Monday, March 27, 2006

Government in Afghanistan wants to Kill a Christian

How can I begin to describe my reaction to this news? Dismay seems inadequate. First, People who are held to a system of belief on pain of death are not adherents nor are they faithful.

Let me state that I believe there could be a God, like famous secular humanist and scientist Carl Sagan said "absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence".

I like to imagine that Islam is a peaceful religion that brings a sense of order, meaning and morality to the lives of millions. I watch the Haj on PBS and am impressed and moved by the devotion and community experienced by the participants. Extremism is supposed to be a fringe element that is co-opting the religion and using it to fuel violence. Then I see the Government in Afghanistan who want to kill a human being for simply believing differenly. I thought the Taliban was driven out of power over there!? Is it not enough to have historically spread a religion by the sword? Must there also be talk of murdering anyone for leaving it?

Of all the education that is needed in many nations, that of the value and dignity of human life seems to be the most urgent. Why are suicide bombings seen as negotiation in these cultures? I will never be able to see that as anything but the most debasing madness ever conceived. Parents pride themselves upon their dead children who murder innocent bystanders. In many cases these families have received payoffs from governments. It seems the culture of violence may not only be at the fringes of Islamic society.

There really needs to be a system of secular law to keep ideals from being brought to bear on human lives. There are many readily cited examples of this culture of killing. I recall hearing, many months ago, of the desire of a Nigerian Muslim community to stone a pregnant woman and her unborn child for adultery, the lust for blood outpacing the need for evidence. It is my understanding that the couple had simply taken some time apart, with a few conjugal exceptions and that the woman's husband was the father.

The BBC reports stories of "honor" killings in many countries which are some of the most dishonorable things I can imagine. The ease with which insurgents in iraq combine divine invocations with beheadings, even killing fellow Muslims, shows that this is a wounded society and religion in need of some enlightenment.

The cartoons of Mohamed with a bomb in his turbine illustrate poignantly the awful irony of the culture of killing that seems to stretch from the extremists, to families to governments. When violent attacks are the response from Muslim communities to this critique, it is the height of irony. These make it very difficult to remember that the comic was insulting to Islamic religious sensibilities. Many Muslim communities have been misled and lied to about what was published. They were shown even more offensive cartoons that were never published. These lies and misrepresentations sparked even more unnecessary violence, ultimately underlining the point of the cartoonist.

The Janjeweed of Sudan are a testament all their own to the horror that religious and ethnic hatred can bring, but are also yet another mind numbing example of Islam's relationship to wanton violence and disregard for human life. These are Muslims driving out and killing Africans who are not Arabs, but in many cases are Muslims as well. Does this religion condone genecide? Where is the outrage about this!? (instead of a cartoon)

I wish that more of what must be a moderate majority of Islamic believers would stand up, speak out and denounce violence. This would help people in the west sort out whether there is a cancer in the system or whether the culture of violence is such a historic and integrated part of Islam itself that it cannot be separated from it.

Meanwhile, I condemn the new Afghan government's intolerance and insist they refrain from throwing their citizens to the lions and instead live together in peace and harmony with Sikh, Hindu, Buddist and Christian alike.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


In a largely christian country like the United States, the term "christian" itself can generally be used to describe "just" and "decent" behavior. When someone is "unchristian" that generally implies he/she was being cruel or unsympathetic to his/her fellow citizen. In an ideal world I would like to think of the term "islamic" as meaning something similar in other societies.

Islamic should mean "peaceful" perhaps also "just" maybe even "decent".  So if in an islamic society ones behavior is "islamic" you could say that it is analagous to "christian" behavior in a christian society. I think that violence should be considered "unislamic" and "unchristian" in our respective societies.

There are examples of imposing religious thought using violent means in either religion's past. Mention "the inquisition" or a phrase like "the alcoran or the sword". Each faithful imagines one's own beliefs as right and blameless and others as wrong and punishable. Who is the infidel? Is it the protestant to a catholic? Is it the sunni to the shiite?

I propose everyone is faithful and an infidel at times. We have these great religions. Why do we not use them for good or abandon them entirely for something much more healthy for mankind than killing and fighting. 

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Electoral Politics

While I understand that voting irregularities are decidedly unamerican, I have to say I am so tired of hearing about the "stolen election". It is 2006 and I still see the awful rhetorical device used. You know the one where people say regarding the 2000 Presidential election: "Gore won this election by xx votes and Bush went crying to the courts who overturned it." This is such a misleading argument and actually demonstrates a complete lack of understanding regarding the system of Presidential election in the United States. Those last two words are the key, United States.

The U.S.A. is not just one flat country with a majority vote for president. In fact none of that is true. The United States is 50 states with their own laws that even differ regarding how the presidential election works. The President is not elected by a popular vote in America. I know, sit down...put down the protest picketts just for a moment. Each state appoints Electors equal to the number of senators and representatives from that state. This gives a nod to both the state's soveriegnty as well as a nod to the actual number of American citizens living in the state. The Electors vote for the President and Vice-President of the United States. It could be argued that the popular vote within each state is merely a strong suggestion as to which way the Electors should vote. Some states split their Electors along the lines of the proportional outcome of the state vote, meaning some of the Electors from that state vote for one candidate and some for another based on what percentage of the state vote each candidate received from the voting public.

The national count for each presidential candidate may be added up by news organizations or interested citizens, but has no bearing on and no meaning in the Electoral college. This system is wise as it reduces the scale of power of large states against small states. While preserving the idea that population matters. It tempers majority rule. So when people say "Bush won more states" they mean he had the majority vote in more states considered individually, so that their Electors voted for Bush (because the Electors were being cooperative with the majority vote). In some large population states that went for Gore, those Electors voted for him.

The deciding state in the 2000 election was Florida. There were enough Electoral votes to be won, that winning this state could make up for either candidate's need for Electors to claim victory. My understanding is that the vote counts in some counties in Florida were close enough and under such dispute that flaws in the voting system were revealed. Things like...inconclusive votes from poorly maintained voting equipment, legitimate voters who were denied because of clerical errors...Illegitimate voters who were still listed as legitimate, like felons, deceased etc. So parties sued for a resolution of the dispute, as is their right, and under the laws of this nation the case proceeded quickly to the Supreme Court who ruled with the skill and wisdom with which we entrust them and there was a decision. Nothing was co-opted, hi-jacked.

The voting irregularities which existed in many states, but came into focus in one state, have been addressed by many states since the election. Also, the ballots were carefully counted anyway and it was found that under every stretch and interpretation that was reasonable, Bush still would have taken all the Florida Electoral votes.

So, we have a President elected legally and legitimately by a minority of our population which was distributed in such a way as to provide him with the majority of Electoral votes. Bill Clinton was also a minority-vote President. In fact when elligible voters fail to vote, the rest of us run the country on their behalf. So the thing to do, in America, is not to spew specious rhetoric about fictional fantasy voting scenarios, but get out and vote your mind while you are alive...and never give up your vote to laziness or becoming a criminal. And please understand how your country works before repeating that "Gore won the national popular vote"...that's just not an Electoral institution we have in this country, at least when it comes to Presidential politics.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Abortion, the big debate. I was thinking about the debate over abortion when I was reminded of the Lacie Peterson case. She was murdered by her husband Scott Peterson who was convicted of 2 counts. You see Lacie was pregnant at the time and so this premeditated and intentional killing included the killing of a second human being, the fetus she was carrying.

I understand the standard used to determine whether the fetus counted for a second murder was that of a heart beat and brain activity. This seems to point out a shocking double standard. When a woman sets out to have an abortion, she ultimately designs to kill a human being.

I have thought a lot about this issue. I like to use a mental exercize where I suppose a cyst was found inside me that some how was developing molecules that it was discovered could be very useful to the human race. Although scientists, religious people, government officials and others may feel urgently that I should be compelled to allow the cyst to continue to grow within me for many months because of its beneficial possibilities, I still would reserve the sole discretion as to whether to have it removed. Especially if there was a credible threat to my life from carrying it. I am male. So this helps me understand, somewhat, what it might be like to face pregnancy, atleast in a social sense.

As a human being myself, I believe men, women who aren't mothers, women who can't have children and all other human beings have the right to have an opinion about abortion and even influence the country's laws regarding the matter. I don't want the government telling me how to use my body any more than a woman does. In the case of child bearing, however, there is no escaping the fact that another human being is invovled, a being with its own rights and destiny.

The fate of an unborn human being is closely entwined with the fate of its mother and with all due honor, its destiny is in the hands of its mother. I don't believe a woman should be allowed to choose life or death for a fetus without the same kind of consequences that follow choosing to kill any other human being, whether or not the fetus could survive on its own. I think abortion is akin to leaving a newborn on the side of a highway in the freezing cold with no food. Except that, in an abortion, especially a late term abortion, more must be done to end the life of the fetus than this.

Yet, There are so many intertwining issues. Women should not be socially left helpless to care for children they can ill afford. Also, proper medical care and food for a pregnant and new mother and perhaps her other children need to be readily available if there is to be an alternative course of action to abortion. Even if a woman were to give up her child for "adoption" once it was born, this does not ensure that society will help to bear the social and literal costs of carrying the pregnancy or childbirth.

In an ideal world women would never become pregnant unless they desired to be pregant with purpose and intent. For that to be possible, sex education, contraceptives and other social support needs to make a 180 degree turn and improve in major ways. Why isn't the prospect of killing a fetus undesireable enough for us to overcome any discomfort with sex education and birth control?

I would say to religious conservatives that if you want to respect life so much, teach children all about its processes with detail and clarity that is as great as possible as early as they can understand it all, which may be sooner than we would like it to be. Let pro life energy be put into sex education and contraceptive promotion to adults as well.

Rape is an illness whose root causes need to be socially examined and treated. To impose upon anyone the decision about whether to propogate the genes of a violent criminal is part of the violence of a rape that results in a pregnancy. I believe that emergency contraception should be available to a rape victim and that she should have the option of deciding to abort a child, hopefully as early as possible, if at all. Already I can see trouble brewing with this stance. What if criminal proceedings eventually find that there was not a rape committed. Also, If no other abortion is available, is the possibility of making a false claim of rape now a tempting option? I am not implying that this is a common way of thinking...but when women, desperate to abort a pregnancy (that may or may not have resulted from a rape) have gone to the length of using coat hangars in alleys, threatening their own lives, then many other similar things are possible.

When a woman's life is in danger because of pregnancy, she should have some legal options under a doctor's care.
A healthy woman who was not raped should not be allowed to halt a pregnancy once she has chosen to initiate one. It should be so because a woman should not be able to decide life or death for another human being. She has brought this being into existence by her actions and now has a social repsonsibility to this person, as do we all.

Somewhere in a reasonable public debate, we can all come to terms with the issues surrounding the propogation of our species. The path to pregnancy is full of conscious choices and so there are responsibilities. What is "my body" is my body, but what is someone else's body, even a body dependent upon my blood, is still someone else's and not mine. I should not be able to kill that being through premeditated intentional action.

Suppose abortion were outlawed with the exceptions mentioned. A woman's options are still her own. She is still free to choose not getting pregnant. She is protected by law if she should be raped or be medically threatened with death. Sounds simple enough. Though, I have found that nothing ever is quite so simple.


I work in Web Marketing and have been thinking about SEO, or "Search Engine Optimization".  Everyone wants to be found especially on the big search engines like google or yahoo.  Sometimes in the computer industry companies get big and successful and start to feel they have the "political capital" to impose their will upon the rest of us. More and more we begin referring to them as "Evil".

Google, for example, is my favorite search engine.  My belief about the metaphor for their purpose in life is that they want to allow us to find what is out there.  They search the web.  Simple enough.  More and more it seems people are desperate to please the famous google so they can glean visitors to their pages from the many users who are using google daily. People begin complying with googles limits on technology so that their pages please the "spider", which is software that browses the web and looks for content.

The spider is at the core of this game. You see, the spider should be finding what web publishers make...not forcing web publishers to limit themselves so that they can be found. The ideal spider would be a human being using a web browser. Though for speed and convenience, the spider is actually a piece of server software that can't actually do everything a web browser can do. So you loose Google's attention if you employ dynamic technology like Flash or DHTML, that Google's spider cannot process in the same way a user's browser can. This is why Google urges us all to fall in line so we can be "found" and "counted".  This logic is all backwards. 

Google should be finding what is there not dictating what can be. We need to get a little more "quantum mechanics" sense into this reasoning and convince Google and other search engines not to destroy or influence what they are trying to observe. 

Search engine optimization is really an incidious buzz-word. Sure, it is the way to position one's site under the faucet of dollars on the web, but it is giving too much control to the tool whose mission should be to search the web, instead of forcing the web into compliance with its weaknesses.