Thursday, August 26, 2010

Islamophobia: FL Koran Burning Pastor

After just having seen Mississippi Burning and and not far from one of many trips I have taken to the southern United States, I can't help but think that the pastor in this clip says the word "Mossem" alot like other slurs like "nigra." This is really ugly, hideous stuff and it doesn't have anything to do with genuine concern for gays or women in the Muslim world. It's a movement of people anxious about a changing world and looking for someone to hate.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Red Dwarf Class Warfare

In the documentaries that accompany the DVDs for the classic British comedy Red Dwarf, it's said that Chris Barrie, who plays Arnold Rimmer, and Craig Charles, who plays Dave Lister, really did not get along. At all. At play there was likely the class tension that is strong in British life. I always wondered why the anger at each other was so intense in the first season of the show and that background explains it quite well.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Barrie and Charles, their not getting along actually made the dynamic more believable and the show even richer, dooming them to eight more seasons and possibly more with each other. Funny that, isn't it?

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A New Theory of Evolution: Animals and People Work Best When You Leave Them Alone

Darwin has been amended:

Sorry intelligent-design fans, your theory is still wrong: Scientists at the University of Bristol have published a study arguing that Charles Darwin may have been wrong to argue that competition between species is the driving force in evolution. Ph.D. student Sarda Sahney and colleagues argue that the availability of “living space” is more important than competition. They argue that big evolutionary changes take place when animals move into spaces that are empty of other living animals—for example, when birds evolved the ability to fly. Darwin’s theory held something quite different—“that intense competition for resources in overcrowded habitats is the major driving force of evolution,” as the BBC puts it. A professor from Yale raises a good objection: "And in general, what is the impetus to occupy new portions of ecological space if not to avoid competition with the species in the space already occupied?"

This is actually pretty profound if I read it correctly. It validates what I've been saying for a long time and what George Orwell manifested in The Road to Wagan Pier:

I worked out an anarchistic theory that all government is evil, that the punishment always does more harm than the crime and that people can be trusted to behave decently if only you will let them alone.

It also validates a whole different form of libertarianism - one best on individual sovereignty and not the sick social engineering philosophy of "survival of the fittest."

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What It Means To Be An American

Must watch material.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson Go At It

Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens debate Christianity:

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Hitchens speaks on cancer, suicide and God

This is fairly heavy, so fair warning to anyone who doesn't want to have death on their mind. It's pretty cool to see Anderson Cooper and him such a frank discussion on national television about such intense issues of the human state.

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Crazy Train

This video shows a pretty good glimpse into how pathologically insane and dumb the Republican Party has become. "Obama wants to open the borders to Mexico and turn this into a Muslim country." Lord, are those two statements supposed to somehow support one another?

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Scenes from a Protest

Nearly two weeks ago, there was a protest of pro-Mehserle demonstrators that didn't end up bloody, fortunately, but was pretty tense and emotional. I got alot of pictures of it that will probably never end up in publication. I'm going to post these in bursts so stay tuned.

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Desperation in Oakland?

Taken in the scenery aided Jack London Square area of Oakland:

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Anne Rice Quits Christianity

In a posting on her Facebook page, she said: "I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen."

Christianity is not really the problem for Miss Rice. Christianity, along with other faiths, tend towards a cemented view of the world that is more of a form of longing for cultural perpetuity than anything else. Expressions of oppressive religiosity are more reflective of that sort of societal expression than of the actual validity of a belief in God.

Take, for example, the hijab and the nijab in Islam. The Koran mandates that women dress "modestly" - a suggestion that means a forbiddance of running ramparts in a bathing suit but not a mandate to cover one's self so only the eyes can be seen. A friend of mine, Larry Bernard, who knows quite a bit about Islam, credits this with the receding of Islamic society since its golden age. "A people in decline need to be controlled," he said. It is no wonder then that it was when the American south was at its economic nadir that its race relations were the most extreme, or that, in the midst of extreme recession, we are seeing political activity that would never have normally made itself known.

Anne Rice doesn't really have a problem with God, she has a problem with what God is used for. I am not a believer, but if she is able to formulate what God is for herself, she may find she doesn't have to leave her faith at all.

If not, secular humanism and free-thinking is booming in response to the religious fundamentalism that has usurped much of the world. Rice has quite a community of non-believers if she cares to join.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Complete History Of The Soviet Union, Arranged To The Melody Of Tetris

This is brilliant.

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Hatewatch: Burn a Koran Day

With all the comparison of President Obama to Hitler by Tea Partiers, it appears that the Gestapo analogies are largely misplaced here. It really is amazing how badly religious sects treat one another:
On July 22, Hatewatch reported the announcement of a provocative spectacle
planned for Sept. 11 by Dove World Outreach Center, a twisted little ministry
based in Gainesville, Fla. Just about everything you need to know about the
event is contained in its title, “Burn a Koran Day”; everything else, including
the back story to Dove World, can be found here.

At the time of our original post, the event’s Facebook page had several
hundred fans. Now, nearly two weeks later, the page has more than 3,000 and is
growing. Many of these — largely drawn from the United States and Poland — have
added more than 2,000 images of graphic violence (committed both by and against
Muslims) as well as crudely designed anti-Arab and anti-Muslim Photoshop jobs
(including multiple versions of posters urging the nuking of Mecca).

What's really quite amazing is that this wasn't occurring during the Bush years. I mentioned on this blog before what Dan Carlin told me about bad economic times providing "the opportunity for things to flourish that would otherwise not have a chance to arise." That is definitely what is occurring here. We're in an America where political candidates are running on keeping their states ethnically pure and churches are organizing book burnings.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

In Afghanistan and US, Schools in Crisis

On one end of the world, in Afghanistan, women are faced with the closing of schools due to an increasingly destabilizing and regressing situation:

MAHMUD-I-RAQI, Afghanistan — Women's precarious rights in Afghanistan have begun seeping away. Girls' schools are closing; working women are threatened; advocates are attacked; and terrified families are increasingly confining their daughters to home.

For women, instability, as much as the Taliban, is the enemy. Women are casualties of the fighting, not only in the conservative and embattled Pashtun south and east but also in districts in the north and center of the country where other armed groups have sprung up.

On the other side of the world, in California, students at the California State University and University of California systems are faced with furloughs leading to the week-long absence or firing of professors, shortening of classes and a virtual rationing of education as the state is strained with the spreading of limited resources. California's deficit is $19 billion, while the California State University faces a $584 million budget deficit.

With $59 billion being spent in an emergency bill on Afghanistan, it's not hard to imagine that money going to closing the budget hole in California. The regression of Afghan women is not something we want to be ambivalent towards. I have Muslim female friends who have managed to come to the United States and grab the opportunity of education, but this is certainly a gift that a minority attain. Both American and Afghan students are equal citizens of the world with equal dreams, yet the advancement of both almost seems at odds with one another. I obviously don't have the solution to this conundrum. Does anyone? Do you?

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Review: Christopher Hitchens - Hitch 22

By Michael O. Powell

Just as he has released his memoirs, “Hitch 22” tells the story of a truly remarkable man of letters, Christopher Hitchens. On June 30, he revealed through a blog at the magazine Vanity Fair’s Web site that he had been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

The cause of his cancer is not hard to pinpoint—Hitchens was known for his boozing and smoking. He is seen lighting up on the cover of his slim classic “Letters to a Young Contrarian,” and during the myriad debates he gave during the 2000s, he was known to pull out a flask and imbide some liquid inspiration on himself. In an on air debate with Ronald Reagan’s son Ron in 2006, he inebriated self with disheveled hair, an unkempt beard and an air of fatigue were present. Despite his hangover, Hitch still managed to savage the younger Reagan in debate.

Esophageal cancer has a survival rate of 5%, which usually applies to those that last for more than five years. The air of finality that such a stark notice of death gave Hitchens’ memoirs all the more powerful.

Death is not a topic that is avoided in “Hitch 22.” The first chapter, “Yvonne,” goes in full throttle: exploring the suicide of his beloved mother by pact with a creepy, metaphysical guru that Hitchens barely knew.

As he refers to his mother as his “dear Yvonne” and ruminates about what could have been going through her mind when she decided to end it all. His mother actually attempted to call him five times before ending it, a discovery found by the investigation into her death that has haunted Hitchens for years.

“Fragments from an Education” is a chapter that explores several elements of Hitchens’ childhood that seemed to shape him to be the international intellectual superstar. The regular saga of boyhood bullying and sadistic Pink Floyd-esque teachers is met with a surprising but refreshing adventure into homosexual experimentation and ruminations on the sexual heat of one’s pubescent years.

Given his support (with reservation) of the war on terrorism, there is a guarantee that many conservatives will be reading this book. For the truly socially libertine, this knowledge should provide a perverse sort of joy, knowing that somewhere a Mike Huckabee supporter is reading lines such as “Richard Llewellyn handled this transition with very slightly too much quasi-poetic euphemism, his crucial error being (to my fevered imagining) the idea that the inflamed heat of young manhood could be assuaged only by the relative ‘coolness’ of a feminine interior.”

The sexual shock and awe continues unabated in the chapter “Cambridge,” with the best bit actually arriving in the form of a footnote. Hitchens makes few bones about his low opinion of Christian evangelicals of the Anglo-American variety (though we can assume he is not a fan of evangelicals of any other variety), as he articulates, “whenever I hear some bigmouth in Washington or the Christian heartland banging on about the evils of sodomy or whatever, I mentally enter his name in my notebook and contentedly set my watch. Sooner rather than later, he will be discovered down on his weary and well-worn old knees in some dreary motel or latrine, with an expired Visa card, having tried to pay well over the odds to be peed upon by some Apache transvestite.”

Reflecting much more Roald Dahl than Noam Chomsky, in Hitch 22 the author explores an artistic form of writing that he has previously hinted at but had not engaged in fully.

Hitch 22 is liberating in this context, as it allows the writer to engage in prose that is perfectly appropriate when talking about early homosexual love affairs, but would be strange and intimidating when speaking of Bush administration nuclear policy toward India.

Having taught at UC Berkeley and being a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution for the last few years, Bay Area residents should find much to relate to in Hitchens’ memoir. In 2007, when the scandals of sexual abuse and gang beatings shut down Oakland’s Your Black Muslim Bakery, Hitchens wrote feverishly on the issue, bringing a secular approach that was far more sensible than the rabid tactics of the likes of conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. Hitchens has written admirably of Palo Alto’s Japanese community festivals and the legacy of internment in the Western United States. There are anecdotes about leftist Jessica Mitford and the Oakland branch of McCarthy-era Communists and charitable events held by the Black Panthers throughout the book, as well as exhortations on Haight-Ashbury, “Berserkely” and the flower-power era.

Whatever your politics, be it bleeding heart or reactionary, there’s certain to be something here that will wake you up from a philosophical slumber. If, as so many now ruminate, Hitch’s days on this earth are numbered, we can be satisfied that he gave us one final tome of personal exploration before he bids us ado.

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