Friday, 27 February 2015

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

It’s not Netanyahu’s fault that Jews in Europe are afraid » The Spectator

"Oh, you sap, you halfwit. How can you not see that what is happening now is of a different order entirely? The number of anti-Semitic attacks rising exponentially. Drongo jihadis opening fire on synagogues and Jewish shops — not on Israeli embassies, not on Netanyahu, but on ordinary Jews. Can you imagine the response from the politicians if these sorts of attacks had been committed by white Christians against Muslims? Or indeed by Christians against Jews? And yet when it happens to be Muslims murdering Jews there is no great furore about this fact; instead it is swept to one side: simply a case of 'extremists' versus 'ordinary people'. No, that is not what it is. But given their investment in multiculturalism, the politicians will not accept this obvious point. If our Jewish community gets the hell out to Sderot or Jaffa, it will be this wilful and cowardly blindness which has propelled them there."
Read on...

Monday, 23 February 2015

UK: Muslim former Cabinet member gave official posts to Islamic supremacists

Cartoonists have a duty to fight these controlling taboo -- The Times

This is a terrific article by Daniel Finkelstein. I came across it in the weekend edition of the Japan News that I picked up here in Niseko, Hokkaido (where the snow is great, the skiing fine and issues of Islamic predations are far away...)
"Blasphemy provides oppressive elites and arbitrary courts with a vague law you can offend against even without knowing."
Finkelstein refers to an "invaluable book", Silencedby Marshall and Shea, which explains how blasphemy law has become the primary tool of control by oppressive regimes across the Muslim world.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Who Has to Adjust in the Name of Tolerance? - Op-Eds - Arutz Sheva

Well worth reading.
(Courtesy BCF)
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/16506#.VOnTh0bXfCR


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O Beautiful, For Specious Guys... :: SteynOnline

Another scorcher from Mark Steyn.
http://www.steynonline.com/6820/o-beautiful-for-specious-guys


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Not saying 'Islam' complicates the terror problem - San Diego Jewish World

Re the immediately preceding post, this puts the opposite w the particular "violent extremism" we're faced with has to be identified as being Islamic in nature and practice.
http://www.sdjewishworld.com/2015/02/20/not-saying-islam-complicates-the-terror-problem/


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It Doesnt Matter One Bit What Obama Thinks True Islam Is

It doesn't to Muslims what non-Muslims think is the "true" Islam. There are various versions practiced in the real here-and-now world. Which one succeeds - a more tolerant Indonesian version or a less tolerant Middle Eastern version - is a battle to be fought within Islam. Not by the President of the United States and his error-full dilutions on "true" and "distorted" Islam. Or any other western leader for that matter.
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/414185/it-doesnt-matter-one-bit-what-obama-thinks-true-islam-andrew-c-mccarthy


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Obama attacks radical Islam and no one notices - Spiritual Politics

On the other hand... Interesting ...
http://marksilk.religionnews.com/2015/02/20/obama-attacks-radical-islam-no-one-notices/


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Could Islam have something to do with it?

Three British schoolgirls, 15 years old, have left for Syria to fight for the Islamic State (ISIS).
They are - or, presumably, were - straight A students at the Bethnel Green Academy, from upstanding middle class parents who are distraught at their actions.
But, but... Obama has been telling us that "violent extremism" arises from poverty, alienation, lack of opportunity, discrimination and so on. It has nothing to do with Islam, he insists.
These girls are none of the above, like so many others who have committed themselves to the Islamic State. They are not poor, lacked no opportunities, were not alienated.
These are bright girls. Don't we think they could have read up on the doctrines of Islam, as propounded by ISIS leader Abu Bakhr Al-Baghdadi, a doctorate scholar of Islam? Doctrines of Islam he writes about clearly and forcefully on the Internet?
Think that might have a teensy bit to do with it? Dunno, but surely worth exploring. But Obama has put off limits any such exploration to all in his Administration.
"Do NOT mention the Islam!" his resounding command.

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Obama: Islam 'Woven into the Fabric of Our Country Since Founding' - Breitbart

In case one wonders in reading the below, it's sound analysis.
http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/02/20/obama-islam-woven-into-the-fabric-of-our-country-since-founding/


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Obama’s elementary errors on Islam | New York Post

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Obama Must Confront the Threat of Radical Islam | TIME

Criticize, but also respect religion

Another letter in the South China Morning Post takes me to task. I'll get around to commenting on both in due course...
I refer to Peter Forsythe's letter ("We should not give in to the 'but brigade'", February 10), which claimed that emphasising moral equivalence will deteriorate freedom of speech and give in to the violence.I do not believe that there is a deterioration of freedom of speech if religions are respected.First and foremost, freedom of speech should not be abused. It should not be used as an excuse to blindly criticise, ridicule or attack religions, or anything else.Its value is to uphold the right of criticism which is supported by justified evidence.For instance, we have the right to strongly criticise Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, condemn atrocities committed by terrorists, or vent our anger towards ever-worsening social problems, because such comments are reasonable.However, I cannot see any justification for ridiculing a religion just because you wish to make fun of it. This is similar to someone acting like a bully.That kind of cruel satire can disrupt harmony and cause polarisation in a society.Freedom of speech should be used to build a fairer society in which everyone can express their opinions in a rational way and all citizens can respect each other.Jonathan Kung Chi-yip, Tuen Mun

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Free speech tussles. "Offensive free speech can cause misery"

South China Morning Post today, letter writer attacks me:
Offensive free speech can cause miseryI refer to the letter by Peter Forsythe ("We should not give in to the 'but brigade'", February 10).His claim that "Those who claim they denounce terrorism and support free speech 'but...' must acknowledge that... they implicitly support the murders" [of staff at Charlie Hebdo] is ludicrous and insulting.He goes on to say that "there would be nothing to discuss if they had not gone on their rampage." Nonsense, of course there would.Free speech and its limits are ongoing issues quite separate from terrorism.Unchecked, free speech can cause misery and/or incite others to violence; does Mr Forsythe defend such offensive free speech? I continue to denounce it.There are on this planet those who are determined to offend; there are more who are determined to be offended; and, probably worst of all, there are those who go out of their way to persuade others that they should feel offended.I would like to see the first category ease up, the second grow up and the third shut up; but I accept that for some in the second category it is not that easy.These have been my views for a very long time and will remain so. If this puts me in Mr Forsythe's "but... brigade" then, so be it.Peter Robertson, Sai Kung

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Islam and the West at War - NYTimes.com

Congratulations to Roger Cohen for getting close to the truth in the article linked below.
I would like to have seen a bit more emphasis on the *ideology* of Islam in "the [rising] tide of retaliatory menace".
Still, a good summary of where we're at, and the delusion of leaders such as the Danish PM and Obama in refusing to identify Islam (or Islamism, if you must) as the prime force in global carnage.
/Snip
"Islam is a religion that has spawned multifaceted political movements whose goal is power. Islam, as such, is fair game for commentators, caricaturists and cartoonists, whose inclination to mock the depredations of theocracy and political Islam's cynical uses of the Prophet cannot be cowed by fear."

Http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/opinion/roger-cohen-islam-and-the-west-at-war.html?_r=0&referrer=

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The Vast Majority of Muslims > Richard Butrick

As I have long been saying. The coffee shop fallacy.
http://www.newenglishreview.org/Richard_Butrick/The_Vast_Majority_of_Muslims/

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Monday, 16 February 2015

Chinese Puzzles > Theodore Dalrymple

Christopher Hitchens on the cultural fatwa | Vanity Fair

"To indulge the idea of religious censorship by the threat of violence is to insult and undermine precisely those in the Muslim world who are its intellectual cream, and who want to testify for their own liberty—and for ours. It is also to make the patronizing assumption that the leaders of mobs and the inciters of goons are the authentic representatives of Muslim opinion. What could be more "offensive" than that?"
Me: I'm not too sure why this old article by the late, great, Christopher Hitchens was in my Google Islam alert today, but for sure it's worth rereading for both its elegance and for its relevance to today's ructions over free speech and those who would kill it, literally.



Sunday, 15 February 2015

Carol Swain to police: Islam column brings harassment

[Professor] Swain told the Vanderbilt Police Department on Feb. 5 she believes she is being harassed because of a column she wrote for The Tennessean. In that column, she wrote, "It becomes clearer every day that Islam is not just another religion to be accorded the respect given to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Baha'i and other world religions."
I don't think any religion should be "accorded respect". They should all be subject to scrutiny. 
Perhaps if she'd said "Islam is inherently violent"?  Nah, that wouldn't have worked either with the students at Vanderbilt, given their bias. Any speaking of the truth will be called "hate speech".  Still, the stubborn fact remains: Islam *is* different. And it's different in not a nice way. 

Pharaohphobia? Pro-Terrorist Islamic Group Says Exodus is Islamophobic | FrontPage Magazine

Friday, 13 February 2015

The Fermi Paradox - Wait But Why

Via Sam Harris. Flabber officially gasted...
http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/05/fermi-paradox.html

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The Great Betrayal: How Liberals Appease Islam | Standpoint

With h/t to Sam Harris...

For years, a dizzying gulf has stretched between the principles most good and responsible liberals say they hold — beliefs in reasoned argument, democracy, and equal rights for women, gays and people of all colours and creeds — and their practical failure to oppose radical Islam. A few of us tried to persuade them to mean what they say and behave accordingly. Some of us have stayed on the Left. Others have given up on what looks an irredeemably compromised movement and attacked liberal-left orthodoxy from the right. I will not pretend that any of us have had a great deal of success....
http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/5886/full

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China's self-defeating crackdown on 'Western values' | South China Morning Post

As I've noted before (re link below).
Not at all good news out of China. Mind you, if you travel there, and speak to the man or woman on the street there's no hint of this crackdown, as people speak quite openly about anything on their mind, mostly to moan about how bad business is at the moment. Or about family, or crappy government officials, or stupid policies (yes, even critical of government), or movie stars, or pretty much what people anywhere talk about. 
They're way better of and way freer than they were when I first went to China in 1976. 
Still, on the macro level, bad developments. 
Quote:
"The news from the mainland these days is mostly depressing, owing to the government's escalating crackdown on its critics. But what few observers seem to understand is that the Chinese leadership's fight against liberalism and "Western values" is directly undermining its efforts to root out official corruption, promote innovation and entrepreneurship, and deepen engagement with the outside world.
"The government has intensified its censorship of the internet, rendering popular portals and sites all but inaccessible. Prominent human rights lawyers have been jailed."
http://www.scmp.com/comment/article/1710698/chinas-self-defeating-crackdown-western-values
[Needs registration, but not $]
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Thursday, 12 February 2015

Dennis Prager: President Compares Islam to Christianity — The Patriot Post

A right wing outfit, but still, the analysis is spot on.
https://patriotpost.us/opinion/33023

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A death in Kramatorsk | The Wider Image | Reuters


Have a look at the picture in the link below [now above] -- a woman lying dead on the ground while residents just walk on by. Can you imagine that in your home town?
Whenever my neighbors here in peaceful Hong Kong complain about some trivial thing, a late bus, an untrimmed lawn, I say "think of Syria... think of Ukraine ".
Quote from the article:
"We got to the site of the shelling in less than an hour after the explosion. The first thing we saw was a dead woman's body lying on the ground, she had been like that for at least half an hour. By shooting this picture I wanted to convey the banality of the horror happening here." End quote.
Vs the banality of our own petty concerns.
http://widerimage.reuters.com/story/a-death-in-kramatorsk

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Egyptian TV Host Ibrahim Issa: Nobody Dares to Admit That ISIS Crimes Are Based on Islamic Sources.

A Muslim truth teller.

http://youtu.be/VaHaWta7AFI

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UK: Muslims present petition with 100,000 signatures calling for restrictions on the freedom of speech

I was asking similar questions yesterday.
Quote:
We're always told, on pain of charges of "Islamophobia," that Islam is not a monolith, but is gloriously diverse. So where is the diversity? 100,000 signed a petition against the freedom of speech. Where are the 100,000 Muslims standing up for the freedom of speech? Where is the Muslim demonstration against blasphemy restrictions? In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre, we have seen Muslims demonstrate against the cartoons of Muhammad in Chechnya, Pakistan, Iran, Niger, and elsewhere, and now in Britain. Where are they demonstrating on the other side?
[The rest at link below]
http://www.jihadwatch.org/2015/02/uk-muslims-present-petition-with-100000-signatures-calling-for-restrictions-on-the-freedom-of-speech

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The Sound of Silence :: SteynOnline

Steyn says it better than my recently published letter on the rights (or not) of free speech.
http://www.steynonline.com/6799/the-sound-of-silence

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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

We should not give in to the 'but brigade'

My letter published today in the South China Morning Post:
[The two other letters referred to are here]

We should not give in to the 'but brigade'
Ali Khan ("Let freedom and decency go together", February 4) in his reply to my letter ("By holding back from criticism of Islam, we give in to extremists", January 22), appears to claim that free-speech absolutists, such as myself, are the equivalent of al-Qaeda . 
I may be a free-speech diehard, but you'll never find me or my atheist cohorts rounding on critics with a sword. It is only because fanatics murdered satirical journalists that we now have agonised debates about free speech or its limits.
Those who claim they denounce terrorism and support free speech "but…" must acknowledge that in so doing they implicitly support the murderers: there would be nothing to discuss if they had not gone on their rampage.
All the calls for "sensitivity", "responsibility", and so on, do nothing but cede ground to the terrorists.
We are assured by Muslim and non-Muslim apologists alike that the  Charlie Hebdo murderers "do not represent Islam". If that's the case, why not criticise them, rather than round on cartoonists with arguments of moral equivalence.
Chaudhry Hafiz Mohammad ("In any free society 'but' has its uses", February 4) has his own moral equivalence argument: in football, the referee gives a yellow card meaning "play, but within the rules"; a police officer says "drive, but not while drunk". Surely the difference is clear.
In these cases, what comes after "but" is not allowed according to clear rules or laws. What comes after the "but" in the free-speech argument is "I believe in free speech, but … show respect … or but don't offend me…". 
It is something subjective, not a rule or a law. To give in to the "but brigade" is to give in to the febrile sensitivities of the ever-aggrieved.
Chaudhry Mohammad also claims I'm a member of the "except league", in that I "except" anti-Semitism. But I do not. Laws against anti-Semitism in Europe are, in my view, out of date and we should allow even odious anti-Semitic speech. The best counter to these views is even more free speech.
Mr Khan finishes his letter with a question to me: "what is the answer to the 'savagery of satire'", my answer is simple: more satire. Not moral equivalence and not guns.
Well done Pope Francis.  Now you've got these
ratbags agreeing with you...
Whenever will we see 100,000 Muslims protesting the murder and mayhem done in their name across the world?
Over 25,000 deadly Islamic attacks since 9/11. Six a day. But 100,000 protest against some *cartoons*?  
Good to see you've got your priorities straight, guys. 
By the way: the end of that sign in bottom left says "= Terrorism"

Zaha Hadid Has Ambitious Plans For Beijing | DesignAir

How cool is this? Nice design.
The world's largest airport to be built in Beijing.
And to be done in five years.
By my rough count that makes about three airports around Beijing, the latest of which already rivals Hong Kong's excellent one in both design and capacity.
Meantime, Oz has been arguing since as long as I can remember about whether and where to build one new airport.
http://thedesignair.net/2015/02/06/zaha-hadid-has-ambitious-plans-for-beijing/


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Monday, 9 February 2015

Obama the Theologian - NYTimes.com

Ross Douthat in the New York Times: A counter to Obama's moral equivalence at his Trent National Prayer Breakfast (link)
Obama seems do have just discovered the Islam-apologist arguments of the "Islam is peace" mob: namely "remember the Crusades and the Inquisition" --Christianity is as evil as ISIS.
They seem to think, these folk, that that's a clinching argument. And often it is.
But even a cursory look at the history of the Crusades reveals that they started as a defensive move, to regain lands invaded by an Islam expanding by the sword: as decreed by Mohammad and his Koran.
And the Inquisition? Well, hells bells it happened long ago and has been roundly criticized since then by Christians and non alike.
Bill Maher covers the issue, saying that Obama is right about Christianity but wrong about Islam.
I think he's Obama is wrong on Christianity as well, not putting the Crusades in perspective, and talking of the Inquisition as if it were ongoing and not denounced these centuries past.
Douthat, in the article below says that those most annoyed by Obama's recent breakfast speech are the fundamentalist Christians. Not just them. Count in we devoted Atheists, those that abhor arguments of bogus moral equivalence.

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Saturday, 7 February 2015

Calling the Green party socialist is an insult to socialists

From The Spectator, 31 January:
The Green party has been likened to a watermelon: green on the outside and red on the inside. But that is to do a huge injustice to generations of socialists and communists. Misguided though they were in many of their ideas, nobody could accuse them of actively seeking to make society poorer.
That, however, is the unashamed aspiration of Natalie Bennett and what has become the fastest-growing political party in Britain. It is quite possible that a good proportion of the 9 per cent of the electorate who say they are planning to vote Green in May are unaware of this, but it is there in black and white (‘policy EC201’) on the party’s website. It states that the party wants to pay every-one a ‘Citizen’s Income’ — which has since been put at £72 a week — in order to allow ‘current dependence on economic growth to cease, and allow zero or negative growth to be feasible without individual hardship should this be necessary on the grounds of sustainability'. [My emphasis. Read the rest, in The Spectator]
The Greens can only call for zero or negative growth if they haven't experienced a downturn.  I've experienced a couple here in Asia, the worst in 1997, when shops were shuttered and thousands lost their jobs, including me.  "Without individual hardship"?  They're kidding, right?
The effects of these downturns are always worst on the poorest, or the lower middle classes, which is maybe the only reason why a mostly middle/upper class Green movement can think that downturns in economic growth is a thing to be wished for.

Jihadis funniest home videos

Friday, 6 February 2015

Letter re free speech

To the South China Morning Post today:

Ali Khan claims that free speech absolutists, such as myself, are the equivalent of Al-Qaeda.  (“Let freedom and decency to together”, February 4).
 Get a grip, Mr Khan.  I may be a free speech diehard, but you’ll never find me or my atheist cohorts rounding on critics with a sword.
It is only because fanatics murdered satirical journalists that we now have agonised debates about free speech or its limits.
Those who claim they denounce terrorism and support free speech “but….” must acknowledge that in so doing they implicitly support the murderers: there would be nothing to discuss if they had not gone on their rampage.
All the calls for “sensitivity”, “responsibility” and so on, do nothing but cede ground to the terrorists.
We are assured by Muslim and non-Muslim apologists alike that the Charlie Hebdo murderers “do not represent Islam”.  If that’s the case, why not criticise them, rather than round on cartoonists with arguments of moral equivalence.
Chaudhry Hafiz Mohammad (“In any free society ‘but’ has its uses”, February 4) has his own moral equivalence argument: in football, the referee gives a yellow card meaning “play, but within the rules”; a police officer says “drive, but not while drunk”. Surely the difference is clear.  In these cases what comes after “but”, is not allowed according to clear rules or laws. What come comes after the “but” in the free speech argument is “I believe in free speech, but …show respect… or but don’t offend me…”.  It is something subjective, not a rule or a law. To give in to the “but brigade” is to give in to the febrile sensitivities of the ever-aggrieved.
Mohammad also claims that I’m a member of the “except league”, in that I “except” anti-Semitism and what I “hold sacred” from the scrutiny of free speech.  But I do not, and did not say so.   Laws against anti-semitism in Europe are, in my view, out of date and we should allow even odious anti-Semitic speech.  The best counter to these views is even more free speech.
As to “sacred”, the dictionary.com definition is “entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity…” I made clear in my letter that I hold no religion and no divinity in veneration.  Politicians are subject to scrutiny, criticism and ridicule; religion should be subject to the same.  The fact that all religions are based on no evidence should not exempt them.
Mr Khan finishes his letter with a question to me:  “what is the answer to the ‘savagery of satire’”, my answer is simple: More Satire. 
Not moral equivalence.  Not guns.

Obama Defends Islam, Attacks Christianity at Prayer Breakfast | FrontPage Magazine

One of numerous reports of Obama's national prayer breakfast talk in which he indulged in some more dreary moral equivalence: what of the Crusades and the Inquisition? We're all equally culpable.
Except we're not.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/dgreenfield/obama-defends-islam-attacks-christianity-at-prayer-breakfast/


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How best to fight the ‘Islamophobia industry’ - BURAK BEKDÄ°L

Thursday, 5 February 2015

As a republican, I used to look forward to Charles III. Now I’m scared » The Spectator

I've just read in today's New York Times that the good prince is "joylessly" preparing to be king. Because it will stop him voicing his outspoken silliness.
Christopher Hitchens used to call him "the bat-eared islam-lover"...

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Draft: the savagery of satire (free speech an' all that...)

This is just a draft letter to the South China Morning Post.  I'll fiddle with it tomorrow and send it off the next day.  I think they'll run it, as they seem to have an interesting dialogue going on here....
It's in answer to the two letters in the post immediately before this one.
I’m glad that two of your correspondents have expressed their free speech rights to take me to task for my views (“In any free society ‘but’ has its uses” by Chaudhry Hafiz Mohammad and “Let freedom and decency go together”, by Ali Khan, both February 4)
It gives me the chance to clarify a few points.
First, Mohammad says that I’m a member of the “except league”, in that, he claims, I except anti-Semitism or what I “hold sacred” from the scrutiny of free speech.  But I do not, and did not say so.   Laws against anti-Semitic speech in Europe are, in my view, out of date and we should allow even odious anti-Semitic speech.  The best counter to these views is even more free speech.
As to “sacred”, the dictionary.com definition is “entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity…” I thought I had made clear in my letter that I hold no religion and no divinity in veneration.  Politicians are subject to scrutiny, criticism and ridicule; religion should be subject to the same.  The fact that religions are based on no evidence should not exempt them.
Second, Mohammad makes a bogus moral equivalence argument: in football, the referee gives a yellow card to say “play, but within the rules”, and a police officer says “drive, but not while drunk”. Surely the difference is clear.  In these cases what comes after “but”, is not allowed according to clear rules or laws. What come comes after the “but” in the free speech argument is “I believe in free speech, but …show respect… or but don’t offend me…”.  It is something subjective, not a rule or law. To give in to the “but brigade” is to give in to the subjective febrile sensitivities of the ever-aggrieved.
Mr Khan’s moral equivalence is even worse.  He claims that we free speech absolutists are the equivalent of Al-Qaeda.  Get a grip, Mr Khan.  I may be a free speech diehard, but you’ll never find me or my atheist cohorts rounding on critics with a sword.
As to your final question to me: “what is the answer to the ‘savagery of satire’”, my answer is simple: More Satire.

"In any free society, 'but' has its uses"

Two letters today in the South China Morning Post, taking me to task for my letter....
(I'll do a reply later).

In any free society, 'but' has its uses
Peter Forsythe, in his letter ("By holding back from criticism of Islam, we give in to extremists", January 22), laments the "but brigade" and argues that we should not resort to "but" when it comes to free speech. He defends the right of free speech only with regard to Islam and, as such, it seems, he joins the team of the "except league": people who contend that free speech is absolute "except", for example, when it comes to anti-Semitism, or something which they hold sacred.
Charlie Hebdo is a member of the "except league" too. Google can prove that.
I think the "but brigade" has generally done much better than the "except league".
Recently, I was sitting with my ageing parents chatting and watching the news. Suddenly, images of an Islamic State terrorist appeared on the screen standing between two kneeling Japanese hostages. On my mom's enquiring, I explained to her that they were so-called Muslims.
Without hesitating for a second, my father declared, "But they are terrorists". My mom joined in and announced, "They are bloody monsters". Being devout Muslims themselves, they have essentially joined a "but brigade" against Islamic State.
The "but brigade" has done us all a great service. Until recently, unrestrained economic development was not questioned. Then someone came along carrying a "but" banner, saying economic development is important, "but" with responsibility to the environment.
The "but brigade" is rendering its wonderful services everywhere. When a referee displays a yellow card on a football pitch, he warns a player, "play, but within the rules". Similarly, a police officer will tell you that you have the freedom to drink, "but" not to drive while drunk, thereby ensuring that your freedom does not trample on the rights of other drivers and pedestrians.
The "but brigade" is generally peace-loving too. Millions of protesters posed a "but" to the former US president George W. Bush's unrelenting "crusades". If the "except league" - of which Mr Forsythe seems to be a member - had also chanted, "Say what you want 'but' this war is illegal", they would have saved hundreds of innocent people from torture in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
If my frail, unlettered parents can raise their voice against Islamic State, what stops the educated, powerful likes of Mr Forsythe from standing up against the killing and torturing of innocent people? Nothing, but their membership to the "except league"!
Chaudhry Hafiz Mohammad, Mei Foo

Let freedom and decency go together
Peter Forsythe appears to be utterly exasperated by the antics of the "but brigade" ("By holding back from criticism of Islam, we give in to extremists", January 22), who simply refuse to abandon their deranged notion of showing tolerance and respect to others.
Apparently, we need to demand the right to be absolutely free to say anything we want, any time, any place, regardless of who we may defile, hurt or humiliate in the process. This is a non-negotiable demand, and it's our way or the al-Qaeda way.
And, if we don't fight for this unbridled right, then we had better prepare ourselves for "Western submission to Islamic blasphemy laws" and being "rendered mute in the battle of ideas against murderous jihadist violence".
That kind of uncompromising stance, peppered with enough fear-mongering to instigate the right amount of panic and social tension, would have many an individual who specialise in extremism lining up to give their kudos.
Nowhere in the Koran is physical punishment prescribed in response to blasphemy, so I fail to understand the anger against Islam as a religion. I also fail to comprehend how debasing and mocking the religious faith of another human being can be construed as a useful tool in something as noble as a "battle of ideas".
To cast aside Pope Francis' humane opinion that people should refrain from insulting other people's faiths as crazy talk, and side with Salman Rushdie's nonsensical remark that nobody has the right "not to be offended", is simply bizarre.
Why should we not insult other people's faiths? Because when you insult a religion, you are not attacking an individual, you are attacking a people and a community. You are grouping together people from all over the world with whom you have no connection and saying, "I'm going to publicly ridicule that which you hold most dear - for no other reason than the fact that I can."
Freedom of speech must go hand in hand with basic human decency. Otherwise, at the end of the day, there is no difference between us and those who carried out those terrible murders - since we have all of us forgotten our humanity and civility.
If "satire is a sound civilisation's answer to savagery", then please, Mr Forsythe, enlighten us as to what is the answer to the "savagery of satire"?
Ali Khan, Mid-Levels

GMOs are safe and have higher yields than organic foods

If you are neutral on GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), if you don't really know if they are safe, what do you do?
Maybe you do a Google search for GMOs or GM foods and find that there are articles showing that they're safe and articles showing that they're not safe.
So, do you conclude that it's a wash? That you pays your money and you takes your choice? So that you then go with your own bias.  And if that bias is Greenish, then you decide that the "evidence" is that GM foods are unsafe?
Well, no.
You need to look at what those opposing views are.  You need to analyse them.
And all the evidence is that GM foods are safe, environmentally friendly and more productive than organic foods.
Here are the main pros and cons:

Pros:

"The science is settled" (Archive link), in which I quote the following:
  • The US National Academy of Sciences: GM foods are "safe".
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science: GMOs are "safe".
  • The American Medical Association:  GM foods are "as safe to eat as any other food".
  • The European Commission: GM foods are "safe".
  • The Royal Society of Medicine: "Foods derived from GM crops have been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects...".
  • The Largest Ever Review of Studies on GMOs: there is "no evidence of harm" from GMOs.
  • The French Supreme Court: struck down France's GMO ban because the government had shown "no credible evidence of any harm to humans or the environment".
  • World Health Organisation"...no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved." 
Science direct
Mark Lynas in 2013 (Archive link)
Mark Lynas in 2014 (Archive link)
"Why organic advocates should love GMOs" (Archive link)

Cons:

The non-GMO project
Responsible Technology
These two are not exhaustive on the "cons" side, I admit, but they are the main ones.
But look at what they say:
Jeffrey Smith (of "Responsible Technology"): here's a take-down of this fraud (Archive link)
As for the Non-GMO project, less charletanish than Smith, it says, on its home page:
Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit. Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe.
In more than 60 countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the European Union, there are significant restrictions or outright bans on the production and sale of GMOs. In the U.S., the government has approved GMOs based on studies conducted by the same corporations that created them and profit from their sale. Increasingly, Americans are taking matters into their own hands and choosing to opt out of the GMO experiment.
But pretty much all of these statements are simply not true.
"No increased yield": Not true.  
In the vast majority of cases national organic average yields are moderately to substantially below those of the overall, national average.
Examples for row crops include Winter Wheat 60% of overall average, Corn 71%, Soybeans 66%, Spring Wheat 47% and Rice 59%. [link]
"No drought tolerance": Not true.  Take this one article amongst many on the Scholar section of a Google search.
"No enhanced nutrition":  Not True.  
The research team [of the Australian Centre for Plant Nutrition Genomics] found that nicotianamine, iron, and zinc concentration levels increased in all three populations of rice relative to the controls.
"In more than 60 countries....there are significant restrictions or outright bans....".  Not true.  Australia, for example, has licensing requirements for GMOs -- as it has for all foods -- but has no "significant restrictions", let alone "outright bans".

These statements by the Non-GMO project are ipse dixet.  That is, they are "arbitrary dogmatic statements that the speaker expects the listener to accept as valid".
Well, I'm sorry, Non-GMO project, we don't accept them as valid just because you say so. We do our research.
And our research shows that GMO foods are all of the above: safe, productive, nutritious and drought tolerant.
GMO's are the way forward, and the Greens and fellow travellers should be held to the flame for trying to limit their use, especially in African countries, where they have the greatest potential.
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[NOTE: the "Archive links" above are to archive.org which makes a permanent link on the Wayback machine, so that the link is preserved for all time.  That's particularly important given that 70% of links don't work after 5 years, reported in the latest New Yorker. Archive link]

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

China Sharpens Its Censorship Blade - NYTimes.com

Returning to China from abroad during school vacations increasingly feels like stepping into an alternate universe. Internet tools that my peers across the world use to stay connected are replaced by their heavily monitored Chinese versions, where benign criticisms of the Communist Party can lead to police interrogation or jail time. [link]
I have the same feeling every time I cross back into our "motherland" from our Hong Kong eyre. I usually forget the strength of China's Great Firewall, only recalling it when I try to log into a favourite blog, or check out Twitter. Non ce niente...