The Hedgehog Blog
Political and social observations from two aspiring hedgehogs who love the Isaiah Berlin essay.
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, which operates the Hadron nuclear accelerator, has published in the scientific journal Nature the findings from an experiment ongoing since 2009, conducted by 63 scientists from 17 institutes in Europe and the United States, on the factors that determine global temperatures. It turns out that the action of the sun's magnetic field on cosmic rays is the major determining factor. When the sun's magnetic field readily allows cosmic rays to reach the earth, those rays seed cloud cloud cover, resulting in precipitation and cooler temperatures. However, when the magnetic field deflects cosmic rays away from the earth, cloud formation is restricted, and temperatures rise. According to this model, CO2 emissions from human activity has an insignificant effect.
The report is getting very little media coverage. I wonder why. One can imagine how the mainstream media would be trumpeting this report it if it bolstered global warming orthodoxy.
I do not want to oversell the significance of this report. As near as I can tell, the study raises more questions than it answers, and merely furthers a promising line of inquiry into the effect of the sun's magnetic field and cosmic rays on global temperatures. It by no means settles the issue of what are the primary causes of climate change. But, at the very least, this is a setback to those who argue that the cause of global warming is beyond legitimate scientific debate.
In any event, those who wish to know more would do well to start with this report by British science writer Nigel Calder.
In the Wall Street Journal, Lord Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, writes that the recent London riots are attributable to the moral disintegration that began in the 1960s in Great Britain, the United States and virtually every other Western society. Rabbi Sacks writes:
Britain is the latest country to pay the price for what happened half a century ago in one of the most radical transformations in the history of the West. In virtually every Western society in the 1960s there was a moral revolution, an abandonment of its entire traditional ethic of self-restraint. All you need, sang the Beatles, is love. The Judeo-Christian moral code was jettisoned. In its place came: whatever works for you.
Rabbi Sacks notes that as a result of the collapse of the authority of Judaeo-Christian values in Britain, today over 40% of children are born out of wedlock, and "whole communities are growing up without fathers or male role models," so that many British young men are socialized in gangs. He cites the evergrowing list of social maladies resulting from the same source:
They are the victims of the tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
The most interesting insight of Rabbi Sacks is that this has happened before, in Great Britain and the United States in the 1820s, when the great migrations from the countryside to the cities sparked by the Industrial Revolution led to a breakdown of traditional institutions of religious and civil authority. Broken families, alcoholism and violent crime abounded. Here, Rabbi Sacks writes, is what turned the tide:
What happened over the next 30 years was a massive shift in public opinion. There was an unprecedented growth in charities, friendly societies, working men's institutes, temperance groups, church and synagogue associations, Sunday schools, YMCA buildings and moral campaigns of every shape and size, fighting slavery or child labor or inhuman working conditions. The common factor was their focus on the building of moral character, self-discipline, willpower and personal responsibility. It worked. Within a single generation, crime rates came down and social order was restored. What was achieved was nothing less than the re-moralization of society—much of it driven by religion.
Rabbi Sacks argues that now, as then, the cure for the social disease afflicting the West is not government. Rather, "It needs religion: not as doctrine but as a shaper of behavior, a tutor in morality, an ongoing seminar in self-restraint and pursuit of the common good."
The question, Rabbi Sacks poses, is whether the West will apply the cure before its moral and societal disintegration is irreversible.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Mortimer Zuckerman, who supported the election of President Barack Obama in 2008, writes in today's Wall Street Journal that the crisis facing the Obama Presidency is one of competency and the absence of leadership. I thought Mr. Zuckerman's critique of the President's advocacy of "taxing millionaires and billionaires" was particularly biting and cogent, coming as it does from an advocate of higher taxes:
He made the politically tested and calculated statement that if you raise taxes on billionaires and millionaires you could solve the problem. This is not so. Even for those who support higher taxes on the wealthy, as I do, we must remember that we have an income tax system in which fully half the "taxpayers" pay no tax at all, and in which the variety of loopholes cries out for a real reform of the tax code. Even if the government instituted a 100% tax on both corporate profits and personal incomes above $250,000 per year, it would yield enough revenue to run the government for only six months. Why? Because under Mr. Obama's presidency, government spending has swelled to 24% of GDP from 18%.
Mr. Zuckerman goes on to advocate a real reform of the tax code that asks everyone to make some contribution, but at the same time eliminates loopholes and special allowances.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
20 Years Since Crown Heights Pogrom
Twenty years ago tomorrow, the first and thank God the only anti-Jewish pogrom in American history erupted in the Crown Heights neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. The precipitating event was a fatal automobile accident, when a car from a motorcade, accompanying the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, of Blessed Memory, hit a car in an intersection, veered out of control onto the sidewalk, and struck and killed a seven-year old African-American youngster, Gavin Cato. Before police could arrive, Yosef Lifish, the driver, had been beaten up by local Dominican and African American bystanders. When a local ambulance service, run by the Lubavitcher community, arrived on the scene, the police ordered the ambulance to remove Lifish from the scene to protect his safety. This action started a false rumor that the Chasidic ambulance crew had refused to treat Gavin Cato, which further infuriated the crowd.
Some three hours later, a mob of about 20 black men attacked Yankel Rosenbaum, a 29-year-old University of Melbourne student in the United States conducting research for his doctorate. They stabbed him several times in the back and beat him severely, fracturing his skull. Before being taken to the hospital, Rosenbaum was able to identify 16-year-old Lemrick Nelson, Jr. as his assailant in a line-up shown to him by the police. Rosenbaum died later that night. Nelson was charged with murder and acquitted, but later convicted of violating Rosenbaum's civil rights; he eventually admitted that he had indeed stabbed Rosenbaum. For murdering Yankel Rosenbaum, Nelson received a prison sentence of only 10 years.
Here is the description of the ensuing rioting from Wikepedia:
For three days following the accident, numerous African Americans and Caribbean Americans of the neighborhood, joined by growing numbers of non-residents, rioted in Crown Heights. In the rioting of the ensuing three days, many of the rioters "did not even live in Crown Heights."
During the riots, Jews were injured, stores were looted, and cars and homes were damaged. The rioters identified Jewish homes by the mezuzot affixed to the front doors. Rioters marched through Crown Heights carrying anti-Semitic signs and an Israeli flag was burned. Rioters threw bricks and bottles at police; shots were fired at police and police cars were pelted and overturned, including the Police Commissioner’s car.
An additional 350 police officers were added to the regular duty roster on August 20 and were assigned to Crown Heights in an attempt to quell the rioting. After episodes of rock- and bottle-throwing involving hundreds of blacks and Jews, and after groups of blacks marched through Crown Heights chanting "No Justice, No Peace!", "Death to the Jews!", and "Whose streets? Our streets!", an additional 1,200 police officers were sent to confront rioters in Crown Heights. Riots escalated to the extent that a detachment of 200 police officers was overwhelmed and had to retreat for their safety. On August 22, over 1,800 police officers, including mounted and motorcycle units, had been dispatched to stop the attacks on people and property.
By the time the three days of rioting ended, 152 police officers and 38 civilians were injured, 27 vehicles were destroyed, seven stores were looted or burned,and 225 cases of robbery and burglary were committed. At least 129 arrests were made during the riots, including 122 blacks and seven whites. Property damage was estimated at one million dollars.
On August 26, 1991, just days after the riots subsided, Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at the funeral of Gavin Cato. Rather than trying to ease racial strife, he chose to incite it further, leading mourners at Gavin Cato's funeral in chants of "No Justice, No Peace." Here is a documented excerpt from Sharpton's funeral oration:
The world will tell us he was killed by accident. Yes, it was a social accident. ... It's an accident to allow an apartheid ambulance service in the middle of Crown Heights. ... Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. ... All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no kaffe klatsch, no skinnin' and grinnin'. Pay for your deeds.
Sharpton has never apologized for his anti-semitic remarks. Later, after the driver Yosef Lifish was cleared of all charges, and emigrated to Israel for his own safety, Sharpton traveled to Israel to try to serve Lifish in a civil lawsuit brought by the Cato family. When bystanders shouted at him to "go to hell," he responded, "I already am in hell; I'm in Israel." Outrage against Sharpton arose again this week, when it was announced that he was invited to participate in a synagogue's program on Jewish-African American relations 20 years after the Crown Heights riots. Reverend Sharpton wisely withdrew from the program.
There was at least one good outcome of the Crown Heights riot--it ended the political career of Mayor David Dinkins, who was viewed as having grossly mishandled the situation. His successor Rudy Giuliani, during his electoral campaign against Dinkins, was one of the first people to correctly describe the Crown Heights riots for what they were--an anti-semitic pogrom.
As the 20th anniversary of the riots approached, Ari Goldblum, back then a New York Times reporter covering the riots, recalled in New York Jewish Week how the Times typically reported the story as "racial strife," as if both Jews and blacks were rioting and fighting in the streets. Exasperated by how his stories of anti-semitic attacks were being rewritten and distorted, he finally blew up at his editors, yelling over the phone, "I am writing memos and what comes out in the paper? ‘Hasidim and blacks clashed’? That’s not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You’ve got this story all wrong. All wrong.”
The retrospective of Jane Eisner, the editor of the Forward, closely follows the New York Times analysis so decried by Mr. Goldblum. She wrote how back in 1977, 14 years before the riots, on her first visit to Crown Heights, she already witnessed the smoldering racial atmosphere in the Brooklyn neighborhood, which she attributed to African American resentment over the political clout wielded by the Lubavitcher Chasidim:
When I was spending a lot of time in Crown Heights, I learned that blacks there were still smarting after losing a fierce political battle over redistricting in 1976, which they believed allowed the Lubavitchers to gain special law enforcement protection and other perks.
“The issue, basically, was power,” said the Rev. Hebert D. Daughtry, then pastor of the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church. Daughtry remains a rambunctious civil rights activist. He told me that the Hasidim “had actualized all the verbiage of the black power people. They knew they’d be able to bring their numbers into play to control goods and services, so they went after it and got it. They were able to achieve a political end and keep everything else intact.”
Although she tempers her analysis by saying that the Lubavitchers, facing a rising crime wave in Crown Heights in those decades, had good reason to seek political cloout, the overall tone of her article frankly outraged me. Here is my comment:
So Rev. Daughtry, a "civil rights activist" (like Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped provoke and perpetuate the Crown Heights riots), believes that the cause of the first pogrom in U.S. history was that the Jews had seized power and control of the government in their Brooklyn neighborhood. But of course that has been the rallying cry of anti-Semites from Khelnytsky through Goebbels to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood today. It is patronizing and indeed racist to so "explain" the actions of the black rioters. I may resent the political gains of another ethnic or racial group. That resentment does not entitle me to riot and commit murder in their community.
I apologize to Reverend Sharpton for suggesting he provoked the Crown Heights riots. He only perpetuated the rancorous atmosphere with his funeral oration. Other than that caveat, I stand by my comment. Do you agree with me?
This is an excerpt from Mike Allen's Politico Playbook, reporting on the president's Martha's Vineyard vacation. The irony is pretty rich:
Ira Stoll, editor and founder of FutureOfCapitalism.com, emails: …."Spotted Wednesday night on Deep Bottom Road: Margaret Marshall, the chief justice who authored the Massachusetts gay marriage decision, driving out in a gray Honda SUV with Anthony Lewis in the passenger seat. Welcome to paradise. ... There's plenty of regular folk here. Compared to Nantucket or Bridgehampton, it's practically middle America."
How out of touch can these people be?
Monday, August 08, 2011
You may recall that when President Obama was asked if he believes in American exceptionalism, he famously responded:
“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
Well, today, responding to the Dow crash of over 600 points, he said:
“This is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a triple-A country."
So, combining the president's statements and apparent philosophy, I guess this means:
“I believe America is a triple-A country, just as I suspect that the Brits believe they're a triple-A country and the Greeks believe they're a triple-A country."
Well, maybe not the Greeks, but you get my point.
This piece by Nile Gardiner, "The stunning decline of Barack Obama 2011 edition: 10 key reasons why the Obama presidency continues to melt down," is a must-read.
Send this one around to everyone you know:
The video itself can be found here.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
AIPAC's Near East Report has published the best update I have seen on the growing Hezbollah presence in Latin America, especially in Venezuela under the patronage of Hugo Chavez, and the threat that it poses to the United States. Fortunately, Congress is paying attention.
Perhaps the most damaging blow that could be dealt against Hezbollah in Latin America would be the fall of the Assad regime in Syria. That would deprive Hezbollah in its home base in Lebanon of the political, financial and logistical support of one its two main patrons, which are Iran and Syria. It might even lead to a resurgence of the "Cedar Revolution" in Lebanon, which threatened to non-violently liberate Lebanon from the control of Hezbollah's militias after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. However, Hezbollah succeeded through the threat of force in suppressing the Cedar Revolution. Today, Hezbollah has been so well funded and armed by Syria and Iran that not even the Lebanese Army has the strength to break its grip.