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  • Archive for October, 2010

    “Trick or Shirk” indeed…

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 31st October 2010 (All posts by )

    The fine jihadist-media-monitor Aaron Zelin has a Halloween special by that title today – featuring a piece by Omar Bakri Muhammad, founder of the UK group “Al Muhajiroun”, regarding the holiday of the season:

    Realising this reality of Halloween, the true believer in the One and Only true God (Allah) we must ask what is the Islamic ruling on: Belief in false gods, pretending to be a false god, offering sacrifice to a false god and praying for the dead from the non-Muslims? What is the Islamic ruling on celebrating Halloween i.e. Dressing up in costumes, asking for treats, offering treats, decorating houses, displaying pumpkins? [ … ]
    As Muslims we are responsible for purifying the lands from any corruption hence we are duty bound to eradicate all evil and the worst is Shirk (giving the right of Allah to another).
    Dear Muslims we must realise and understand that any practices, celebrations that do not come from Islam are evil, because if it was good then Allah (SWT) would have included it in our Deen. Halloween is an evil celebration which promotes worship and sacrifice to false gods, an evil that pollutes one’s belief and worship to Allah. Halloween is a form of Shirk and disobedience introduced by Shaytaan in the form of a trick, enjoyment and celebration.

    That set me off on a bit of a holiday spree…

    According to other Muslims, Valentine’s day is just as bad

    Conservative Muslims opposing St. Valentine’s Day took to the streets of Lahore on Feb. 14 demanding an end to what they call an un-Islamic tradition.
    About 100 protestors gathered in front of the Lahore Press Club to condemn the “un-Islamic, unethical day.” The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP), a religio-political party and Lahore Cultural and Heritage Society jointly staged the protest.
    The participants, most of them women clad in black burqas (a head-to-toe garment worn by Muslim women) waved banners which said “It is a conspiracy to corrupt Muslim children” and “it is treachery to culture.”

    At least that’s one thing some conservative Hindus can agree with some conservative Muslims on:

    India’s Hindu hard-liners are showing no love for Valentine’s Day. A few dozen protesters briefly blocked a road in downtown New Delhi on Wednesday, burning Valentine’s Day cards and chanting “Down with Valentine.” In the nearby city of Lucknow, extremists threatened to beat up couples found celebrating their love.
    “We are deadly against Valentine’s Day,” said Sapan Dutta, a regional leader of the hard-line Shiv Sena group. “We are for civilized love and affection.”
    The protests by groups like Shiv Sena, who say they are defending traditional Indian values from Western-style promiscuity, have become an annual media event.

    But then, you know, not all Hindus feel that way:

    A unique Hindu temple of Sri Krishna dedicated to the concept of Valentine’s Day will be consecrated in April 2010 at Sholingur in Vellore District in Tamil Nadu (140 km from Chennai). The unique temple which tries to amalgamate the ideas of Saint Valentine and Hindu God Krishna – both synonymous with love – is being built by R. Jaganaath, a former food and beverages manager and the author of a book on cocktails.

    And here’s another approach to Valentine’s Day from some Muslim women in the Maldives:

    A group of self-styled “underground feminists” calling themselves the ‘Rehendhi’ movement claim to have bombarded Sheikh Ibrahim Fareed with women’s underwear on Valentine’s Day, in protest “against misogyny in Maldivian society.”

    That sounds more like a Tom Jones concert!

    Thing is, St Valentine, whose day February 14th supposedly is, wasn’t a lover in the romantic sense – he was a lover of God who died for his faith — a martyr:

    A group of parents in Texas’s Katy Independent School District got a judge to issue a restraining order today to make sure that children can pass out Valentine’s Day cards with religious themes. The school district, however, says it doesn’t understand what the parents’ lawsuit is all about, and was never contacted by the parents about the issue. [ … ]
    In any case, kids in the district get to give out religious cards today. But did you ever consider what historically accurate religious Valentine’s Day cards might look like? Here are some ideas: “I Love Your Martyr Complex.” “Baby, I’d Rather Die Than Renounce Our God.” “If Love Is Blind, Maybe I Can Cure It.” “I May Not Exist, But My Love Is Real.”

    Maybe we should just forget about Valentines. What about Christmas? It seems even Christmas isn’t exempt from suspicion…

    What ought to be a time of meditative joy and happy celebration has become a time for combat. December, say scores of the faithful, is a time for war—the Christmas wars. Happy holidays is denounced as a godless substitute for Merry Christmas. The Christmas wars are now as much a part of the season as mistletoe and reindeer.
    Which brings us to one of the principal battlegrounds of this annual Christmas debate: Santa Claus.
    Millions of Christians accept Santa uncritically, but some denounce the attention given to him as idol worship. Many pastors crusade against images of the jolly old man’s presence in churches.

    Santa Claus? Let’s just get back to Halloween

    While our modern tradition of Halloween has no substantial ties to any paganism or occultism, there remains a strong cultural association and perception of Halloween as occultism and anti-Christian. Christians should be cognizant of the negative cultural implications of partaking in cultural festivals and willingly refrain when appropriate. This is true also of “Christian” holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, as well as holidays that are currently understood in more secular terms, such as Valentine’s Day and Independence Day. The practice of the Days of the Dead is a Mexican tradition that is associated with Mexican culture, so for us from another culture to borrow that practice with new meanings and interpretations was, in my opinion, culturally insensitive and inappropriate.

    Independence Day? Independence Day?

    I think that pretty much covers everything. Happy All Hallows all, and Feliz Dia de los Muertos.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Still Life

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 31st October 2010 (All posts by )

    I am the only one in my family who is interested in history. As we were going through my deceased grandmother’s stuff it was easy to determine who would receive all of the photographs, slides, and family records.

    I knew that my grandfather, who died 21 years ago, was an amateur photographer. Boy was he. I was presented with box upon box of pictures and slides of everything from flowers to buildings to bugs.

    As I went through the photos I was stunned to find a certain one. It was a guy in an old German/Prussian military uniform complete with helmet and tall boots. On his left lapel he had an Iron Cross. I thought about it for a moment and set it aside, in a special pile of shots that meant something more to me than the others. I hope to present some of these shots here after I get a scanner.

    Anyway, this photo was a person I knew, but I just couldn’t place him. After a while and after finding a few more photos that were labeled I figured out who it was. It was my grandfather’s step-father. My grandfather’s dad died in WW1 (my grandfather was 2 at the time) and his mother re-married to the gentleman in the photo. It is very cool to a historian like myself to know that I have an Iron Cross in the family, even if it isn’t blood relation. What I would give to have that medal. I have no idea where it ended up.

    As I was thinking about this, I had a rather disturbing thought. In this country we are very used to taking digital photographs. These are saved on laptops, cds, and other forms of storage. But technology moves forward fast. We don’t have 3.5 floppys or zip drives anymore and I assume that thumb drives, cds and other forms of storage will pass us by as well. I wonder if America will become a country without a photographical record eventually. The days of handing armfulls of photographs to the next generation may be coming to an end, and I think that is sad.

    Posted in History, Personal Narrative, Photos | 10 Comments »

    A Hipbone Approach to Analysis: III

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 30th October 2010 (All posts by )

    I’ve been slowly prepping this series of pieces about my analytic approach — and the mysterious business of “connecting the dots” — for a while, but.. Jeff Jonas, whose work I only recently ran across, has given me “another piece of the puzzle” and a slew of new dots to connect, so here’s a quick impression of some new (for me) terrain that connects with other areas I have long been familiar with.


    What it comes down to in my post today is this: I would like to reconcile “connecting the dots” with “putting together the pieces of the puzzle”.

    Both metaphors have to do with “seeing the big picture”, and one of them (“connecting the dots”) has to do directly with nodes and edges, i.e. with those systems we call graphs and networks, while the other suggests a far subtler set of connections.

    Consider this: n+1 is the next dot in the series of integers after n, with “+1” being the only link necessary — you can represent that on a graph with two nodes and an edge. But if you had the sky of the northern hemisphere in one hand (hey, this is a thought experiment) and five square miles of landscape around Winchester Cathedral in the other, finding just where to fit the cathedral (and the surrounding, branching, leafy trees nearby) snugly into the sky would be a far trickier business, and the links between air and leaf and stone molecules would be very many — we should be grateful for the ease with which the sky accommodates itself in reality to the cathedral and the trees (and the cathedral and the trees to the sky) — and for the ease with which a painter like Turner can capture the effect…

    Two puzzle pieces, I mean, may have to fit along many aspects of their intersection, while dots can be connected by a single common thread.


    I’ve only recently “met” the mind of Jeff Jonas, but he has some remarkable things to say about puzzles — for one thing, he writes about the levels of, well, computation involved in solving a jigsaw puzzle:

    The first piece you take out of the box and place on the work surface requires very little computational effort. The second and third pieces require almost equally insignificant mental effort. Then as the number of pieces on the table grows the effort to determine where the next piece goes increases as well. But there is a tipping point where the effort to determine where to place the next piece gets easier and easier … despite the fact the number of puzzle pieces on the table continues to grow.

    That in itself is a fascinating thought to dwell on, in fact it’s the sort of piece of the puzzle that gives me an epiphany — Jonas talks about puzzle pieces that provoke epiphanies, too:

    Some pieces produce remarkable epiphanies. You grab the next piece, which appears to be just some chunk of grass – obviously no big deal. But wait … you discover this innocuous piece connects the windmill scene to the alligator scene! This innocent little new piece turned out to be the glue.

    I’m processing this as a theologian / philosopher / poet, and Jonas has just given me a new angle on the theme of the intersection of frames of reference that Arthur Koestler in The Act of Creation takes to be the fundamental element in insights ranging all the way from casual jokes about rabbis to — let me give you a more powerful example — the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture which, if I’ve understood the layman’s version correctly, began as a hunch that the otherwise entirely distinct mathematical zones known as “elliptic curves” and “modular forms” could be mapped onto each other – and wound up once proven, successfully bridging algebra with analysis.

    Now, I am no no no no mathematician — but I am a student of conceptual bridges, so if I’ve phrased myself poorly here, please bear with me. The point is to think freshly about how one idea connects with another.

    Koestler’s insight at the intersection between two fields (for this is essentially a matter of multiple-frame, and thus cross-disciplinary, thinking) is, I’d suggest, Jonas’ epiphanic piece of the puzzle.



    But as we are trying to figure out the puzzle pieces — and this applies to “what is the meaning of life?” as much as to “what threat should be uppermost in our concern?” — Jonas has more to throw at us:

    There may be more than one puzzle in the box, some puzzles having nothing to do with others. There may be duplicate pieces, pieces that disagree with each other, and missing pieces. Some pieces may have been shredded and are now unusable. Other pieces are mislabeled and/or are exceptionally well crafted lies.

    I would like to add that puzzles may not be the only thing in the (universal) box. There’s a quote that originates somewhere in Heidegger, to the effect that “A puzzle is the unknown, to be solved, while a mystery is the unknowable, to be entered into and dwelt within.” As I say, I’ve only just run into Jonas’ thoughts, but I’d like to integrate that piece of the puzzle in with the ideas he’s providing – why not have a go at the mystery too while we’re about it?


    So what happens with ideas? How do they connect?

    Hermann Hesse, the Nobel laureate in literature who gave us Siddhartha and Steppenwolf and The Journey to the East, won his Nobel for his most ambitious novel, The Glass Bead Game (Das Glasperlenspiel, also known in English as Magister Ludi). It is an amazing piece of work that inspired at least one other book by another Nobel laureate — Manfred Eigen’s Laws of the Game: How the Principles of Nature Govern Chance — gave John Holland (he of genetic algorithms) the ruling metaphor for his life’s work, was an early and profound influence on Christopher Alexander’s thinking about pattern languages, and in general serves as a catalyst for grand scale creativity among a disparate crowd of very bright minds.

    It is about a game — a game on the order of the complete works of JS Bach. And the essence of the game is the juxtaposition of thoughts.

    It is about “connecting the dots” and “putting together the pieces of the puzzle” on the grand scale, to create not a single link between ideas, not a small “bigger picture” deploying a half-dozen or so insights, but a vast architecture of ideas that encompasses all “deep” human thought and connects all “beautiful” cognizable patterns. Hesse uses the image of an organist playing an organ to describe the play of ideas that composes his Game, writing:

    All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number.

    And in Hesse’s central, musical metaphor, the myriad thoughts that comprise what he terms the “hundred-gated cathedral of Mind” are linked one with another by likeness — by identity, isomorphism, homology, symmetry, parallelism, opposition, analogy, metaphor…


    I’ll have to move us deep into the territory of the arts and humanities here, because Hesse himself was supremely versed in those areas, but in doing so I would remind you that John Holland wrote of his life’s work, “If I could get at all close to producing something like the glass bead game I can’t think of anything that would delight me more.”

    Here’s Hesse on the analogical / isomorphic nature of the moves that connect ideas — “only connect!” said EM Forster — in his great Game:

    Throughout its history the Game was closely allied with music, and usually proceeded according to musical or mathematical rules. One theme, two themes, or three themes were stated, elaborated, varied, and underwent a development quite similar to that of the theme in a Bach fugue or a concerto movement. A Game, for example, might start from a given astronomical configuration, or from the actual theme of a Bach fugue, or from a sentence out of Leibniz or the Upanishads, and from this theme, depending on the intentions and talents of the player, it could either further explore and elaborate the initial motif or else enrich its expressiveness by allusions to kindred concepts. Beginners learned how to establish parallels, by means of the Game’s symbols, between a piece of classical music and the formula for some law of nature. Experts and Masters of the Game freely wove the initial theme into unlimited combinations. For a long time one school of players favored the technique of stating side by side, developing in counterpoint, and finally harmoniously combining two hostile themes or ideas, such as law and freedom, individual and community. In such a Game the goal was to develop both themes or theses with complete equality and impartiality, to evolve out of thesis and antithesis the purest possible synthesis.

    It is Bach, it is Hegel, it is the very essence of creativity, it is the associative, metaphoric nature of mind and brain (and I won’t get more than toe-deep in the “deep problem” of consciousness here).


    And it does involve combining the understanding of both puzzle and mystery, to return to that distinction from Heidegger:

    I suddenly realized that in the language, or at any rate in the spirit of the Glass Bead Game, everything actually was all-meaningful, that every symbol and combination of symbols led not hither and yon, not to single examples, experiments, and proofs, but into the center, the mystery and innermost heart of the world, into primal knowledge. Every transition from major to minor in a sonata, every transformation of a myth or a religious cult, every classical or artistic formulation was, I realized in that flashing moment, if seen with a truly meditative mind, nothing but a direct route into the interior of the cosmic mystery, where in the alternation between inhaling and exhaling, between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, holiness is forever being created.

    Hesse is proposing his intuition that the world of ideas is a mandala-form array of symmetries with a “vanishing point” in the center.

    Well, I have leapt far from my original topic, Jeff Jonas’ comments on piecing together a puzzle, but I hope the bungee-cord I’ve been depending on has held your attention, and now as always, at the far end of the extension there’s a bouncing-back.


    The human mind “connects the dots” and “pieces together the puzzle” by recognizing likenesses — pattern recognition, if you like.

    But just how human analogical thinking functions is not exactly an easy question…

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on A Hipbone Approach to Analysis: III

    Happy Halloween!

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 30th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Made by my nephews!
    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Humor | 1 Comment »

    Why Did We Just Do That?

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 30th October 2010 (All posts by )

    I mentioned a week or so ago that my grandmother passed away. She was 99 and had a very full, wonderful life which was for the most part sickness free until the very end. What follows is a personal story and I understand if you have no need to read further.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 12 Comments »

    Be Prepared

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th October 2010 (All posts by )

    ready for anything, including golf

    Chicagoboyz always carry a spare.


    Posted in Humor, Photos | Comments Off on Be Prepared

    A bin Laden October surprise ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th October 2010 (All posts by )

    The 2004 Madrid train bombings occurred the week of a national election and cost Prime Minister Aznar his job. This was widely seen as punishment for Spain’s participation in Iraq and the new Socialist government quickly turned tail and fled.

    Last week, a UPS cargo flight crashed in Dubai because of a fire in the cargo hold, thought to be caused by lithium batteries. Now, we see several more instances of UPS planes with potential bombs hidden in altered ink cartridges.

    Is this bin Laden telling us that he can still do damage from his palatial home in Pakistan ? I think this is just the beginning of this story.

    Posted in Elections, Iraq, Middle East, National Security, Politics, Terrorism | 2 Comments »

    Great Ad

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th October 2010 (All posts by )


    Posted in Politics, Video | 13 Comments »

    A Hipbone Approach to Analysis: II

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 29th October 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    Let’s call this one Hopscotch across the disciplines.

    …our intelligence community failed to connect those dots…
    President Obama, Remarks on Security Reviews, Jan 05, 2010

    I’ve been giving quite some thought over the past fifteen years to this issue of connecting dots.

    My internet handle, hipbone, does double duty for me, since it refers to Ezekiel’s apocalyptic prophecy as featured in the lyric, “hip bone connected to you back bone”, in the old spiritual, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones. On the one hand it points to apocalyptic, by which I mean the soon expectation of a sudden and complete transformation in world affairs, very possibly accompanied, triggered or accomplished by extreme violence, with the end result being a highly favored “new heaven and new earth” or “new world order” depending on who is doing the expectation. On the other hand, it points directly to the idea of “connecting the dots” itself, since the entire song is about connections. I have been working on both fronts at least since 1995.


    Connecting the dots is a matter of thinking, and there are two basic strategies of thought available to the human mind: linear thinking, which proceeds via cause and effect along a single track, and which is the major style of thought used within disciplinary silos, and lateral thinking, which skips sideways across silos and disciplines on wings of metaphor and analogy. Machines can crunch numbers and do some of our linear thinking for us: but it’s up to the analysts to cover the lateral front.


    Let’s go aphoristic:

    Expectation is algorithm: there are no algorithms for the unexpected.

    I’d like to connect the dots … to blind spots.

    Blinds spots are the spots we can’t, or won’t, and in any case don’t see. They fall into the category of the invisible. Visionaries are those who can see the invisible, who peer into our blind spots, into those places where we can’t see the connections between the dots, and can therefore easily be blind-sided. There’s an almost Borgesian thickness to the way things tie into one another here: the unexpected is by definition what we can’t predict, what blunt force thinking can’t predict — but it’s not invisible to those whose practice is to peer into the invisible, to aficionados of the subtler associative / metaphorical strategy…


    Let’s go mythic.

    There are two major strategies in life, two main ways of tackling problems, just as there are two heroes in the ‘Spider Woman” myth, which Joseph Campbell said was the central myth of the Americas. In Navajo terms, these twin heroes are called Monster Slayer and Child Born of Water, and their names may already give us the sense that one represents a brute force approach while the other is cannier, subtler — and able to achieve things his twin could barely imagine.

    The Massive Ordnance Penetrator may be able to penetrate 60 feet of concrete, but the Grand Canyon was created by the natural flow of water — and as Lao Tzu said, “Nothing under Heaven is more soft and yielding than water, yet for eroding the hard and strong, nothing can surpass it.”

    You can pitch this one-two punch at a variety of levels. The military can be seen as the nation’s Monster Slayer, its intelligence community as the Child Born of Water. You could see Thomas Barnett’s Leviathan as Monster Slayer, his SysAdmin as Child Born of Water. Or within the IC, you could say that software that can “crunch mega amounts of data” takes the Monster Slayer approach — but it requires cognitive skills and insight of a Child Born of Water sort to know when a student’s slightly eccentric interest represents a threat to the lives of three thousand office workers…


    Let’s go analogic.

    I’m thinking of the flight school students who “focused on learning to control the aircraft in flight, but took no interest in takeoffs or landings” — who asked one instructor where they could take lessons on jets without learning to fly smaller planes first, a request he concluded indicated they were “either joking or dreaming”.

    In the not-so-terror-conscious atmosphere pre-9/11, a lack of interest in takeoffs and landings might have seemed quirky — but the “connections” weren’t obvious enough for the info to travel all the way up the FBI food-chain to the very top, as it would today. In post-9/11 retrospect, such things look a bit different – but I presume it still took reasoning by analogy for an instructor in a SE Asian diving school to recognize that a student who appeared less interested in the business of avoiding the bends and surfacing safely than in learning underwater swimming might pose a similar threat.

    With 20/20 hindsight, this sort of thing seems glaringly obvious: even Monster Slayer could see it.


    Let’s think about ignorance for a moment.

    There’s Rumsfeld’s famous quip about known unknowns and unknown knowns, there are the genres of black swans and unintended consequences, there is what’s obvious and non-obvious, there are blind spots and hidden assumptions — and it’s the non-obvious that blindsides us, right?

    We could rephrase the Spider Woman idea to state that Monster Slayer proceeds in terms of the obvious, while Child Born of Water works with the non-obvious. Jami Miscik, at that time Deputy Director for Intelligence at CIA, once remarked, “To truly nurture creativity, you have to cherish your contrarians and give them opportunities to run free”.

    Child Born of Water is the contrarian, the maverick, the one whose oblique angle on things provides insight by… making non-obvious connections between the non-visible dots.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Rally to be held for “super fans” of Imperial City.

    Posted by onparkstreet on 28th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Imperial City, Washington D.C., whatever.

    Make no mistake, Oprah Winfrey is supporting the rally. Two weeks ago, she surprised members of the studio audience at “The Daily Show” by announcing she will send them all to Washington.
    Maybe she knows something the rest of us don’t.
    Meanwhile, we can surely be excused if our imaginations run wild. Especially for the biggest fans of Stewart and Colbert, can the rally we anticipate possibly be matched by what they have in store? They haven’t promised us the moon — they haven’t promised us anything beyond generalities — but in lieu of other promises, the moon is what we expect. Or at least Lady Gaga and Desmond Tutu.

    Come on. It’s all in good fun. Just a bunch of people attempting to restore some sanity to the fevered national political debate hijacked by evil extremists.

    I do have some questions for the CBz readership, though:

    (1) Will Twitter shut-down that day as twittering Obamatrons flood the system with gentle observations?

    (2) Will the alphabet run out of the letters T, E, A, B, G or R?

    (3) Will clouds of smug blot out the sun?

    (4) Will there be extra aid stations to tend to all the broken arms injured from patting oneself on the back?

    (5) Will Lady Gaga be there?

    These are serious times people. And serious times call for serious rallies. Run by serious people. Generally sympathetic to a Very Serious Political Party.

    Update: Last bit of the post edited slightly for “aesthetic” reasons. Because I felt like it.

    Second update: Just watched the following video of Smugapalooza (link via Instapundit). Apparently, misspelling words invalidates an argument so I made sure to change “high jack” to “hijack.” Any other mistakes of note? How embarrassing. Except, I’m not embarrassed. Well, for me. Nice video of the March To Restore My Inflated Self-Esteem. I’m in love with myself….

    Posted in Diversions, Elections, Human Behavior, Humor, Politics, That's NOT Funny | 7 Comments »

    Mexico, Africa, Zarqawi?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 27th October 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    I’ve been struck by a couple of passages I’ve run across in my reading recently that remind me of what I can only call “brutality with religious overtones”.

    1. Mexico

    There have been a fair number of articles about the various Mexican cartels, but the excerpt from Ed Vulliamy’s book, Amexica: War Along the Borderline that’s now online at Vanity Fair is the one that caught my eye yesterday.

    Here’s Vulliamy’s account of a conversation with Dr. Hiram Muñoz of Tijuana:

    He explained his work to me during the first of several visits I have made to his mortuary. “Each different mutilation leaves a message,” he said. “The mutilations have become a kind of folk tradition. If the tongue is cut out, it means the person talked too much—a snitch, or chupro. A man who has informed on the clan has his finger cut off and maybe put in his mouth.” This makes sense: a traitor to a narco-cartel is known as a dedo — a finger. “If you are castrated,” Muñoz continued, “you may have slept with or looked at the woman of another man in the business. Severed arms could mean that you stole from your consignment, severed legs that you tried to walk away from the cartel.”
    Earlier this year, 36-year-old Hugo Hernandez was abducted in Sonora; his body turned up a week later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, but not in a single piece. His torso was in one location, his severed arms and legs (boxed) in another. The face had been cut off. It was found near city hall, sewn to a soccer ball.

    That’s the brutality — I haven’t see the book itself yet, but I gather it also gets into the narco-corrida music and the “quasi-Catholic cult of Santíssima Muerte” — which brings me to the second part of my interest – the religious aspect.

    As Vulliamy mentions, there’s the cult of Holy Death, to be sure, a sort of shadow or inverse of the Blessed Virgin — a Dark Mother for dark times, or perhaps a revival of the ancient Mictlancihuatl, lady of the Dead? — with her own liturgy, too:

    Almighty God: in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we ask for your permission to summon Saint Death. Welcome, White Sister: we find ourselves gathered here at this altar of the Romero Romero family and of each one of us, to offer you a Mass that we hope you will like…

    Which brings us to the Robin-Hood-like bandit and folk-saint, Jesus Malverde, to whom prayers such as the following [FBI .pdf, see p. 20] are offered:

    Lord Malverde, give your voluntary help to my people in the name of God. Defend me from justice and the jails of those powerful ones. Listen to my prayer and fill my heart with happiness. For you shall make me fortunate.

    There are even miracles attributed to him:

    Oh Malverde! The Vatican did not believe you to be holy and would not canonize you, but when they brought the Caterpillars to tear down your hood, you broke one machine and nobody could move you away, you broke another, leaving those who disrespect you speechless — and when the third one broke, they said, “Let Malverde’s chapel alone.”

    Right beside the syncretistic quasi-Catholicism, there’s also a Protestant angle: La Familia is the group that, in Vulliamy’s words, “made its ‘coming out’ known in a famous episode: bowling five severed heads across the floor of a discotheque.” Time magazine reported on what it termed Mexico’s Evangelical Narcos:

    Federal agents seized one copy of La Familia’s Bible in a raid last year. Quoted in local newspapers, the scripture paints an ideology that mixes Evangelical-style self-help with insurgent peasant slogans reminiscent of the Mexican Revolution. “I ask God for strength and he gives me challenges that make me strong; I ask him for wisdom and he gives me problems to resolve; I ask him for prosperity and he gives me brain and muscles to work,” Moreno writes, using terms that could be found in many Christian sermons preached from Mississippi to Brazil. But on the next page, there’s a switch to phrases strikingly similar to those coined by revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. “It is better to be a master of one peso than a slave of two; it is better to die fighting head on than on your knees and humiliated; it is better to be a living dog than a dead lion.”

    As I commented on Zenpundit a while back,

    What’s troubling here is that there is only one undoubtedly “evangelical” phrase in all those that Time quotes, and it is one of then ones said to resemble the aphorisms of Emilio Zapata. “It is better to be a living dog than a dead lion” is a pretty direct borrowing from Ecclesiastes 9.4 in the King James Version: “To him that is joined to all the living, there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion.”

    But that’s not actually all. I didn’t mention it at the time, but “I ask God for strength and he gives me challenges that make me strong; I ask him for wisdom and he gives me problems to resolve; I ask him for prosperity and he gives me brain and muscles to work” is almost word-for-word the same as a poem attributed to Islam — or Judaism for that matter. Indeed, it can be hard to tell who is borrowing from whom – but one final source for the La Familia bible is known – it’s the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, the pastor of a ministry in Colorado Springs, who must have been surprised at the uses to which his writings were being put.

    In any case, as I said on Zenpundit: These people have a theology, and we should be studying it.

    2. Africa

    My thoughts turned to Africa when I read another paragraph recently, this one from Johann Hari’s review, The Valley of Taboos, of V.S. Naipaul’s new book, The Masque of Africa: Glimpses of African Belief:

    I have stood in a blood-splattered house in Tanzania where an old woman had just been beaten to death for being a “witch” who cast spells on her neighbors. I have stood in battlefields in the Congo where the troops insist with absolute certainty they cannot be killed because they have carried out a magical spell that guarantees, if they are shot, they will turn briefly into a tree, then charge on unharmed. I have been cursed in Ethiopia by a witch-doctor with “impotence, obesity, and then leprosy” for asking insistently why he charged so much to “cure” his patients. (I’m still waiting for the leprosy.) Where do these beliefs come from? What do so many Africans get out of them? Can they be changed? These are questions that are asked in Africa all the time, but we are deaf to the conversation.

    That sent me in search of some early military anthropology related to guerrilla warfare I’d come across in earlier readings.

    James R Price and Paul Jureidini’s 1964 Witchcraft, Sorcery, Magic, and Other Psychological Phenomena and their Implications on Military and Paramilitary Operations in the Congo, and Roger D Hughes’s 1984 Emergency in Kenya: Kikuyu and the Mau Mau Insurrection are both of considerable interest here — but it is LSB Leakey, the world-class British archaeologist initiated as a boy into the Kikuyu ways, who has written the most provocative summary of the relationship between political and religious violence and ritual that I’m interested in tracking.

    I’m quoting here from the chapter on “The Mau Mau Religion” in Maj. Hughes paper:

    Leakey’s original hypothesis in Mau Mau and the Kikuyu: “Mau Mau was nothing more than a new expression of the old KCA … a political body that was banned … because it had become wholly subversive.” Furthermore, “Mau Mau was synomomous with the new body called the in school, Kenya African Union…” However, Leakey admits to a reversal of his original hypothesis in Defeating Mau Mau, and goes on to say, “Mau Mau, while to some extent synonymous with these political organizations, was in fact a religion and owed its success to this fact more than to anything else at all.”
    He then proceeds to attribute the origin of Mau Mau to an “ideology transfer,” wherein the religious beliefs of the Kikuyu transitioned from their ancient tribal religion to Euro-Christianity to Mau Mau. The first transition took place artificially, as the missionaries stripped away the traditional beliefs and supplanted them with “20th Century Europe’s concept of Christianity.” The second transition was more natural and evolutionary than the first. A reactionary hybrid of the old and the new developed, because the supplanted concepts would not hold up in their society. There were too many contradictions between the old and the new, mainly due to the 20th Century European “add-ons.”

    Most of us have a pretty fixed view of what religion is, should be, or isn’t. Some of my readers no doubt hold to a evangelical Christian position, some are Catholic, some perhaps Buddhist, agnostic or atheist, and some perhaps Muslim. Each of us tends to take our own view of a particular religion as normative, but the reality is that the history of each of the great world religions contains sanctions for both peace-making and warfare — and human nature itself encompasses a range of behaviors that run from the kind of atavistic violence described above to the forgiving and compassionate impulse behind the Beatitudes…

    And while economic pressures and political frustrations may be enough to power great struggles, when religious rituals, beliefs and feelings are added into the mix, it can quickly become even more lethal.

    3. And Zarqawi?

    All of which leaves me wondering how close the parallels are between the Mau Mau in LSB Leakey’s account, La Familia and the other Mexican cartels — and the brutalities of jihadists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    CIA Leviathan Wakes Up and Hunts Ishmael

    Posted by James McCormick on 27th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Word came early last week from the Washington Times and Washington Post, while I was away on vacation, that Ishmael Jones, pseudonymous author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture would be sued for breaking his secrecy oath.

    I reviewed Jones’ 2008 book here on chicagoboyz in April, and followed it up more recently with a late September review of a similar book by Canadian “Michael Ross” on his time with Mossad.

    I found both books surprisingly revelatory about the organizational culture of these two intelligence organizations, but found little that would interest the James Bond crowd, or be of much value operationally to foreign governments.

    Jones’ book was by far the most damning, however, because he illustrated (with incidents from his own deep-cover career) the extent to which the CIA now operates for its own bureaucratic benefit with minimal attention to its central mandate – gathering actionable intelligence. All the most virulent criticisms of the Tea Party against big government are understatements when it comes to how national security has been subordinated to the HR nostrums of the day at CIA. Jones effectively outlined how “the emperor has no clothes.” Not so much inept as indifferent. As someone operating under “deep cover” in the clandestine branch, away from the support and comforts of consular life, he was certainly qualified to note the career paths and day-to-day obsessions of the “home office” and his colleagues. While he didn’t name names, he described enough duplicity and lassitude in the CIA’s management and staffing to earn the undying enmity of “tap dancers” and “clock watchers” alike.

    Most notably, Jones outlined in some detail how the vast number of clandestine officers that were supposedly hired and deployed by the CIA post 9/11 (at huge expense) were posted to the continental US. Numbers were further bulked up by counting support staff as “officers.” Meanwhile, CIA clandestine officers already in the field overseas at the time were being methodically hindered and removed to avoid bureaucratic risk. Jones contrasted this institutional predilection with his time in Iraq as part of a team of intelligence agents (largely Army).

    Apparently the Panetta CIA will now conduct lawfare against one of its own, after having done so much to limit his success when he was overseas secretly working on WMD proliferation. No good deed goes unpunished. Execute the messenger when the news is bad.

    It’s still early days in the legal matter. I’ve not seen any indication that Jones’ legal team has formed a strategy for protecting or saving their client. Goodness knows Jones’ pocketbook will necessarily take a massive hit, which may well be the intent of the suit in the first place. Having delayed Jones’ out-of-pocket reimbursements during his active clandestine career (to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars), it’s only appropriate that the CIA’s parting shot would be to take away what they did pay him. Pour encourager les autres.

    After risking his life overseas, there’s some irony that his own employers will hold him accountable for leaking their institutional dysfunction, rather than any actual secrets.

    Will a change in control of the House mean that the CIA finds itself under Congressional scrutiny for misleading elected representatives about how they were spending billions of dollars? One would imagine that Jones’ defense lawyers will be dropping hints about the potential perjury committed by his CIA managers testifying on the Hill over the last decade. Be a shame if something should happen to all those shiny careers. Horse-trading ahead, I assume.

    The intelligence agency that works safest, works not at all. And a CIA entirely based in the US or ensconced behind the walls of embassies can look busy without actually being busy. The current CIA bureaucracy, for entirely understandable reasons, has preferred Potemkin villages and iron rice bowls to aggressive intelligence-gathering. Jones’ misfortune is to have been a witness to it all. I hope this all turns out OK for him.

    My mini-book review offers additional details for those with an interest in intelligence organizations.

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, International Affairs, Terrorism | 11 Comments »

    Why Do Communists Only Drink Herbal Tea?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 27th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Punchline at Samizdata

    Posted in Humor, Leftism | Comments Off on Why Do Communists Only Drink Herbal Tea?

    Who Does Obama Get Really Mad At?

    Posted by Shannon Love on 26th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Anyone else notice that the President seems to reserve his most forceful rhetoric for comments directed at his fellow Americans?

    Where is that kind of rhetoric when it comes to people who are actively shooting at us? He has virtually groveled before hostile foreigners while the first bit of emotion he showed was directed at BP (“going to kick their asses”). Heck, he won’t use the term “enemy” when talking about, well, the enemy but he will use it in the context of internal politics.

    After badmouthing everything Bush did in Iraq, he kept on Bush’s Secretary of Defense. Then he put his primary Democratic rival in as Secretary of State. By doing both, he signaled he was marginalizing foreign policy in his administration. He simply doesn’t care what foreigners do good or bad.

    Leftists have long accused non-leftists as vilifying and seeking to attack “the other”. Leftists have lectured us for decades about how non-leftists mark out those deemed outgroups, e.g., foreigners and our own native criminals, and then sought to direct the violence-based coercive power of the state against those outgroups. In short, non-leftists like to shoot Nazis and hang serial killers.

    However, leftists also wish to direct the violence-based coercive power of the state against other human beings. However, they make it clear that directing the power of the state against foreigners and native criminals is barbaric and seldom, if ever, needed. Attacking foreigners and criminals is beneath them. Only Neanderthals think like that. All dictators and criminals need is a stern talking to. Who then do they wish to direct the power of the state against?

    Their neighbors.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Leftism, Political Philosophy | 15 Comments »

    Of Weaponry and Flags II

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 26th October 2010 (All posts by )

    YT in a comment on Zenpundit just pointed me to a quote from Virilio’s War and Cinema, Scott meanwhile suggested I might be interested in Meaning by Michael Polanyi – and between the two of them, I find myself wanting to make a trilogy of quotes that present the symbolic impact of flags from philosophical, psychological and neurological perspectives, thus (I hope) braiding together from somewhat disparate sources a simple, non-dualistic insight.

    From Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning, pp. 72-73:

    The focal object in symbolization, in contrast to the focal object in identification, is of interest to us only because of its symbolic connection with the subsidiary clues through which it became a focal object. What bears upon the flag, as a word bears upon its meaning, is the integration of our whole existence as lived in our country. But this means that the meaning of the flag (the object of our focal attention) is what it is because we have put our whole existence into it. We have surrendered ourselves to that “piece of cloth” (which would be all the flag could be perceived to be were we to try to view it in the indication way of recognizing meaning). It is only by virtue of our surrender to it that this piece of cloth becomes a flag and therefore becomes a symbol of our country.
    Some of the subsidiaries, then, that bear upon the flag and give it meaning are our nation’s existence and our diffuse and boundless memories of our life in it. These, however, not only bear upon the flag as other subsidiary clues bear upon their focal objects, but they also, in our surrender to the flag, become embodied in it. The flag thus reflects back upon its subsidiaries, fusing our diffuse memories. We cannot use a straight arrow to express this feature in our diagram, since such an arrow pictures only a straight, one-directional bearing-upon. We must make the arrow loop, in symbolization, in order to express the way our perception of the focal object also carries us back toward (and so provides us with a perceptual embodiment of) those diffuse memories of our own lives (i.e., of ourselves) which bore upon the focal object to begin with. This is how the symbol can be said to “carry us away.” In surrendering ourselves, we, as selves, are picked up into the meaning of the symbol.

    From Murray Stein, Jung’s map of the soul: an introduction, p 100:

    Life itself may be sacrificed for images such as the flag or the cross and for ideas like nationalism, patriotism, and loyalty to one’s religion or country. Crusades and countless other irrational or impractical endeavors have been engaged in because the participants felt, “This makes my life meaningful! This is the most important thing I’ve ever done.” Images and ideas powerfully motivate the ego and generate values and meanings. Cognitions frequently override and dominate instincts. In contrast to the impact of the instincts on the psyche — when one feels driven by a physical need or y — the influence of archetypes leads to being caught up in big ideas and visions. Both affect the ego in a similar way dynamically, in that the ego is taken over, possessed, and driven.

    And from Paul Virilio, War and cinema: the logistics of perception, pp. 5-6:

    War can never break free from the magical spectacle because its very purpose is to produce that spectacle: to fell the enemy is not so much to capture as to ‘captivate’ him, to instil the fear of death before he actually dies. From Machiavelli to Vauban, from von Moltke to Churchill, at every decisive episode in the history of war, military theorists have underlined this truth: ‘The force of arms is not brute force but spiritual force.’
    There is no war, then, without representation, no sophisticated weaponry without psychological mystification. Weapons are tools not just of destruction but also of perception – that is to say, stimulants that make themselves felt through chemical, neurological processes in the sense organs and central nervous system, affecting human reactions and even the perceptual identification and differentiation of objects

    Might one identify the “stimulant” aspect (Virilio) as the one that drives those in the battlefield under fire, and thus also their memories and reflections, while strategists, as thinkers, will be more inclined to see the significance of the “archetypal” aspect (Murray, Jung)?

    Virilio (like Boyd) is concerned with speed — and it seems plausible to me that we have three “speeds of thought” – instinctive, considered and contemplative – corresponding in rough outline to Maslow’s hierarchy, the instinctive being bodily and immediate, the considered being logical and rapid, and the contemplative being symbolic and gradual.

    But there’s a curious loop at work here, because the symbolic / archetypal may take its time to work its way into conscious awareness – in some cases we refer to the end result as “maturity” or “wisdom” – but it’s also somehow very close to instinct, as Jung suggests in “On the Nature of the Psyche”, Collected Works VIII, para. 415:

    Psychologically … the archetype as an image of instinct is a spiritual goal toward which the whole nature of man strives; it is the sea to which all rivers wend their way, the prize which the hero wrests from the fight with the dragon.

    If anyone wants to follow up this particular line of thought, I’d recommend Jolande Jacobi’s Complex / Archetype / Symbol in the psychology of C. G. Jung, and for the interweaving of image, archetype and instinct, Andrew Samuels, Jung and the Post-Jungians Chapter 2, pp. 19 ff.

    Posted in Human Behavior, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Uncategorized, War and Peace | Comments Off on Of Weaponry and Flags II

    Applebaum vs Drucker

    Posted by David Foster on 26th October 2010 (All posts by )

    In his book The Age of Discontinuity, Peter Drucker–an Austrian who earned his doctorate at the University of Frankfurt–contrasted the European and American systems of higher education. I was reminded of his remarks by a recent column by Anne Applebaum, in which she defends the Ivy League against charges of elitism.

    Here’s what Drucker wrote, way back in 1969:

    That so much of American education before Sputnik (and still today, I am afraid) was content with mediocrity and rather smug about it, is a real weakness of our knowledge base. By contrast, one strength of American education is the resistance to any elite monopoly. To be sure, we have institutions that enjoy (deservedly or not) high standing and prestige. But we do not, fortunately, discriminate against the men who receive their training elsewhere. The engineer whose degree is from North Idaho A and M does not regard himself as “inferior” or as “not really an engineer”…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim.


    It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A and M is an engineer and not a draftsman. Yet this is the flexibility that Europe needs in order to overcome the brain drain and to close the technology gap…the European who knows himself competent because he is not accepted as such–because he is not an “Oxbridge” man or because he did not graduate from one of the Grandes Ecoles and become an Inspecteur de Finance in the government service–will continue to emigrate where he will be used according to what he can do rather than according to what he has not done.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Education, Europe, USA | 5 Comments »

    The Obama care runaway train.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 26th October 2010 (All posts by )

    There is talk of repealing Obamacare if the Republicans take over Congress on November 2. Of course, that is unlikely with President Obama ready to veto any repeal legislation. “OK, we will defund it,” is the response. I doubt anyone realizes how fast this is moving and how difficult it will be to alter the course of this program.

    A week ago, I posted on my blog a set of new rules that are being implemented for physician reimbursement. I review workers compensation cases as a part time job. The company that employs me has now come out with a new line of business to review cases for Obamacare. I have been asked if I would be willing to review cases on a 24 hour timeline. This includes weekends. I have spent 40 years reviewing cases for Medicare and the state medical boards for poor care. Now, I am being solicited to do concurrent review on a 24 hour basis for healthcare. I do some concurrent review for workers comp cases but the timeline is usually 3-5 days. Why weekends ? Does this mean that care cannot be provided without approval ?

    The pace of change is breathtaking. Today, the Wall Street Journal explains.

    A wave of consolidation is washing over the health markets, and the result is going to be higher costs.

    The turn toward consolidation among insurance companies is not new, and neither is it among doctors, hospitals and other providers. Yet the health bill has accelerated these trends, as all sides race to anticipate and manage political risk and regulatory uncertainty. This dynamic is leading to much larger hospital systems and physician groups, and fewer insurers dominated by a handful of national conglomerates. ObamaCare was sold using the language of choice and competition, but it is actually reducing both.

    The first surge will come among the 1,200 insurers doing business in the U.S., given that a major goal of ObamaCare is to convert these companies into de facto public utilities. Those regulations are now being written—and once they’re up and running some medium-sized carriers will collapse under the new mandates and higher overhead. State insurance commissioners warned the Administration this month that “improper or overly strident application . . . could threaten the solvency of insurers or significantly reduce competition in some insurance markets.” They also implied that bankruptcies are likely.

    With these headwinds, investors and Wall Street analysts are now predicting a lost decade for health insurance stocks. But it may be more accurate to say that there will be a lot of losers and some very big winners. Mergers and acquisitions will increase dramatically once companies get a better look at the regulation and figure out the valuation of M&A targets. Larger carriers will swallow smaller ones quietly before they fail.

    The pace of change is far more rapid than is appreciated.

    Across the country, providers are building giant hospital systems and much tighter doctor alliances like multispecialty groups to get out ahead of a concept known as “accountable care organizations,” or ACOs. To modernize the delivery of medical services, ACOs would encourage doctors to work in teams to use resources more efficiently, streamline treatment and improve quality. The model is the Mayo Clinic and other large integrated systems.

    The Mayo Clinic has concluded that it cannot afford to treat Medicare patients. The Phoenix branch of the Clinic has already informed patients that they will accept no more Medicare. The model does not think it will work.

    At the moment ACOs are only a gleam in some bureaucrat’s eye, and no one has a clue how they’ll operate in practice until the government releases a working regulatory definition next year. Yet the percussive effects are already being felt across medicine.

    Hospitals are now on a buying spree of private physician practices in the rush to build something that will qualify as an ACO. Some 65% of doctors who changed jobs in 2009 moved into a hospital-owned practice, while 49% of doctors out of residency were hired by hospitals, according to the Medical Group Management Association. In its 2010 census, the American College of Cardiology reports that nearly 40% of private cardiology groups are currently integrating with hospitals or merging with other practices.

    I spent a few minutes researching the doctors who appeared in white coats to support Obamacare last spring. Those who really were doctors were all hospital employees. Most of them had been hired right out of residency.

    Doctors are selling because complying with the ever-growing list of mandates has become more cumbersome; and while staff physicians on salary do gain predictability, they also lose the autonomy of independent practice. The other problem is price controls in Medicare, which are about 20% below private payments for doctors and 30% lower for hospitals. Hospitals are also scooping up practices to lock in referral sources and make up for ObamaCare’s Medicare cuts. As it is, two-thirds of hospitals lose money today on Medicare inpatient services, according to Medicare.

    This is an impossible situation and the Medicare patient will become indistinguishable from the Medicaid patient, a burden on the system to be treated by “physician extenders.”

    The changes are coming like a runaway train and they will change American medicine irreversibly. Private medicine cannot afford to care for the discounted Medicare patients. Obamacare will convert private care to Medicare. Every one will be a charity case except for the gentry class that votes for Obama. University Hospital physicians may feel that they are immune to these changes but it has been known for 50 years that the value of salaried university physicians is directly related to the income of private physicians. In fact, the university physician has no overhead but they can always tell the administration that they can leave and earn as much, if not more, and this has given them a lot of power.

    When I was in training, my surgical training program had three full time faculty members. Now, the same program has 90 full time members. In the same interval, their success in having graduates pass the American Board of Surgery has declined. That may or may not be significant but the culture of medicine is changing rapidly. Many physicians no longer recommend medicine as a career for their children. What this all means, I don’t know. What I do know is that it is coming very fast and few people realize it.

    Posted in Health Care, Leftism, Medicine, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Tax Policy Killing Our Manufacturing Base

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 25th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Business Week is a venerable magazine that I was only minutes away from canceling because their content was the typical irrelevant journalistic crap when recently they were taken over by Bloomberg.  All the sudden I would say now that Bloomberg / BusinessWeek is the single most useful magazine I subscribe to, more valuable than Forbes, Fortune, or Barron’s.

    Their articles are in-depth and hard hitting.  Rather than assume that you are a “lay” or “casual” reader, Bloomberg does actual research and writes for sophisticated readers wanting to learn more about a topic that they have some familiarity with.  Also rarely do they use the journalistic old-hat trick of trying to link every story to some sort of “man on the street”.

    Bloomberg wrote an excellent article titled “Google 2.4% Rate Shows How $60 billion Lost to Tax Loopholes“.  While the US corporate income tax rate is the highest in the developed world at 35% (we are neck-in-neck with Japan, but they have proposals to reduce their rate) certain industries in particular can use loopholes to avoid paying virtually any tax at all.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Taxes | 4 Comments »

    United States of Islam video: I

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 25th October 2010 (All posts by )

    [ the first in a series ]

    Let’s take a closer look at the United States of Islam video which I mentioned in my post Of Weaponry and Flags.

    USI Films

    The video announces itself as “an USI Films production”. It then opens with the words “since 911 the world has changed” in white type against black, followed immediately by news clips of the WTC attacks and of President Bush describing them as “evil acts” and declaring “I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible, and to bring them to justice.”

    What we shall be seeing, then, is a time-oriented video, presenting a historical context for the present moment with implications for the near future.

    From here we cut by way of another white on black typed message — “they started this war in afghanistan” – via clips of war footage to another – “but their agenda is much bigger and brutal than that” – and then to another clip of Pres. Bush: “Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.”

    By this point, the background music, which is taken (for reasons both political and musical?) from Vangelis’ 1492 – Conquest of Paradise soundtrack, is swelling. A global map appears, showing much of north Africa, the middle east, Indonesia and Malaysia in green, with Pres. Bush in voice over speaking of the establishment of “a violent political utopia across the middle east which they call a Caliphate where all will be ruled according to their hateful ideology.”

    USI world map

    The map is titled United States of Islam.

    The words “they have done this before” are then followed by a series of film clips showing “the fall of the Khilafa 1828 -1924” and maps showing the slow spread of the British and French flags across north Africa and the middle east, with glimpses of Lawrence of Arabia, the Balfour declaration, and General Allenby, accompanied by the voice-over of someone I’d tentatively identify as Sheikh Imran Nazar Hosein, declaring:

    The Khilafa was destroyed. Who destroyed it? Why did they destroy it? How did they destroy it? When did they destroy it? What did they replace it with? With what was it replaced? And what is its destiny? These are awesomely important questions which very few can answer today.

    Caliphate divided

    The text then states that (the west) “divided us into 54 states” and the map begins to show the various flags of the Islamic states into which the region was more recently divided…

    Carved up

    ending up in 2006. And what do we want now? You might be forgiven if you haven’t already guessed:

    Total Annihilation

    Clips then show the toppling of Saddam’s statue in Baghdad, the Israeli army in Gaza with casualties, the October 2009 Pishin attack on the Revolutionary Guard in Iran (which was claimed by Jundullah), and a first mention of the Christmas bomber, Al Qaida and Yemen… a quick mention of Nigeria and Somalia… and “Pakistan from which they fear the most”.

    A newscaster from, presumably, Pakistan intones “this is called the fourth generation warfare.”

    That essentially brings us up to the present moment.


    We have arrived at the half way point in the 10 minute video and seen the global historical context, laid out in maps and flags. We have focused in on the present from a two-hundred year sweep, and on Pakistan from the distributed ummah.

    What follows will expound and expand on this present moment, bringing Afghanistan into the picture alongside Pakistan, emphasizing the spiritual significance of Khorasan, and taking the battle variously to India and Jerusalem…

    [ to be continued ]

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Connecting the dots: light on Light

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 24th October 2010 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit ]

    In a recent blog-post on MahdiWatch, Timothy Furnish draws our attention to an Islamic think tank named Grande Strategy.


    Their page of further readings on a future Islamic state includes works by an eclectic bunch – including Sir Muhammad Iqbal, recognized after his death and the foundation of the State as the national poet of Pakistan; Sheikh Taqiuddin An-Nabhani, the founder of the Hizb-ut-tahrir movement; Ali Shariati, the Marx-influenced Shi’ite radical intellectual viewed by some as the ideological force behind the Iranian revolution; Abul A’ala Maududi, Sunni writer and founder of Jamaat-e-Islam; Harun Yahya, also known as Adnan Oktar, a major Islamic creationist writer who holds that “Alawites, Wahabbites, Jafarites, they are all pure Muslims; harboring enmity against them is by no means acceptable”; Sayyid Qutb, Sunni author and Muslim Brotherhood member; and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, father of the Iranian Revolution.

    Let’s just say that if the books of all these worthies were placed on a single bookshelf and given voices, the ensuing hubbub would resemble the House of Commons at Question Time.


    One article on the Grande Strategy site – the one that caught Timothy Furnish’s attention – is titled To the Unknown Mujahid, May We Never Forget You. It is interesting, as Furnish notes, because it is yet another sign of Mahdist thinking in the region of Afghanistan / Pakistan. It describes a man seen teaching in a mosque in the Faisal Masjid (presumably in Islamabad):

    I have never seen a human spirit glow in this manner. I did not think this was even possible. I checked myself by discretely asking a few other brothers (perhaps it was some deficiency in me), and they too confirmed. Let me intimately describe you this man, he was tall, bearded wore a military camo jacket and in all his manners was as if he had walked out of the 1st century Hijri. He spoke English well enough that you could tell he was well-educated and belonged to a noble family. He was from Kashmir, in fact an elected member of the local government (back then Musharaf was all about devolution of power to press the national parties). Some close relatives of his were also senior officers in the Pakistan Army. He was obviously a mujahid, although in my opinion one that was fighting against India and in Kashmir and had nothing to do with the Afghanistan war.

    The writer recounts his experience of this man because, as he puts it…

    Because I believe (and Allah knows best) that if he is not the Mahdi himself or one of his men, at the least he is the precursor to the kind of men that would make up the army of the Mahdi. Or for those who do not believe in the Mahdi, he is the category of men that can save us from our present circumstances. A prototype to our success. And Allah knows best. Disclaimer: I don’t want to claim that he is the Mahdi.


    There’s also an article on the site about the Black Banners from Khurasan — another marker for Mahdist expectation — that includes quite a mix of sources and resources: commentary, for instance, on the Scofield Reference Bible (a major source of “dispensationalist” end times beliefs) and the “Project for New American Century”, together with some conspiracism about 9/11 specifically and US policy in general:

    The US’s War on Terror is a deceptive game and a mind boggling riddle. The term terrorism is itself vague and un-defined and built on repetitive lies upon lies as evident in the case of 9/11. It is almost always blindly used against Muslims. The unilateral, pre-emptive extra-judicial violence by the western powers is always named as wars of democracy and freedom.

    — plus for good measure some information about the Jewish origins of the Pashtun / Pathan peoples, and this intriguing statement:

    According to Syed Saleem Shehzad of Asia Times Online, Al Qaeda shares this belief with the Taliban that Afghanistan is the promised land of Bilad-e-Khurasan.

    — which would mark both as apocalyptic movements (see here and here).


    On the other hand, one comment from a Shi’ite reader suggests that President Ahmadinejad will be the one who recognizes the Mahdi and brings the victorious army to meet him:

    When Shuayb Ibn Saleh (Pres. Ahmedinejad) learns of Al Mehdi (as) emergence he will head towards Syria under three banners each of which has 4,000-5,000 men. It is these banners that are of gaudiance that Allah’s Messenger (saas) spoke of when he mentioned that ‘ when you see this army coming from Khursan, then go and join that army even if you have to crawl over snow, because in that army is the Caliph Al Mehdi[as]’. This holds true because it is Shuayb Ibn Saleh who will consolidate the government of Al Mehdi (as) in Jerusalem within 6yrs (72months).


    The Black Flags Coming from Khurasan is not of the Taliban … These Black Flags Belongs To Only Shuayb Ibn Saleh (Pres. Ahmedinejad)


    But let’s get back to that business about the “Unknown Mujahid”. According to the report Furnish quotes from:

    This particular class was being taught by a man, the like of whom I had never seen before, nor since have ever seen again. When you reach a certain level of spiritual enlightenment… sometimes you can “see” or “feel”… the “noor” or “aura” or “spiritual light” of another… This man did not have a glow – it was like a 1000 watt halogen lamp…

    I have to say I find that report particularly interesting because, as Dr. Furnish notes, it offers a Sunni parallel to the self-description given by Iran’s Shi’ite President Ahmadinejad — who claimed on video that he’d been told by someone who was there, “When you began with the words ‘in the name of God,’ I saw that you became surrounded by a light until the end [of the speech]”, and commented, “I felt it myself, too. I felt that all of a sudden the atmosphere changed there, and for 27-28 minutes all the leaders did not blink.”

    The thing is, this sort of report can also be found on both sides of the Iranian / Israeli aisle.

    Gershon Salomon – who as leader of the Temple Mountain Faithful has the twin goals of “the liberation of the Temple Mount from Arab (Islamic) occupation” and “the building of the Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in our lifetime” – wrote a revealing memoir in which he recounted:

    I had the privilege to experience the appearance of the G–d of Israel and His angels in one of the critical battles of Israel when I served in the Israeli Army as a young officer and my small unit was attacked by thousands of Syrian Arab soldiers. … It was night but I could see a light covering me from all sides and lighting the dark night. At the same moment, I could see the Syrian soldiers not shooting me but turning and running very fast back to the mountains. I again lost consciousness. I was told later that the Israeli soldiers looking for me in the darkness were only successful in locating me when they saw the light.


    For what it’s worth, such stories can also be found about the divine or saintly figures of many religions.

    Martin Buber tells a legend of the great Hassidic rabbi the Baal Shem Tov, in which a visiting rabbi saw that “the head of the master stood entirely in the white light … The rabbi saw that the master stood entirely in white light.

    The Bhagavad Gita describes a moment when Krishna shows his divine form to Arjuna, who describes it thus: “If a thousand suns were to light up the sky all at once, that radiance would equal the radiance of my Lord.”

    In the New Testament, Matthew describes how “Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.” (Matt. 17:1-2).


    If I have points to make, there are several of them:

    • That religious motivations can be powerful drivers at the level of popular morale.
    • That we frequently overlook religious motivations.
    • That reports of apocalyptic signs and miracles are potent amplifiers of religious motives.
    • That when we study religions, we frequently overlook the miraculous and the apocalyptic.
    • That comparative religious studies give context to events that seem extraordinary and affirming within a single religious tradition.
    • That when we study religions, we frequently overlook its comparative aspects.

    Oh – and that depth psychology (Freud, Brown, Jung, Hillman) and cultural anthropology (Bateson, Turner, Lansing) also have much to teach us.


    Connecting dots is not so hard once you can see them — but how do you connect your blind spots?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    A Note on Communism and Fascism

    Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2010 (All posts by )

    In this post, OnParkStreet cited Walter Russell Mead on the similarity between communism and fascism. I totally agree that there is much similarity between these systems–in their theory, in their practical effects, and in the psychology of their supporters. I also believe, however, that there are some significant differences between communism and fascism, and I discussed some of these in the comment thread at OnParkStreet’s post.

    Yesterday I picked up a book called Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century, by Mark Mazower, which contains quite a bit of information and analysis relevant to this discusion.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe, Germany, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 17 Comments »

    Food for thought

    Posted by onparkstreet on 24th October 2010 (All posts by )

    Though medical education is not inexpensive, academic leaders often ignore the fact that the funds to support it properly are already available, if they choose to use the funds for this purpose. Student tuition, appropriations from state legislature to public schools, and certain portions of endowment income have always been intended for the education of medical students. Traditionally, deans have appropriated these funds for purposes not directly related to education – an animal care facility here, the establishment of a new research program there. Academic leaders bemoan the lack of funds to support faculty teaching time, even as they spend tens of millions of dollars to build new “teaching and learning centers” or expand the administrative bureaucracy.

    N. ENGL J MED 351;12 WWW.NEJM.ORG SEPTEMBER 16, 2004 (link to pdf)

    I thought of the above when reading the following at Instapundit:

    The real problem is that higher education isn’t providing enough of a benefit to its graduates, not that universities aren’t extracting enough money from the students. But read the whole thing. Including this: “And, of course, while professors are expensive, they’re not the main expense. Administrators outnumber faculty at most universities these days. But I suspect that won’t get the scrutiny it deserves.” Speaking of cost centers. Much more on administrative bloat, here.

    None of this is exactly new knowledge. The response, however, has been as slow as, well, bureaucratic molasses.

    Update: Thanks for the link, Professor Reynolds!

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Public Finance, Society | 3 Comments »

    Hah, Hah, I Was Right, Thrppppt!

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th October 2010 (All posts by )

    One shouldn’t gloat but…

    I was right about the bogus Lancet Iraq Mortality Survey.

    There were actually two studies done by the same Soros funded group of “researchers”. I did fourteen posts on the first study back in 2004-2005, and I demolished its conclusions using simple methodological arguments that you did not need a degree in statistics to understand. The study was so bad and so transparently wrong that you didn’t need to understand anything about statistics or epidemiological methodology, you just needed to know a little history and have a basic concept of scale.

    In my very first post on the subject I predicted that:

    Needless to say, this study will become an article of faith in certain circles but the study is obviously bogus on its face.[emp. added]

    That prediction proved true. Leftists all over the world not only accepted the 600% inflated figure without hesitation but actively defended the study and its methodology. I confidently made that prediction almost exactly 6 years ago because I was even then beginning to understand a factor in leftists’ behavior: they are nearly completely controlled by delusional narrative

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq, Leftism, Science, Statistics | 23 Comments »

    Rhetoric, Comp & Juan Williams

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd October 2010 (All posts by )

    The mishandled and snarky firing of Juan Williams has been widely commented upon & here I do little but sum up. Companies may dismiss as they wish – I hesitated and was quite often wrong in doing so. But I was not supported by tax money; my complaints were of what someone had done, not what was thought. While I don’t intend to more than mention it in class, I hope our assignments will lead my students to a useful historical context. For anyone who doesn’t know of the incident or needs refreshing, 3 Youtubes: Juan Williams’ words, his response and Vivian Schiller’s definition of journalistic ethics & integrity.

    Let’s review the controversy.

    What Williams said many (most) feel. Of course, he wished he didn’t feel it. But the response was prompted by experience: not only was 9/11 done in the name of a religion, but so were a series of often incompetent but sometimes successful (think Fort Hood) efforts by Soldiers of Islam. In court and openly, perpetrators claim connections between these scattered events – the first shots in a coming religious war. To ignore that is to shut our eyes and ears. Only a society asleep, unconscious, dead – or purely ideological – could so discount experience. An unthinking mob may be a tool some desire, but this is not a virtuous desire. The motives behind such desires are perhaps most beautifully exemplified by Frederick Douglass, who counters our initial state (one the plantation owners desire to be life-long) with one of virility and manliness, characterized by restlessness, curiosity, independence, autonomy. Another 19th century writer, Thoreau, talks about the pleasure of a “fact.” When facts are taboo, so is thought.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Education, Terrorism, The Press | 13 Comments »

    Of Weaponry and Flags

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 23rd October 2010 (All posts by )

    Hezbollah Flag Use

    A day or two ago, Abu Muqawama asked whether the Hizballah flag showed an AK-47, and in general what flags carried what weapons as emblems.

    As it happens, I’d just been viewing a pro-jihadist United States of Islam video and made the following screen-capture as an illustration of my continuing concern about the “black flags of Khorasan” and the issue of whether AQ and or its franchises and or portions of the Taliban consider themselves to be fighting the apocalyptic war of the end of time.

    Black Flag Support out Troops Sm

    Note also that the filmmaker’s ironic borrowing of the phrase “Support Our Troops” to urge support of the troops of the Mahdi will not be lost on some viewers.

    This screen-capture, from the United States of Islam video, in turn reminded reminded me of the Saudi flag, which likewise carries the shahada or Muslim profession of faith and a weapon – a sword.

    Saudi flag

    According to a note on an earlier version of the World Flag Database:

    The script in the centre of the flag is the Islamic creed, “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah”. The flag is therefore considered sacred and special protocol rules apply: the flag does not dip in salute, nor is it ever flown at half-mast. Note that the creed always reads properly from right to left, with the sword hilt to the right, so the reverse of the flag is not a mirror image of the obverse. When making the flag, the creed must be reproduced precisely, including the accent marks. The use of the flag on any commercial item (especially clothing) is not recommended as it might be considered inappropriate, or even insulting.

    The Shahada is the central testament of faith of Islam, as is the Shema Yisroel of Judaism and the Credo of Christianity, and I respect it as such — and likewise the Saudi flag., on which it is displayed.


    Flags, however, are potent symbols, and the graphical power of the “black flags of Khorasan” motif should not, in my view, be underestimated. The particular video that I took that screen-capture from makes use of “mix” flags of its own devising:


    — merging the American and Indian flags – or the flags of India and Israel –


    to create an imagery of the “United States of Terror” to juxtapose against their own black flags as the “United States of Islam” – giving us Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” in visceral graphic form.

    And that conjunction of India with Israel bears thinking about, too… not only in terms of military aid between the two nations, but also of the symbolic juxtaposition of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem with the Babri Masjid and Ayodhya…

    Indeed, the Indian flag itself also deserves consideration in our context.


    Originally, Mahatma Gandhi had hoped that it would feature the charka or spinning wheel which he had made famous. As an informative article on the subject from The Hindu puts it:

    For Gandhiji, the charka represented not a mere hand-spinning device that could provide employment and income to the poor, but much more. “The message of the spinning-wheel is much wider than its circumference. Its message is one of simplicity, service of mankind, living so as not to hurt others, creating an indissoluble bond between the rich and the poor, capital and labour, the prince and the peasant.” (Young India, September 17, 1925). “Above all, charka is a symbol of non-violence” (Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 71, first edition, p.234).

    Gandhiji was, therefore, all the more sad when a correspondent from Hyderabad brought to his notice, on the eve of Independence, K. M. Munshi’s indictment in his broadcast speech that the wheel in the new flag represented the Sudarshana Chakra (discus of Lord Vishnu), a symbol of violence! But Gandhiji consoled himself that “under no circumstances, can the Asoka Chakra become a symbol of violence as Emperor Asoka was a Buddhist and a votary of non-violence” (Harijan Sevak, August 17, 1947).

    So there’s another weapon-flag connection — albeit one where non-violence seems to triumph over violence.


    But let me get back to the yellow Hizbollah flag with which we started, and quickly note the resemblance (which I don’t claim to be the first to note, but cannot presently find my source for) between its portrayal of a rifle raised in a victorious fist, and this poster from the Irgun:

    Irgun poster

    And that’s enough about weaponry and flags for now, I think.

    I hope to follow this post up shortly with a more detailed account of the United States of Islam video mentioned above, and its many and curious references and resonances.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 18 Comments »