Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Under Cover Ladies

Dear Saudi Arabia,

I want to suggest a different way of looking at the issue of women and their place in society.

 In the West it's easy for us to say that causing women to be covered head to toe is repressive of and insulting them.

 It is our presumption that both genders share equal status and stature in society and that our society is fuller, more interesting, and benefits more fully from its human resources than other cultures when we include everyone.

 You need only look at World War II, where American women built weapons to supply the war effort, to understand a possible natural advantage of freeing women to do as they can and as they will.

 I also want to point out that causing women to be covered and repressed is insulting to men.

In my culture, I can see women at work, at holiday destinations, at night clubs or restaurants. I must cope with a the natural reaction I have to the attractiveness of women and I can do so. I must be professional with a woman whose only reason for speaking to me might be work related. Not every contact between genders must have our natural desires be the focal point. Men and probably women too, deal with how these natural impulses influence how they feel. I think it can be both a little stressful and a little stress mitigating to see women in and have self control over my own reaction to those situations.

I can handle it! So can you! Respect yourself enough to believe that.

A society where the desires of women are met might be a happier one for both genders.

Think of the advantages to your country and the region of freeing, fully educating and allowing full participation of women in your society. Something like Islamic Science should not sound like an oxymoron. Once, some of the best science of the world was developed and recorded by Middle Eastern cultures. Think what you can do if you double your effective capability by freeing women.

Modernity is not just one way of life...it's the idea that by exploring what is possible we could discover new solutions. Maybe the world needs some of your society's best thinking on the way forward. Giving proper dignity and freedom to all members of your society will help the world overcome obstacles to understanding what your society has to offer.

Let's not forget the benefits of free thought and freedom of religion. One thing at a time then.

Thank You,


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Slut Walk Starts Discussions

Whether or not one thinks it is a good name, the name "Slut Walk" draws controversy which brings a lot of focus to the subject of rampant rape in many societies world wide.

Nothing a victim does makes someone rape her. The solution is for perpetrators not to victimize others. The solution is for men not to rape women.

Is it a male issue? Yes. It needs to be seen that way.

With due respect to the set of victims that do not fall into the definition of male against female rape, it is generally a discussion about why men rape women and what should be done about it.

In a theoretical way, to make my stance clear and as a kind of boiler plate against critics who don't read as carefully, I think a woman should be able to walk around nude and behaving seductively and not be raped.

I also think that as much as men should respect women, women should respect male nature. Aroused passions are a natural response to females. Women share the public space with men. That means that I do think women make a better civic choice when they dress and behave more modestly. A self respecting woman may enjoy her sexuality without making it a public display. This has nothing to do with the choices and actions of violent criminals.

Modesty is a value.

That said, no rape or assault is invited by how any woman may choose to dress. Rape is an attack from another person. It really should not matter how the victim behaves, when considering what causes the crime. Whether a woman's modesty or lack of it is socially acceptable is a different question with its own merits.

The way human beings evolved comes from a complex history of male and female partner choice, and possibly from a history of institutionalized rape, like the "Divine Right of Kings" to a first night with any subject's new bride. Military raids and conquests often if not always involved rape throughout history. It is a form of genetic propagation that does not involve female mate selection. Truly the kind of person who rapes may have been likely to reproduce his genes.

Rape existed before pornography, before modern law and society. The definition of rape even varies around the world and in people's personal perceptions.

I am not sure we know the cause of rape as well as we should. Some say it is violence and not sexual. My intuition is that in a society where people's social, family and sexual needs have a healthy way of being fulfilled perhaps rape perpetrators are only found among the extreme elements of society and maybe the mentally ill.

There is something to be said about practical advice. Some people will steal a car that is locked and secured in a garage. Others may steal a car because it is left unlocked and running at a convenience store. It is true that theft prevention efforts prevent some theft. Is it the fault of the victim of theft if their belongings were not secured or cared for? Not really, the thief is to blame for the theft. But it's hard to argue that we shouldn't study who gets raped where and when and try to prevent future suffering by advising people of what reduces their risk. This does not get at the root of the issue or solve the problem of the original criminal behavior.

We need to address the cause of male behavior and construct a society that is organized to reduce these behaviors to a minimum.

A society without rape is a society that loves, cares for and is concerned for both its men and women. It is a society where the needs and nature of each is respected. It is a society where traditional breeding rituals... the need to be able to "display the goods" and "show interest in the goods"...are natural and healthy ways of encouraging mate selection that are not condemned as "invitations to violent assault" as if anyone would desire that. I don't think repressing women's dress styles is the right goal or any kind of solution.

I do know that people should be able to live, love, partner consensually in peace and remain unmolested.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Comparison

Why not designate the "No Go" areas of Pakistan UN administered areas and send in the troops?

The Pakistan government appears to no longer have any power or authority over some areas, so they truly are not under their governed territory.

It gets tiring to hear that we cannot stop non-state actors because we are allies with their state of residence.

I suppose, as much as I might hate the behaviors of some American extremist fringe groups, I would not want other countries to send in the drones. Still, our allies have to do a better job at being sovereign in their own lands!

Even our own super power has to face the shame of impotent regulation of Wall Street greed, as a comparison to say Yemen's lack of enforcement against terrorist groups.

Our freedom to innovate, imagine and raise capital to invent new things in an environment of the rule of law is what made us great. The rampant abuse of that system is a terrible threat to our greatness.

Still, it's not an equivalent comparison. Sub-state actors in other countries are not just extremists acting in their own country, they threaten us directly and by name. I think we are justified when responding to such threats.

Consider that it's a consciously employed technique to put a friendly government up as a shield to allow terrorist groups to flourish. Could Pakistan be purposely defending home-grown terror by telling us what we want to hear at the diplomatic level?
What is the motive? May I suggest the possibility that some Muslims hold aspirations we would call totalitarian with regard to Islam forming a future world government?

I expect the liberal American response would be to insult me as culturally biased, even "racist" for suggesting such a thing.
I am certainly not a racist nor am I opposed to anyone's private, personal worship practices, but even the core, central interpretation of Islam is as an all consuming lifestyle that does not exclude governmental aspirations which are not just aspirations, but facts in many countries.

I am biased with regard to how we are governed. I think a dogmatic religious government which is inescapably based in irrational beliefs is dangerous and inferior to our free, democratic government system, even with its imperfections.

Our western religious "inquisition" is long gone, but horrific things still exist in many places in the world and let's not be blind to the aspirations of those bases of power to rule over us as well.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Draw Mohammed Day

The point of drawing mohammed is to insist that people are free to speak, criticize and satirize without the fear of death threats.

Although, I must say that I think a video response to "Draw Mohammed Day" that emphasizes the good things people believe about their prophet IS an appropriate response.

It is just not right to equate a cartoon with hatred. Everyone who is offended takes that offense actively and is responsible for it.
I don't think it's polite to be mocking or insulting of people's cherished beliefs, until they try to impose their values on others through coercion, threats, violence or rage.

I think Islam needs some feedback. Allowing people to depict mohammed could lead to understanding and sharing in addition to the mocking cartoons.
Christians also have written in their scriptures "Thou shalt make no graven images" and "worship no idols". It's probably the same source material for both the Bible and the Koran.

Christians have come to interpret that advice spiritually, not literally. You can make a picture or statue of your god, but you worship the god not the symbol itself. It can also be interpreted to mean that religious believers should not idolize material things or non-spiritual ideas.

Eventually Muslims will come around, but what everyone else is telling them is that certain reactions are not appropriate, proportional or acceptable. Lashing out violently over drawings is not socially acceptable. Assault is unlawful.

That Muslims are insulted by drawings of Muhammad and will be vocal about that is something non-muslims can understand and accept.

Murder, violence, death threats, assaults, property destruction and the like we do not have to accept.

Over the centuries I can only hope people cling to good principals of social behavior instead of dogma. The dogma's have a great risk of being wrong and persisting uncorrected.

In some ways the rage people feel about religious "offense" hides the fear and doubt every person must feel from time to time with our analytical pre-frontal cortex needing evidence and seeking a consistent reality.
Religion can be a form of denial and can lead to unhealthy circular and cognitively dissonant thought patterns.

I understand that, culturally, Muslims have lived with centuries of dogma taking the lead role in how people understand reality. I cannot expect Muslims not to feel offended when their sacred beliefs are mocked. I just want to remind them that their religious rules and beliefs have no application, authority or bearing on the rest of us and to attempt to enforce their laws upon non-muslims is at best intolerant and at worst absolutely unacceptable and will need to be countered. Hopefully the mild sting of social criticism using free speech with be enough to carry that message.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Muslim Responses to Free Speech

Somehow, after the insensitive cartoon has been made, and justifiably, some feelings were hurt, still the stinging indignation is pointed at the free speech rather than at the death threats and in all too many cases actual murders perpetrated by those who call themselves Muslims. The choice is whether to side with the irrational murderous rage or with the freedom to speak.

The focus of indignation must surely be the untempered reaction of the radicals. The focus is the believer, already given to leaps beyond reason by believing in the first place, who is not able to limit his or her recourse to something fitting offended sensibilities but must make such an outcry as to place oneself above all others and invoke the right to take away human life as some kind of payment for hurt feelings. No laws, judgements, trials, sense, reason or self-control employed, just blind murderous rage. That is what is truly offensive. That is what should be the target of all our outrage. It is unacceptable to overlook the sanctity of human life before going right for the free speech as the target of anyone's indignation.

The trouble with belief is that the ability to make great leaps without evidence leaves the door open to accepting many more irrational ideas without question. The deep ignorance of statements by Pat Robertson about the Earthquake in Haiti being some kind of punishment for a pact with an invisible evil being is one example. Plate tectonics and physics explain that, there is no need to invoke the supernatural. Infact, it does more harm to stop and pretend it was done by magic, thereby contending that further study is either impossible or unneeded. How callous the statement is to those suffering the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

A Muslim Cleric in Iran tried to declare that female immodesty is causing Earthquakes via the mechanism of God's anger.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes" Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi said.

This is absolute ignorance coupled with a brilliantly cynical use of social control mechanisms. That the people have already surrendered to belief without evidence makes it possible.

One can never be sure of what the next leap into irrationality will be, among any religious group.

Moderate Muslims need to turn their attention away from obscure cartoons, toward their more extreme co-religious elements and begin to criticize their behavior, if only because it is actually destructive to human life and risks defaming all those who share their faith, instead of just simply being "unkind" like a political cartoon.

Every other faith group seems to be above taking offense to their critics or perhaps they have found constructive ways to project their own positive messages. Institutions are in need of a little ribbing from time to time to point out their injustices and faults.

No person or group can be immune from criticism. The act of killing, making death threats or even making thinly veiled death threats is not an appropriate nor acceptable response.

No more unjustified murders can be allowed before civilized society must act to defend civil living. People frankly have the right to offend one another and to speak their minds without being targeted for death. If the terrorist had powerful weapons they would use them. Free countries already have powerful weapons and the depth of their restraint is shown when confronting fascist radicals such as those who murdered Theo Van Gogh for making a short video against wife-beating!

People must come to their senses and start criticizing the violent and murderous radical religious actors not the free speakers!


Friday, April 23, 2010

Global Wha Wha?

I read two articles today that both struck me as a little far fetched...at first.

Someone pointed out that there was a Live Science article proposing that the movement of Ice Weight as water could redistribute pressures which can disrupt force balances and lead to Earthquakes. Global Warming is increasing Earthquakes, at least until the ice is all melted and the water weight is done shifting. That seems plausible.

See the 2007 article:

And then there's today's article. Where a Muslim Cleric in Iran tries to declare that female immodesty is causing Earthquakes via the mechanism of God's anger.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi said.

Is it really still the dark ages over there? I thought it through. If Global Warming causes Iranian women to uncover "some of their hair" and wear more "revealing" clothing (I presume they mean...like Ankle and Neck) then one could correlate that the same thing that is contributing to a spike in Earthquakes is also contributing to a spike in dressing lighter among Iranian women!

Here is a the link to the BBC article about Iranian women:

Of course, no matter what happens it will be taken as a spur to more religious commitment:

"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," he said.

The Cleric's attitude is awfully insensitive to the tens of thousands of Iranian Earthquake victims and their families over the last decade. This is on its face an egregious (though that word should be used for things that are not as common as this) example of the exploitation of tragedy and the use of fear to manipulate credulous people. I find it shameful and yes, ignorant as well, by the best definition of the term.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Just one Bible verse

I am going to examine just one claim of the Creation myth in the Bible by evaluating just one verse:

Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

To someone who knows about modern scientific discoveries and understanding, the passages in Genesis reveal a deeply localized pedestrian view of the Universe from the perspective and understanding of an unsophisticated observer. The emphasis on Earth its self as significant in the Universe betrays a provincial perspective. The scale of the rest of the Universe compared to the significance of the Earth and its day, night, sky, waters...is staggeringly great. It almost too much to express.

Our Sun is an average star. Even so, it is around a million times greater in volume than the Earth. There are billions of stars in billions of galaxies in the Universe many of them larger than the Sun by orders of magnitude. To say all of that was created on the fourth day when making the Earth took more than a day is clearly a notion proceeding from the perspective of an Earth bound author with little scientific knowledge. It is to the desert religious of the bronze age as if the stars were quickly stipple painted on to the sky as an after thought.

I understand that this is not the lynch pin of religion, of course. Though reading the myth does reveal its heavy dose of anthropic preference and inadequate description of what we now know is out there.

The most obnoxious thing is the phrase "two great lights". Because the author, or the author's imagined god, didn't happen to know that the Moon merely reflects the Sun's light and is not a source all its own.

When scrutinized from a perspective of truly greater light and knowledge, the Bible stories show their deep lack of understanding and real information about the Universe and they appear to be just what they are, the best effort of a quivering baffled and dazzled early man.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Implications of Conservative Thought

I think what is happening in Colorado Springs is really interesting. Apparently inspired by the Tea Party Movement, they are conceding to do without many public services as an experiment in lower taxation. It's funny to me that Greece is in the opposite situation. The Greeks are unable to convince and prepare the public for the austerity measures necessary to balance the budget. People in Greece are rallying at the severe reduction in government services while Colorado Springs is rallying to severely reduce government services. It will be fascinating to see how it turns out. Germany is surely not excited about bailing out Greece and had, in fact, set "no bailouts" as a condition of economic (specifically currency) union with Europe. Interesting times!

I think the Tea Party movement imagines that private business can provide services better than governments can. This sounds good and reasonable to me actually, until you realize that the outcome will probably be that wealthy people have excellent services and poor people suffer dearly under conservative politics. And the implication is the wealthy will have to defend their wealth with weapons against the rest of the world.

Conservatives philosophy has an inherent flaw. It's all about US, our town, our people making a good life for ourselves. The trouble is, as I have said before, for everyone in the world to live like a wealthy American we need a planet 70 times larger in land and resources. This implies, uncomfortably, that we and our ways are better and more valuable to preserve than the millions of other people out there. It means that one society has to imagine its self as more worthwhile and with higher individual value than every other society and support this claim with big guns trained on the hungry masses.

The conservative mentality is "if it's us or them...then I think WE should win!" When the draft comes, I'll surely be fighting right beside them. However, is this the only and best way to run a planet? I'd think that normalizing wealth would be the only humane way to have a peaceful world without war.

Studies show that wealthier societies do not have such high birth rates. What do we think we are going to do about all the new mouths to feed under the current patterns? Trust in starvation, floods, wars and other acts of "god"? A sustainable world is one where everyone is well enough off that they don't use reproduction as a weapon, but the world manages growth at or below the planet's reasonable capacity and everyone is well off. EVERYONE IS WELL OFF! That means you can't have tycoons that scorch the environment and amass wealth at the expense of other people. Earth is a finite system.

Capitalism is a fine motivator and has been priceless to establish our society.
"Gather all the wood you can and we will be sure of having fire"...until there is no more forest as "tribes" compete to out-grow each other.

In a finite world where the system is competition for resources, it makes sense to have as many children as possible, amass as much wealth as possible and dominate. The implication is...you give hunger, thirst, disease, exposure and sometimes bombs to all the other over-growing factions. Thus the Earth is won for US not them. That's the end game of conservatism. It makes perfect logical sense, but is utterly inhumane and couldn't be called christian at all (if christian still means loving one's neighbor).

Pseudo-communistic dictatorships have been tried as well as violent fascist totalitarian systems. Somewhere there is another way that provides enough motivation while not refusing dignity and individual worth to any person.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trying to Peg Everything

Since I nearly got beat-up by the Freshman football team in high school when I was a sophomore (I talked them down, actually). I have realized that people try to peg, categorize, pigeon-hole and make clichés of others using easy to identify symbols.

The football players shouted out "Fags" to me and my friends who were on our way to a French club party dressed, as we always did, in our long trench coats with long highlighted bangs (1985 or so?). To me, wearing a trench coat was just a way to be self expressive or at least to fit in with my small group of friends. It had nothing to do with being a gun toting punk and nothing at all to do with sexuality since we were all mormon virgins who wanted hot girls who hated us and shunned probably hot girls who were too accessible to be desired. None of us was ever gay in our lives but we sure took some abuse for that team. Enough to appreciate what actual gay people might go through, if only in some measure.

I like to think that high school stupidity, heaping flack upon anyone different, was from youth and inexperience. Yet, somehow the attitude often carries over into adulthood.

There are so many inane ways in which people try to identify lifestyle like McCarthy sussed out communists.

Things I have heard that are supposed to indicate that people are "gay", "liberal", or "right-wing cowboys" or "assholes" are just way off. Maybe some people just mean "different" by those labels. Still, there is little openness to difference in some attitudes of those who even feel like they are "just kidding around" while they propagate and reinforce silly ideas.

Popped collars? Gay? I thought maybe it just meant "Douche Bag"? Pardon me while I also make a cliché of people!
Cleanliness? Is it godliness or godlessness that it is closest to. I think people should make up their minds.
Driving a small/big car? It would be a good thing if all big tough belt buckle-wearing men were all homophobic and drove Mining-Dump-Trucks so no one would mis-read their sexual intentions. The premise is so ridiculous.

I hear things like that a lot. "Girl Car, boy car, old lady car, gay car, dork car, cocks-drive-this-car" etc.

I saw a sticker that said "Silly boys, Jeeps are for girls".

As a rational being I have explained to many that an automobile is an abstract device that takes feet, hands, brains and eyes to drive...the genitals are not relevant and (hopefully) not involved in controlling the vehicle.

Maybe some of this is just women wanting to assert their touch upon a segment of the world to make it feel like they can have it as their own, not just borrow it from male-ness. That transition is acceptable I suppose, though some day we must finally be rational and accept no one else as worth more than ourselves no matter how their collar is placed or even what color the collar is.

Anyone can drive anything. Anyone can like anything and it doesn't have to mean some secondary thing. This is what women have been fighting to tell us since the 60's. A woman who likes sex doesn't have to also be a slut etc. A mexican doesn't have to also be saddled with every cliché ever invented about Mexicans without any compelling interest in the individual.

"You drive a girl car"... I have heard before. My Dark Blue german sedan with awesome v6 power and 5 in the floor that can cruise at 139 mph is a girl car? People are nuts. My car is also a Mexican by birth, by the way. It still doesn't like mariachi music, but if it did it would be perfectly OK.

It's all in good fun on one level, but in the process we really do try to impose an equally ridiculous standard of behavior on people who's diverse behavior, no matter how seemingly different or ridiculous, is really personal and not really any of our business.

Generalizations can be destructive. 100 a day are spouted on T.V. (Especially on those daytime talk shows and guess who watches those! Don't be tempted to generalize!) Some people cause real harm trying to socially impose them.

"Gingers have no soul" is funny to an adult, but it can be a reason for violence to children. Perhaps no one has a soul, but just because that hip guy at work is wearing a pink oxford doesn't mean he drives a jeep (or whatever nutty conclusion you'd like to draw).

Labeling is just cruel...Not all bitches are stupid :) Not all douche bags are wealthy!

I think you get the point. Cars are cars people. We should all stop thinking you can dissect people without getting to know them. Besides, we can't let gay people be the only ones who like beauty and dress well.

Pop your collar at your own risk, especially in your european convertible! (Now I'm doing it too! Make it stop!)


Saturday, October 17, 2009

No War

I have been thinking about war a lot lately.

Today, in November 2009, the United States is at war. I have written before about how we won World War II. I have always had an interest in seeing, reading and hearing all I could about the World wars. Maybe it just seemed such a fearsome prospect that I wanted to be sure I understood how it came about and came to an end if only to feel it could be avoided or to feel some sense that the world was a safe enough place for me to live in.

I'd love to hate war. I'd love to work to end it and prevent it in all circumstances. I have run the theoretical models in my head over and over again. Repressive regime or dictator wants to control and enslave all mankind, I do not wish to be controlled or enslaved along with millions of others so I must stand up and fight. War is thus made.

Sometimes I think the most reasonable end to war is overwhelming force. Back in the day we used incendiary and even nuclear weapons to make the point that Empires and Reichs were not going to dominate free people. To make the point stick required unhindered recourse.

How can I hate war but call for overwhelming violence? If there must be war shouldn't it be decided as swiftly as possible?

I really don't enjoy considering the plausibility of the theories that profiteers arrange for wars to be able to buy up wealth when prices are low or panicked and thereby own more of the world after the prices recover. What a cold rationality.

Then again, we have had a population crises before and I think a philosopher like Nietzsche would applaud convenient solutions such as global conflict to reduce the exponential growth.

My very religious mother likes to say "God has plagues, wars, famines and thirst to handle population growth, don't worry about it". That sounds like the least-managed outcome I can envision.

Dr. Norman Borlaug died this year. He helped forestall what might have been a major 20th century disaster by encouraging the use of new high yield crops and by lobbying for policy changes in areas of high growth in population such as India and Pakistan. He warned that while the grain production might now be ahead of the population growth, the limit would be reached again as the population grows beyond the ability of science to produce higher yields while at the same time arable land shrinks because so many more people need to live and be housed.

Many religious cultures would try to out grow their counterparts by overbreeding to the point of senselessness watching infrastructure fail to keep up. Attitudes like that are deeply detrimental to the future of life on earth. If the capacity of the planet is greater than the current population, we should grow cautiously and sensibly. Now it seems there is a war to flood the world with ones own culture and ethnicity.

In a contest such as this, those who limit their reproductive rate risk being overwhelmed by the others. It reverses the logic of cautious growth. This push to maintain relevance in exponentiating throngs will bring conflict over finite land and water resources.

I think the irrationality of religious belief often becomes the core cause of war. It is often religious people who aspire to have as many children as possible. This is also usually much more than just a personal hope, it is thought to be a moral duty to God.

An American Physicist and Nobel Laureate said:

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
-Steven Weinberg

What is the solution to be? Is the prescription really war, famine, flood and pestilence?

Perhaps the earth can sustain more people that I might think. Maybe a sentient culture needs many people to survive at all. Still, where ever the limit, there is one and I think the problem is not being addressed. Violent evil dictators have tried their solutions. I think there is something better.

Can we live without war? I would like to think so, though my common sense sees a different picture.