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.