Quick Roundup 200

Monday, June 04, 2007

Wow! It's hard to believe I've posted two hundred morning roundups....

Sharia Supreme in Malaysia

Malaysia's highest court recently ruled, in effect, that Malaysian citizens cannot leave Islam.

Malaysia's highest federal court earlier this week refused to recognize the conversion of a Muslim-born woman to Christianity. The panel ruled 2-1 that the decision was beyond the secular court's discretion.

Lina Joy, 43, converted from Islam to Roman Catholicism in 1998. Her troubles began shortly thereafter when she tried to change her religious affiliation on her national identification card. Because Islam requires adherents to marry within the faith, Joy would not be allowed to wed her Catholic fiancee if she was registered as a Muslim. [bold added]
Aside from illustrating an egregious amount of state interference in the personal lives of the ordinary citizens of Malaysia, this story demonstrates that attempting to avoid "conflict" by not imposing secular restraints on Islam subordinates all law to sharia.

First, the Malaysian constitution -- at best -- tries to have it both ways. "Malaysia's constitution is conflicted on church-state relations because it simultaneously establishes Islam as the official religion and defends free exercise of other religions." Given that Islam nominally "tolerates" other faiths in lands that it governs (so long as members of other religions live as second-class citizens), whatever "conflict" there is would seem to exist only in the mind of a person reading the constitution very generously. Be that as it may, the true extent of this "free exercise" was bound to be tested sooner or later.

Second, the high court, in its ruling that this case was a "religious matter", just subordinated itself and, along with it, Malaysia's entire government, to sharia. Islam regards everything as a "religious matter". The refusal by Malaysia to recognize that Joy has left her religion is bad enough by itself, but the fact is that this "moderate" Moslem-majority country now unambiguously suffers from the cancer of Islamic law. Why? Because the precedent has now been clearly established that secular law cannot override the rules of Malaysia's official religion.

Christian Theocrats Get Theirs

I have long regarded people who dream of imposing their will on others through force as short-sighted at best. Why? Because one moment's thought would indicate that, aside from the inherent difficulties (i.e., opposition from others) to such a goal, there is the inconvenient fact that one is quite likely himself to go under the yoke of an alleged ally or someone one has had to dupe along the way. My private mental term for this form of context-dropping has been the "dictator fantasy", and two recent news stories show that Christian theocrats labor under this delusion.

First, Dinesh Pillay points to a story about the possibility that sales of the Bible in Hong Kong might be limited to those at least eighteen years old on the grounds of its "obscene" sexual content.

Second, The Wall of Separation reports on the unhappiness of some Christian parents upon learning that their children were recently sent home from public school with materials promoting a Pagan holiday -- after they themselves had fought to make such occurrences possible!
[A] Pagan group in Albemarle County, Va., ... took advantage of a Religious Right-sponsored move to open a public school's "backpack mail" system to religious promotions.

The backlash was swift and harsh when parents received flyers announcing a Pagan holiday celebration at the local Unitarian Universalist congregation. One mother was livid that the school would send home in her child's backpack anything it did not endorse. A "pagan ritual" is "an educational experience my children don't need," she fumed.


If public schools allow private groups to use "backpack mail," they must prohibit teachers from deciding which messages are and are not worthy. It is absolutely unacceptable for public school teachers to decide that one religious belief is "offensive" and "outrageous" but others are not and then promote that perspective in their official capacity.

The last paragraph is correct, but does not go far enough. The government should not be in the business of promoting any ideology. Nevertheless, philosophical ideas ultimately figure in at multiple levels within education. The only way to prevent petty government officials (e.g., teachers) from promoting ideologies at government expense is to privatize education.

Needless to say, that last argument will not be persuasive to someone who labors under the "dictator fantasy" (i.e., who has abandoned reasoned persuasion as a means of dealing with others in favor of forcing them to do as he pleases). However, it should impress upon those of us who do favor freedom the importance of removing all instances of government force from our daily lives.

People who suffer from the "dictator fantasy" will try to use any and all such existing means of imposing government force on others in order to live out their fantasy. While it can be amusing to see them get a taste of their own medicine from time to time, we mustn't forget that we will get caught in the crossfire sooner or later.

Why, Indeed?

In a column titled, "Why Fred Thompson?", Robert Novak points out a couple of red flags we should be aware of regarding the newest darling of the GOP.
In his Senate voting record and his public utterances, Thompson is more conservative than Giuliani, McCain or Romney. He takes a hard line on the war against terror (referring in Connecticut to the danger of "suicidal maniacs" crossing open borders) and worries about immigration policy creating a permanent American underclass. His one deviation from the conservative line has been support for the McCain-Feingold campaign reform.... [bold added]
It seems that we have yet another Republican who should work on opposing socialism rather than immigration. Unfortunatley, that would require him to exercise his freedom of speech -- a fundamental right that his support for McCain-Feingold would indicate he doesn't appreciate.

Gore's Cry for Censorship

Since he started his "What went right?" series, I have been very reluctant to cite self-described "secular right" pundit Robert Tracinski (for reasons given here, here, and here), but I haven't seen anyone else make the following point:
Early coverage of Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, has focused on the fact that the book is largely an assault on the Bush administration. But they have glossed over the most significant and alarming theme that Al Gore has taken up: his alleged defense of "reason" includes a justification for government controls over political speech.

Judging from the excerpts of Gore's book published in Time, his not-so-subtle theme is that reason is being "assaulted" by a free and unfettered debate in the media--and particularly by the fact that Gore has to contend with opposition from the right-leaning media.

Developing a dangerous theme that the left has been toying with for years, Gore says that reason is being suffocated by "media Machiavellis"--that's a veiled reference to Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch and Bush political advisor Karl Rove, the twin hobgoblins of the left. According to Gore, these puppet-masters take advantage of "the clever use of electronic mass media" to "manipulate the outcome of elections." [bold added, minor format changes]
That last paragraph reminds me of a conversation with a leftist I recently blogged, which was clearly heading towards the "need" to prevent such outlets as Fox News "controlling" the American political process. The person I was speaking with was by no stretch of the imagination an intellectual. That fact makes Gore's crusade all the more alarming to me because it indicates just how much penetrance the idea of government control of the media has within certain segments of the population.

The Straight Dope on "Disappearing" Honey Bees

This post from the Straight Dope on "Colony Collapse Disorder" should be interesting to at least one person on my blogroll:
[T]there's no reason at this point to think European honey bees are going to be wiped out, now or ever. The die-offs so far appear to affect some beekeepers more than others, sometimes in the same area. That's one reason scientists are so puzzled, but it strongly suggests the losses may have something to do with how individual beekeepers are managing their bees. The "significant percentage" of failing hives is still a drop in the bucket when viewed against the global population of honey bees, and there are lots of beekeepers (even in the U.S., which appears hardest hit) who have not had, and may never have, significant losses of colonies. Plenty of honey bees remain to replace the ones that have died. It's not yet time to scream that the sky is falling.

[I]t's almost impossible to get hard numbers on how many colonies have died recently, and how much of the current uproar is media hype based on guesses, estimates and anecdotal accounts from the handful of beekeepers who have had the most colony losses. If you talk to other beekeepers, most admit they have colonies die off every winter, but they don't always keep records on how many. A lot of the reports we're hearing are based on personal recollection rather than careful documentation. In other words, the scary figures you're hearing could be exaggerated. [bold added]
The writer dismisses one explanation, the prevalence of cell phones, that I recall seeing bandied about in the media awhile back as an explanation for the alleged crisis. Interesting.

Carnival of the Cats # 167

My cat, Miss Maple, and Martin's Morris both appear in the latest Carnival of the Cats over at Justin's Random Thoughts.

Go, Owls!

Coach Wayne Graham and the Rice Owls won their regional tournament and are a step closer to competing in the College World Series. Coach Graham says it all: "We're back on target."

-- CAV


madmax said...

Regarding Fred Thompson, I heard an interview he had with Sean Hannity. When asked if he would take pre-emptive strikes against Iran to prevent it going nuclear he answered in one word: yes.

Also, He stated as his top priorities if he were elected President as 1) strong action in the war against terror (he didn't mention the word Islam but he did say it was a "civilizational" war which shows some awareness, also when describing Iran he said that Iran was dominated by "religious fanatics" which shows that he at least knows what a religious fanatic is). 2) Keeping taxes low and reforming the tax code (he didn't say how). 3) Reforming Social Security and Medicaid (he didn't say how).

I take from this that his top priorities are the war, low taxes and some cutting of the welfare state. Now I know he will be anti-abortion and as your post mentioned probably more of the anti-immigration type, but he does have things to recommend him. No candidate is going to be perfect. We have to chose the one that offers the most pro-liberty options with the fewest anti-liberty options. Thompson seems pretty good. We'll have to see.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thank you for fleshing out Fred Thompson some more. Too bad he hasn't helped matters for us by participating in any public debates so far. (I've even heard this called "smart" on his part.)

However, I have to disagree with your overall strategy ("We have to chose the one that offers the most pro-liberty options with the fewest anti-liberty options.")

This sounds plausible and, indeed, it is close to the way I used to think about the issue when I first started blogging, but the strategy suffers from one major flaw: It is too short-range.

I would say we should elect the candidate who will do the least long-term damage to the cause of freedom, rather than limiting ourselves to the candidate whose stands on a few concrete issue look better. What if Thompson's top priority were campaign finance reform or some other restriction on freedom of speech, and he ran against a Democrat who had horrible economic policies, but who credibly vowed to make protection of freedom of speech HIS top priority, starting with repeal of McCain-Feingold?

We might suffer short term with the Democrat, but he'd at least leave us with the means to remedy the situation long-term (e.g., by criticizing him and debating better policies when the consequences of his became evident). With "quasi-Thompson", we might have slightly lower taxes, but be on a collision course with using them to fund prayer and other Christian indoctrination in the public schools.

Having said that, I am confident that no matter how bad a candidate the Republicans field, the Democrats will do their best to find one even worse. If they could, they'd select an Hugo Chavez type whom we'd HAVE to vote against in order to avoid outright dictatorship. However, their own ineptitude (and the need not to support dictatorship too nakedly just yet) will cause them to have to be more careful than that.

And if you think about why the Dems probably won't just run someone like Chavez for a moment, you will see why just ticking off isolated "pro-liberty" stands is a bad strategy. Such points can offer a good distraction from a fundamental threat to freedom posed by a candidate or his party.

Disguise of danger was the whole point behind the Trojan Horse and it is the whole point behind any candidate either party in today's context will put up. In this sense the Republicans are more dangerous than the Dems, because they are a less obvious threat overall to freedom.

We have to consider not just the short-term consequences of a candidate's views, but whether he might help his party pull off something really nasty by concealing or sugar-coating something awful.

Having said all that, it is way too early to say whom to vote for.

madmax said...

Great response Gus. You have given me alot to think about. Thanks.

Gus Van Horn said...

You're welcome. And I appreciate your question. You caused me to think of a good, short way to describe this issue to others.

Now, if I can only come up with a good way to discuss how not voting at all, should that turn out to be appropriate, is not "throwing your vote away....

Monica said...

Most of the known diseases of honeybees have specific signs and symptoms. Absconding the hive is not one of them. However, the author is right. It's probably not cell phones.

I read awhile back that treating hive with UV seems to improve the likelihood that the bees won't leave the hive. This would indicate that the disease is caused by a microbe. Since the bees leave, it will be difficult to figure out just what this pathogen is.

This is not surprising... bees already suffer from numerous diseases (viral, bacterial, fungal) that are becoming increasingly difficult to control with the standard antibiotics. There is a parallel to the resistance that we are seeing in human and animal diseases. To my knowledge, a new class of antibiotic (apart from the known five) has not been discovered in over 40 years. It's a big problem.

Monica said...

One more point:

"The die-offs so far appear to affect some beekeepers more than others, sometimes in the same area. That's one reason scientists are so puzzled, but it strongly suggests the losses may have something to do with how individual beekeepers are managing their bees."

Actually, it would also suggest strongly that it could also be dependent on the genetics of the queen... not just how beekeepers keep their bees (which is pretty standard across professional beekeepers). I have heard reports of people losing 25% to 100% of their colonies. These are people that have kept bees for years. They know what they are doing. For many of them, this is their livelihood. It seems much more likely to me that as beekeepers make splits from their colonies year after year, some keepers would experience widespread losses if their initial queens the descendants of those queens happen to not be resistant, while other keepers will be luckier.

I expect that if CCD continues, there are native bees that might pick up the slack in pollination. But I believe there are at least a few crops which require Apis mellifera exclusively. This seems to be another good article on the issue:


Gus Van Horn said...

I hadn't heard that UV might be helpful.

I'm dying to know what's up, but I'm sure that by the time we have an answer, the media will no longer be interested. (How can you stir up fear of the unknown when a cause has been uncovered?)

Gus Van Horn said...

Comments crossed.... I'm in a slight hurry at the moment, but do appreciate (and look forward to) the related link you left w/ your second comment.