinks or wants so much of the time, especially when it comes to issues of justice and fairness.

In Toronto a shopkeeper in Toronto’s downtown Chinatown shopping district chased down a thief who had stolen $60 worth of merchandise from him earlier in the day, captured him, tied him up and called police to take him away. That they did, but before leaving the scene they arrested the shopkeeper and charged him with kidnapping, assault, carrying a concealed weapon (a box cutter) and forcible confinement.

The thief admitted his crime in court and also admitted to another theft that day; he had a long record of petty theft and was well-known for his shoplifting career. The judge reduced the recommended sentence of 90 days incarceration to 30 days in return for the agreement of the thief to testify against the shopkeeper in his trial.

In the past two days, the Chief of Police in Toronto, Bill Blair, has held a conference with the media to deny that the police had any involvement in the reduction of the sentence and to plead for understanding that their hands are tied when it comes to laying such charges. The confidence in the police amongst the Chinese community in Toronto, which is a large community, has dropped like stone. The Chief, of course, lays the blame on the media misinforming the public.

The idea that instead of charging this shopkeeper, the cops should have given him a medal at a public awards ceremony for helping to keep Toronto safe from crime never entered Mr. Blair’s consciousness.

But that is exactly what public thinks should have happened.

The Crown prosecutor however knows this to be true. The two most serious charges against the merchant have now been dropped, the kidnapping and concealed weapon charges, and he will go to trial on the lesser offenses. Earlier the merchant declined a plea bargain that would have seen him plead guilty to forcible confinement and concealment of a weapon in return for a suspended sentence and no jail time.

So what is the prosecutor up to? Going to trial on the lesser charges means the matter will be dealt with by a judge and not a jury. There is not a shadow of doubt that a jury would acquit this guy instantly and the Crown knows that. By offering that plea bargain the Crown has already conceded that this individual does not deserve to go to jail.

So rather than do the right thing, which is to drop all charges against Mr. Shopkeeper, we are still going through the farce of a public trial pretending that this man has actually done something wrong.

These people running this circus are all boneheads.

Unfortunately, unreasonable execution of office is not confined to Canada’s justice officials.

In the United States, as part of a plea bargain in the federal courts, a defendant must waive his or her rights to raise DNA evidence in any subsequent proceeding. DNA evidence has now become the gold standard in determining guilt or innocence, and all sorts of people who were convicted at trial are subsequently exonerated by comparing DNA evidence from a crime scene to that of the defendants.

People enter into plea bargains for all sorts of reasons that may have little to do with whether they actually committed the crime as charged, as was the case with the Toronto merchant had he decided to go with the plea bargain. It is standard practice in the U.S. to “throw the book” at an accused with the consequence of very long prison sentences and an accused must weigh carefully the risk that if he or she goes to trial the consequences could be very serious. Often a plea bargain is nothing more than a trade off on risks.

Prosecutors and judges are elected in the United States and they like to run on “hard on crime” platforms because it plays well with the voters. Prosecutors in particular like to boast about their high percentage of convictions, especially if they intend to parlay their courtroom curriculum vitae into a run for higher political office. It would be embarrassing and politically damaging to have their conviction records overturned on the basis of subsequent DNA analysis.

So fairness goes out the window in favour of career opportunities.

That really sucks.