Conservative Views on Islam and Violence

Discussions in the blogosphere often tend to dwell largely on the horse race of politics or, when they discuss issues, on a limited number of issues where there is a distinct left versus right divide and no communication between the two. Therefore it is always enjoyable when other issues are being discussed (especially when the discussion doesn’t turn into an outright blog war).

Michael van der Galiën posted on Islamic Law and Violence last week, arguing that “Islamic law isn’t static” and that the Koran “doesn’t teach violence any more than the Bible or Torah.” Robert Spencer disagreed and Michael responded again today. The later post highlights the importance of this discussion with regards to encouraging reformers. Michael notes that a consequence of the view held by many conservatives that violence is intrinsic to Islamic belief leaves “moderate Muslims but two choices: to abandon their faith or to join the Jihadis.”

The discussion is worth reading in its entirety and therefore I’ll limit my summary to the brief tidbits above which will hopefully entice others to read the posts. The debate also highlights the difference between European conservatives and an unfortunate number of their American counterparts. Cernig shares an impression of Michael’s blog which I’ve also noticed:

As his blog has added American contributors, it has tracked consistently away from a European conservatism that would be best described as centrist in the US over towards the American Right.

But, unfortunately, Michael is finding that as long as he has any sense of proportion and reason he won’t be pure enough for hardline U.S. conservatives.

To a great degree this is true of both the right and left blogospheres. Increasingly there are ideas which are held by the majority of bloggers right or left and associations between bloggers lead to the acceptance of common views. I fear that the result is increased polarization as liberal and conservative blogs advocate entirely different belief systems. Even some of the “moderate” blogs often rely on having both conservative and liberal bloggers in order to provide an overall nonpartisan voice.

I’ve noticed that as his association with conservative bloggers increases Michael sometimes repeats conservative memes about American liberals. Fortunately there is a difference between European and American conservatives and his blog often does still maintain a “sense of proportion and reason” which keeps it from falling entirely into the U.S. conservative sphere. Hopefully this will continue.

Changing the Weather

Here’s an idea for responding to climate change which I suspect is a long way away from yielding practical responses but which I suspect we should keep our eyes on. Science has a story on geoengineering:

Top climate scientists have cautiously endorsed the need to study schemes to reverse global warming that involve directly tinkering with Earth’s climate. Their position on geoengineering, which will likely be controversial, was staked out at an invitation-only meeting that ended here today. It’s based on a growing concern about the rapid pace of global change and continued anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

“In this room, we’ve reached a remarkable consensus that there should be research on this,” said climate modeler Chris Bretherton of the University of Washington, Seattle, during a morning session today. Phil Rasch, a modeler with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, underscored the point. “We’re not saying that there should be geoengineering, we’re saying there should be research regarding geoengineering.” No formal statement was released at the meeting, which was organized by Harvard University and the University of Calgary, but few of the 50 scientists objected to the idea.

The field of geoengineering has long been big on ideas but short on respect. Some of the approaches that researchers have dreamed up include launching fleets of space-based shades to dim the sunlight hitting Earth or altering the albedo of the ocean with light-colored reflectors. Perhaps the best-known idea is to pump aerosols into the stratosphere to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes. But there’s been scant support from mainstream scientists, many of whom fear that even mentioning the g-word could derail discussion of carbon-emissions cuts. Others worry that technological tinkering might backfire. “I just accepted on faith as an environmental scientist that this had to be a bad idea,” said Harvard’s Scot Martin, who said he was reluctantly coming around.

Finding solutions to complex problems often does involve looking in a variety of directions, including those which initially do not appear the most promising. Bradford Plumer reviews some of the potential obstacles to this approach:

The best overviews I’ve seen on this issue are this Boston Globe article and this Wilson Quarterly piece. But just to pile on: It’s worth noting that no one has yet come up with an even halfway plausible geo-engineering plan. The most promising idea to date—injecting sulfuric dust into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight—suffered a blow after two University of Colorado scientists pointed out that it could wreak havoc on global rainfall patterns. More research would be fantastic, but it’d be insane for the world to sit around and wait for geo-engineering to save us, only to discover that, 20 years hence, none of these wacky plans have made it past the bong-cloud stage, and we’re still on our present, carbon-belching energy path.

There’s also the question of who would control the weather. Cloud-seeding in the United States has led to all sorts of lawsuits from farmers complaining about stolen rain. Chinese cities experimenting with this stuff have been warring over “cloud theft.” The U.S. Air Force has drafted a report, “Weather as a Force Multiplier,” discussing ways to use weather-modification as a weapon. If someone does come up with a way to cool the earth—say, giant space mirrors—there would be all sorts of tricky debates about who decides how it’s used. It’s hard to imagine that the international talks over that would be any less difficult than reaching an agreement on reducing carbon emissions.

Obama’s Ambition

A person simply has to be ambitious if they are to ever be a serious candidate for president. I bet that for most the ambition starts early. Barack Obama must have made an impression on his kindergarten teacher who still recalls him, and recalls that he wrote a paper entitled “I Want To Become President.” (I wonder if he was any more specific about his plans in that paper than he is today.)

The article where I discovered this bit of trivia also discusses Obama’s education and provides yet one more source for debunking the claims spread by Republicans that Obama attended a Madrassa.

Ron Paul Excluded from Iowa Debate

Ron Paul, along with Tom Tancredo and Duncan Hunter who also have less than 5% support in the polls, are being excluded from a December 4 Republican debate. Needless to say, Paul’s supporters are angry. On the surface it might make sense to limit the debates to those who appear to have a chance at winning the nomination. The problem is that using the polls to decide who is electable in this manner gives the polls an excessive influence in the final outcome.

Polls provide a snapshot of where voters stand today, but this does not mean that they will as they are. Polls before caucuses and primaries are poorly predictive as many voters do not make up their minds until the last minute. If candidates who are doing poorly in the polls a month before the vote are not allowed to participate in debates held a month before the vote they have less of an opportunity to win over voters who might decide to vote for them based upon what they say at the debate.

The caucus also isn’t only about who can come in first but who can beat expectations. If a candidate like Ron Paul could even come in third place there is the chance that they would be taken more seriously in subsequent states.

Realistically I don’t think Paul has much of a chance to win the Republican nomination, or even receive a sizable number of votes, in a party which is pro-war and which has so little concern about civil liberties. Even if Paul won the nomination he would probably lose the general election by the worst landslide in history. However, my predictions could be wrong. It is up to the voters to decide whether Paul gets their vote and the voters of Iowa should have the opportunity to hear him in the upcoming debate.