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The Age of The Big Zero

Victor Davis Hanson:

The difference between the 5th century BC and late 4th century BC at Athens is debt–and not caused just by military expenditures or war; the claims on Athenian entitlements grew by the 350s, even as forced liturgies on the productive classes increased, even as the treasury emptied. At Rome by the mid-3rd century AD the state was essentially bribing its own citizens to behave by expanding the bread and circuses dole, while tax avoidance became an art form, while the Roman state tried everything from price controls to inflating the coinage to meet services and pay public debts.

So much for change.

What About Islam?

I got an email this morning from a fellow who seeks a few answers. The major part of the email follows.

"... you spend a lot of time analyzing the life of Muhammad. Clearly, he performed a multitude of actions intolerable for anyone claiming to represent the Eternal Word of God, regardless of the time period he came from, what part of the world he lived in or what culture he grew up in. So I can see why moral relativism is not, at least by itself, good enough to defend him.

But the question arises, to what extent did the people of Arabia really object to Muhammad's actions and to what extent were they merely the result of his environment? The ubituitous example is Aisha. From what I've read, it seems the evidence that anyone in Arabia, pagans, Jews or Christians, objected to his marraige with Aisha due to her age simply due to her age is not there. One could argue he used revelations to gain support and intimitaded would be objectors, but even his multitude of critics never found Aisha's age objectionable. Hence, it seems that either Arabs, including Jews and Christians, had condoned sexual relations with little girls and that only modern post-Enlightment Christians have come to find it objectionable, or that ultimately it didn't really happen and the hadiths that suggest this are false. Obviously, you both reject the latter, but that would create a problematic situation for Arabs, even Christian and Catholic ones, who would have to come to terms with the fact that their culture has condoned mistreatment of women for centuries and only post Enlightment values have changed this. And although their defense of Muhmmad as a role model for all times would still fall flat, Muslim can argue that early Jews and Christians clearly did not see Muhammad's marriages objectioanble and objectioning to it today is cultural elitism. Now, I would say sex with a nine year old girl is grotesque regardless of the age but unfortunately it can be argued this results from unreasonable cultural standards.

The same goes for many issues with Muhammad and women. Critics attacked Muhammad for banditry, insulting pagan faiths and not being a convincing prophet, but never his relations to women. Marrying wifes of fallen enemies never drew objections, nor did having slave girls or polygamy. The only thing he did that Arabs found objectionable, atg least with regards to women, was marrying his son in law's wife. The changes in women's status in Arabia as a result of Muhammad seem overwhelmingly postive. Again, that's not to justify the horrific oppression of women going on right now due to his example, but merely to discuss the issue of his environement. Critics of Muhammad today suggest he was in the same league as Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Nero or Attila the Hun in terms of how he forced his people backward and oppressed them, but it seems it can also be argued his actions were more good that bad when the situation of Arabs before and after him is analyzed.

Another thing I suppose is, why do you think Muslims have been in the dark fo so long about Islamic textgs and Muhammad's character. The fact that many Muslims don't speak Arabic, and certainly not Classical Arabic, well enough to read the texts is one issue. What do you think caused it? It's indeed interesting that out of the 1.2 billion Muslims-which we must face is a huge number, there are many very smart, upstanding people in this group who look at the Quran, Hadith and Sira and see genuine beauty, wisdom and tolerance in it. Do you think it's due to mental defficiency, actual brainwashing or self denial? Sijmply a radically different interpretation that sadly not enough Muslims follow? Or simply being severely misguided by Imams who may not understand as much as they think about Islamic texts? The best case scenario is that the interpretations of the Quran, as outlined in the blogging the Quran series on the Islamocritical site Jihadwatch, are not the sole interpretation by Muslims And in the end, when all is said and done, does Islam have to be eradicated from the hearts and minds of one billion Muslims for them to live peacably? Or can Muslims modernize by critical reevaluation of texts and a mass movement to reject Islamic literalism?"

Feel free to comment. I'll reply in the coming days.

Great Incentives


Eighteen months after being laid off, Judith Lederman, a 50-year-old divorcee who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y., is ready to consider jobs paying half the $120,000 she earned as a publicity manager at Lord & Taylor. That's mostly because she's desperate, but it also makes sense when you consider how this country punishes work effort. While the first $60,000 of her income would be lightly taxed, the next $60,000 would be hit with what is in effect a 79% tax rate.

Damn. I certainly would not work at that marginal rate.

Obama Appeases Muslims

USA Today via Instapundit:

Around the world, free speech is being sacrificed on the altar of religion. Whether defined as hate speech, discrimination or simple blasphemy, governments are declaring unlimited free speech as the enemy of freedom of religion. This growing movement has reached the United Nations, where religiously conservative countries received a boost in their campaign to pass an international blasphemy law. It came from the most unlikely of places: the United States.

I didn't think Obama would take the US down to the level of Pakistan this quickly. What next? Perhaps, kicking out all Jews, Burqa Fridays Or Else or banning bacon?

For any Muslim reader, view it and detonate:

Evil Muhammed

The Dumb One

Vox Popoli:

Intelligence is overrated anyhow. It's an important factor in accomplishment, but it is by no means the most important one. Focus, determination, connections, and ambition are all more important components of achievement and it's interesting to contemplate where Obama is probably most gifted considering his relative lack of intelligence.

In his case, none of the listed attributes made the biggest difference. The x-factor, throughout his life it seems, was his skin color. Hillary Clinton would be president otherwise.

Those Crazy Finns!

Tom's Hardware:

starting next July, every person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabit broadband connection.

Ha! That's not much.

the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications are guaranteeing that by 2015, this will be upped to a 100-megabit connection.

Holy #*@! With a top marginal tax rate of 50%, they've got to console themselves with something. Might as well be scorching hot bandwidth. Mmm, scorching hot bandwidth.

What Are Kids Learning?

A 6-year-old gets suspended from school in the US.

His crime? Bringing a pocket knife to school.

The New York Times has another spectacular example of dementia:

For Delaware, Zachary’s case is especially frustrating because last year state lawmakers tried to make disciplinary rules more flexible by giving local boards authority to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.”

The law was introduced after a third-grade girl was expelled for a year because her grandmother had sent a birthday cake to school, along with a knife to cut it. The teacher called the principal — but not before using the knife to cut and serve the cake.

Wow. Calmly taking away the knife and calling the grandmother to not repeat the harmless scenario would have been just too hard.

Another One Perishes

Roissy in DC:

Whenever you hear or read the words “gender”, “gendered”, “gendered norm”, “subtle gender bias”, or “increasingly egalitarian, yet there remains…” know that you are dealing with a leftwing equalist, blank-slate believing fruitcake who cannot deal with the fact that men and women are biologically different from birth.

The truth bites.

Cricket Gets Wacky


Cricket's first global inter-club tournament, it is the latest twist in a format that is only seven years but has established itself as the game's main money-spinner.

A mix of state, county, regional and franchise teams will battle it out for a US$ 6 million cash prize, with $2.5 million going to the winners. The unpredictability of the format is enhanced by the fact that there is little history between the teams, though many of the players would be familiar to each other as team-mates at some level.

The Narcissist-in-Chief

Vox Popoli:

What is going to do Obama in is not the fact that his political ideology is evil, though it is, or that his economic ideology is hopeless, though it is too. It's not the disinterest in all things martial. It's not even the widespread doubts about his legitimacy that most threaten him. The reason that the American people who previously adored him are beginning to turn on him is that the man has repeatedly shown himself to be a very unpresidential pretentious ass.

Alloy that lovely quality with his belittling of American exceptionalism and one gets a very surreal combo. You see, he's a great man leading a so-so nation.

The Master

I consider David Lean to be the greatest director to ever come out of Hollywood. The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago should be seen by every student of cinema.

The flickering myth has posted a profile of this craftsman. Click to visit Parts One, Two, and Three.

Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun and Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter come closest to showcasing the gift of photography which Lean possessed.