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February 27, 2017

Triumph of Capitalism

... One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous. From a standing start 240 years ago – a span of time less than triple my days on earth – Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.

You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked. Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it – they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion.

It’s true, of course, that American owners of homes, autos and other assets have often borrowed heavily to finance their purchases. If an owner defaults, however, his or her asset does not disappear or lose its usefulness. Rather, ownership customarily passes to an American lending institution that then disposes of it to an American buyer. Our nation’s wealth remains intact. As Gertrude Stein put it, “Money is always there, but the pockets change.”

Above all, it’s our market system – an economic traffic cop ably directing capital, brains and labor – that has created America’s abundance. This system has also been the primary factor in allocating rewards. Governmental redirection, through federal, state and local taxation, has in addition determined the distribution of a significant portion of the bounty

America has, for example, decided that those citizens in their productive years should help both the old and the young. Such forms of aid – sometimes enshrined as “entitlements” – are generally thought of as applying to the aged. But don’t forget that four million American babies are born each year with an entitlement to a public education. That societal commitment, largely financed at the local level, costs about $150,000 per baby. The annual cost totals more than $600 billion, which is about 31⁄2% of GDP.

However our wealth may be divided, the mind-boggling amounts you see around you belong almost exclusively to Americans. Foreigners, of course, own or have claims on a modest portion of our wealth. Those holdings, however, are of little importance to our national balance sheet: Our citizens own assets abroad that are roughly comparable in value.

Early Americans, we should emphasize, were neither smarter nor more hard working than those people who toiled century after century before them. But those venturesome pioneers crafted a system that unleashed human potential, and their successors built upon it.

This economic creation will deliver increasing wealth to our progeny far into the future. Yes, the build-up of wealth will be interrupted for short periods from time to time. It will not, however, be stopped. I’ll repeat what I’ve both said in the past and expect to say in future years: Babies born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.

America’s economic achievements have led to staggering profits for stockholders. During the 20th century the Dow-Jones Industrials advanced from 66 to 11,497, a 17,320% capital gain that was materially boosted by steadily increasing dividends. The trend continues: By year end 2016, the index had advanced a further 72%, to 19,763.

American business – and consequently a basket of stocks – is virtually certain to be worth far more in the years ahead. Innovation, productivity gains, entrepreneurial spirit and an abundance of capital will see to that. Ever-present naysayers may prosper by marketing their gloomy forecasts. But heaven help them if they act on the nonsense they peddle.

Many companies, of course, will fall behind, and some will fail. Winnowing of that sort is a product of market dynamism. Moreover, the years ahead will occasionally deliver major market declines – even panics – that will affect virtually all stocks. No one can tell you when these traumas will occur – not me, not Charlie, not economists, not the media. Meg McConnell of the New York Fed aptly described the reality of panics: “We spend a lot of time looking for systemic risk; in truth, however, it tends to find us.”

During such scary periods, you should never forget two things: First, widespread fear is your friend as an investor, because it serves up bargain purchases. Second, personal fear is your enemy. It will also be unwarranted. Investors who avoid high and unnecessary costs and simply sit for an extended period with a collection of large, conservatively-financed American businesses will almost certainly do well.

Warren Buffet, Annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders 2016
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

February 10, 2016

Still Cruzing in New Hampshire!

New Hampshire, according a recent Gallup Poll, is the least religious state in the US of A:
Based on the percentage of those describing themselves as very religious, 20 percent in New Hampshire said they were, slightly lower than the 22 percent who described themselves as such in Vermont, the home state of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Ted Cruz managed to finish third, behind Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and picked up 2 delegates in the Republican Primaries, as did Jeb Bush. Mark Rubio didn't get any delegate. The performance of the two most evangelical Christians on the slate just about confirm th results of the Gallup Poll, doesn't it?
A resounding "Hurrah" for these Yazidi women who are former slaves ISIS. About 600 of the survivors of unimaginable cruelty have decided to form a military battalion to take on these fellows. They are being trained by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. I am looking forward to the release of the video of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's capture and the aftermath. 

A Saudi man dressed as a woman mascot for a bakery in Riyadh has been detained by Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. Apparently the cross-dressed man exposed too much of her skin and hair! For a moment I thought that they had detained a wo-mannequin. Even the Saudi religious police wouldn't descend to that level of idiocy, would they? Wait... that's exactly what happened in Iran, presumably more progressive than conservative Saudi Arabia, according to the BBC.

I reject identity politics of every kind, but this is a must see:
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

February 9, 2016

Intolerance in California ... for Deception!

Amy Everitt, State Director of NARAL Pro-Choice California has issued this press statement on the denial of preliminary injunction blocking implementation of the Reproductive FACT Act, AB 775:
Anti-choice groups have tried four times to block implementation of the law, and four times they have failed. They are trampling on the will of California voters by attacking the Reproductive FACT Act. California women deserve to get accurate information about reproductive health options free of interference, coercion or shame. It tells you all you need to know about Alliance Defending Freedom’s anti-choice agenda that they are suing to keep basic healthcare information from women. The pro-choice voters of California will not be intimidated, and we look forward to fighting the four egregious lawsuits filed to stop this victory for reproductive freedom.
AB 775 is the country’s first statewide law cracking down on the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). Here's the full text of the Act for those who are interested:…/billNavClient.xhtml…
Whoa! From 5 to 270 in 3 years! That's how fast "atheists in foxholes" are growing. Well, potentially in foxholes. In any case, I am with Kurt Vonnegut on this:
People say there are no atheists in foxholes. A lot of people think this is a good argument against atheism. Personally, I think it's a much better argument against foxholes. ― Kurt Vonnegut
Phoenix City Council had recently decided not to begin its meetings with a prayer, after an application from the local Satanic Temple to lead one. It was a victory for those of advocating separation of state from religion. This essay from Noa Feldman in Bloomberg View puts that decision in perspective. As Mr. Feldman has noted in the title of the essay, James Madison would have approved. Here is an excerpt from Madison's letter to Edward Livingston:
Notwithstanding the general progress made within the two last centuries in favour of this branch of liberty [blogger. religious liberty], & the full establishment of it, in some parts of our Country, there remains in others a strong bias towards the old error, that without some sort of alliance or coalition between Govt. & Religion neither can be duly supported. Such indeed is the tendency to such a coalition, and such its corrupting influence on both the parties, that the danger cannot be too carefully guarded agst.
Thanks to my friend Ravi Ravinder for the pointer to the Madison quote.

Results from a recent Pew Research Survey shows a divide between the Republicans and the Democrats in plain speak about Islam. 70% of conservative Republicans wouldn't hesitate to criticize Islamic extremists, even if it is construed to be a criticism of the religion of Islam as a whole. Only 13% of liberal Democrats will do that.

I am not surprised byt these results. The coyness of the Democrats and the Left leaning liberals around the world in criticizing the religion of Islam is common knowledge. Their irrational - almost delusional - denial of Islam being different from other religions (that feature similar, some worse, teachings) in that it has teeth. Its draconian rules of conduct are the laws of the land in much of the so-called Muslim world.

I cannot fathom how the left, that rarely loses an opportunity to denounces the Christian right wing for its clamor for homophobic and anti-choice laws, could bury its head in the sand, and ignore the cruel and unusual punishments for blasphemy and adultery under Islamic law!
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Morality, Free Speech, and Cologne Attacks

Michael Shermer (Author, "Skeptic") joins Dave Rubin to discuss morality, politics, free speech, the Cologne attacks, and more. Watch the full interview about skepticism, morality, conspiracy theories, and politics: ***Subscribe:
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

February 8, 2016

Laws written by men to protect women ...

Laws written by men to protect women deserve scrutiny, Supreme Court told - the Washington Post. An interesting discussion about the motives behind a Texas law that imposes restrictions on abortion providers in the state, ostentatiously to protect women's health. The Texas line of defence actually dates back to 1908, when lawyer by the name, Louis D. Brandeis, who later became the first Jewish judge in the SCOTUS, filed an amicus brief defending a then law restricting a woman's working hours outside of her home :
Brandeis’s 1908 brief was filed in Muller v. Oregon , defending that state’s law limiting the daily hours of women working in factories and laundries (but not those of males). Brandeis argued that it was constitutional for the state to recognize the differences between the sexes.
According to one source quoted in his brief, for women, “free time is no resting time, as it is for a man.” A “working girl” should be “learning to keep house if her future household is not to be a disorderly failure.”

It has taken 108 years and numerous Brandeis briefs for us to recognize that laws that seemingly work in favor of women are actually designed to delegate women to a subordinate status in the society (I am paraphrasing J. Ginsberg). More often than not the institution that puts stumbling blocks in the way of women's equality is ... you guessed it, religion! Read the amicus brief filed by the Priests for Life and learn.

Even election predictions are now Chinese made, and how! Who will win the Democratic nomination? Hillar Clinton. Why? She "is the best on the face . . . Sharp eyes, OK . . . long face, high nose, flexible lips"! Sorry, Uncle Bernie.

A meteorite may have killed someone in Tamil Nadu, India, for the first time since 1825, reports the Washington Post.
"A meteorite fell within the college premises," said Jayalalithaa. The victim, V. Kamaraj, "sustained serious injuries and died while on the way to the hospital," she said. Her government paid his family $1,471 in compensation.

I don't understand how a politician - in this case, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa - could confirm that it was a meteorite when astrophysicists are yet to visit the site and gather evidence. Could the anticipated "meteoric" rise of Tamil Nadu in global media have anything to do with it, I wonder .

The Zika virus has taken on religious fanatics and their political leaders opposed to abortion. The battle is taking a heavy toll across the "Catholic world" and beyond. Among the victims are infants born with a terrible neurological condition called microcephaly, infants upon whom religion had conferred personhood without their asking, when they were just a single cell, sometimes even before that cell could be made.
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, has appealed to Pope Francis to use the visit next week to reverse this injustice by lifting the church’s ban on birth control, which has always been motivated by politics rather than theology.
A baby with microcephaly (left) compared
to a baby with a typical head size
Historically, science has served humans to harness nature t overcome nature. Except when it's about a woman's life and liberty. Religion steps in between science and woman and denies her the benefits of discoveries and innovations, ostentatiously in the interest of the human species. In reality it is to keep women subordinated to men. That's what the Texas law referred to earlier does. 

I agree that the best chance of lifting the Catholic ban on contraception and abortion lays with Pope Francis, but I doubt that he is above politics.

Talking of pope and politics, here's something that strengthens my misgiving about Francis
A clerical sexual abuse survivor who has been bitterly critical of the response from the Vatican and Pope Francis to several high-profile recent controversies involving abuse scandals has been asked to take a “leave of absence” by other members of the panel.
I rest my case against Pope Francis.

Small mercies from the Kingdom of Allah.
Ashraf Fayadh ... the Palestinian poet who was sentenced to death last year in Saudi Arabia for ‘doubting the existence of God’, has had his sentence commuted to eight years in prison and 800 lashes. 
I think Ashraf will take whatever comes by his way as a reprieve. Losing your head to the sword of Islam is far worse.
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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

February 7, 2016

Singh v. Rama

Some years ago, a Nebraska Senator, Ernie Chambers, sued his Christian god, accusing that the "Defendant directly and proximately has caused, inter alia, fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like", among other grave charges. I blogged on it then here:

Now, it is an Indian lawyer's turn. Chandan Kumar Singh of Bihar has sued his Hindu god, Rama, for mistreating his wife Sita. I quote, "It's well known that Ram asked Sita to prove that she was pure after he rescued her from the clutches of the demon king Ravana. He did not trust Sita," Mr Singh told the BBC.
I think Mr.Singh has a valid case of domestic violence. Section 498 A of the IPC reads,

Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty–Whoever, being the husband or the relative of the husband of a woman, subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine. Explanation. For the purpose of this section, “cruelty” means (a) any willful conduct which is of such a nature as is likely to drive the woman to commit suicide or to cause grave injury or danger to life, limb or health (whether mental or physical) of woman ...

Driving Sita to jump into a fire to prove her faithfulness to Rama, IMO, is a rarest of rare case of spousal abuse, and frankly, 3 years of imprisonment is little more than a slap on Rama's wrist. The court's dismissal of the case is preposterous, to put it mildly. Paraphrasing Chambers, Rama is after all omnipresent and omniscient, and it should be easy for the court to summon him, and failing to appear, he should be held in contempt..

As an aside, I have always wondered about the fidelity of Rama to Sita. After all, Sita was confined in the open under a tree, and her abductor, Ravana, was constrained by a curse that'd incinerate him if he were to take any woman by force. Rama, on the other hand, had no such constraints. He was free for a whole year to seize opportunities that surely must have come his way. Why didn't Sita ask him to jump into the fire to prove his "purity"?

Double standards in Ram Rajya?
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February 5, 2016

We are the nones

We are the nones.
We have no religion or dogma, by which we mean that the ideas that we hold as true are dictated by facts and reason. Not by culture, tradition, or presumed revelation to long dead men by presumed, invisible beings. None of our ideas and viewpoints is above challenge. We are open to criticism, correction, and progression, not by command but by logic and evidence.
We are committed to the separation of religion from the state so as to ensure our liberty and promote reason in law and public policy.
We assert absolute freedom of expression as the most fundamental of human rights. Without freedom of expression, there can be no civilization, and we will still be living in caves, scavenging for food.
We are from every corner of this world, and our only identity of relevance is the Facebook user identity. A name may sound Indian, but you may be surprised to find out that the person behind that name is a beef eating Norwegian from Finmark, a diehard fan of Akira Kurosawa, and loves Amharic music. We are men, women, lesbians, gays, transgender, and celibates, too. We are of every economic and political hue that you can imagine - capitalist, socialist, conservative, liberal, and everything in between. It would be futile to put us in pigeon holes and deduce our likes and dislikes from the labels on those holes.
People deserve respect, not ideas. We will not silently suffer bad ideas, especially those that manifest in laws and state policies. Bad ideas belong in the ash heap of history, not in legislatures and courts of law. Be forewarned that our speech could be offensive to the ideas that you may hold in reverence. You have the right to walk away from this page, holding your ears, eyes, and nose shut, but we refuse to be bullied by your hurt sentiments into backing off.
A word of caution here. This forum is not a place for indulging in identity politics. We reject stereotyping of any kind. Our shared ideals of liberty and one law for all have no hemispherical identity, however vaguely the hemispheres are defined. Those are universal ideals, not Western or Eastern. The right to choose to terminate pregnancy is the right of all women from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Forced child marriage is an affront to an Indonesian's mind as much as it is to a Canadian’s mind, indeed to every thinking mind.
Rejecting fictitious identities implies that we disapprove of uncivil and vicious ad hominem attacks. Feel free to denounce an idea in the strongest of terms, but the idea, not the person behind the idea.
Join us on Facebook if you like what you have just read.

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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

December 20, 2015

The Force Awakens ...

... in a Toyota Chaser! The Onion’s movie critic Peter K. Rosenthal reviews ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in this week’s Film Standard [via]

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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

November 29, 2015

Child Abuse

Nobody talks too loud in my hometown
Nobody stands too tall for fear of getting knocked down
Just follow straight lines and teach your children how
Well, you just do your job, and conceal your doubts
The flames of hell seem so high
When I can barely see over the pew
I was just a boy when they told me that lie
But Lord, it felt so true…
And that’s a hell of a thing to do to a kid
Just to teach him right from wrong
You can burn in hell the rest of your days or you can learn to sing along…
- Robert Ellis. "Sing Along" from the album, The Lights From The Chemical Plant
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minority opinion
by me, minority of one

November 17, 2015

Radical Nazis

Sebastian J. Bae writes in the Foreign Policy:
So, I see the same war of 2001 unfolding in 2015, feeding off the latest flurry of righteous anger and the impulse to strike back. But how many more ill-conceived, half-baked interventions must we wage before we learn that waging war is easy – building peace is a decade long process. And if we are not prepared to build meaningful peace, we should be wary to wage war in its name. For the price will be steep, as it’s always been.
I couldn't agree more.

Imagine a Europe ruled by Nazis, with a particularly virulent offshoot in Germany. Imagine - it's not that hard - that the Radical Nazis in Germany are systematically practicing an Apartheid regime against Africans, Hindus, Jews, Romanos, and anyone else who looked different from "native" Germans. Even a murmur against the discriminatory laws is severely punished. Defection would invite certain death penalty. The Radical Nazis, covertly and ruthlessly, carry out these sentences in other countries, as well.

The rest of the Nazi Republics routinely condemn the Radical Nazis for being extremist. Even though they are also one party ruled states as Germany is, they claim to have less discriminatory laws and policies within their own borders. For example, Jewish children would be admitted into elementary and middle schools, but no higher. Punishment for defying the laws are less severe. With a wink here and a nod there, however, they would covertly provide all possible assistance to Germany to promote their "brand of Nazism" around the world.

Tiring of the cover actions, the rest of the world decides to deploy boots on the ground, in the air, and on the sea, against Germany, and bring about a regime change. The new regime would look more like the rest of the Nazi regimes, they promised, and would not engage in any covert action in other countries to promote Nazism .

The rest of the world declares victory after killing the supreme leader of the Radical Nazis of Germany, and many others in his coterie. They are not at war with Nazism, they assert, and piously affirm that the Radical Nazis do not represent true Nazism, which cherishes the same values as they do. To show their appreciation of true Nazism, they elect one of the Nazi countries to be the head of the All Nations Human Rights Organization. Then, they go to sleep.

Only to be awakened by ...
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November 16, 2015

Still A Dead Man's Society

Within hours after the Paris terror attack, ISIS issued a statement claiming responsibility for it. I quote from the statement:

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Beneficent
"Allah (ta'ala) said, {They thought that their fortresses would protect them from Allah but Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers. So take warning, O people of vision} [Al-Hashr:2].

It is claimed that ISIS doesn't represent Islam, and that no religion would condone the murder of the innocent. May be. May be ISIS was misquoting Quran to justify the terror that they struck into the hearts of a thousand or more gathered in Bataclan theater in Paris. I must say, however, in these days of the internet, it's difficult to effectively obfuscate the truth. Why, the quote, almost verbatim, could be found in this copy of the Quran, translated by Saheeh International, Jeddah, and catalogued by King Fahd National Library!

Perhaps, it has been taken out of context. It might have been applicable when Muhammad lived and fought 1400 years ago, but not now, not in Paris, 2015? If so, could we pick and choose from the Quran, only those verses that are relevant now and apply them to law? Should women be compelled to dress like they were compelled to at the time of Muhammad, under penalty of 100 lashes or more? Is one god is more believable than many gods, so the polytheists deserve to be killed? Is worshiping a phallus shaped block of stone idolatry and blasphemy deserving of death penalty, but worshiping a rectangular block of stone in the middle of the desert is worthy of your life savings?

I have explored some of these questions in a post, not 1400 years ago, but only nine. The context hasn't changed much in all these years, so here are the results of my exploration, still applicable, with only minor edits.

Gods don't die, but men do!

Let's get these immortal gods out of the way first. IzanagiRa, and Thor were never alive, so they cannot die. The god delusion, not the book but the phenomenon, is caused by a figment of imagination. Creative at times, but banal mostly. We can debate what is creative and what is banal until the cows come home, but why bother?

Allah cannot create, protect, or destroy, any more than YhwhVishnu, or for that matter, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Sorry, Pastafarians, I must include Its Noodly Holiness, lest I should be accused of bigotry! Nor can any "literally senseless" god cause revelation, enlightenment, or ten commandments to be etched on a couple of stone tablets. These gods that were created in the man's image are only as omnipotent and omnipresent as an orbiting teacup, unicorn, or little green elf.

Once the gods have been dismissed into oblivion, what do we have left of religion? Scriptures that are words of men — and perhaps a woman or two — spoken and written. Of course, I have not read them all. In fact, what I have read completely is limited to a few translations of Hindu scriptures. But, come on, how many pulp fiction books do you need to read, before you can predict what the next one is about from its cover?

Most religious books are stories of everyday life, with some ideas thrown in to explain the puzzles that needed to be solved. Rarely, the stories are profound or the ideas brilliant. A few more are novel and interesting, but what is novel is not interesting and what is interesting is not novel, as they say in my erstwhile trade. The rest, of course, make as much sense as the soap operas. Here are a couple of verses from the Rig Veda — the first, I think, is thoughtful, and the second, mere tripe:
Book 10 Hymn 129 Verse

6 Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The Gods are later than this world's production. Who knows then whence it first came into being?

7 He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.

Book 10 Hymn 86 Verse

8 Dame [Indrani, wife of Indra] with the lovely hands and arms, with broad hair-plaits and ample hips, Why, O thou Hero's wife, art thou angry with our Vrsakapi [a pet monkey]? Supreme is Indra over all.

9 This noxious creature looks on me as one bereft of hero's love, Yet Heroes for my sons have I, the Maruts' Friend and Indra's Queen. Supreme is Indra over all.
On balance, if we were unaware of the stories and ideas in the religious books, we would not have missed more than what we would have from missing all the 15068 (as of 2006) episodes of "Guiding Light". And, subjected to the strict criteria of peer review for scholarly publications, few, if any, of these collections would see the light of the day.

Apart from the stories and ideas of dubious worth, scriptures of major religions also lay down standards of conduct. These edicts were essentially codified mechanisms for the resolution of social conflicts that might have arisen or were likely to arise, in the space and time when they were spoken or written. Like modern laws, they were social contracts that reflected the prevailing political economy and levels of knowledge, designed to prevent conflicts from escalating in depth and scope.

Not all of these were particularly clever, just, or equitable. Many will be considered abhorrent today:
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. [Bible, Leviticus 20:13]

They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper. [Koran, The Women 4.89]

With whatever limb a man of a low caste does hurt to (a man of the three) highest (castes), even that limb shall be cut off; that is the teaching of Manu. He who raises his hand or a stick, shall have his hand cut off; he who in anger kicks with his foot, shall have his foot cut off. [Laws of Manu, Ch.8 279-280]
Such standards of conduct must be enduring, in the interest of the stability of now antiquated societal organizations. Hence the society's collateral investment in assets and skills to ensure adherence to the standards. Examples are the elaborate and expensive buildings to house the gods — the underwriters of the covenants, and the training and skills imparted to the masons and sculptors. The dynamics here must have been quite similar to the evolution of default standards such as the QWERTY key board or the Microsoft Windows.

Books of religions are compendiums of words spoken or written by dead men. Christ, Manu, and Muhammad are dead men. They might have walked this earth hundreds or thousands of years ago, but now they are dead. Their flesh, bones, and hair are irreversibly reduced to the atoms of carbon and the molecules of methane that move through space. Just as those of the billions of sequoias, dinosaurs, and earthworms that died before and after these men. Whatever might be the claims to the contrary, their words and edicts have no more sanctity than President Bush's claim that he has been "called to seek higher office", or that the United States was "called to bring God's gift of liberty to every human being in the world."

Today, a society that continues to insist on being organized around such edicts would be labeled as primitive or uncivilized, and rightly so. Only the boneheaded would think that such standards of conduct have eternal validity, and therefore, should be defended at any cost. In the interest of civilization and progress, they must yield to new ideas for conflict resolution based on reasoning that reflects the state of the art in the sciences of human nature.

Richard Dawkins has argued that religion is the root of many of society's evils. Much of these arise from the individual's misplaced faith in the irrational ideas and commands of ordinary men, long dead and gone. What is it in this that is so hard for intelligent men and women to understand? Why do they insist on sacrificing the living in the altar of the dead?

The title is a rephrasing of the title of the movie, Dead Poets Society, directed by Peter Weir
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Still Sleepwalking Toward Armageddon: Sam Harris

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by me, minority of one

Revelation - Not

How do you dissuade a billion or more people from believing that a book written by a dead man, who might have lived 1400 years ago, is neither a revelation nor infallible?
By bombing the hell out of a few thugs who are holed out in a desert here, only to spring up on a mountain there, calling themselves every year and in every place by a new and different name that few understand even the meaning of?
By destroying alongside, homes, hospitals, and schools, that house thousands of fathers, mothers, and children who, in their hearts and minds, just want a life for themselves that you and I want?
Repeating ad nauseum that the book is indeed a revelation and infallible, while reinforcing the misplaced belief that the thugs and the rest of the billion share?

Really? Is that the best that the combined brains of the so-called leaders of the developed world can come up with?
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sinday levitycus
irreverant humor for the day of rest

November 15, 2015


Suppose a political party's manifesto:

  1. prohibits you from ever defecting from the party, or risk being tried for treason
  2. imprisons you for life if you challenged the supreme leader of the party
  3. forces you to stay at home and tend to your husband and children, once you reached puberty
  4. compels you to study the books written by supreme leader for 12 years
  5. prohibits you from marrying anyone other than a party member 
  6. prohibits you from having sex without the permission of the party officials under penalty of death
  7. commands you to kill anyone who insults the supreme leader
  8. permits you to marry none other than the supreme leader, if you were widowed
  9. permits the party officials to take your children as slaves for life
  10. permits the party officials to chop your tongue off if you question their orders

Will you agree to become a member of that party, if you had a choice? Never, right?

Then, why would you, if the party were to assert that it's supreme leader's name is "God"?
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morning brew
waking up with is|ought

November 9, 2015

National Academy of Atheists

Herb Silverman writes in the Huffington Post that according to a recent Harris Survey, majority of Jews in the U.S. are atheists. I am mildly surprised. What I am not at all surprised about is that 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not believe in a god. I suppose most academics of any discipline would know Carl Sagan. Watch this tribute to him from Hashem AL-ghaili —

Now, tell me, do you really believe in this god thing?

At Captain Johnston Blakely Elementary, Karen Keller is discriminating against the boys in her Kindergarten class. Only girls are permitted to play with the 1907-piece LEGO blocks, and boys will have to wait their turn until what she perceives to be a behaviorally induced gender gap in spatial skills:
I had to do the ‘girls only Lego club’ to boost it more,” she explained. “Boys get ongoing practice and girls are shut out of those activities, which just kills me. Until girls get it into their system that building is cool, building is ‘what I want to do’ — I want to protect that.
What will happen when these girls go home, and their brothers hog every building set in sight, with at least covert encouragement from their parents? Will the teacher be able to make for five years of discrimination in one year? In any case, here's my best wishes for success in your experiment, Ms. Keller.

Ben Carson's "scientific beliefs" never cease to amaze me. His latest:
My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain,.. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs' graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don't think it'd just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.
QED! As a corollary, Carson dismisses help from aliens in building hermetically sealed chambers in the pyramids, "... you know, [building a pyramid] doesn't require an alien being when God is with you."

Discovery Institute and "Intelligent Design" theorists should take note: your funds may be in jeopardy, in case this guy becomes the President. Whether you are an alien or man-made, please, oh god, please, for just once, use all your alleged powers to forbid this guy from ever becoming the President!

It's scary enough when a practicing neurosurgeon asserts that Darwin had sold his "soul" to the devil. When college students demand that Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Ovid's Metamorphoses should carry trigger warnings, if given as reading assignment, it's downright a calamity. Writes Frank Furedi in Aeon:
The campaign for trigger warnings represents its cause as an attempt to protect the vulnerable and the powerless from any potentially traumatic and harmful effects of reading. Those who are opposed or indifferent to the call for these warnings are condemned as accomplices in the marginalising of the powerless.
How about a tough quiz in Calculus? Should it carry a trigger warning, too, as it could potentially marginalize the mathematically powerless?

Quotation of the day from Cafe Hayek
The day-to-day practice of politics consists largely of pushing the envelope to see how big a lie -- and how many of them -- one can get away with at the moment. In what other profession is blurting out the truth considered a gaffe? - Bob Higgs, on his Facebook page

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