Monday, December 28, 2009

The Sixties

It is said that if you remember the Sixties you weren't there. Too late we realize they weren't talking about the Nineteen Sixties.....

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yet Another Amazing Coincidence

[Delta flight 253 - Amsterdam ==> Detroit]
We all know that it is Islamophobic racism to imagine a connection between Islam and terrorism. So it came as a great surprise to all that the man who attempted to kill himself and 283 other people aboard an Airbus-300 jetliner, just happened to be a Muslim.

A 23 year old Nigerian, Abdul Mudallad set off an incendiary device strapped to his leg. during the flight. Apparently a devout practicing idiot, Mudallad succeeded only in setting fire to his trousers and leg before flight attendants put him out by throwing water on him.

Is there something odd about Muslims getting upset about Islamophobia and demanding full and generous tolerance of themselves and their religion, yet themselves tolerating no one? Until Jews and Christians have equal rights and status with Muslims in Muslim countries, I see no reason why Muslims are entitled to ask for equal rights and status in western countries.

We may want to extend equal rights to all for reasons of our constitution and our own notions of equal treatment. It does not follow that Muslims have any right or moral standing to ask for equal treatment, let alone demand it. The correct answer to charges of Islamophobia is to laugh in the hypocrites' faces.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Click on the cartoon to enlarge.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Consumer Product Information

Water stains on plaster are a common annoyance of old houses. They have to be primered before they can be painted over.

I bought the most widely used primer paint, which is also the cheapest, Kilz II. I tried it and it didn't work. The stain went through it like prunes through a baby. So I went back and got the Glidden primer. It is a few dollars more but one can see right away that it is much better paint.

It doesn't work either but you feel much better about yourself after you use it. The stain went through it like the government through money. When it is dry I will go back and get oil-based primer.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wafa Sultan

Can a religious culture with 1.3 billion adherents be defeated? Can it be radically transformed? Perhaps, if it has 650 million internal opponents. Doctor Sultan shows how.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sad News

[Oral Roberts]

Long-time evangelist Oral Roberts has died at 91. He is survived by his brother Anal and his sister Vaginal.

In Yet Another Amazing Coincidence....

[a short bald squat bespectacled man in a sweater-vest]

I was as astonished as anyone that, amazingly, the man who murdered a woman and shot five others at a Jewish Federation office in Seattle just happened to be a Muslim. Just as Major Hasan just happened to be a Muslim. And AbdulSalam Zahiri who murdered his professor at Binghampton who just happened to be a Muslim. And John Muhammad, the Viriginia overpass sniper, just happened to be a Muslim. And the terrorists who perpetrated the 9/11 massacres in New York and Washington just happened to be Muslims.

From today's Seattle Times-

Haq convicted on all counts in Jewish Federation shootings

A King County jury this morning found Naveed Haq guilty of eight counts, including aggravated first-degree murder, in the 2006 shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. The murder verdict carries an automatic life sentence for Haq.

The jury also found Haq, 34, guilty of five counts of attempted first-degree murder, one count of unlawful imprisonment and one count of malicious harassment, the state's hate-crime law.

Haq showed no reaction as the verdicts were read, but several people in the courtroom tearfully hugged.

Several of the victims were seated in the courtroom this morning as the verdicts were read. They testified during both trials, reliving what happened when Haq walked into the federation offices on July 28, 2006, and started shooting indiscriminately at employees. Killed was Pamela Waechter, 58, and wounded were Cheryl Stumbo, Carol Goldman, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad and Layla Bush.

Prosecutors said he was driven by a hatred for Israel.

Prosecutors also introduced as evidence audio recordings from 10 phone calls Haq placed to his family after his arrest. In the calls, recorded by the King County Jail, Haq told his mother he was "a soldier of Islam."

Witnesses testified that Haq, who is of Pakistani heritage, railed against Jews and U.S.-Israeli policies as he opened fire in the Jewish Federation, an umbrella organization for the local Jewish community that raises money for social-welfare organizations, runs youth and adult educational programs, and engages in efforts in support of Israel.

On the 911 tape, which the prosecution played for jurors on Oct. 21, the opening day of the trial, Haq said he was tired of the world ignoring the Muslim point of view.

"I don't care if I die," Haq said to the dispatcher. "This is just to make a point."
Haq made a point, just not the one he intended. How many murders will it take before we take Naveed Haq's point to heart? His unwitting point is that no matter how seemingly harmless an individual Muslim might seem, murder is never far away.

It would be politically incorrect to say Haq's motive for murder and attempted murder was Islam. It would however be correct in every other way.

At what point do we drop the fig leaf of pretending away the obvious? This just has to stop. Immigration from Muslim countries to the US must be restricted.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Getting Naked

[In the beginning....]
Today I was in the shower thinking about the meaning of it all. I used to think about stuff like that more when I was younger but I gave it up because it always led to the same set of conclusions - that underneath appearances, things are really patterns and processes. But now I am starting to think about those kinds of things again.

It occurred to me once that the Big Bang means that everything has a common origin, that everything that happens is a common process. That the universe is all one big thing, not a bunch of smaller things. It means that only one big thing is happening, not a bunch of smaller things. Or at least that that is one legitimate way to look at it. In our tiny part of it, all life has common ancestors. All living things are cousins.

And our individual lives are not just patterns and processes, in modern parlance they are programs running on the matter of our bodies. Death is when the matter reboots and the program and data ones and zeroes are simultaneously set to all zeroes. Where we go after death is where that email message you worked on writing for an hour goes when your pc crashes. We don't go anywhere. Like your email message, we just aren't there any more.

And at last, in the shower I understood a passage in Spinoza that had gone over my head when I read it. I had thought that Hashem is the universe, the entirety of everything that is, and everything that has ever happened, and the entirely of everything that ever will happen. The short expression for that is the whole space-time continuum from the Big Bang until the end of time. In scientific terms, it is the synclastic infidibulum, or SI.

But I never much liked that formulation because it is both materialist and pantheist. Those are both deadend philosophies and unsatisfying because they don't help one understand things any better than one already does. They don't lead anywhere.

Spinoza described that Everything that ever was, is, or ever will be, as the face of G_d. But that face he said, was only a part of the whole, the way a surface is only an aspect of a solid object.

So what the hell is the rest? What is Hashem? In the shower it occurred to me that the entirety of all that ever was, is, or will be - the SI - is what is or can be known by human beings. And the rest, presumably vastly more, is the unknowable. The sum of the knowable and unknowable is Hashem.

What is peculiar about this definition is that it depends in part on human beings. The boundary between the two realms within Hashem is set by human intelligence and by human history. We can only know what we can understand with our intelligence. And we can only know what we have found out so far in our history.

The common scientific (a pretentious word for materialist) atheist explainer says that nothing is unknowable. In the end everything will yield to human intelligence and inquiry. This is a grand statement, coming from a ground ape. And flatly contradicted by quantum mechanics.

But Hashem in a sense is no different than people. At first all one knows of them is their surface, their face. As one gets to know them better one learns more about them, begins to see beneath the surface. When one develops an intimate relationship, comes to love them, one sees deeper still. One accepts them, and feels their nature more even than one understands it.

I remember one time actually listening to the Jewish liturgy rather than just stumbling through its seemingly endless pieties. And what struck me how emphatically and persistently it expresses the love of life and of the world. Much of our liturgy is ancient, written in times when brutal persecutions and the worst imaginable miseries were not history nor somewhere else but here and now and every day. And it was those very people who wrote that liturgy. How was that possible? Was it just fantasy and escapism? Were they crazy and in denial? No, they were the most reality-oriented people of their time - merchants, doctors, lawyers, scholars, advisers to princes.

I think they must have regarded the pogroms, inquisitions, expropriations, expulsions, plagues, and famines that befell them as we regard the tantrums of a beloved child. Their love of the world ran deeper than the current woe.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Time in Life

Click on cartoon to enlarge it.
Once, after my father died, I had a powerfully disturbing dream about him. He was in some semi-other world and was becoming more remote because he was losing interest in this world, and in me. He was becoming detached. He was drifting away and would never return.

Lou Grant wearing a tuxedo, drinking heavily in a bar, to Mary Richards: "First came the separation. then the divorce. Now she's remarried. Mary, don't you see what it all means?"
Mary: "No. What?"
Lou: "It means Edie and I are drifting apart."

Only later did I realize that I felt that he left me because he didn't love me enough to stay. And that it was my fault for not having been a good enough son nor a success for him to want to stay. I woke up devastated.

That day Harvey and I were playing tennis and I told him about my dream.  Harvey said that learning how to die was our task in life as we got into (and now beyond) middle age.

The death of my friend Jay Trachman two weeks ago has brought mortality sharply to the front of my concerns. And I know what to do about it too. Harvey more than once has told me what to do about life, and thus how to get ready for death - "Get on with it"

Saturday, December 05, 2009

from today's New York Times:
A 46-year-old Binghamton University graduate student from Saudi Arabia was charged on Saturday with killing a retired anthropology professor, a specialist in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, with whom he had worked, the authorities said. The student, Abdulsalam S. al-Zahrani, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of the professor, Richard T. Antoun, who was stabbed in his office in the university’s Science I building on Friday afternoon
Since we know from frequent reassurance that there is no connection between Islam and violence, this was yet another in a seemingly endless string of amazing coincidences reaching back to the time of Muhammad.

Here is a quote from SUNY-Binghamton's website:
Shaping Your Future

Binghamton University offers over 55 graduate programs within an exciting, culturally diverse community. The University’s suburban and urban campuses foster world-renowned research, scholarship and creative exploration, augmenting the already distinguished legacy and international reputation of the Graduate School and its world-class scholar-teachers.

Perhaps it is time to reconsider this conventional fantasy about multiculturalism and diversity in light of persistent Muslim violence. Diversity is good if it produces benefits to the community. Muslims are demonstrating that diversity is not a good in itself.