Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quick Hits

I have a few current events and random items that I wanted to share:
  • I think this is something that would do well here in Provo - there is a website dedicated to the sale of your breakup bling - wedding rings, jewelry, other sundries that you got from an ex. The website is called Out of Your Life, and can be found be clicking here.
  • I have mentioned this before in some other posts, but people reify environmentalism as religion as much as Christians and Buddhists and Muslisms do their own beliefs. You can't access the Wall Street Journal article anymore unless you're a subscriber, but they did include these points about the Church of Environmentalism -
    There is a holy day—Earth Day

    There are food taboos. Instead of eating fish on Friday, or avoiding pork, Greens now eat organic foods and many are moving towards eating only locally grown foods.

    There is no prayer, but there are self-sacrificing rituals that are not particularly useful, such as recycling. Recycling paper to save trees, for example, makes no sense since the effect will be to reduce the number of trees planted in the long run.

    Belief systems are embraced with no logical basis. For example, environmentalists almost universally believe in the dangers of global warming but also reject the best solution to the problem, which is nuclear power. These two beliefs co-exist based on faith, not reason.

    There are no temples, but there are sacred structures. As I walk around the Emory campus, I am continually confronted with recycling bins, and instead of one trash can I am faced with several for different sorts of trash. Universities are centers of the environmental religion, and such structures are increasingly common. While people have worshipped many things, we may be the first to build shrines to garbage.

    Environmentalism is a proselytizing religion. Skeptics are not merely people unconvinced by the evidence: They are treated as evil sinners. I probably would not write this article if I did not have tenure."
  • Regarding Socialism, Ludwig Von Mises said:
    "The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but a subordinate clerk in a bureau. What an alluring utopia! What a noble cause to fight!

    Against all this frenzy of agitation there is but one weapon available: reason. Just common sense is needed to prevent man from falling prey to illusory fantasies and empty catchwords."
  • Jay Nordlinger has been writing journals from a human rights conference that he has been attending in Oslo, Norway, (access this one and others by clicking here) and it's amazing the kinds of stories that he's relaying. Not the good kind, but the kind that make you feel like you have been living under a rock because you never ever hear about these kinds of stories in the mainstream media, and it's a tragedy. A couple of them:
    Sophal Ear, an American, is a professor at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He was almost a casualty of the Cambodian holocaust. He tells us the story of his family, using photos: We see his mom and his dad, young and in love. Life in Cambodia was pretty good, envied and copied by others in Asia. Then the Khmer Rouge came to power, with their diplomas from Paris. They remade Cambodian society, killing a quarter of the population in the process. Ear’s father was one of the victims. The rest of the family managed to escape to Vietnam.

    The Communists wanted to create an “agrarian utopia,” Ear says. “You know the John Lennon song ‘Imagine’? ‘Imagine no possessions, no religion’? That’s what it was like in Cambodia. The only thing people had was a spoon, for eating the daily pourridge. And that pourridge was grossly insufficient for the work they were made to do in the fields.”

    I don’t believe I have ever heard the John Lennon song cited negatively. It is thrilling.

    Ear mentions that Pol Pot died untouched, in his bed, at an advanced age -- which is slightly annoying.

    He also talks about Tuol Sleng, the school that was turned into a torture center. Some 16,000 people were tortured to death; twelve are known to have survived. I find that a stunning statistic -- twelve.

    We see a sign listing the rules of Tuol Sleng: It says that, when you are tortured, you cannot cry out. We see photos of boys who are deemed enemies of the state. They have numbers pinned to their skin -- that is, the pins go through their skin, as though it were a shirt. I cannot look at the photos.

    But worse, possibly worse? Ear reminds us of all the Western intellectuals who loved -- loved, loved, loved -- the Khmer Rouge. Many of them were in my hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. Ear shows us pictures of the “Kampuchea Conference” that took place in Stockholm, in 1979. Stockholm is not very far from here. The purpose of the conference was to promote the restoration of the Khmer Rouge to power. Jan Myrdal was the keynote speaker -- the famous intellectual who is the son of Gunnar and Alva. Ear also quotes Noam Chomsky, others. Chomsky is still making moral and political pronouncements, and so is Myrdal.

    Being on the left means never having to say you’re sorry. They just glide on . . .
    And another:
    Like Kang, Marina Nemat has written a book: Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison. That prison was one of the most notorious in the world: Evin. A place of darkness and sadism -- unrelenting sadism. Evin is the symbol of the Khomeinist revolution, really.

    At the podium, Nemat says, “It is an emotional experience for me to be here. Hearing all these stories” -- the testimonies of other former prisoners -- “I feel energized.” Nemat is going on from Oslo to do a European speaking tour. “Thank you for reenergizing me.”

    She was only a teenager when she was a political prisoner. And there have been thousands of teenage political prisoners since the revolution triumphed in 1979, she says. “This situation has been going on for 30 years. It is going on today.” She comments on the pictures of Cambodia that Sophal Ear has shown us. The torture chamber reminded her of what she saw in Evin. Chains tied to bed legs and so on. She says, in essence, “You’ve seen one torture chamber, you’ve seen them all.”

    She also describes a visit to Auschwitz she had. During that visit, she saw a great pile of shoes, taken from the victims. “And that made me wonder, What did they do with our shoes?” She remembers the shoes she went in with: “They were Puma running shoes, white with red lines on the sides.” What did they do with our shoes?

    She tells her story simply, plainly, matter-of-factly. She was “just a normal girl” who rode her bike in the streets and wanted to become a doctor. Her father was a ballroom-dancing instructor; her mother was a hairdresser. The family was Catholic. She was 13 when the calamity of the revolution struck.

    At 16 -- this took unbelievable nerve -- she asked her calculus teacher to teach calculus instead of the Islamist propaganda of the regime.

    She was arrested in the middle of the night, and blindfolded upon arrival at Evin. This is standard operating procedure. And then she was tortured. She does not go into details, here in the Christiania Theater. “They are in my book.” She was told that they would arrest her mother, father, and boyfriend if she didn’t “marry” her interrogator-torturer and convert to Islam. She submitted.

    This was “legalized rape,” as she says. “I didn’t have a choice.” Interesting about her “husband”: He had been a prisoner himself, under the shah, and tortured -- tortured for three years. Now he was the torturer. Three months after the “marriage,” he was killed -- “assassinated,” Nemat says. Curiously enough, it was his family that pleaded for her release. They secured it.

    She went home to her parents. At the dinner table, they talked about the weather. No one asked her what had happened inside the prison. “It would have been nice if someone had said, ‘When you’re ready to talk, we’re ready to listen.’” But no one said anything. The experience was just swept under the rug.

    She married her boyfriend, who was the organist at church; she herself was in the choir. “The marriage was an act of defiance. I converted back to Catholicism when I married AndrĂ©. This put another death sentence on my head, because if you convert to Islam, and then convert out of Islam, you are automatically condemned to death.”

    Years passed. Nemat was living in Canada. And it was in 2002 that “I lost the ability to sleep. The past caught up with me. I started having nightmares, flashbacks, and I had to do something about it: either go jump off a bridge or tell my story.” She took the latter course.

    She stresses that what happened to her in Evin is going on every single day, with other girls. The only thing that has an effect, she says, is international pressure.
That's all for now.

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