Looking for Muslim comedy in the Western world

January 27, 2007

I discovered a sitcom series started up in Canada, called “Little Mosque on the Prairie.” Not a very original title, if you ask me. Some might even feel offended by it, but I encourage you to watch it, if it’s available.

I watched the pilot. I liked the show overall. There’s a scene in an airport that was very prescient. A hip looking Muslim imam is waiting in line at the ticket counter and is talking to his mother on his mobile phone about a new position he’s taking at a mosque in a small town. The intent of the conversation is clear (benign) if you listen to all of it, but the imam unintentionally drops some “bombshells” (pun intended) on the people around him by putting words like “bomb,” “suicide,” and “Allah” into his conversation. A lady in front of him quietly freaks out and leaves the line. The next thing the imam knows he’s nabbed by security and brought in for questioning. If a Muslim looking guy was behind me in line saying what he was saying (if I wasn’t paying close attention, that is), I could imagine myself getting worried. The scene with security though was dumb. The imam was throwing jokes at the officers that they weren’t getting, in a snide way, but also trying to get them to lighten up. He signals they’re not getting what he’s saying (hand flying over head), and the security guy goes, “Woah. Is that a signal?!” Uh. There are no other suspects in the room. Just two police officers. Who would he be signaling?? Yes the writers were trying to make a point, but it was like getting hit over the head with a 2×4 for no good reason.

While the Muslim characters did say to each other a couple times “you shouldn’t say that,” or, “change the message,” because people were misinterpreting what they were saying, and getting freaked out, I felt that it blamed white people too much for misinterpreting what was going on. I’ve heard from blacks and even other Muslims who are worried about terrorists. It’s not just a white thing. In times like these, I know it sucks for them, but I think Muslims have to watch what they say and do a little bit. Unfortunately, some bad apples in their own culture have spoiled it for them. That should be the true message.

I liked the rest of the show. It was neat to see that even Muslims were having disagreements, like how to observe a religious sacrement. Some of the other characters, acting as “paranoid conservatives” felt like characitures, but hey, the show has to have a nemesis, otherwise there wouldn’t be a point to it. I also liked that while they were poking fun at the “hysterical white people,” they were also poking fun at some of the Muslim characters. The show has a mix of Muslim personalities, a couple conservative/traditional Muslims, and a few who are liberal. It felt like they were saying, “Hey. We all have problems.” I liked that. It made the characters feel more human. I wish there was a show similar to this in the U.S., though I’d appreciate it if it didn’t insist on characituring whites. I know it would be a controversial thing to do, and would probably do badly in the ratings, but I think it would be healthy to get people to see good, reasonable Muslim characters in this country dealing with what’s going on in their own personal way, and help non-Muslims think about the situations that are presented. This is just me wishing aloud, but I also would wish that such a show would occasionally get into the subject of “infidels” (ie. jihadists) to contrast them with the good Muslims who are regularly on the show. That would require that it be more of a drama. I can’t see “Little Mosque on the Prairie” discussing that subject. It’s supposed to be a light-hearted comedy. Getting into terrorism would be too serious.

“Boulder isn’t just for the rich”

January 27, 2007

The Daily Camera featured an article today about a physicist complaining about “McMansions” in Boulder, called “scrape-offs,” that fill an entire lot. This has been a phenomenon nationwide. I first heard about it last year. A resident of a city (can’t remember where) was campaigning to outlaw building these types of houses in her town. It made the national news. Due to current real estate tastes, people want large houses. They’re trying to “keep up with the Joneses.” I’m not sure what effect this has on the value of surrounding, smaller houses. It may make the land value go up, in fact, because the value of the “McMansion” that’s put in its place will be so much higher than the smaller house that’s already there.

One can hardly blame ambitious people wanting to do this in a town like Boulder, with its increasing land values. Boulder has already shown itself to be an immensely profitable place to own real estate.

I suppose the larger houses tend to attract a more upscale clientelle when a house in the neighborhood goes up for sale, who also want a house as large as the biggest one on the block, or larger. People complain that it changes the character of the neighborhood. I can imagine.

The physicist, Jim Faller, sounds like someone with a lot of time on his hands though. The article quotes him as saying, “My house is ruined.” And then goes on to say:

He said he feels the sentimental value of his house and neighborhood will only be lowered as more surrounding houses are razed. His house, though, has increased in value to about $800,000 to $1 million since he bought it in 1971 for $60,000, he said.

Ruined? Hardly. Maybe the sentimental feel of the place is ruined, but certainly not its value–a $740,000-$940,000 profit is not shabby at all. If that’s ruination I wonder what he’d consider “adequate.”

One thing Faller said that I couldn’t let pass without comment is, “Boulder isn’t just for the rich.” Au contraire. In case he hasn’t noticed, due to Boulder’s restrictive land use policies (ie. building the Green Belt to prevent sprawl), Boulder is just for the rich–unless you don’t mind living in a trailer park. We have a few of those here. I guess he didn’t notice that many of the common folk left a while ago and that he’s likely in the minority. I’m not saying this is the way it should be. It’s the result of choices that Boulder has made over the course of a few decades in the name of preserving the natural beauty. There are other towns in the West that did the same thing, with similar results. Check out the real estate values of homes near Jackson in Wyoming, just south of Grand Teton National Park. You can scarcely find a home that’s worth less than $1 million.

Every choice has benefits and costs. The question should be whether the benefits outweigh the costs, not what will solve all of our problems. There’s rarely a solution that doesn’t come with costs.

Apparently Boulder is quite satisfied with the current state of affairs:

Susan Richstone, acting long-range division manager for the city’s planning department, said the Planning Board has urged the City Council to take up the issue of scrape-offs, but it hasn’t because of a lack of public concern.

Uh huh. I bet.

The character of the Left

January 11, 2007

I got inspired to write this via a post on Tammy Bruce’s blog, called “The New, Friendly, Bipartisan Democrat Congress”. In it she refers to a post by Dean Barnett on Hugh Hewitt’s blog, talking about an encounter he had with a 60 year old man he had over as a dinner guest. This is the post I am writing about.

Dean Barnett is on to something that Tammy Bruce has pointed out in her books, and indeed Bill O’Reilly has pointed out on his show and in his book, Culture Warrior: the Left wants America to be different, but this requires that Americans think different. For this to happen they must “realize” that their traditional way of thinking is wrong, and accept a whole new set of beliefs and world view.

It can be difficult to talk about this subject without offending some liberals, because they’ll have a tendency to think I’m talking about them. In terms of most liberals, I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about what’s commonly termed these days the “far left”. They might be better described as the ideological left, those who have “drunk the Kool Aid” and have accepted socialist dogma as truth.

A theme that comes back to me over and over again with the dyed-in-the-wool Left is that they are control freaks. They believe in the idea that most people are stupid who don’t know how to run their own lives. They have to be taken care of. This puts people in a subservient position to government. This pervades a lot of their thinking. People must be allowed to do whatever they want…as long as they adhere to the speech codes. Their ideal is as people screw up their lives, kind of like a baby spilling milk on the floor, the government will come in and clean up the boo boo for you. This isn’t to say that people don’t screw up their lives, or that by a run of bad luck people end up in a situation where they could really use a helping hand. The problem with this way of thinking in my opinion is they think most people require the help of government to get through their lives. I’ve gotten this sense that the Left looks down on most people. They don’t see them as equals with the same potential as they themselves have.

On the international stage they believe that America is arrogant, and provincial, and foolish in our prevailing belief that a higher power (as in, God) exists. I think the provincial criticism has validity. Most Americans don’t think about how our actions affect all sorts of things in the rest of the world. We tend to think of things one country at a time. In 2001 it was Afghanistan. Since 2003 it’s been Iraq, with occasional distractions from North Korea.

The way that I see the Left consistently act as a group of control freaks, and it bewilders me to no end, is they’re on a constant guilt trip. They try to put themselves in the position of being the arbiters of balance. How arrogant of them. They see a debt on one side of the social or international ledger, and they believe we can pay that debt by sacrificing something, such as our own national security and interests. Before we went into Iraq, I got the opinion of leftists on the matter: “We have chemical weapons. Why shouldn’t they have them?” Yes, it’s moral equivalence at work, but it also embodies the idea that if they have chemical weapons it’s only because we have them, or it’s because of our evil, aggressive foreign policy. We should allow Iraq to have chemical weapons, because it is a just deterrant against our arrogance. It equalizes the relationship in their eyes. What’s arrogant to them is the U.S. trying to take that away from Iraq, thereby leaving us as the only country with chemical weapons (supposedly). They think we demand the upper hand in all situations, whether our interests are at stake or not, and this of course is not just.

When 9/11 happened, I heard from the Left immediately: “We deserved it”. We have supposedly killed thousands of people in the Middle East because of our greedy, evil foreign policy. This action on the part of the terrorists (er, “freedom fighters”) was only a bit of payback in their eyes. Again, they saw themselves as the arbiters of social justice on the international stage, and the 9/11 incident as an opportunity for Americans to “wake up” and realize what a terrible mistake we’ve made. Apparently we haven’t “learned”… So now they’re gunning for a U.S. defeat in Iraq. Perhaps then we’ll “get it”.

They see themselves as smart, knowledgeable, and world-wise. They feel that they understand the whole world and its problems, particularly its poor and oppressed, much better than most Americans do. But their “world view” is myopic. They think they know the people of the world and what motivates them. They don’t have a clue. They may know about Europe, and maybe some things about the Far East, if they’ve travelled at all, but that’s pretty much it. Even then their view is colored by a desire to be admired, to be the fountain of wisdom whom everyone consults on how the world can be saved, and how justice should be carried out–flaggellating ourselves if necessary. I have a sneaking suspicion they have the desire to dominate others.

I’ve come to discover that when many young people say they want to “change the world” they’re not really talking about the world. They’re talking about the U.S. To them the U.S. is the world. How provincial…

In some ways I do wish that we Americans would take more of an interest in the rest of the world, outside our borders. I think we would understand better the War on Terror, why we’re fighting it, and what we’re really fighting against. In a general sense, I think we could even pick up some good ideas to apply to things in our own country. I’m not necessarily talking about our government. We could learn about other educational systems, business practices, and how other countries handle R&D, for example.

I occasionally check out the foreign press. I am fascinated by the points of view of other cultures. During the war in Iraq I’ve tried to get information from people who truly know something about the region, even a few locals. The difference with me is I don’t apply moral equivalence to my world view. I think it is right to go after a leader if they represent a threat to U.S. security, and in that light, given our horrific experience with terrorism, I think Bush’s policy of pre-emption is the right one. I also think that fundamentally all people want to be free. What “free” means can be different, depending on the culture, but I can’t imagine any human being actually wanting to be oppressed. To me that makes no sense. This doesn’t mean that we should go around using military force wherever we see that people are oppressed, but I think it’s okay to go in and liberate countries that represent a direct or growing threat to us. Consider it a “perk”.

Digest of articles on the War on Terror

January 2, 2007

Okay. I think that about does it.

Edit 7/17/2015: I’ve updated a few of the links here. Some of them were broken.

Digest of articles on global warming

January 2, 2007

The holiday season has really put a crimp on my blogging. I’ve been collecting articles on topics of interest to talk about here. In an attempt to clean the queue, I’m just going to blast them out here. Many of these are going to seem like old stories, but all articles go in some depth on some stories you’ve probably already heard about, revealing details you probably had not heard.

Edit 1/3/07: Just wanted to comment on item #2, “UN downgrades man’s impact on the climate”. It is things like this that cause me to doubt the much hyped explanation for why the climate is warming: The proponents of the CO2-only theory keep revising their guesses. Since in their estimation nothing about our activity has changed (most of the countries that signed on to Kyoto have not met their targets), what’s changing is their models. Why do their models keep changing if these climate scientists know how the climate works? The answer is they don’t. They’re still figuring it out. They don’t want us to see that though. What they’re still telling us by subtle means is (in Wizard of Oz fashion) “Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain. The climate is still warming and our carbon emissions are to blame for it. There is no doubt about it.” The only explanation for this non-scientific argument is there’s a political campaign going on. Since these people are guessing about the cause of global warming, I’ll guess as to their motivations, just for the heck of it.

I think there is a sense among these people, which is well-intentioned, that “for goodness sake, we’re in the 21st century. Let’s move forward.” They see the industrial revolution and its products as something that’s in the past, and of little value today. In fact, I’m willing to guess they’re disgusted by it. It’s old and it’s dirty. Let’s get rid of it! Yet they still see the West clinging to it. They want to give us a reason to give it up. They want to accelerate the move into the information/electronic age, where everything runs on electricity from one source or another, and where information technology is a part of that. There might even be some among them who were inspired by visions of the future from years ago, and are disappointed that we are not in futuristic cities with flying cars by now.

To tell you the truth, as far as the idea of running everything on electricity and computers goes, I don’t mind it, in concept. I just choose to look at things realistically, and what I see them asking everyone to do is very expensive. Sure, people who are wealthy can afford to upgrade to green technologies. It’s the middle class and poor I’m worried about in the scenario these people envision.

I saw a Charlie Rose episode recently with Charlie talking to a panel on the topic of alternative energy sources. One of the panelists made a salient point: With regards to energy, people are going to vote with their pocketbook, not their conscience, by and large. People are only going to invest in alternative energy modalities if they see that they can save money with it. Makes sense to me. I think the main barrier to even this working is typical consumer behavior. Most consumers look at short-term savings. For example, if the price tag of one solution, in a time frame they are familiar with, is less than the price of another, they are more likely to choose what they see is the less expensive solution. In many cases however they ignore the long-term costs, which may or may not be minimal. The solution that appears to be less expensive at first may cost them more in the long run than what appeared to be the more expensive solution. My own sense is people who are more wealthy tend to look more at long term costs because they feel less pressure to buy what appears to be the less expensive solution. They feel they can afford to look at quality products, no matter their price tag.

I have been critical of climate scientists who act like they know why the climate is warming, mainly because they are sounding the alarm before they have given themselves a chance to truly understand what is going on. I think that’s irresponsible. In my mind it’s equivalent to the FDA in the midst of a drug trial on a drug that purports to heal cancer saying, “This drug heals cancer!”, and releasing it to the public for them to buy and consume, before the trial is done. No one in their right mind would think that is responsible behavior, yet we seem to tolerate it from “most scientists” who “all agree” that our CO2 emissions are leading us to a global catastrophe.

Roger Pielke, a climate scientist at Colorado State University has a blog discussing global warming, and his exploration of what is causing it. I’ve done a little reading on what he’s found, and while I don’t completely understand everything he is saying, I can see he takes a level-headed approach to the subject, and I like that. He is approaching it as a scientist, not an advocate. He agrees with the notion that we humans are contributing to this phenomenon of global warming, but he does not accept the notion that CO2 emissions completely explain it. He says it is a piece of the puzzle, and there are other contributors to climate warming that are caused by what we are doing in our modern civilization. I encourage you to give him a read.

Personally I see this emphasis on CO2 as the cause of global warming as a harmful distraction from the truth that is staring us in the face. I have to admit I’m disappointed that more conservatives have not addressed this. The reason we should be focusing on trying to find an alternative to oil for fueling our machinery and transportation is that the places we get it from do not have our best interests at heart. In some cases they are working against us in various ways. We need energy independence. I put the emphasis on oil, because natural gas is a viable fossil fuel, and we can get it locally, and from friendly countries around the world.

I think the reasons that we pursue such a change are very important. Choosing to change our behavior in response to a theory that may not be true is harmful to the cause of making that change. Once the theory that supported changing our behavior proves to be less significant than everyone thought then people will discount the need to change their behavior. I’m referring to the “cry wolf” scenario. Let’s focus on a very real reason we should pursue alternative energy sources. I’ll be blunt. We should not be sending money to people, some of whom support a radical ideology that seeks to eradicate the Jews and conquer the West. I’m referring to the Wahhabist, Salafist, and radical Shia forms of Islam. Some who are promoting these forms of Islam, and by extension their terrorist activities, have been benefiting from the sale of oil to the rest of the world. I’m not saying they’re the only ones selling oil, but they are among the producers. Even Hugo Chavez, who now runs Venezuela, a major source of the world’s oil, is in effect an enemy of the U.S. Regardless of what may be going on with the climate, isn’t this reason enough to make a significant change in our behavior?

Leave it to a Brit to champion scientific debate

January 2, 2007

This is a bit of an old story by now. I noticed it around Christmas and didn’t think it was appropriate to bring up such a critical topic then. Anyway, I’m commenting on it now. I saw this on Slapstick Politics, “British Lord Chastises Sens. Rockefeller And Snowe Over Free Speech Denial”.

Background: Sens. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, a Republican sent a letter to ExxonMobil earlier demanding that they stop providing funds to groups that are skeptical of human-caused global warming, whom they called “deniers”, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The term “deniers” has been circulating around, to smear the reputations of skeptics, who are deemed as equivalent to Holocaust deniers, a specious charge. I wrote about one of CEI’s campaigns here.

In response, Lord Monckton in the UK wrote an open letter to Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe. I excerpted quotes from the story on PR Newswire, below:

“You defy every tenet of democracy when you invite ExxonMobil to deny itself the right to provide information to ‘senior elected and appointed government officials’ who disagree with your opinion.”

“Sceptics and those who have the courage to support them are actually helpful in getting the science right. They do not, as you improperly suggest, ‘obfuscate’ the issue: they assist in clarifying it by challenging weaknesses in the ‘consensus’ argument and they compel necessary corrections … “

“You acknowledge the effectiveness of the climate sceptics. In so doing, you pay a compliment to the courage of those free-thinking scientists who continue to research climate change independently despite the likelihood of refusal of publication in journals that have taken preconceived positions; the hate mail and vilification from ignorant environmentalists; and the threat of loss of tenure in institutions of learning which no longer make any pretence to uphold or cherish academic freedom.”

Concludes Lord Monckton, “I challenge you to withdraw or resign because your letter is the latest in what appears to be an internationally-coordinated series of maladroit and malevolent attempts to silence the voices of scientists and others who have sound grounds, rooted firmly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, to question what you would have us believe is the unanimous agreement of scientists worldwide that global warming will lead to what you excitedly but unjustifiably call ‘disastrous’ and ‘calamitous’ consequences.”

The PR Newswire story went on to say:

Some voices on the political left have called for the arrest and prosecution of skeptical scientists. The British Foreign Secretary has said skeptics should be treated like advocates of Islamic terror and must be denied access to the media.”

This is really getting to be too much. Calling skeptics “deniers” is harmful name-calling, but calling for the arrest and prosecution of skeptics is downright fascistic. And it appears the British Foreign Secretary is batty. To equate skeptical scientists with those who advocate “Islamic terror” is beyond the pale, and hypocritical. Just this past week A couple weeks ago Winston S. Churchill, the grandson of the famous PM of Britain said on Glenn Beck’s program on CNN:

CHURCHILL: Well, I`m not sure that history is repeating itself, but there are some of the same suspects around. I mean, just last week, the British Foreign Office issued an injunction to Mr. Blair and British ministers that they mustn`t anymore refer to the war on terror, because that might give offense to the Muslims.

(my emphasis in bold)

Just for your information, the Foreign Secretary is the head of the Foreign Office. So the Foreign Secretary feels comfortable using the term “Islamic terror” to smear the good names of skeptics who challenge global warming orthodoxy, but denies the ability of other government officials from using the term “War on Terror” when referring to our battle against the jihadists. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, unless of course the Foreign Secretary has drunk the Kool Aid and believes that climate change is a greater threat to our existence than the jihadists.