Archive for March, 2008
Geert Wilders has created a propaganda piece that takes on radical and fundamentalist islam, and the 15 minute film is called Fitna, which means “disagreement or division”. After watching the film, I’d say that, as before, I am opposed to any fundamentalist, hardline religious teachings, no matter what the religion may be. Mr. Wilders would like to ban the Qur’an in Holland, as he likens the book an insensitive call-to-arms against democracy and freedom.
In the film, Wilders quotes the Qur’an, sura 4, verse 56:
“Surely, those who disbelieve in our revelations, we will condemn them to the hellfire. Whenever their skins are burnt, we will give them new skins. Thus, they will suffer continuously.”
and from sura 47, verse 4:
“…when ye meet the Unbelievers, inflict a heavy blow upon their necks; At length, when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly (on them).”
Wilders uses these verses to point out that fundamental hostility toward other religions exists in the Qur’an, and that allowing this insensitivity to flourish freely damages our society.
The funny thing is that these verses remind me of warlike behaviour found in the stories and quotes of the old testament. After all, if we’re examining islam and pointing out blasphemy, we shouldn’t fail to scrutinize other religions’ texts.
A good example of hostility in judeo-christian tradition is found in biblical Moses and Joshua. Moses attacks and defeats the Amorites at Moab, and then continues on to Bashan, where he commands Israelite forces to slay every man, woman, and child, and take the rich local bounty for themselves. After Moses dies, Joshua takes over the part of Israelite fundamentalist warmonger. He lead his forces to take Jericho, where his troops slaughter every living thing save a prostitute, Rahab, who had assisted Israelite spies. Joshua continued on, capturing the city of Ai, and then slaughtering the people of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Kadesh, Gaza, Goshen, and Gibeon.
“So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed…” (Joshua 10:40)
When taken in the context of these quotes from the bible and Qur’an, both islam and judaism seem outright violent. It seems that they both condemn all who don’t share their beliefs.
In time, humanity should get tired of these outdated, insensitive ideas and move on to more cooperative ones. Considering these texts are two-thousand and thirteen-hundred years old, respectively, it’s not surprising to see change.
The following is an embed of Fitna:
Councillor John Ward of Medway, Kent, England last week stood up against those who steal from all of us and fail to change their ways. His target: Karen Matthews, who, despite being completely supported by welfare payments, has reared seven children from five different fathers and earns additional money for each child.
Welfare mum Karen Matthews and her allegedly abusive partner, Craig Meehan
To me, it’s quite evident that someone unable to adequately provide for themselves has no place shepherding our next generation, let alone getting paid to do it. It’s an abomination. Mr. Ward agrees: “This is yet another example of ‘Breakdown Britain’, much of which stems from the Government-encouraged change away from the hard-working and decent family structure to an increasingly self-indulgent immoral and state-funded lazy lifestyle. Children become just a means toward that end, and are of themselves of little if any further significance in this new society. I think there is an increasingly strong case for compulsory sterilisation of all those who have had a second (or third, or whatever) child while living off state handouts. It would clearly take a lot of social pressures off all concerned, thus protecting the youngsters themselves to some degree, and remove the incentive to ‘breed for greed’ – i.e. for more public subsidy of their lifestyle [...] With over-population being the root cause of so much that negatively impacts Planet Earth, the very last thing the world needs is to encourage excessive breeding.”
He hit the nail right on the head.
Somehow, the political opposition (Labour) is trying to seize on Mr. Ward’s comments, and have gone as far as comparing his suggestions to those of Hitler. If he were legitimately trying to sterilize women on his own as some sort of vigilante, then Labour would be right to make the Hitler comparison. However, Mr. Ward is only illustrating a problem in order to bring it to light and to encourage thought and debate.
We have a problem – what is the optimal solution?
Because I’m against overreaching government intervention in personal affairs, I’d prefer some system of incentives and/or fines to ensure the number of children in a family is just right. Perhaps having a child could be a privilege for families on sound footing who would be charged a token fee that would go toward elementary schooling. Families unable to pay would be penalized for having children that they could not support.
Stories like that of Karen Matthews are sad for her, her children, and society as a whole. As a society we should find a way to prevent this kind of injustice, and relegate it to the past.
Senegal’s President is angry about the Danish publication of a cartoon that had a visual representation of Muhammad way back in 2005. “I don’t think freedom of expression should mean freedom from blasphemy,” said Senegal’s President Abdoulaye Wade, the chairman of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference. “There can be no freedom without limits.”
No freedom without limits? How Orwellian can you get?
Anyways, there are plenty of limits on freedom of speech, but they’re all there for a reason. Defamation, slander, libel, obscenity, threats, perjury, and hate speech are just some examples of ways in which it’s illegal to express yourself. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is another way to break the law while speaking. These limits are meant to maintain domestic order.
The printing of a Muhammad figure in a Danish newspaper didn’t cause rioting in Denmark. No Danish laws were broken. Foreign Muslims opposed to the characterization should choose to avoid looking at the Muhammad page. Instead, they rioted, with 139 dead at last count. The rioters were mostly Nigerian, Libyan, Pakistani and Afghan. Danish embassies were torched in Iran, Lebanon, and Syria.
Foreign popular opinion cannot change laws across borders, and doing so would set a striking precedent and would be considered an assault on conventional sovereignty.
I couldn’t make this up stuff up: Dino Rossi is pointing to his heroic support of the Sonics to lure supporters on Facebook.
He’s been running ads recently to bolster the number of online supporters, and quite humorously tooted his own horn when the number of supporters topped 1,000 (he failed to mention that he’d stooped so low as to advertise to attract them).
When I outlandishly predicted two days ago that the Sonics would be a deciding factor in the upcoming gubernatorial election, I didn’t know just how right I was.
Communist Cuba has lifted its ban on the sale of computers. This development is going to have much bigger consequences than meets the eye.
Cuba’s youth is slowly discovering what the world thinks of its authoritarian dictatorship, and much of the credit goes to technology and the internet.
A growing underground network of young people armed with computer memory sticks, digital cameras and clandestine Internet hookups has been mounting some challenges to the Cuban government in recent months, spreading news that the official state media try to suppress. Last month, students at a prestigious computer science university videotaped an ugly confrontation they had with Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly. Mr. Alarcón seemed flummoxed when students grilled him on why they could not travel abroad, stay at hotels, earn better wages or use search engines like Google. The video spread like wildfire through Havana, passed from person to person, and seriously damaged Mr. Alarcón’s reputation in some circles.
-NYT: Cyber-Rebels in Cuba Defy State’s Limits
Increased access to computers and the internet will assist the opposition in communicating with one another, establishing a credible alternative press, and bringing about change by educating Cubans about the alternatives to their political system.
Few things are as intertwined.
In my home state of Washington, our upcoming gubernatorial election will be completely decided by the fate of our NBA franchise.
Seems odd, doesn’t it?
Here are the facts:
The Howard Schultz-led Sonics ownership group sold the team to Clayton Bennett, a billionaire from Oklahoma City. Bennett then asked for a large amount of public money to pour into an addition to KeyArena, knowing that he’d be turned down. He marched off to the NBA commissioner, asking for its blessing to move the team to Oklahoma City. The NBA’s decision will probably be made next week. Just when the move to Oklahoma look inevitable, property developer Matt Griffin put together a group of monied Seattleites to fund a last-ditch effort to keep the Sonics in Seattle. The plan needs the approval of the city and the state (and $75 million from each). The city is behind the effort. Governor Christine Gregoire is seemingly uncommitted.
This has proved to be valuable fodder for her nemesis (and gubernatorial opponent) Dino Rossi. In fact, he’s trumpeting his support for the Griffin spending proposal and pointing out the lack of commitment from current governor Christine Gregoire.
In a gubernatorial race poised to be extremely close (in the 2004 race between Gregoire and Rossi, Gregoire was declared the winner after numerous recounts and only a 129 vote margin) this race may very well be determined by Gregoire’s lack of enthusiasm for keeping the Sonics in town.
Jeffrey Sachs is a fucker. Not content with being a respected economist, Columbia professor, government advisor, and bestselling author (The End of Poverty), Jeffrey had to go out and write the book I wanted to write, beating me to press.
You should buy his book anyway.
It’s called Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet.
Sachs argues that the crises facing humanity are daunting. He identifies four main issues: global warming/environmental destruction, overpopulation, ending poverty, and political logjams that hinder global cooperation. Sachs rolls out his doomsday scenario, complete with data that’s fun for the whole family! Consider me spooked. Then, as only an economist can, Sachs pats himself on the back and busts out a magical beanstalk plan that will solve everything on the cheap (if only the idiot politicians would listen).
4.2 children are born every second, 253 per minute, more than 15,000 per hour. Each year sees 133,398,951 new births. That’s 133 million children that will need education, shelter, food, water, energy, clothing, computers, and transportation for at least 66 years (the WHO’s estimate of global life expectancy). These requirements are too taxing on our planet’s natural resources. Even when accounting for human innovation which aims to maximize everything from crop yields to water reclamation, our birthrate and resource usage is unsustainable.
Only 55 million humans die each year, which, measured against the amount of humans added, is extraordinarily out of proportion.
Published in Vanity Fair, 2007′s 50 biggest cash hauls include at least three Seattlites:
1. BILL GATES: $2.8 billion
The world’s 3rd richest man downloaded $2.5 billion worth of Microsoft stock last year. Throw in a few hundred million dollars in dividend income and his impending retirement will be all the more comfortable.
15. PAUL ALLEN: $775 million
Once the third-richest man on the planet, Allen, of late, has seen his fortune in retrograde. Selling big stakes in DreamWorks and Oxygen Media should help turn things around.
30. NICOLAS HANAUER: $282 million
The founder of tech outfit aQuantive, parent company of online-ad agency Avenue A/Razorfish, took Microsoft up on its offer—for $6 billion, the software giant’s biggest acquisition ever.
As some of you know, Paul Allen hasn’t had the best record with regard to investment. He’s lost money betting on obscure tech companies during the tech bubble, failed in his initial push to create a “Seattle Commons” development, and sold much of his Microsoft stock that later appreciated much in value. Allen owned 28 percent of Microsoft stock in 1985. This would be worth $73 billion today, making him the worlds richest man by far. Instead, he’s worth one-quarter as much.
Bill Gates owned 49 percent of Microsoft in 1985, which today would be worth $127 billion. Instead, he’s worth less than half, at around $58 billion.
Obviously, none of these metrics account for the extreme amount of philanthropy undertaken by both men, which should not be overlooked.
What would you do if, walking by Ground Zero, you saw people pretending to be 9/11 terrorists posing for photos? That’s pretty much that same thing that’s happening in Times Square according to the New York Times, albeit in reference the more recent bombing of an Army recruiting station:
“Jokesters posed for pictures while pulling hoodies over their heads and making handlebar gestures — an allusion to the suspected bomber who surveillance footage indicated wore a hooded sweatshirt or jacket and rode a bicycle.”
Nobody died in the Times Square bombing. Does that give us license to ridicule it?
It would be a difficult task to describe the world in just one short paragraph. The CIA World Factbook threw their hat into the ring:
Globally, the 20th century was marked by: (a) two devastating world wars; (b) the Great Depression of the 1930s; (c) the end of vast colonial empires; (d) rapid advances in science and technology, from the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (US) to the landing on the moon; (e) the Cold War between the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact nations; (f) a sharp rise in living standards in North America, Europe, and Japan; (g) increased concerns about the environment, including loss of forests, shortages of energy and water, the decline in biological diversity, and air pollution; (h) the onset of the AIDS epidemic; and (i) the ultimate emergence of the US as the only world superpower. The planet’s population continues to explode: from 1 billion in 1820, to 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1988, and 6 billion in 2000. For the 21st century, the continued exponential growth in science and technology raises both hopes (e.g., advances in medicine) and fears (e.g., development of even more lethal weapons of war).”
It’s a pretty solid primer on the 20th century, and we can take much from reading it.
What jumped out at me was the environmental movement vs. irresponsible overpopulation. Environmental concerns have come about largely due to the population explosion along with man’s increased use of technology to increase our usage of scarce resources. Mankind’s footprint on planet earth has been at no time greater than it is presently. What are we going to do about this double-blow that threatens our planet?
I was perusing the 2006 Seattle Opera Company’s annual report, as I often do on weeknights, when I found this gem:
Social and Educational Organizations Affiliated with Seattle Opera:
Puppies in Training at the Opera
In 2005/06, Seattle Opera continued its informal partnership with Guide Dogs for the Blind, through which puppies in training with For Your Eyes Only attend the Opera’s dress rehearsals. Accompanied by their trainers, the puppies learn the proper behavior for attending live opera performances so that they will become good escorts for their future companions.
I think it’s sweet but also really hilarious. Only in America would they train puppies to attend the opera.
Bonus pic from the .pdf:
FARC, the communist rebels living high in the mountains of Colombia and Ecuador really do seem to love free markets – when they’re the beneficiary.
In the 80′s, FARC swayed a little capitalist when they got involved in the drug trade. They the proceeds to finance their expansion. Ever since, FARC has been battling the U.S.-supported capitalist government.
With Colombia’s surgical strike on a FARC camp in Ecuador, killing FARC second-in-command Paul Reyes, the government has won a major victory against the communist guerrillas. After the strike, Colombian commandos found a laptop with a bunch of interesting FARC data on it. Among the data was evidence that FARC operatives were thinking about buying 50 kilograms of uranium. Colombian President Manuel Uribe points to this as proof that FARC was planning to build and detonate a dirty bomb. However, the context of the data indicates that FARC was only to be an intermediary, selling the uranium at a profit on the open market.
This no-risk gain is a very capitalist transaction – arbitrage.
FARC needs to come out of the closet. If they’re so confused about their own econo-political identity, they might follow the signs toward the truth found in their own very capitalist actions. FARC is just a front for drug commerce. They use their opposition political stance only as a marketing tactic to recruit young and impressionable youth to be their foot-soldiers, so that they themselves aren’t at risk. Pitiful.
Benny Shanon, an Israeli professor of cognitive psychology says that the biblical Moses was on psychedelic drugs when he heard God deliver the Ten Commandments. “Such mind-altering substances formed an integral part of the religious rites of Israelites in biblical times,” Shanon says. His research was recently published in the Time and Mind journal of philosophy.
“As far Moses on Mount Sinai is concerned, it was either a supernatural cosmic event, which I don’t believe, or a legend, which I don’t believe either, or finally, and this is very probable, an event that joined Moses and the people of Israel under the effect of narcotics,” Shanon told Israeli public radio on Tuesday. He also suggests that Moses was also on drugs when he saw the “burning bush”.
He said concoctions based on bark of the acacia tree that is frequently mentioned in the Bible would cause very similar psychedelic effects.
Scottish philosopher David Hume did quite a bit of thinking about these kinds of religious miracles a few centuries ago. He concluded that miracles (including prophesy) are the only possible support that would conceivable allow for theistic religion, as the world’s existence alone is not sufficient proof of a higher being.
Hume doesn’t discount the possibility for miracles to occur and be reported, he offers various arguments against them, mostly rooted in human nature:
- People often lie, and they have good reasons to lie about miracles occurring either because they believe they are doing so for the benefit of their religion or because of the fame that results.
- People by nature enjoy relating miracles they have heard without caring for their veracity and thus miracles are easily transmitted even where false.
- Hume noted that miracles seem to occur mostly in “ignorant” and “barbarous” nations and times, and the reason they don’t occur in the “civilized” societies is such societies aren’t awed by what they know to be natural events.
Perhaps Hume has come up with some good reasoning about why we should question these religious miracles, he doesn’t go as far as disproving them individually. Do you believe in miracles, or is every improbability explainable in the end?
“William Huskisson was a former MP from Liverpool, where docks were brimming with industrial goods. There, he saw first hand the benefits of free trade and lower duties. [...] Huskisson also pushed hard for the building of railways to lower transportation costs and helped cut the red tape to create the Liverpool-Manchester line. There is a strange twist to his story. On Sept 15, 1830 at the opening ceremonies for the line, he hitched a ride in the locomotive Northumbrian, which was a larger, improved version of George Stephenson’s Rocket train. When it stopped, he got off and crossed the tracks to chat with the Duke of Wellington, a national hero for his final defeat of Napoleon. Despite shouts to Huskisson to get out of the way, the Rocket train ran him over, mangling his leg. The train’s inventor loaded Huskisson into the Rocket and raced to get him medical help. When he died later in the day, Huskisson became one of the first railroad accident fatalities, literally run over by the industrialization he fought so hard for.”
From Andy Kessler’s How We Got Here, pg. 80.
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