Maurizio – Omnologos

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Archive for March 2008

Fitna: Anti-Koranic Freedom of Expression It Ain’t

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What to say about Fitna, the anti-Koran movie by far-rightist Dutch MP Gert Wilders who’s enjoying his spot in the limelight in these days?

First of all, the fact that it has had a difficult time getting published is not a serious matter of censorship and/or an attack on freedom of expression. Freedom of expression doesn’t mean playing up polemic for the sake of polemic: I’ll defend Rushdie’s right to write literature that some may find offensive, but I won’t waste a second to defend the author of Fitna or anybody that publishes something with the one and only intent of causing offense.

On the other hand it is simple historical truth that Christians and Jews have been able to prosper in Islamic states: the opposite, unfortunately, is much harder to argue (just think at the Armenian genocide, that follows the de-islamization of the Ottoman State).

The Qu’ran is quite explicit about this:

2,62: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

5,69: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

22,17: Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- Allah will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for Allah is witness of all things.

One should compare that for example to Roman Catholic exclusivity: at least until the Second Vatican Council, there was no path to Heaven to anyone that was not a RC. All sort of Christians have managed to kill each other (and others) for centuries, on the basis of some sort exclusivity. Compared to that, the Qu’ranic text verges on the ecumenical:

2,135: They say: “Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation).” Say thou: “Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
2,136: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
2,137: So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
2,138: (Our religion is) the Baptism of Allah: And who can baptize better than Allah? And it is He Whom we worship.
2,139: Say: Will ye dispute with us about Allah, seeing that He is our Lord and your Lord; that we are responsible for our doings and ye for yours; and that We are sincere (in our faith) in Him?
2,140: Or do ye say that Abraham, Isma’il Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know better than Allah? Ah! who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? but Allah is not unmindful of what ye do!

To anybody talking about Islam as “intrinsically fascist” I can then only answer that as far as I am concerned they can write that on the surface of the Moon, but all they’ll show is ignorance (and unwillingness to learn).

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/29 at 21:50:52

Space Elevators as Launch Platforms

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It is not widely appreciated that Arthur C. Clarke’s idea for a “space elevator” is not just useful to reach Earth orbit: it can become a way to launch probes and people around a large part of the solar system with little fuel consumption.

In fact the elevator’s end at geostationary level (36,000 km) moves at 11,000 kph, that is 3 km/sec. At that height, the Earth escape velocity is 4.23 km/sec, so a relatively small “nudge” is needed to leave Earth.

That is not all. If the elevator is extended to 46,000 km, the “terminal” velocity equals the escape velocity (3.8 km/sec): therefore making launches even simpler and cheaper, more or less “free”.

The maximum theoretical limit is the L1 point between Earth and Moon, where their gravitation pulls equal each other. Situated around 260,000 km away from the Earth’s surface, an elevator terminal that far would travel at 20 km/sec, more than enough to reach Mars. And that, without allowing for various techniques that could make the launch speed even larger.

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2008/Mar/28 at 23:54:57

Peak of Eternal Light At the Lunar South Pole

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Just watch this movie, bottom-centre…there is a tiny area where there is practically always light, for an entire lunar day.

It’ll be a great spot to visit, and to install solar panels at.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/26 at 21:43:41

Posted in Moon, Space

Tibet’s Unrest A Failure for the Dalai Lama and President Hu Jintao

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The March 2008 “unrest” in Tibet has managed to net two big political victims: Tenzin Gyatso, the XIV Dalai Lama and Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China.

a. The Dalai Lama

Either the Dalai Lama is behind the rebellion, or he is not.

If he is, it’s a big failure for decades of his nonviolent struggle, some 49 years after leading one way or another the wrongly-timed, poorly opportunistic 1959 uprising that lead him into exile.

If he is not (and personally, I think that’s the case), it means he’s been sidelined (check his threat to resign against escalating violence). That is, the Tibetans are not all behind him: and so, as much as he is popular in the West, the World needs to identify more interlocutors to keep a meaningful contact with the people of Tibet.

b. President Hu Jintao

Even more than the Dalai Lama’s, the biggest failure of all is a personal one, and concerns Chinese President Hu Jintao’s.

First he was Party Secretary in Tibet for a while: however protected and privileged his lifestyle must have been at the time, and even if he came to distrust and despise the region and the people, as rumors have it, Hu must have learnt a thing of two about Tibet. Now, as Paramount Leader, President, General Secretary, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission, Hu has been in charge of getting the whole country ready for the Olympics.

True, Hu even tried to prevent troubles by sending additional security personnel. But still: when the troubles happened (and they happened when most expected: on an anniversary, a few months before the Olympics), Hu’s only answer was to kill, brutalize, arrest, deport, in an incredibly bad P.R. move compounded by an unhealthy, improbable fixation for fantastic machinations by the Dalai Lama, a robed guy in Dharamsala pretending nonviolence for decades but now single-handedly capable of eliciting problems for the whole of China.

Under Hu’s (in-)capable hands, China has been lead into looking foolish, unable to prepare, unable to prevent civil unrest, violent, trigger-happy against “its own” people, unable to defend the ethnic Chinese Han apparently victims of the Tibetans’ anger, unable to prevent the news from leaking to the outside world, blood-splattered in front of hundreds of millions of its customers around the world a few weeks before the Olympics and ready to be criticized and ostracized by all those looking for an excuse for protectionism.

All of this, a few days after announcing a clampdown on Uighur’s terrorists that appears more and more either fiction or embellished reality.

Is this what Hu Jintao had in mind when presenting his political philosophy of “Harmonious Society” and “Peaceful Development“? Hopefully not…but unfortunately, his does look like “Fairweather Leadership“.

Unless something big happens during the next few months, one shouldn’t be surprised to find Hu in well-earned retirement quite soon.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/21 at 21:20:58

St. Paul Against the Christian Churches’ Secular Activities

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2 Corinthians 9, 7: “Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

It is a pity that so many Christian religious leaders, from Episcopalians to Roman Catholics, have decided to forget St. Paul’s message: one is saved by Grace, and not by (Divine) Law, let alone by human law. All their struggles to make politics follow their ethical rules, don’t really sound like something to be expected from people of Faith.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/18 at 23:55:57

Posted in Catholicism, Christianity, Ethics, Politics

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Pro-Tibet, With Both Eyes Wide Open

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It’s obviously a big issue, when Police and the Army shoot against unarmed civilians, and beat schoolchildren during their free time. But the Tibet situation is complex: sure, more complex than Burma’s of some months ago.

The Burmese monks rebelled against the umpteenth torment on the part of the Military Junta. The Tibet revolt seems planned instead in order to coincide with the 20th anniversary of another one, risking embarrassment for the Beijing Government during what was meant to be a joyful prelude to the Olympic Games of August 2008.

There was in fact nearly the absolute certainty that the Chinese “security forces” would react brutally: indeed, if the dead total to tens or hundreds, they will be much fewer in past repressions. And those “security forces” act just as brutally in other parts of China…

Also, the strong aversion for all thing Tibet by the President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jin Tao, are well known, stemming from his stint as Party Secretary in Lhasa: whose climate, and whose people he just never managed to bear.

The history itself of the relationships between communist China and the current Dalai Lama is not very simple. It could indeed be argued that his hastened departure after the unwise rebellion by the Tibetan nobility in 1956-1959 has coincided with the liberation of large numbers of people from serfdom. Finally, just to provide an example of all the issues that seldom surface, the Chinese Government is obviously determined not to let Tibet end up like Mongolia, that managed to free itself thanks to Soviet support whilst China went from one civil war to another during the first half of the XX Century.

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Therefore, even if there is criminal repression going on at this moment, we must ask why it has been evoked/provoked right now with a rebellion and civil disorders. Who wanted to verify if the People’s Liberation Army would have avoided the use of force or not? And why… that is, what ever will the medium/long term Tibetan strategy?

If we do not know how to answer these questions, we can only pronounce the usual appeals to calm and moderation: assisting as spectators to the renewed drama in the destructive relationship between the central Government and the aboriginal Tibetan population.

And for the Chinese Government there is a clear, logical strategy: repress, without exaggerating too much. At the end of the day, just a media-management issue.

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/17 at 23:21:07

Posted in China, Tibet

Communist Banking in the U.S.

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Investment bank Bear Sterns has been bailed out by JP Morgan, at least in theory, and by the Federal Reserve, in actual practice. Apparently this is because Bear Sterns is “too big to fail“.

What kind of massive regulatory failure is that?

What organization did allow BS to grow large enough to be “too big to fail”? Step forward…the Federal Reserve!!!

And they haven’t learned any lesson. JP Morgan in all likelihood will gobble up BS after a few weeks. And so, if it isn’t now, then JPM will definitely become “too big to fail”. Is that going to inspire a proper risk management attitude at JPM, one wonders? Of course not: they’ll obviously become even more reckless, getting ready to be bailed out by the Federal Reserve, if things go badly; or to pocket huge amounts of money, if things go well.

Losses are public, that is, profits are private. So much for a capitalist system.

It is time to end the merger mania. Split, split, split!!!

Written by omnologos

2008/Mar/15 at 05:22:49