Saturday, August 21, 2010

More on the Middle Finger Mosque If you wonder what this project is meant to mean, consider the group behind it, the Cordoba Initiative. Abraham H. Miller writes:
If there is one politico-religious movement that understands the use of symbols to advance its claims, it is Islam. No, I am not speaking of radical Islam. I am speaking of Islam.

The Ground Zero [Middle Finger] mosque is the manipulation of symbols. The very name “Cordoba Initiative” is an insult to the people of Spain, a reminder of their conquest by Islam and the creation of a society organized through the sharia concept of dhimmitude, a society that puts non-Muslims in the role of second-class citizens. The tolerant society of Islam’s Andalusia was as tolerant as Mississippi under the doctrine of “separate but equal.”

From the time of its inception, Islam has celebrated its victories by building mosques on the holy sites of the people it conquered. The al-Aqsa mosque looks down on the Wailing Wall of Israel’s sacred Temple. The insult is underscored by the denial of the existence of the Temple. The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was converted into a mosque, and the original Cordoba mosque was built over the site of a Christian cathedral. The Koran (018.021) exhorts Muslims to build mosques on the places of worship of the people they conquer so as to symbolically affirm Islam’s victory.

The perfect response to progressives:
C.S. Lewis once said,
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.
The entire article by Karen Karacsony is worth reading, but that quotation stood out for me.

There were plenty faults in the societies of the past that have been corrected, but progressives helped the world outdo the excesses of the past in mass murder, violence and destruction of freedoms, inventing totalitarianism on the theory that it was the only way to make their enlightened programs work. The smart ones were our founding fathers, and we need to return to their vision of limited government, freedom and property rights, while being true to the equality of mankind before the law and representative democracy.

The worst are full of passionate intensity - Yeats

What could go wrong?

National Education Website is Selling Its Saul
The National Education Association (NEA), the U.S.'s largest labor union, is promoting communism to the millions of American public school teachers it represents. Teachers who are influenced by their union's efforts are more likely to indoctrinate American children into communism.

For the past several months, the NEA website has recommended that its members read books by communist sympathizer Saul Alinsky. And, for a time, the website listed October 1 as a day for teachers and students to celebrate the anniversary of the Communist takeover of China by Mao Zedong.
I bought his book Rules for Radicals and tried to read it, but it was too vile to finish. His ideal is a state of perpetual revolution, like that promoted by Mao Zedong, denouncing the past "successes" of the left and excoriating the radicals of the 1960s and 1970s, as being too obvious about what they were seeking.

Reuters: U.S. deficit forecast masks true scope of problem
If America ran its books more like a business, the real state of its finances would be clearer. U.S. budget scorekeepers now predict a $1.34 trillion deficit for 2010, a tad less than forecast in March. Still, it’s an enormous gap. And the headline number lowballs the shortfall.
The first thing anybody should ask about a deficit figure is what the annual interest on it will be as part of the national debt and how the government expects to pay it.

Code Puke

What happened to all the biggest brains in Washington?

They didn't see this coming? Even when people started protesting everywhere, they pushed on with their huge spending programs and closed-door fashioning of reform bills that affected everybody's life in fundamental ways and refused to even listen to questions or criticisms. Now, just before elections, the economy is stalled, with high unemployment and sluggish consumer spending. They've painted themselves into a corner where they either have to back up their agenda or raise taxes massively.

The truth is, Obama doesn't care about the economy as long as his clientele groups get greased. He claims to care about the poor, but fails to recognize that a bad economy hurts them most.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Not a lot of 'public' in this 'public diplomacy' tour.

Plus, do Americans have a 'Muslim problem,' i.e. a neurotic fear or resentment of Muslims? If they worry about Islam, it's not without cause. We've heard and seen too much evidence of anti-Americanism and hatred of the West from Muslim terrorists and imams calling for our destruction and not a lot from their fellow Muslims defending our values or disagreeing with the virulent haters. Instead, we get prickly reactions from groups like CAIR claiming victim status for Muslims who haven't been victims of very much, unless you think that not adopting Sharia law is a violation of their rights.

There are plenty of American Muslims who have served our country honorably and who are good, law-abiding citizens. Why aren't we hearing and seeing more about them? Probably because it isn't news. However, it's difficult to ignore a repeating pattern of young Muslim men becoming radicalized and attacking others. Maybe, that's why CBS presented this story about a former Al Qaeda activist turned against the prominent anti-West narrative among Muslims. While his story is good news, the overall story gives reason to wonder how much of 'the narrative' Muslims in our midst have bought into.

Update: Audio tapes of Imam Rauf are said to reveal him as a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Jonah Goldberg: China's gross GDP may have over taken Japan's but per capita it's a different story.

New York hardhats refuse to work on the Middle Finger Mosque. I wonder if Muslims understand labor unions.

Needed: a new economic paradigm
The blame game continues over who is responsible for the worst recession since the Great Depression – the financiers who did such a bad job of managing risk or the regulators who failed to stop them. But the economics profession bears more than a little culpability. It provided the models that gave comfort to regulators that markets could be self-regulated; that they were efficient and self-correcting. The efficient markets hypothesis – the notion that market prices fully revealed all the relevant information – ruled the day. Today, not only is our economy in a shambles but so too is the economic paradigm that predominated in the years before the crisis – or at least it should be.
Markets ARE more efficient than central planning, but when the government meddles in them, it's foolish to think they won't respond. When you subsidize some good, you run the risk of creating a bubble, because rising prices lead to speculation. How hard can that be to figure out?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We're not supposed to call it the Ground Zero mosque anymore. How about the Middle Finger Mosque?

Will Darrell Issa become the new Henry Waxman?

David Harsanyi: "Is it bigoted to criticize religion?"

Me: It depends on the basis for and content of the criticism.

The time has come. I've been unimpressed by Obama's vaunted intellect from the start, yet his sycophants continue to claim that he's brilliant. Now Jennifer Rubin notices that the emperor isn't all that well dressed.


Has Obama crossed a point of no return? For this year's election, yes. For 2012, probably not. A lot can happen before then, but he'll have to push for higher taxes, and we're definitely going to see the effects of Obamacare and the Financial Regulation bill.

Rising numbers of Americans doubt that Obama is a Christian, and Top Muslims Condemn Ground Zero Mosque as a ‘Zionist Conspiracy’.

What the . . . ?

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold . . .

The wisdom of crowds? I believe in free markets and the elegant, efficient emergent intelligence they exhibit, but even they develop bubbles, runs on banks, etc. I've been heartened by the way the Tea Party movement has grown and influenced our politics, but I also remember the anti-war protests of the sixties and seventies and the mistreatment of returning troops they engendered.

Who're you calling 'extreme,' punk?

I like it! No smearing, no concessions, just facts.

Michelle Boorstein:
Long before President Obama waded into the vociferous debate over a mosque near Ground Zero, a group of conservative writers and bloggers critical of Islam had seized on the issue and helped transform it into a national political spectacle.
I had seen links to bloggers opposing the mosque, but didn't really pay any attention until the President decided it would be useful in pandering to a Ramadan conference.

I still think it's a cultural, not a legal, issue. But it wasn't anything serious until Obama blundered into it. When one learns that the group behind the project is called the Cordoba Initiative, however, one wonders what sort of preaching and prayers will take place there and how its vicinity to the World Trade Center will be portrayed by terrorist recruiters. As Christopher Hitchens' dryly observes, "We need not automatically assume the good faith of those who have borrowed this noble name for a project in lower Manhattan."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm astonished to find myself in agreement with Howard Dean.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

If Pelosi wants an investigation of them Keep America Safe a conservative group opposed to the mosque which has created a furor seems to be saying, "Bring it on." It's not a fight she should be seeking, but the very fact that her reflexive reaction was to conduct a Congressional investigation of the critics of the mosque, illustrates the instincts of Progressives who have power.

Elder Quentin Cook, an apostle of the LDS church is starting a blog. We'll see if the spirit operates via the Internet. [Of course it does!-ed.]

Want to go green?

Here's a practical way to cut down on your electric bill.

Christopher Hitchens criticizes the opposition to the Ground Zero Mosque. I don't particularly disagree with his qualms, but one thing I hadn't realized is that the group which wants to build the mosque is called the Cordoba Initiative.
I notice that even the choice of the name Cordoba has offended some Christian opponents of the scheme. This wonderful city in Andalusia, after the Muslim conquest of southern Spain, was indeed one of the centers of the lost Islamic caliphate that today's jihadists have sworn in blood to restore.. . .

We need not automatically assume the good faith of those who have borrowed this noble name for a project in lower Manhattan.
Indeed. The name may not mean much to Americans, but all Muslims will know its significance.

When Pelosi calls for transparency, she means a one way mirror (or is that two-way?

Yikes! Weep for Venezuela.

Public safety in Venezuela has reached a crisis point where the morgues overflow with cadavers of crime victims.

Building the Ground Zero Mosque is about as dumb as . . .

our State Department inviting Yasser to tour the Holocaust Museum

I’ll leave you with a smattering of Muslim opinion about the project, as it’s not as uniform as you might have been led to believe. Zuhdi Jasser, whom I’ve cited several times before, continues to insist that it’s a bad idea, as does Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed of al-Arabiya, who fears that “it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime.” On the flip side, Muslim Republicans like David Ramadan and Randa Fahmy Hudome see it as a free-exercise issue that shouldn’t be demagogued for midterm gain, and longtime blogger Aziz Poonawalla gave a thoughtful interview to fellow blogger Scott Payne reiterating his support for the project and his misgivings about how both opponents and Park51 management have handled the subject. All worth reading.


Call centre workers are becoming as cheap to hire in the US as they are in India, according to the head of the country's largest business process outsourcing company.

Pelosi said it was a local issue. Not anymore.

Noemie Emery:
. . . exactly how thrilled were the Democrats' candidates, already facing headwinds of epic proportions, to wake up Saturday morning to find out that their president had come out in favor of a Mega Mosque near Ground Zero, opposed by only two-thirds of American people, and added another to the impressive collection of millstones -- health care, the stimulus, the economy, Government Motors and a few other triumphs -- he had already hung round their necks?
Read the whole thing.

AP Poll: Obama at new low for handling economy

The Ground Zero Mosque issue continues to bubble. Nancy Pelosi assumes there's a plot behind the opposition to it and wants it investigated. The supporters want George W. Bush to speak out in favor of it.

I find it odd that the people who are steeped in political correctness with its emphasis on sensitivity and avoiding "hurtful" words and actions are so dense about it when it comes to the developers of this mosque. Apparently the sensitivity requirement only applies selectively. It sounds a lot like "America bad; Foreigners good."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that a proposed Islamic center in New York City was a local issue and that she supports an investigation into how the opposition is being funded.
I didn't really give a hoot about it until President Obama stepped in it. The whole handling of Ground Zero has been fraught with PC almost from the beginning. Why expect this to be any different? I don't see this opposition as being "ginned up" by some mysterious moneyed interest. It's just a basic sense of fairness. If we must all be tolerant and sensitive, as Muslim spokespersons are always lecturing us, why shouldn't they?

I don't believe that Congress should investigate anything. It's not a legal issue, or one that should be used for political ends (although that seems to be unavoidable now). They'll probably build this mosque despite all the complaints. Islam is, after all, supposed to take over the world, but it seems that this mosque has become something Sunni Muslims are said to be against, a shrine/idol. Or maybe it's just a provocation or a pointed message concerning our coming dhimmitude.

Or maybe it means nothing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blago found guilty of one charge; jury hung on the other 23 Retrial ASAP, as if intended to keep that smirking punk before the public through the elections.

LOL! I think I've found my new go-to source for winning arguments.

Let me be the first to bid welcome to our new Chinese overlords.

Actually that should be "I, for one, welcome our new Chinese overlords", for spreading the meme, but I say, "STET!"

Glenn Reynolds posts a lot about a higher education bubble, as job prospects for graduates seem to have dried up. I decided in high school that the academic nose grind was largely pointless. A lot of people who got Ds in English or Math excelled in skills I'll never master, skills which I began to appreciate after I took a typing class and could earn no better than a C+. People who can make fix electronics, weld, do carpentry and cabinetry remain a mystery to me. Now that my sedentary and stressful life has left me in poor health, I realize that I took the path that was open to me, which my native intellect made possible, but that there's nothing intrinsically more valuable or useful to society in being a lawyer than in being an excellent craftsman.

If I had my choice, I'd rather have been an inventor, but I didn't have the chops. I think that many of those who count on higher education to take them where they want to be are timid souls who seek an assured result. If they succeed, they often find themselves interested in something else. One of the greatest blessings is in recognizing where one's bliss lies and pursuing it. I'm still not sure I know, although my primary interest in life has been trying to understand the truth in religion and reconciling its paradoxes. I have received a knowledge that God is real and personal, and resolved to try to stop talking about him as though he were only theoretical or real only for me. I don't like the overbearing way that some religious people behave and I learned long ago that I'm no salesman, but I can state what I have experienced and discovered for myself, which is all that anyone can do. The prophetic calling and message is to testify and warn, but not to condemn or seek worldly power. I don't claim to be a prophet, but one teaching of Joseph Smith that makes me believe that he was one is this:
Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood [ecclesiastical authority], only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

A Caveat about Economic Experts

Like a maid who doesn’t do windows, most economists are “scientists” who don’t do field research. The situation is rather different in other sciences. They do field research in the sciences of Zoology, Botany, Geology, Entomology, Oceanography, and Astronomy (in fact, try getting an advanced degree without some field research). They even do it in “Nursing Science”, and “Agricultural Science”, and “Public Health Science”. But don’t ask a computer jockey “Economic Scientist” to leave his office and learn empirically — “test” his understanding — from anything other than his Internet stream of “Official Government Data”.

More Hubris from the Tea Party?

Dick Armey and Matt Kibbe claim to speak for Tea Partiers: "The movement is not seeking a junior partnership with the Republican Party. It is aiming for a hostile takeover."

Frankly, I think Dick Armey is an ass if he thinks he can lead any movement based on hostility. It's easy to get cocky after a few victories, but as Sharon Angle learned, it isn't the Republican Party they're up against. This kind of nonsense is likely to land him and his followers in a heap out of the running having ruined the best chance in decades to turn things around. We don't need an Armey. We need another Reagan. I think that the midterms are going to be a smackdown for the Democrats, but Armey shouldn't be claiming the credit. He's sounding too much like Tom Delay for me and giving the left and the media too good a target.

Government Hubris

Obamanomics is why there is no recovery.
How many more months must Americans endure near-double-digit unemployment, little or no new-job creation, economic stagnation, a topsy-turvy stock market, and sagging consumer confidence before Washington politicians concede the "summer of recovery" is mostly a mirage?

They've spent nearly $8 trillion since 2007, including nearly $2 trillion on economic stimulus programs and an equal amount for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and similar bailouts. They've effectively nationalized Fortune 500 corporations, taken over the health care sector, and set the regulatory stage for more bailouts and takeovers, but the needle is still stuck. Worse, recovery isn't likely for many months ahead because those same politicians are planning more of the same failing policies.
I think this is true. We were hit by a massive housing bubble burst brought on by misguided federal policies intended to make home ownership more affordable, but which caused rapid inflation of housing prices and rampant speculation. When people couldn't keep up their mortgage payments, they simply walked away from the homes in which they had no equity, and that exposed the rottenness in the housing markets, which in turn lead to a disruption of financial markets that had packaged mortgages into securities which in turn plummeted in value because their value couldn't be determined, due to the foreclosures and drop in housing prices. These securities suddenly became pigs in pokes, and the financial companies holding them no longer knew where they stood and stopped lending.

That's how I understand the problem, but the Democrats show no sign of having learned anything and are doubling down on the lending practices that fostered the collapse and charging the costs to the national credit card. Those who lived through the Carter administration recognize this pattern, but that was 30 years ago and we have a whole generation who either weren't there then or were and failed to learn the lessons that government interference with markets is far too tricky to be relied upon indefinitely. Planners repeatedly forget the basic rule that people will act in their own self-interest and not amount of government regulation can match the efficiency of free markets or anticipate the ways that human ingenuity can screw up the best laid plans of technocrats.

Peggy Noonan's take on the JetBlue flight attendant, "named Steven Slater, [who] after a difficult flight, apparently got fed up, grabbed the intercom, cursed out passengers, and made a speedy and unauthorized exit, activating and sliding down the emergency chute.. . ." His actions struck a chord with a lot of service workers. Noonan writes that it's a cultural story, not a political one, which I agree with. However, I think that the roots of our current incivility, complaining and mutual hostility has its roots in something I worried about when I was a teenage and the Civil Rights laws were being passed. I recognized that African Americans had the better moral case and that the nation had to act, despite states' rights arguments, but I was uneasy over the faith that so many seemed to place in the government's ability to solve what are basically interpersonal problems. Someone had to make it clear that no one in the U.S. had the right to treat others like blacks were treated under Jim Crow and that it would not be tolerated.

Regardless, such solutions where one side is made the winner and the other branded as guilty, don't generally lead to an amicable settlement. There wasn't much the federal government could do when Southern governors insisted on confrontation forcing the issue and resulting in court orders that forced them to back down and federal laws that intervened in personal relations to a far greater degree than anything since the Civil War amendments.

Sadly, this assertion of power by courts and other government agencies became the norm rather than an exception to the general reluctance of the federal government to intrude into matters of state governments. The balance of rights shifted from majority rule and the rights of the community to an emphasis on individual rights, many of which had never been considered as such since the nation was founded. Now we're all at each others' throats, looking for offense, complaining about service and the demands of those being served. Students threaten school boards who back down to avoid legal fees.

What can be done? I don't see any likely solutions.

Mort Zuckerman writes today in the WSJ, "Our brief national encounter with optimism is now well and truly over." He backed Obama, but hasn't found the kind of Change he was looking for or the Hope, either.

I've never been very optimistic by nature, but the last two years have pretty much killed my hope that America can turn away from its doom. We're set on a track of untenable deficit spending or increased taxes that will make us more uncompetitive in the world. China's economy is now second to ours in the world, and one can't help worrying about its plans for us.

I believe that God reigns supreme, but not that we can ignore his instructions and continue to be prosperous. I've always believed that his commandments are given out of love for us and his greater knowledge of how we can achieve ultimate happiness. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." That verse from John 3, suggests that God is subject to eternal laws which not even he can break, and that the offering of his only begotten son was a sacrifice of immense proportions, as he showed Abraham, but one which he made in order to deliver us from our sins, if we would only repent. I also believe that the modern world will become as wicked as the world during the time of Noah. Not a bright prospect that, but there is hope for those who follow his instructions. They are not an unreasonable or impossible burden, particularly when one considers the price paid by Jesus to make mercy possible.

I've heard of punk bands, but . . .

a punk audience? Things fall apart. The center cannot hold.

Would you buy GM stock? It is about to give you that opportunity with an IPO, hoping to buy out the government's $50 billion stake in the company.

Why does college cost so much? Maybe because we're dumb enough to pay these prices.

Monday, August 16, 2010

If you don't support big labor, you're un-American. Tell that to GM's bondholders. Union featherbedding, not only bad management, has brought down a lot of good companies. There's greed and power grabbing everywhere and it hurts us all.

I don't know what the motives behind the "Ground Zero" Mosque are, but it certainly don't seem to be an outreach toward understanding and tolerance. As Leon de Winter rightly notes, a Christian church or a synagogue in Mecca would be a true sign of understanding and tolerance. As Stephen Schwartz has written, Islam today has two faces, the peaceful pious one that belongs to most Muslims and the ugly one of the Salafist sect which is supported by the Saudis who have build thousands of mosques around the world and furnished imams to preach in them in an effort to take over the religion. This shares roots with the terrorists driven by the belief that the Muslim duty of jihad requires the violent murder of anyone who disagrees with them. It is partly because of this militancy that the erstwhile peaceful Shiites have begun to assert themselves in Iran, Iraq and other Muslim countries, in an effort to challenge the Saudis, largely by being more radical and demagogic.

Contrary to President Obama's lecture to us the other day, Muslims have the right to practice their religion only to the extent that their religion doesn't exhort murder and terrorism. If we knew who was providing funding for this mosque or what kind of sermons are likely to be preached there, it might be less controversial, but so far, Americans have seen very little from Muslims to indicate a genuine willingness to renounce terrorism and the death cult of Al Qaeda. Instead they use our own political correctness as a weapon and a reason to lecture and hector us about our values, while those in effect in their own most prominent nations are never criticized, except to urge more radicalism.

The mosque will probably be built as politicians abase themselves to appear tolerant to everyone but their political opponents. Nothing good can come from this. Either Americans will see this as the last straw and respond with resentment and anger or the mosque will be viewed elsewhere as a symbol of the weakness of this country, encouraging and inspiring more terrorism. This is all the fruit of the foolish adoption of sophistries by our courts which have given anyone and everyone a veto over the religious activities of the majority in any public setting. The result has gone far beyond the setting of schools and local government where it could apply and has put the Christian religion on the defensive everywhere else in society, rather than enhancing our tradition of tolerance and respect for each others' beliefs. The official policy of the courts is one of viewing our differences as a threat to our various rights, and that has become a source of division rather than the unity on which our society depends. I grew up before this jealous attitude of taking offense wherever possible. Certainly, we should be sensitive, and seek those things that unite us rather than divide us, but making insults a matter of lawsuits and cease and desist letters is hardly an improvement.

I got too depressed by politics so I started reading a bunch of SF books I had lying around. The first was Verner Vinge's Rainbows End which predicts that by 2025 or so we'll all be wearing computers all the time and living in the web, traveling virtually and in contact with anybody world wide. It's an interesting picture, both of the wonders and dangers of such a world although I'm definitely skeptical about things developing that way or that soon. I expect that something new that nobody has foreseen will change the world. I doubt that the possibilities of computers are anywhere near their limits. Wearable computers have been Real Soon Now for 20 years. Maybe they'll finally arrive. What out there is presently too expensive for most people that could be knocked off by disruptive technology? The next transistor radios or personal computers.

My guess is that it will be some kind of battery technology that will make electric cars possible at prices low enough to replace internal combustion, combined with a nationwide building program of safe nuclear generation plants. Hey, if France can do it, we should be able to. What it takes is a commitment to safety and excellence that seems to have disappeared here except in some parts of the military. You'd think that's what unions would be insisting on. Some of them to. A friend of mine is a boilermaker, a welding specialist who has worked on nuclear plants, requiring special certification. Anybody working in industries like nuclear electricity generating should be a proven elite.

The second, third and fourth books were old Jack Vance novels. More about them later.

The latest two were Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. Don't read what follows if you don't want spoilers. Simmons is both an academic and a professional fiction writer. Hyperion won the Hugo Award when it came out. In many ways it's a tour de force of scholarship about the life of John Keats and different storytelling styles all worked into a sort of Canterbury Tales set nearly a millennium in the future. What annoyed me about it is that the book is really only half the story ending at a climax without resolving anything. It should have been called Hyperion Volume I.

It's vision is of mankind having developed faster than light transportation drives, named after Stephen Hawking, as well as communications media that break the light barrier, and something called farcasters that enable instantaneous movement through what is dubbed the World Web which enables human civilization to spread throughout hundreds of worlds and establish a single federated government to assure economic union and common defense. It's a rich portrayal of how humans might develop on different worlds, while remaining recognizable to us.

But the world named Hyperion is an anomaly, containing bizarre native life like Tesla trees which accumulate electricity and generate lightning which sets surrounding forests on fire. The more important thing about Hyperion is the mystery surrounding its "Time Tombs," a group of ancient monuments in a valley where they generate anti-entropy fields which change, even reverse the flow of time. They resemble structures from our past, one is an obelisk, one a sphinx, one seems to be some sort of mausoleum and three are caves. A number of the worlds, including Hyperion, have been found to have underground mysterious labyrinths, explored only by unmanned robots. During the book it is revealed that Hyperion is also the home to a strange parasite in the shape of a crucifix called "cruciforms" which attach themselves to humans which encounter them and penetrate their bodies, causing the bearer to "resurrect" in a form that is slightly less than the original in personality or independent will.

The last mystery of Hyperion is a creature dubbed the Shrike, which has become the focus of a new religion. This creature is also called the Lord of Pain, a three meter tall humanoid shape with four arms. It is covered with blades and spikes of all sorts and has red multifaceted eyes, and appears mysteriously, seemingly from another time or space and embraces individuals who seek it, killing them. Accompanying it is a giant tree with spikes instead of branches and leaves on which the Shrike's victims are impaled suffering eternal torment. Why anyone would seek out such a creature or worship it is not really clear, other than that it is seen as the bringer of the Eschaton, the end of the world. The church of the Shrike doesn't believe in anything behind the End, no Millennium or Reign of God. Bummer of a religion. Christianity has disappeared except for the Catholic Church which has shrunk to about a million faithful.

Oh, by the way, the Earth has been destroyed, swallowed by a man-made black hole in an incident called the Big Mistake. Fortunately, much of its population was able to evacuate and through terraforming, settle on other worlds.

The enemy of the World Web civilization are the Ousters, humanoids who rejected terraforming and went to live separately, adapting to what they found, such as zero-g space, asteroids, comets and alien planets. They have declared war on Hyperion for reasons which are never clear, other than a need to keep the World Web from discovering its secrets.

If this seems to make for a complicated setting, you have no idea. There is another major religion called Zen Christianity which has no real god and one called the Templars which is apparently the descendant of our present environmental movement, which, many have noticed, resembles a religion in many ways. It's prophet is The Muir (John Muir) and worships trees, especially the largest ones ever seen named after Muir. They have grown exceptionally large specimens and converted them to space-going vehicles, however, so apparently they don't really reject technology as such.

The books became tedious reading for me, partly due to graphic sex scenes and obscenities. The only thing that kept me at the task were the sections without those, one involving the story of a priest, one a detective investigating the murder of a "cybrid" clone of Poet John Keats, and a third the story of a professor whose daughter became an archeologist and visited the Time Tombs during which her life began to reverse, each day awaking without memories of the events of her life which her parents remembered. It's not really scientifically believable, but the concept is a study of the experience of parenthood and is quite poignant. After his wife dies and all efforts to treat his daughter's condition fail, in response to a series of dreams in which he is told to take his only daughter and sacrifice her to the Shrike, he joins a pilgrimage bringing her as an infant to comply in the desperate hope that she will be saved like Isaac, the son of Abraham.

Just describing this story makes my head hurt. It does have a major plot, the war launched against the World Web, but that becomes secondary to all the subplots, by the time the climax of the war is reached, the foreshadowing has pretty much given the game away. I was left with a number of questions and knowing more than I ever wanted to know about John Keats, whose tragic death at 27 is covered in gruesome detail. I really didn't know much about Keats, other than having read his "Ode on a Grecian Urn" and the ending lines,
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
"Grecian Urn" is never mentioned in these books. Why Keats was chosen, I don't know. His unfinished poem "Hyperion" is a central theme, being a retelling of the final struggle and fall of the Titans in mythology, to be supplanted by the Olympian gods. The suggestion that humanity is in a similar struggle with its own creation of machine intelligence seems to be the point, but I'm not a big believer in Artificial Intelligence. We may be drowning in our data, but I don't think that as much of it is truth or really understood as we seem to assume. What we have today is more scientists churning out studies, statistics and findings than anyone really can assimilate or bring into a clear complete understanding. God is not going to be unnecessary anytime soon, even if he didn't exist. The ultimate truths of human experience remain, the experiences of love and parenthood, the struggle to live as we feel we should and the sense of failure, and resolving the question of how to go on despite our flaws and failures without abandoning our faith in our sense of what is right.

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion have a number of interesting concepts and visions, but they would have been better presented in smaller, less intertwined form. Simmons created an amazing interesting world in these books, but he could have told all these stories in many more than four novels. I'm not sure that I want to make the trek through the follow ups Endymion and The Rise of Endymion. As it is, I feel like I've hiked with the pilgrims all the way to see the Shrike and don't have enough to show for the experience.

I'd better reserve comments on Jack Vance for another post.