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Total number of comments: 352 (since 2013-11-28 14:42:40)

robert

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  • Top 5 ways US treatment of African-Americans resembles Apartheid South Africa
    • While Manifest Destiny justified the taking of Indian and Mexican land in the American West, the Afrikanners' Great Trek was God's Will. The Chosen People were fair-skinned in both places.
      In the 19th Century, the Afrikanners were trying to get away from the anti-slavery British. The American parallel is the Southern secessionists.

    • At the center of the Afrikaners' national myth is a story victimhood. It's all about massacres of martyrs followed by righteous, neccessary massacres of the hethen.

  • Cairo Erupts as Mubarak, Adly Declared Innocent in Deaths of Protesters
    • The only instance of a democratically elected head of state being tried, convicted of human rights abuses in his own country was Fujimori. In Peru. May we live to see the day that General Sisi is locked up for the massacres he's responsible for. Fujimori was hugely popular, even when on trial. Nonetheless, justice caught up with him.

    • The first former head of state to be tried and convicted of genocide in a domestic court was Rios Montt in May 2013 in Guatemala. The conviction was latter overturned. The precedent has been set .

  • Is the Qur'an Really Violent? Not if you Read the whole Book!
    • The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu holy book, begins with the god-king Krishna explaining to prince Arjuna that his duty is to go into battle and kill his relatives. This 'violent book' was the favored holy book of Mohandas Gandhi, who's devotion to non-violence was unsurpassed.

  • Artificial Billionaires: Regimes' Crony Capitalism Stifling Middle East
    • We have this problem in the USA also. A lot of US companies get rich by having public money funneled to them. But, we are confused, and don't distinguish between state capitalism and free enterprise.

  • Reza Aslan, religion Ph.D. vs. Sam Harris
    • When scientists make assertions, we should first ask whether or not the claim they're making is a scientific conclusion. Science deals with material entities. Since it's selective, it cannot say whether its account of reality is complete. So, we should listen to what scientists say about the effects of global warming. But, when they talk about atheism, we know they're just stating their beliefs.

    • Reza Aslan has a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School. The aticle you link to says, "if Aslan's Ph.D. is the basis to scholarly credentials, he could plausibly claim to be an expert on social movements in 20th century Islam". How could his credentials possibly be more relevant to the topic at hand?!.

  • Ben Affleck on Bill Maher's Muslim Problem
    • If you were to say that Christian beliefs are harmful to gay people, you'd be doing a disservice to the numerous open and proud gay Christians who read the scripture differently than gay-bashers.
      Saying that Islam is the motherlode of bad ideas is on a par with telling someone you disagee with that there mind is malfunctiong. It's not an argument.

    • As you say, widely held ideas allow people with violent tendencies to justify their actions. The belief that Islam is the problem has led to killings of peaceful Muslims and Sikhs (who are often mistaken for Mslims).
      A 2006 poll by CNN found that 56% of Americans favor amending the Constitution to outlaw flag desecration. You can find other evidence that Americans are not real big on civil liberties. But, the ACLU doesn't go on hostle rants about flag-wavers.

    • Bill Maher and Sam Harris have a faulty approach to religion in general. And they are strongly pro-science. We hear a lot from atheist science guys on the one hand, and religious anti-science folks on the other. We don't hear enough from science-friendly people who are strongly religious. There is no reason for conflict between science and religion. But, a lot of 'modern' people mistakingly think that the fact that science tells us so much about the material.world implies that nothing can exist that is not a part of the material world. And a lot of religious people think they can deny what science tells us about the world.

  • The Yasukuni Shuffle: China and Japan duke it out via T.V. Serials on the Wrongs of WW II
    • Making patriotic films about the Chinese in WW2 requires a lot of fantasy. There were 2 Chinese armies, tht Nationalists and the Communists, who spent much of the time fighting each other. The Nationalists' idea was that China was too big to be conquered. No matter how many Chinese were killed, no matter how much land was taken, there was always much, much more. And, they figured the Americans would eventually defeat the Japanese for them. The Reds, for their part, were not entirely focused on defeating Japan, used only guerilla tactics, and did not make a big dent in the Japanese Empire.

  • Why Obama underestimated ISIL in Syria and Iraq
    • Sectarianism was not the reason for the protests against Assad, but it came into play not long after the fighting began. Juan Cole downplayed the role of sectatianism for quite a while. The strong position of ISIL in Syria was a suprise to Juan Cole as well as to Obama. He thought the revolution would remain in the hands of people committed to democracy. That"s what I recall of his writings at the time. His analysis is great. But there are always additional factors that can tilt things in an unexpected direction.

  • What Arab partners will get in return for strikes on Syria
    • Our allies are all monarchs or princes. It might be best to leave them alone. None of the kingdoms or emirates have been overwhelmed by the recent turmoil in the region. All of the countries that have been plagued by war discarded monarchy long ago. After the removal of Sadam, Mubarrak, and Gaddafi, and the ongoing rebellion against Assad, do you really want to wave the banner of freedom in the monarchies?

  • Must Muslim Americans Condemn ISIL? Must Turkish Jews Condemn Gaza War?
    • Wkipedia mentions the cork industry in Alburqurque in Spain. 'Ab al-Qurq' means 'land of the cork oak' in Arabic. Moors (Arab speakers) occupied the region for centuries. This may be the origon of Albuquerqe..

    • Muslims do not have a greater duty to condemn ISIL than anyone else. Likewise, people who leave the ME or North Africa are not duty-bound to support their nationality of origon. Exiles who find better lives elsewhere should feel free to not identify with were they came from.

  • Can you Pass the Hamas Quiz?
    • During the 2nd Intifada, Hamas carried out 39.9 % of the Palestinian suicide bombings. 887 (78%) of the 1,137 Israelis killed from 2000 to 2005 in Israel were civilians. I guess this makes them ideal candidates to be the founding fathers of a new state.

  • Obama's budding Cambodia Policy in Syria
    • There are parallels with the China-Burma-India theatre in WW2. General Chennault wanted bomb Japanese cities from China. General Stillwell had to constantly argue that the Japanese would respond by bombing the air bases in China, and there were no effective ground forces to protect those bases.
      Also, rhe Allies allied with Chiang-kai-shek, an extraordinarily corrupt, short-sighted dictator who had no interest in fighting the Japanese. And, the American people were falsely told that the Chinese Nationalists were fighting for democracy and winning victories. If we make a u-turn in Syria, our media may start fawning over Mrs. Assad the way they did over Madame Chiang.

  • Democracy, in India as elsewhere, is not a tyranny of the Majority
    • Popular nationalism has been confused with democracy ever since the rise of nationalism in the 19th century. But, nationalism has often worked against the idea of letting every tile in the mosaic sparkle.
      Look at the relationship between the autocratic, supranational Austro-Hungarian Empire and nationalism. Franz Joseph, the last of the Hapsburg dynasts, was strongly anti-nationalist. The Austrian army was made up of Germans, Magyars, Czechs, Poles, Croats, and other nationalities. A person of low birth could rise in the ranks. Britain with its' parliament had no such egalitarian institution. While other Powers were using nationalism to fuel a rush for territory in Africa, Austria stayed home.
      A big strain on the Hapsburgs was the nationalism of the Magyars in Hungary. They wanted independence so they could dominate the minorities in Hungary. They hated the Germans, but favored German dominance of the Austrian part of the empire in order to keep other nationalities down.
      But, the House of Hapsburg fell. Some of their subjects were later ruled by the German nationalist Hitler.
      Thus, while a democracy that can enforce minority rights may be ideal, a benign autocrat can be better than majoritarianism, or any system infected by exclusionary nationalism.

  • The New Jim Crow: Has the Right finally Repealed the Civil Rights Act?
    • Poor people usually don't have employers that pay them while doing jury duty, and they often need to excuse themselves from jury duty due to economic hardship. Low-income workers can't take off a couple of weeks to serve on a jury. My guess is that poor people are not well-represented in jury pools.

  • Party of Palin? Why Almost No Scientists Are Republican
    • It is appropriate for scientists to be involved in politics. But political issues involve values and morals, as well as scientific fact.
      Scientists can also get involved in philosophy and religion. But if they make assertions such as "science is the only way of knowing things" or "nothing exists beyond what science can grasp", they should make it clear that these are just their beliefs, that these
      opinions are not scientific facts.

  • Israel Bombs Gaza back to Stone Age: Razes only Power Plant & Plunges Strip into Darkness
    • Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are now more afraid of political Islam than they are concerned about Palestinians. They want Israel to destroy Hamas at all costs. Thus, Arab states are putting no pressure on Israel to stop this bombing.

  • Top 3 White Terrorist Attacks in America this Week
    • The anarchists of the late 19th century had a hatred of the capitalists and bourgeosie that matched their hatred of the state. Today's right-wing anarchists have set their sights solely on the state. The idea is that once the evil institutons are destroyed, utopia will naturally emerge. 19th century anarchist theorists and writers inspired many lone nuts to throw bombs and shoot people.

  • Egypt, Syria, Libya . . . . What is the Appeal of Phoney Elections in the Middle East?
    • Sham election may also be what the masses want. They don't want to admit what they secretly believe, which is that they should be ruled by aristocrats.
      In the 1890's, Lord Salisbury, an aristocrat with a big, fuzzy beard, passionately fought democratic reforms. As a youth, he wrote numerous articles explaing how democracy would damage Britain.
      But , democracy caught on. It's part of being modern. But, that could change over time. Military Coups seem to be in fashion.

  • Pope Francis to call for Sovereign, Independent Palestinian State from Bethlehem
    • Pope John Paul II had an audience with Arafat on Sep 15, 1982? Interesting. The following night the massacre of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila began. The Israelis allowed the killings, but it was carried out by Lebanese Maronite militiamen. The Maronite Church is in full communion with the Holy See of Rome. What was the reaction of the Vatican to these mass killings of Palestinians conducted by Catholics?

  • In Egypt, Industrial Scale Death Decrees
    • Everybody freaked out when Morsi tried to place himself beyond the reach of this judiciary. "Democracy is more than winning elections", his opponents said. I guess democracy is about having the right balance between a depraved military and a psychotic judiciary.

  • Netanyahu's Blood and Soil: The Racist-Nationalism of his "Jewish State" Ideal
    • 78 percent of Israelis are Jewish, and they like it like that. Jews are small minorities everywhere in the world except Israel. When American Jews visit Israel, they enjoy being in a place that's mostly Jewish. They feel a part of the solidarity that exists amongst Israeli Jews. They say, "we built this country and we'll fight for it.".
      Israeliness is alive and vibrant. Its value should not be judged entirely by crimes committed 66 years ago. That being said, Israelis need to end the occupation and find ways to express their nationalism that do not harm others.

  • From Raybans to Portrait Underwear: Sisi-Mania floods Egypt with Kitsch
    • There are similarities to the atmosphere in Egypt in the late fifties, after the Suez Crisis. Nasser was the superhero. Radio and schoolbooks reminded people how they were required to think. The villified enemies were Jews, French, and British. They had their assets nationalized and were expelled. The Sisi regime, however, has really outdone Nasser in terms of massacres, unjust incarcerations, and death sentences. This Sisi mania is a reminder of how vile people are.

  • Fox News asks Rand Paul if Reid is right to "call Americans" "Domestic Terrorists"
    • Bundy may be a domestic terrorist. Nonetheless, can we aknowledge that not all the people who have complained about the way government controls land have been rich white men? Consider the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles that was destroyed in order to build Dodger Stadium.

    • So, are the liberals now going to start screaming at the black people who illegally planted a garded on our defunt armory? That defunt armory belongs to us taxpayers and it's being managed for our benefit by the Goverment. The court has weighed in. Will the liberals be happy when the New Black Panthers are attacked and the garden is returned to the benevolent control of our beloved Agencies?

  • 5 Ways Nevada Rancher Militia Resembles Pakistan's Taliban
    • For the Keystone pipeline to be built, they'll have to use a lot of eminent domain (government taking of private property). If the pipline is stopped, it could be due more to the objections of property rights supporters than to the complaints of environmentalists. Anti-government feelings have caused headaches for the NSA. Now, the right needs to step up and oppose the use of eminent domain in those cases where the stolen property is to be given to a foreign corporation (like Transcanada).

  • Poof! John Kerry Blames Israeli Squatting in E. Jerusalem for breakdown in Peace Talks; Bennett: It's Just Zionism
    • If you have a problem with religious nationalism, consider the Hindu nationalism of India's BJP party, the Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar (who do violence to the Muslim Rohingya)...
      Religious nationalism is common.

  • Egypt Shocks the World with Plan for Mass Execution of 528 Muslim Brothers
    • On July 2 2013, The Daily Beast published a piece titled "The 28-Year-Old Face of Egypt Opposition" , which includes the sentence :
      One Tammarod organizer, Hazem el-Zohery, said in an interview that he would consider it a "success" if the Army intervened.

    • It was kind of obvious by the end of last June that the Tamarod youth were blackshirts. Isn't asking for military rule the essence of a fascist youth group?
      My guess is that coups that are very popular are more destructive than unpopular ones. When the military, the media, the youth, and the people (in the millions) are all singing the same tune, the results can be horrible.

  • Egypt: Military Rule, Arbitrary Jailing of Protesters, and... Public Silence
    • You only want to talk about it. Bassem Youseff just wants us to have a sense of humor about it. You want to find a middle ground. I don't see the point of being so apologetic about suggesting that maybe, perhaps, freedom of speach might, perhaps be something worth considering (with all due respect to the General). If you are willing to go to prison, than protest and oppose injustice. Otherwise, you might as well not talk about it.

  • As Putin recognizes Crimea, his other Client, Syria, Goes on the Offensive
    • I wonder why the Greeks were not at the "Friends of Syria" congress , since they are mostly Eastern Orthodox, and Russia's aim in Syria is partly to help Assad protect. Christians.
      Ukraine has more Eastern Orthodox than any country besides Russia, and they are divided about Russia. The Ukraine crisis may cause a split in the Russian Church.
      There are Eastern Orthodox all over the world, and I. don't think most of them favor Putin.

  • Israelis slam Kerry over "Jewish State" Remarks as Abbas Rejects Demand
    • Abbas is negotiating as if the Palestinians are in a position of strength, as if they have great leverage. But the Palestians have not prevented any of the land theft that has taken place in the past 20 years. Negotiations are about making concessions in order to get something. The main thing Palestinians should want is an end to the taking of their land. it might be a good idea to give up the right of return in exchange for an end to land theft.

  • Journalists should stop 'balancing' stories with Science Denialists: Cosmos's Neil DeGrasse Tyson
    • Yeah, science denialists should not be given credence. But wouldn't it be nice to have an intelligent discussion about the roles of science and religion? There are things that science cannot study adequately if at all, including values, meaning, and final causes. Science cannot tell us what we should give our lives to. Religion remains relevant because it treats enduring questions of value, meaning, and purpose. Science only knows about things that humans can measure. To be certain that there is nothing in the cosmos beyond what scientists can train their instruments on is anthropocentric and arrogant.

  • Will Russell Crowe as Noah help Egypt Separate Religion and State?
    • Yes, when liberals and fascists unite to overthrow a democratically elected President it can have lovely results. But, the coup-volution in Ukraine, alas, is a geo-political time bomb. Too bad the Ukraine government can't just lock up all their opponents.

  • False Dawn: The 35th Anniversary of Iranian Revolution
    • The translations are by Sholeh Wolpe who did a wonderful little book of Farrokhzad's poems called Sin.

    • Farrokhzad's poem Red Rose reflects the sense of anticipation you note: ...Look!
      Beneath my heart,
      Deep inside my womb
      Now grows a rose;
      Red, red, rose,
      Rose red like a flag
      -a revolution.
      At the same time, Farrokhzad wrote The Bird, Was Just a Bird, which could be read as a critique of impractible idealism and a prediction of the false dawn:
      The bird in the air
      High above flashing red lights
      Joyfully soared in oblivion,
      Deliriously lived in the sky's blue moments.
      The bird,
      Ah,
      Was just a bird

  • Don't Break up Syria: WW I-Style Imperial Divide & Rule is a Failure
    • The Kurds are creating an autonomous region in Syria and seem to be able to defend it from the Salafist militants. Balkanizing nationalist independence movements arise everywhere. They don't need outsiders to inspire them.
      It's hard to know when to support the dividing of a state. East Timor was probably a good idea. Likewise, Kosovo. We may have screwed up in Sudan. The US was probably wrong to recognize the first state to break off from Yugoslavia. We may be screwing up by encouraging the protesters in

  • US Intel Officials keep Talking about Killing Snowden, then say "trust us with your data"
    • The fact that the intelligence community has an emotional response to Snowden is not the reason they cannot be trusted. They cannot be trusted because they are human beings. No group of people should have unchecked power to invade our privacy. It is not what our founding fathers wanted. And there is no logical reason to trust anyone with such power. Is the vetting system of the American government so magical that only superheros make it into the secret halls of power?

  • Syria: Rebel Militias take on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
    • How are the Kurds reacting to this, I wonder. They control about ten percent of Syrian territory. They have fought ISIS and Nusra (who have fought each other). There are serious divisions amongst them. They don't support Assad, but many of the rebels don't seem to trust them.
      The rebels now seem to be almost all hardcore Islamists. Nusra, yesterday's bad guys, have come into the fold, and are fighting ISIS, today's bad guys.

  • Obama Era a new Gilded Age, with Rich Getting Richer, Poor Poorer
    • If the 11 trillion gained by the top 5 percent were divided between the bottom 90 percent, they'd each get 40 dollars.
      The bottom 25 percent have zero or negative net worth. So, a person with a poverty-level income, but no debts and a trailer worth $3000, has a greater net worth than the bottom 25 percent.
      The Walton family has .13 percent of US wealth. Or, 99.87 percent of US wealth is not owned by the Waltons.

  • 17% of Americans Support Afghanistan War: CNN (Video of the Day)
    • This is the reverse of the situation when the war began. In 2001, 80 percent of us supported a ground war in Afghanistan. If it was a mistake, we share the blame.

  • "Terrorism" tag is tool of Political Repression in Egypt
    • This wave of repression is supported by Tamarod and a large number of Eygpt's liberal intellectuals. Dalia Ziada, a liberal human rights activist, and liberal novelist Alaa al-Aswany are but two examples. Liberals can't win elections, so they might as well set their values aside and cheer on General Sisi.
      Egyptians want security and prosperity more than liberty. So did the Chinese under Chairman Mao. Authoritarianism doesn't always produce the best results.

  • Snowden's Christmas Message on Privacy: Does NSA threaten 9th, 14th Amendments, 'Inviolate Personality'?
  • Syrian Christians Menaced by Extremist Sunnis, Slam Lack of Lebanese Support
    • We need to remember not to equate Sunni extremists with moderate, pragmatic Sunnis. The Leabanese March 14 Coalition, for example, includes Sunnis and Christians. When they were in power, they made no attempt to establish a theocracy.

    • Lebanese Christians deep divisions about how to relate to Syria began years before the current civil war. The Lebanese people have been split between those that despise Assad (whose forces occupied their country for years) , and those like Hizzbollah who think working with Assad is best for their country.
      Syrian Christians feel safer with Assad. The current conflict may have driven some Lebanese Christians into the Assad camp. But, some of them remember crimes Assad committed against their communities. And some Lebanese Christians remain in the political camp opposed to Hizbollah/Syria/Iran.
      It's hard for Christian leaders to extract themselves from the regions politics and just be pro-Christian.
      I like the statement by Massuh that "bearing arms to defend icons and churches is not part of the values of Christians".

  • Photo of the Day: Apartheid South Africa Sign
    • In 1964, our family drove through the South (USA). We stopped at a rural gas station. It had 3 restroom signs: Men, Women, and Colored. Two of them were normal restrooms. The Colored restroom had no door, and was just a space with a big hole in a dirt floor.

  • Does Turkey's PM Erdogan have a GOP-Style "Woman Problem"?
    • Turkish women got a lot of their rights handed to them by the secular authoritarian Ataturk. Let"s hope that their fear of religious authoritarianism doesn't make them willing to follow another strongman. Secularism is worth fighting for, but not at the expense of democracy. Twerking is no fun if you have to imprison and silence the religious people. Secular democracy is a precious thing.

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