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Archive for March 2009

Mar/09

27

Israel, gentile & Jews

A good point in regards to attitudes toward Israel and anti-Semitism broadly understood was brought up in the post below. How about attitudes toward Israel as a function of politics?
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Mar/09

26

Who is for the Jews? Left or Right?

Over at Red State Erick Erickson implies that the Left is anti-Semitic by way of the JournoList story:

It makes for an interesting conversation. Apparently, many of the lefties don’t much care for Olbermann either. And they hate Marty Peretz, considering him a racist, which we all know is code for “Jewish” among this group of typically America haters who, many of them at least, tend to not exactly like Jews when they are being candid.

Let’s set aside the fact that the individual who runs JournoList, Ezra Klein, is Jewish by background, and so are some of Peretz’s most vociferous critics on the list, such as Eric Altermann, Matthew Yglesias and Spencer Ackerman. It still gives me an excuse to look into the GSS and see if there is a noticeable Left-Right trend in terms of attidues toward Jews.

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There is a clip of a recent bloggingheads.tv between Matt Yglesias and Mark Schmitt which is rather amusing, as they express a rather conservative sensibility:

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Mar/09

25

Muddle to the Right?

I’m reading Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World right now. I’ve not read Ferguson before, and I have to say he’s a rather good prose stylist. Though dense with data & concept The Ascent of Money is a page turner, though perhaps it says more about me than the gripping narrative.

But the most interesting aspect for me right now is how dated some of the observations made are. The final touches on the book were put into place in late-Spring of 2008, so you have Ferguson referring to the “Financial Crisis of 2007.” I’ve heard him on the radio and he ruefully has admitted that events are so volatile that despite the timeliness of his book, in some ways it is almost quaint in terms of the perspective which it offers. Despite the fact that here in the United States we are on the precipice of verging to the Left, I can’t but help wonder if the ultimate results of the current crisis will be conservative. Not conservative in specific ways such as the election of conservative governments or greater faith in modern capitalism, but a deep conservatism of disposition which is nourished by the jaundiced skepticism which is in the air. Skepticism of the efficacy of government in the face of corrupt capitalism. Skepticism as to the virtue of the free market. Skepticism of engineering, financial and social. Skepticism of the goodness of one’s fellow man and the inevitable ascent toward the pinnacle of progress.

Though prehaps you’ll find it ironic that my pessimism about the current state of affairs makes me optimistic, so to speak, about conservatism.

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Mar/09

22

Blasphemy!

In an era when some (rightly) worry that blasphemy laws may be being reintroduced under the guise of prohibiting speech that gives ‘offense’, here via the New York Times is a reminder that the original approach lingers on in America too:

Mr. Kalman had already formed one such corporation for his information-technology business and now wanted the same status for his sideline as a filmmaker, the better to write off expenses on his income taxes.
The first line on the document asked Mr. Kalman to supply his chosen corporate name, and he printed it in: I Choose Hell Productions, LLC. In a personal bit of existentialism, Mr. Kalman believed that, even if life was often hellish, it was better than suicide.
A week later, the daily mail to Mr. Kalman’s home in the Philadelphia suburb of Downingtown brought a form letter from the Pennsylvania Department of State. His corporate filing had been rejected, the letter explained, because a business name “may not contain words that constitute blasphemy, profane cursing or swearing or that profane the Lord’s name.”
Mr. Kalman felt quite certain, he recalled here the other day, that the letter was some kind of prank. Nobody had even signed it. And though he did not know it at the time, Pennsylvania had granted corporate designation to entities like Devil Media, Vomit Noise Productions and Satanic Butt Slayers.
After a couple more readings, though, Mr. Kalman realized that the rejection was genuine. Pennsylvania, it turned out, indeed had a law against blasphemy…

Read the whole thing.

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Mar/09

21

Environmentalism as Religion

I’ve long thought that some aspects of modern environmentalism (particularly many of the attitudes and beliefs associated with, to use the shorthand, ‘global warming’) are in a good number of respects ‘religious’.

Here (via the Daily Telegraph) is a story that would appear to give some official support to that view:

A former executive of a top property company has been told he can claim at a tribunal that he was sacked because of his “philosophical belief in climate change”. In the landmark ruling Tim Nicholson was told he could use employment law to argue that he was discriminated against because of his views on the environment. The head of the tribunal ruled that those views amounted to a philosophical belief under the Employment Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, 2003, according to The Independent. The case is the first of its kind and could open the way for hundreds of future claims to be made in the same fashion, the newspaper reported. Mr Nicholson, 41, was made redundant while head of sustainability at Grainger plc, Britain’s biggest residential property investment company, in July last year.

There is, of course, the temptation to think that any company sanctimonious enough to hire a ‘head of sustainability’ deserves all the trouble it gets. That’s unless, of course,  the original idea behind that appointment was that it should be used as a cynical piece of corporate camouflage – in which case it can only be applauded. 

The following aspect of this story makes me suspect that’s just what it might have been….

Mr Nicholson said that his frustrations were exemplified by an occasion when the company’s chief executive, Rupert Dickinson, “showed contempt for the need to cut carbon emissions by flying out a member of the IT staff to Ireland to deliver his BlackBerry that he had left behind in London.”

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Mar/09

20

Miscellany, March 20

  • Pareidolia is “that phenomenon wherein people see things that aren’t there because human brains are wired for pattern recognition”. Children see animals in the clouds or letters in a pile of sticks; adults are likely to see images fraught with special meaning, especially (though not only) religious images such as the Virgin Mary, the cross or the face of Jesus. Via Orac comes an irresistible six-minute video of the highlights of Christian pareidolia stories for 2008.

    Orac hazards the view — though I’m not sure what the evidence is in either direction — that in societies with a different religious foundation or none at all, people would see something else in grilled cheese sandwiches, tree bark, cinnamon bun residues, dirty windows, and other objects presenting random visual patterns. (Compare the 2005 story in which Burger King redesigned the swirl on an ice cream lid after a Muslim man objected that it was too reminiscent of the Arabic inscription for Allah).
  • From the same blog, but on an entirely different subject, a study of medicine and religion finds that (to quote the blog, not the study) “Faith in a higher power can often lead to more aggressive treatment than is medically warranted”. In cases of incurable cancer, strong religious conviction on the part of patients is apparently more likely to correlate with the use of ventilators, death while in intensive care, and other heroic/invasive measures, as opposed to hospice. Orac (who is a medical doctor specializing in cancer) has an extended and interesting discussion.
  • Finally, a Missouri library has agreed to settle “Deborah Smith’s claim that she lost her job as a librarian assistant in Poplar Bluff, Mo., because she refused to attend a ‘Harry Potter Night’ promoting the publication of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ in July 2007.” Smith believed the Potter books dabble in the occult and was not mollified at the library director’s offer to let her participate behind the scenes where her fellow church members would not have to realize she was involved.

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Mar/09

18

Watching the Door

My review of Kevin Myers’ book, which I mentioned in a previous post, is now online at Taki’s Magazine.

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Mar/09

17

Book Learnin’

By way of celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I reviewed Kevin Myers’ memoir of the Northern Ireland troubles, Watching the Door, for Taki’s Magazine. (Review not yet posted.)

I noticed the following curiosity on p.159, though I didn’t include it in my review.

Within the Protestant folklore [i.e. of working-class Northern Ireland] Catholics were immigrants from backward, southern Ireland …  into Protestant Ulster. Catholics didn’t keep their word, and were lazy and ignorant; and indeed there were elements of truth in the broadstroke mythologies.

For there was a dysfunctional quality to Catholic education. Catholic schools did not teach engineering, metalwork, or mechanical drawing — and this in an economy which had been traditionally based on engineering. So, if a business was looking for a fifteen-year-old apprentice, which would it choose — the little Catholic lad with his Latin, or the Protestant boy with an entire array of technical skills?

To be sure, there was little enough evidence that engineering firms were thirsting to give jobs to Catholics: but the Catholic educational system actually made discrimination against Catholics wiser to implement. For Catholic schools had their eyes on the professions: low achievement for the unscholarly was a pathological norm within Catholic working-class society. One can loathe [Provisional IRA terrorist commanders] Martin McGuiness and Gerry Adams and their deeds, yet at the same time recognize that they are men of extraordinary intelligence and talent. Both left school without a single qualification, McGuinness to become an apprentice butcher, Adams to become a barman.

This prompted a number of thoughts. There is, for example, the broad educational issue probed in Charles Murray’s recent book Real Education, about the overly academic emphasis of current U.S. public education, with its implicit assumption that every student is headed for law school — what Steve Sailer calls the “Yale or jail” approach. My son’s school has no shop classes.  This seems to be the same educational problem Myers is talking about.

Then I got to wondering if this a true thing about Catholic education in general. I have no clue, but perhaps readers with an experience of parochial education in the U.S. might offer opinions. It does seem to be broadly true, in my experience anyway, that there’s a sort of nit-picking argumentativeness that you find much more in well-educated Catholics than in others. Do Catholic educators spend so much time hammering grand metaphysical schemas into their students’ heads — the blessed Aristotle, the sainted Aquinas, and the rest — and training them in arguments they can use to confound heretics and unbelievers, they have no time for anything practical? It fits with the general high quality of Catholic intellectuals (assuming you like intellectuals …), but I’m really just curious to hear opinions.

Kevin Myers is himself Irish-Catholic, by the way, though he was raised in England.

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Mar/09

15

The UK Today

Writing in the London Times, Dominic Lawson interviews a Muslim woman who converted to Christianity:

Hannah’s description in the book of the moment when her “community” discovered the “safe” home where she had fled after becoming an apostate is terrifying. A mob with her father at its head pounded and hammered at the door as she cowered upstairs hoping she could not be seen or heard. She heard her father shout through the letter box: “Filthy traitor! Betrayer of your faith! Cursed traitor! We’re going to rip your throat out! We’ll burn you alive!”

Does she still believe they would have killed her? “Yes, without a doubt. They had hammers and knives and axes.”

Why didn’t you call the police after-wards? “First, I didn’t think the police would believe me. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen in this country – or that’s what they’d think. Second, I didn’t believe I would get help or protection from the authorities.”

Hannah had good reason for this doubt…

Indeed she did. Read the whole thing.

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