Lance Knobel at Davos Newbies

Lance Knobel at Davos Newbies

Lance Knobel, who blogs at Davos Newbies, was “responsible for the programme of the Davos meeting in January 2000” about which he writes:

“Davos is both a town in Switzerland and the shorthand description for the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, which has now taken place in Davos for 30 years. The Annual Meeting has been described by The Economist as “the summit of summits in the business world”. I think Davos is also a state of mind.”

Based on the rational discourse found on this blog, Davos Newbies is one of the most readable blogs around. A good example is Knobel’s pooh-bahing of the rabid anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism now allegedly found in London, at least, as reported by that often unreliable source, the Guardian.

For samples of Lance’s other writing, also take a look here.

Davos Newbies has 137 links from 106 sources, according to Technorati.

Science, Empiricism and the Bush Administration

Science, Empiricism and the Bush Administration

As a political centrist capable of voting for either Bush or Kerry, the LawPundit is increasingly cognizant of news postings which raise flashing red lights in one’s brain about the venturing of the Bush administration into areas where they ostensibly do not belong.

Bush came to power under the campaign slogan of reducing centralized federal power, but it appears that in the relation of the federal government to science, exactly the opposite is happening.

An October 19, 2004 article by Andrew C. Revkin entitled Bush vs. the Laureates: How Science Became a Partisan Issue raises some troublesome issues about the partisan treatment of scientists by the Bush administration. It can not be that appointments to important scientific bodies are primarily dependent on how the scientist “thinks about President Bush”. If that is the case, things have gone too far. How one thinks about politicians should be largely irrelevant to any scientific task at hand.

In our opinion, any scientist of high rank would be highly skeptical of ANY politician in any political party … period, since scientists and politicians ideally have two contradictory objectives.

Scientists – the good ones – are empirical, are guided by facts and are undeterred in their quest by the changing and ephemeral beliefs and mores of the establishment. Politicians – most of them – are, to the contrary, like bobbers in a stream, adapting continuously to the volatile political environment around them. They must constantly be searching for consensus in the present. Empirical truths are secondary.

When science is required to follow “the party line”, empiricism is compromised and disaster may await down the road.

The best example of this is the infamous “scientific era” under Trofim Lysenko, who in the Stalinist period led biology in Russia (the former Soviet Union). He came to power because his ideas corresponded with the political doctrine of the leadership and with the flawed tenets of Marxist ideology. Lysenko denied the existence of genes e.g., a view which was then imposed upon the Soviet scientific establishment by the political body, thus leading to a dark age in Soviet science which lasted nearly 30 years.

We have similar current developments in America through the denial of evolution in some school systems, fully contrary to modern genetic research. If this kind of idiocy were to become widespread, the culture would be doomed.

Galaxy – Music of the Stars – Synthesizer Music of the Earth and the Sky

Galaxy : Music of the Stars – Synthesizer Music of the Earth and the Sky

From Isandis.com, Let the music begin…

Galaxy : Music of the Stars is Synthesizer Music of the Earth and the Sky
The CD-ROM is 56.29 minutes. The Composer is Andis Kaulins who also does the Keyboards.
The Genre is Indy (Independent) Music.
The Copyright is @2004 by Andis Kaulins with all rights reserved
but play and copy these songs for free for your own private use only.
For commercial use, please contact the copyright holder.

Classical Piano Music Lovers try Track 10.
Our own favorites are Tracks 4, 11, 8 and 21.
Click on the link to hear the song on your media player.

Track 1 – Galactic Milk – 2:33 01-Galactic Milk-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 2 – Black Space – 2:27 02-Black Space-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 3 – Off to the Stars – 1:52 03-Off to the Stars-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 4 – On the Edge of Light – 2:19 04-On the Edge of Light-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 5 – The First Planet – 1:52 05-The First Planet-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 6 – 1st Planet More Cleary – 1:59 06-The First Planet More Clearly-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 7 – Earth – 2:23 07-Earth-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 8 – The Earth Song – 2:25 08-The Earth Song-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 9 – Jubilation & Ebulation – 3:36 09-Jubilation & Ebulation-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 10 – Mercury – 1:15 10-Mercury-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 11 – The Asteroids – 2:28 11-The Asteroids-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 12 – Jupiter – 3:38 12-Jupiter-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 13 – Jupiter 2 (faster) – 2:31 13-Jupiter 2-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 14 – Saturn – 2:23 14-Saturn-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 15 – Uranus – 2:14 15-Uranus-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 16 – Pluto – 2:47 16-Pluto-Andis Kaulins.mp3
Track 17 – Solar Symphony – 7:04 17-Solar Symphony-Andis Kaulins .mp3
Track 18 – Mars – 2:42 18-Mars-Andis Kaulins .mp3
Track 19 – Moody Moon – 2:13 19-Moody Moon-Andis Kaulins .mp3
Track 20 – Venus – 5:20 20-Venus-Andis Kaulins .mp3
Track 21 – Ode to the Stars – 4:28 21-Ode to the Stars-Andis Kaulins .mp3

If you like it, tell us. If not, switch channels.

Supreme Court of the United States – Quo Vadis?

Supreme Court of the United States – Quo Vadis?

In the October 18, 2004 New York Times

Adam Cohen writes a scathing and somewhat over-exaggerated but thought-provoking article entitled “Imagining America if George Bush Chose the Supreme Court“.

Cohen wrote a similar article a year ago which was strongly criticized.

Cohen takes the proposition that Scalia and Thomas are President Bush’s favorite Justices and that Bush has been appointing similar judges to lower courts. Cohen writes:

[Bush] did say in his last campaign that his favorite Supreme Court justices were Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and the nominations he has made to the lower courts bear that out.

If Bush were re-elected President he would probably nominate several new Justices in the next term since some of the current Justices are getting on in years and could retire. One could then expect new Supreme Court appointments along the lines of Scalia and Thomas, greatly changing the direction of majorities on a Court which has become infamous for its frequent divided 5-4 and 6-3 decisionmaking.

Cohen then envisions this possible scenario under a “Bush-packed court” based on opinions already written by Scalia and Thomas:

“Abortion might be a crime in most states. Gay people could be thrown in prison for having sex in their homes. States might be free to become mini-theocracies, endorsing Christianity and using tax money to help spread the gospel. The Constitution might no longer protect inmates from being brutalized by prison guards. Family and medical leave and environmental protections could disappear.”

Read the article to see the judicial opinions which are referred to.

There is no question in this writer’s mind that the pendulum of liberality has sometimes gone too far in the Courts in past years (with the 9th Circuit serving as the prime example), and this must be corrected where necessary, but it is also clear that the Bush administration has appointed judges during his term of office who are often so dogmatic in their political views that we view them more as “judicial politicians” rather than as non-partisan upholders of the United States constitutional legal system.

In the view of this observer, almost nothing speaks for a Bush re-election domestically. Nearly everything in America has gotten worse since his election – which puts him in the same league as the hapless Chancellor Schroeder of Germany. Perhaps it is time for both of them to go.

Moreover, the danger that Bush would appoint many more dogmatic judges to the courts is a tremendous argument for not electing him again.

We have never doubted Bush’s sincerity in the conviction that what he is doing is right, however, we have always doubted his wisdom to make the right domestic choices in important questions of the judiciary, the environment, education, taxation and the economy.

There is no question that the United States would be far better off domestically under a President Kerry and the expected improvement would include the judiciary, which would likely again find nominees among proven highly competent people (based primarily on their performance in law school, during clerkships, and within their professions, etc., rather than based on their dogmatic political leanings).

The Sharia – Ancient Mapping – The Territorial Imperative

The Sharia – Ancient Mapping – The Territorial Imperative

Sometimes the book reviews are better than the books. The referenced book reviews may be examples of this phenomenon.

BookBlog is

“Adina Levin’s weblog. For conversation about books I’ve been reading, social software, and other stuff too.”

Adina has some excellently written book reviews on the BookBlog:

What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response

a book by Bernard Lewis

Adina writes e.g.:

“Contemporary Sharia systems in places like Iran and Afghanistan are

often mocked for being medieval and backward, legislating repression of

women and brutal corporal punishment (no, I’m not in favor of the Texas

death penalty, either). But there is no empirical reason that a system

of Muslim jurisprudence needs to be backward. After all, European laws

once featured trial by ordeal, and prevented women from owning property.

A living tradition of Muslim law might be able to adapt to current

economic and social conditions. How did the Sharia change from a system

that had once reflected the standards of justice of its time to one that

insisted on avoiding change?”

Those are essentially interesting and modern jurisprudential issues.

The Mapmakers

a book by John Noble Wilford

This book and review are of particular interest to the Law Pundit because of his own book

Stars Stones and Scholars

which claims that the megaliths are remnants of ancient surveys, i.e. that they are Stone Age geodetic mapping systems triangulated by means of the astronomy, using stars much as in ocean navigation.

Adina writes, inter alia:

“The Mapmakers purports to be world history, but it has a strong European focus. Wilford does include few pages about sophisticated early mapmaking practices in China. But he almost completely ignores Muslim and Indian geography. The book contains just one brief reference to ibn Khaldun, the medieval Muslim traveler and geographer, and nothing on Al Idrisi, who was commissioned by Roger II, the Christian king of Sicily, to update navigational records, and created the famous early atlas called “The Book of Roger.” The Mapmakers briefly mentions that one Francis Wilford, a member of India Survey, was a student of ancient Hindu geography. Given early Indian sophistication in astronomy, math, and government administration, one wonders what earlier sources of geographic knowledge he drew on. According to an Indian friend of mine, many early maps were destroyed to keep them out of the hands of British colonial rulers.

Wilford writes about the dire level of geographic ignorance of Medieval Europeans, whose maps routinely placed Paradise at the Eastern border of China, without noting that during the same period, there was a longstanding, ongoing system of travel and trade from Arabia through India and Southeast Asia to China (see books by Abu Lughod and KN Chaudhuri, among others), conducted by Arabs, Jews, Indians, and sometimes Chinese. I don’t know what sorts of maps were used by these travelling merchants, but they must have used something, because they got from place to place regularly and routinely.”

Law and Territory

What is the connection between law and mapping? Of course, it is a significant one. All knowledge of ancient cultures indicates that the old civilizations had “territories” and “lands” and that these were marked – and thus obviously, mapped – in some manner, giving rise to “territorial” consequences involving retribution – i.e. sanctions for violating territory – which is a “legal” connection.

Without the mapping of land, law would be impossible. The Territorial Imperative (a book by Robert Ardrey) is at the foundation of jurisprudence. This indeed is the main dispute in the current war in Iraq – does America have a “right” to be there or not? The underlying answer – on both sides – is based, essentially, on territorial claims – defending “land” and “national security”.

Territorial claims have a long history. Let us take the case of Ancient Babylon, here described in a site on the History of Iraq:

“Babylonian town life had revived on the basis of commerce and handicrafts. The Kassitic nobility, however, maintained the upper hand in the rural areas, their wealthiest representatives holding very large landed estates. Many of these holdings came from donations of the king to deserving officers and civil servants, considerable privileges being connected with such grants. From the time of Kurigalzu II these were registered on stone tablets or, more frequently, on boundary stones called kudurrus. After 1200 the number of these increased substantially, because the kings needed a steadily growing retinue of loyal followers. The boundary stones had pictures in bas-relief, very often a multitude of religious symbols, and frequently contained detailed inscriptions giving the borders of the particular estate; sometimes the deserts of the recipient were listed and his privileges recorded; finally, trespassers were threatened with the most terrifying curses. Agriculture and cattle husbandry were the main pursuits on these estates, and horses were raised for the light war chariots of the cavalry. There was an export trade in horses and vehicles in exchange for raw material. As for the king, the idea of the social-minded ruler continued to be valid.”

The New York Review of Books has an inane review of Ardrey’s book as compared to the more benevolent and naive theories of Konrad Lorenz, and, in view of recent world developments, there is little doubt that Ardrey is more right than Lorenz.

Indeed, keywords such as intellectual property, copyrights, trademarks, P2P and file-sharing involve modern outgrowths of the territorial imperative.

Our ancient forbears understood the territorial imperative only too well – since their survival depended upon it – and thus staked out their territories long before the advent of reading and writing. To stake out territories, you had to have some way of mapping them and some way of protecting those territories – by legal and military systems. About this there is little doubt.

And as the modern wars show us, little has changed in the interim. The battle for territory on this planet is still a bloody business.

Belmont Club – A Work of Art

Belmont Club – A Work of Art (if the subject matter were not so serious)

Prydain writes:

“If you want to read perhaps the best writing in the blogosphere, “Belmont Club” is the place to go.”

Are there ANY bloggers out there who write as well as Wretchard of the Belmont Club?

Are there ANY bloggers out there who have his apparent depth of access to resources?

If there are, they are few and far between. One source might be the DoD, the US Department of Defense, which carries many positive stories about Iraq not carried by the new media.

The high quality of Wretchard’s writing and his access to information seem enormous,

as the following blogs have commented or demonstrated previous to the Law Pundit:

American Digest writes:

“Many in the blogsphere write well, but few write as well and fewer still better. The prose of Wretchard is, on a day to day basis, clean, clear and spare with just a soupcon of poetry thrown in — not just in his frequent pointed quotations from the masters. It’s a prose that illuminates not only the insights but the great range of his mind….

Since December 26, 2003, The Belmont Club has received over 2 million visits. It easily deserves four times that number in the coming year. Pass it on and help make it happen.”

Magic in the Baghdad Cafe writes:

“Wretchard of the Belmont Club displays an informed and enlightened sense of what is happening in the war in Iraq. Proper analysis is in the details; his description of the “big picture” through careful reading of available information and the historic underpinnings of the situation is remarkable.

Read this blog. A better source of information and analysis one would be hard pressed to find.

And the writing is art.”

The Remedy writes about Belmont:

“Wretchard, as usual, thinks and writes well. About most of the Belmont Club’s weblog posts, Portia in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice would have said: “Good sentences, and well pronounced.” It turns out, Portia frequented Venice but lived in Belmont, a town famous for lovely reason and music. Belmont, Portia, and their qualities are part of, somewhat rare in, a bit removed from “this great world.”

It would be good to keep nuclear weapons away from militant Islam, but as Portia notes, “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches, and poor men’s cottages princes’ palaces.” “

Right on the Left Beach writes:

“Wretchard writes extremely well and seems to have insights into what is happening during this troublesome time in Iraq.”

Little Green Footballs

Blackfive

According to Technorati there are 1453 links from 1107 sources to the Belmont Club.

Atlantic Blog – An American in Ireland

Atlantic Blog – An American in Ireland

Atlantic Blog – as the blogger himself writes – concentrates on:

“thoughts on politics, economics, and the culture by William Sjostrom, an American economist living and working in Ireland.”

A posting such as the Fox and the Hound is enough to show why this blog is worth reading, whether or not you agree or disagree on the abolition of fox hunting.

Sjostrom’s link to the Guardian article by British Labour MP Tony Wright leads to this delightful passage:

“Yet the House of Commons now seriously proposes to criminalise a farmer in the fells who takes out a pack of hounds to hunt the fox that killed his chickens. As Oscar Wilde might have said, this is the unpersuadable in pursuit of the unpoliceable.”

Technorati shows 251 links from 219 sources for the Atlantic Blog.