If the government won’t act, the people will

Mosque set on fire in Holland, last in string of attacks on Muslim institutions and churches since Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh murdered for exposing abuses of women in Islamic societies. MPs pressing for legislation compelling Dutch mosques to employ only Imams who studied in the Netherlands. Netherlands authorities continue crack down on suspected Islamic terrorists.

NATO chief, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, warns Europe that it is lagging behind the US in fighting global terrorism, which is reason for strained relations within NATO. Europe needs to catch up, not the US.

Note the difference. 3,000 people died in 9/11 and not a single mosque was attacked in the USA. One man died in the Netherlands and the mosques are burning. It is just as much a mistake for Americans to judge Europeans by whatever scattered reports from their media elite trickle through ours as it is for Europeans to judge Americans by the International Herald Tribune.

If I were a moderate Muslim in Holland, I’d be leaving about now. If the jihadists react to the mosque burnings with their usual violence – and some churches have been firebombed already – it could get very grim very fast for the Muslim community there. The Dutch may be famous for their tolerance, but they wiped out their Jews pretty efficiently too.

Mailvox: the old Hell block

“Something feels wrong about the whole way the Xtian faith is put forth. A JBR God would not create so many billions of souls knowing he was going to damn something like 75 to 90+ percent of them to eternal hell”

I’ve always assumed that if we were created, we were created for a purpose. Now, if it’s necessary to be useful in order to fulfill that purpose, it shouldn’t be surprising that those who prove themselves to lack utility – obedience, faith, whatever it might be – end up thrown on the trash heap. If this life is not all there is, I’m betting there’s going to be a lot more going on than sitting around and playing harps. Maybe we get to be the angels for the six-eyed, four-armed beings on Zed Zed Nine Plural Zed Beta, I have no idea. It’s a big universe out there.

Anyhow, many of the parables seem to portray the separation from God as more of a throwing on the trash heap – the original Gehenna, interestingly enough – than a punishment per se. I’m not attempting to argue this from a theological point of view, it’s just my casual thinking on the matter.

We don’t worry too terribly much about things we create for our purposes. Even before I was a Christian, I never understood why anyone would expect God to do so either. Oh, sure, the love thing, but then, you might love your dog, but if he pisses on the carpet every day, you would probably elect to get rid of him before long.

Nick’s argument also presupposes that we aren’t headed straight for Hell on our own anyhow. I don’t think that’s a given, in fact, the Bible appears to suggest the opposite.

I’ll be skipping this one

NYT reviews the new Bridget Jones flick:

I suppose what some women like about Bridget Jones is that the character feeds the cherished fantasy that some one (some man) will love them for who they are inside, never mind the squishy bits. (That Bridget doesn’t have much going on inside is supposed to be of no consequence.) That’s an important fantasy, and sometimes it’s also true, thank God. But what’s grotesque about this particular iteration of the fantasy is that I cannot believe that Ms. Fielding buys into it, except as a necessary marketing element for attracting as large a readership as possible. Let them eat cake, because men don’t really mind if you look like the side of a barn. The truth is that from the sound of all the cackling women, it’s not the men we have to worry about.

I rather liked the original novel, actually, although the movie was rather lame. But this rerview amused me as I’ve never understood how some women expect to be valued for what is inside when all that’s there is an unpleasant and superficial narcissist.

First Malkin, now Turtledove

An Amazon review of his new alternate history novel about the Japanese occupation of Hawaii:

Let’s face it. Harry Turtledove could write about a fencepost and make it sound interesting. Words flow from this man. His use of the English language is like a lubricant, making everything so much easier. In short, he’s got writing talent. But this alternate history of Pearl Harbor, despite its moments, ultimately disappoints.

The military scenario (a Japanese seizure of the Hawaiian archipelago following the December 7, 1941 attack) isn’t credible unless you give the Japanese fuel, food, supplies, logistics, and occupation troops they didn’t really possess. That violates the rule for an alternate history. It must be something that really could have happened.

Turtledove’s long passages about imprisoned Americans, including Japanese-Americans, are repetitious and boring. He often uses military nomenclature incorrectly. I thought Turtledove’s “The Guns of the South” was brilliant. I thought his other alternate histories were poor. This one lies somewhere between. If you like a good story, this will be okay for you. If you demand authentic military details, it won’t be.

I haven’t read much Turtledove, although I did enjoy the Misplaced Legion series in high school. I think I’ll be skipping this one. A statement by another reviewer made me laugh, though.

“Alternate History offers a rich field for science fiction authors. But one curious thing is that this book appears to be the first major novel in English to speculate about a successful Japanese capture of Hawaii during World War 2. Some 60 years after 7.12.1941. One might wonder why, given the number of American SF authors in the postwar years, and the creative talent of this group.”

Probably for the same reason we don’t write a lot of books about what would have happened if the Bahamas had developed the first atomic bomb. It simply isn’t credible, and except among those who are sufficiently ignorant to take Malkin seriously, this book is unlikely to be very well regarded among enthusiasts of military history. There aren’t any war games on the subject either.

Help on Hitchhikers

I’m wrapping up my piece on The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but because I don’t have access to my physical copies right now, I don’t have the correct page numbers to footnote the following quotes. Two are from the first book, I think the second two are both from the third. I’m sure someone here has the books, and if anyone would provide me with the page numbers, I’d very much appreciate it.

“They are one of the most unpleasant races in the Galaxy”

“Ode To A Small Lump of Green Putty I Found In My Armpit One Midsummer Morning”

“Since we decided a few weeks ago to adopt the leaf as legal tender”

“one of the many major problems with governing people”

also the bit about the bridge on Squornshellous Zeta collapsing

Also, if anyone knows the limit on the amount of currency British citizens were permitted to take out of the country during the currency controls of the mid-1970s, I need to know that as well.

Mailvox: where to start?

Ellis shies from the real world:

Because if everyone behaved in that way, life wouldn’t be pleasant for anyone except maybe the most brutal. I would much rather live in a society where people at least attempt to avoid injuring one another, so I do my part to make society better instead of worse. Is this really that hard to get?

What does how you would prefer to live have to do with anything, Ellis? Have you never heard of the law of tooth and claw? As an atheist, do you not believe in evolution, where only the strongest survive to improve the species? I have no doubt that you are a decent human being our mutual lights, but your very decency is both irrational and illogical considering your beliefs – and they are beliefs, demonstrably more unfounded than those of the most unthinking Bible-thumping fundamentalists.

That fundamentalist at least has an ancient book at which to point, whereas you’ve got literally nothing except a history that records a reality flying directly in the face of your wishes. And you haven’t even attempted to address the main point, which was my assertion that the atheist has no wherewithal to confront evil, no basis with which to criticize the individual who does not share his utilitarian analysis but decides instead that the common interest is best served by ridding the world of Jews, blacks, Christians, intellectuals, gays, unborn children or whatever the victim du jour might be.

My thought is that by nature, most people will do good most of the time.

And this statement is based on what? Nothing! And what is that good of which you speak, the rational structure in your head which is shared by no one else? Again, the wishful thinking of the decent atheist looking at others through rose-colored glasses. And yet atheists often accuse the faithful of believing in fairy tales! History proves that enough people wish to do evil enough of the time to produce the war, crime and bloodshed that is familiar to every society in every age.

Also: “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil — but for good people to do evil — that takes religion.”

There are few things as annoying as a pithy and meaningless quote that is somehow supposed to be deeply meaningful. Were there no good people in China, the Soviet Union or Kampuchea who were swept up into the profoundly atheistic murderous frenzies? Were there no good people committing evil acts in any of the 489 wars I surveyed for this article, 90 percent of which had nothing to do with religion of any kind?

The quote is simply incorrect. Getting good people to do evil does not take religion, it only requires a government edict.