Archive for the ‘Foreign Affairs’ Category

Black and White

July 24, 2014

There are some conflicts in which neither side is clearly in the right or wrong, in which there is not really a black or white but shades of gray. World War I might serve as an example. Despite propaganda by both the Allies and the Central Powers, neither side could be unambiguously seen as in the right or wrong and neither side was clearly the aggressor. World War II was quite different. The Germans and the Japanese had both begun wars of aggression against neighboring countries without legitimate cause. The Axis powers were ruled by abominable governments that committed atrocities against the people they conquered. The presence of the Soviet Union on the side of the allies might have complicated matters since the Communists were every bit as evil as the Nazis and had, in fact, been aggressors earlier in that war, before Hitler double-crossed them. All the same, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and the efforts of the Russian people helped to end at least one great evil.

There are many who would like to believe that the current fighting in the Gaza Strip is one of the conflicts with no clear good or bad sides. If they cannot get away with blaming the whole affair on Israel and the Jews this time, they can at least adopt a position of moral equivalency. Both sides have committed wrongs. There is no black or white here. Such is the attitude of an article in the Christian Science Monitor I have just read.

There are two broad narratives about the current conflict between Hamasand Israel.

The first, presented by Israel and its allies, is that rocket-fire from the Gaza Strip by Hamas and other militants is an intolerable threat to the country, and that Israel is simply responding in self-defense. The second, presented by Hamas and its allies, is that the economic blockade of Gaza, the arrest of hundreds of Hamas members over the past month, and the heavy ordnance that has pounded the tiny enclave is intolerable, and they’re responding in self-defense.

Both sides are right. And both sides are wrong. They are right in that they are pursuing their interests with the tools that they’ve decided are best suited to the purpose – rockets and bombs. And that both sides would like the attacks from the other side to stop.

The article goes on at some length on the history of the conflict between Israel and Hamas and actually does do a good job of presenting the points of view of both sides fairly. The writer is wrong, all the same. There are  clear right and wrong sides in this conflict. Israel is in the right and Hamas is in the wrong.

I need not go into the entire history of how Israel’s neighbors have tried again and again to destroy the Jewish state or how Israel has been under siege since the day it was founded, nor do I need to to state how the Jews have taken a depopulated wasteland and turned it into a flourishing modern state while the Palestinians remain mired in poverty because their leaders care only for war against Israel. The simple fact of the matter is that if Hamas and the Fatah faction that controls the West Bank were to disarm and ask for peace, Israel would leave them alone. If they would grant that Israel has a right to exist and end their campaign to destroy Israel, Israel would make peace. On the other hand, if the Israelis were to disarm and ask only to live in peace, Israel would be quickly destroyed. One side wants peace. The other side wants genocide. There is no moral equivalence here and only the morally corrupt would suppose that there is.

Merhaba

June 30, 2014

I found an e-mail in my spam filter written in an unfamiliar language.

Merhaba,
Memnun oldum,
Benim adım i kişiyi gördüm ve seni bilmek ilgilenmeye başladı Evelyn, ve, sizinle kalıcı bir ilişki kurmak benim için arzu varsa ben göndermek böylece benim e-posta adresine(evelynedgard2009@yahoo.com) yoluyla bana ulaşın benim senin ve benim hakkımda daha sizeanlatmak için resim,
Teşekkür ve Tanrı sizi korusun,
Evelyn.

It doesn’t look like any language that I have ever seen. I have, at various times, studied German, Spanish, Koine Greek, and Latin, and while I am far from proficient in any of these languages I can sometimes make out the general meaning of a text written in these languages. This text doesn’t seem to be related to any of them. It is written in the Latin Alphabet, which narrows down the possibilities, but none of the words seem to be familiar. There was a translation written below.

Hello,
Nice meeting you,
My name is Evelyn i saw your contact and became interested to know you, and establish a lasting relationship with you, if you have the desire for me Please contact me through my email address (evelynedgard2009@yahoo.com) so that i can send my pictures to you and tell you more about me,
Thanks and God bless you,
Evelyn.

I don’t think I will take Evelyn up on her offer. I decided to run the foreign text through Google Translate in detect language mode and see if that would identify the language. It turns out that it is Turkish. I don’t think I have ever seen written Turkish before.

Linguists classify Turkish in the Turkic family which is considered part of the Altaic group, though this is controversial. This would make Turkish related to various Central Asian languages, mostly spoken in the Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union like Khazakhstan, Uzbekistan, etc. It is more distantly related to Mongolian and various languages spoken in Siberia. Korean and Japanese may be still more distantly related, but this is uncertain. What is certain is that Turkish is not an Indo-European language like English, or the other languages that I am familiar with, which would account for the way in which I could not decipher a single word of the message.

Turkish used to be written in the Ottoman-Turkish Script which was based on the Arabic alphabet. This alphabet was not particularly well suited for the Turkish language, most notably for the absence of short vowels. Arabic is a Semitic language, in which it is not all that important to distinguish vowels in writing. Turkish has more vowels than Arabic and fewer distinctions between certain consonant sounds. Therefore, as part of the reforms that Kemal Ataturk enacted with the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, a new alphabet based on the Latin Alphabet was created for Turkish. The new alphabet had 29 letters, mostly the same as other European languages but with q,x, and w omitted and six added. They are:

a, b, c, ç, d, e, f, g, ğ, h, ı, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, ö, p, r, s, ş, t, u, ü, v, y, and z

The letters sound about the same as in English, with some exceptions, and I suppose that if I tried to read that message aloud a Turk might understand me. I wouldn’t know what I was saying, though.

English: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk introducing the...

English: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk introducing the new Turkish alphabet to the people of Kayseri. September 20, 1928 Türkçe: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 20 Eylül 1928’de, Kayseri’deki Cumhuriyet Halk Fırkası önünde, halka yeni Türk harflerini öğretirken (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turkish is what linguists call a agglutinative language. Turkish speakers pile affixes onto a base, resulting in long words that in English might be expressed by a phrase, or even a sentence. Here is an example from Wikipedia on how this works.

Avrupa                                                                  Europe
Avrupalı                                                              of Europe
Avrupalılaş                                                         become of Europe
Avrupalılaştır                                                   to make become of Europe
Avrupalılaştırama                                           be unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadık                                   we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadık                                   that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadık                                   one that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklar                             those that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımız                    our those that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdan            of our those that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmış     is reportedly of our those that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınız you are reportedly of our those that we were unable to Europeanize
Avrupalılaştıramadıklarımızdanmışsınızcasına as if you are reportedly of our those that we were unable to Europeanize

 

Good grief. Every suffix has a meaning or conveys grammatical information. Some other agglutinative languages are Japanese, Eskimo, Sumerian, and Klingon. English is, by the way, somewhere between a synthetic language, one that uses inflections like German or Latin, and an isolating language, like Chinese. We used to have many inflections but have lost most of them over the centuries.

Well, even though I have no intention of contacting Evelyn or sharing pictures with her, I should thank her for giving me the excuse to learn a little about the Turkish language. It has been interesting.

 

Climate Justice

June 16, 2014

The word justice is a noun that does not usually need to be modified. As Dennis Prager has stated, you either have justice or you do not and if someone adds an adjective to modify justice, it means they have a (left-wing) agenda. In other words, if someone feels the need to add a modifier to justice that generally means they are trying to justify some injustice. Thus, there is social justice, racial justice, food justice, and now climate justice.

What is climate justice? Apparently, it is a way to justify keeping Africans poor and denying the use of Africa’s natural resources to make their lives bearable. At least that is the impression I get from this article I read from the Institute for Policy Studies.

This week, the House will vote on the Electrify Africa Act. This bill directs the president to draw up a multi-year strategy to strengthen the ability of countries in sub-Saharan Africa to “develop an appropriate mix of power solutions” to provide electricity, fight poverty, and “drive economic growth.”

Who could be opposed to helping African countries develop a workable infrastructure in order to drive economic growth. The only possible consideration I would have would be to make sure the money actually goes to helping people and not straight into the pockets of corrupt officials. The climate justice crowd have another objection, it might work.

Because of strong pressure from climate justice advocates, some positives—such as integrated resource planning and decentralized renewable energy—are named as a part of that mix. But because it still leaves the door wide open to fossil fuels, the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect people or their environment.

And the debate over Electrify Africa continues as the Senate drafts a companion bill.

Behind both pieces of legislation is a White House initiative announced last summer called “Power Africa.” It frames President Barack Obama’s approach to energy investment on the continent, which has been condemned by environmental justice groups. It’s an “all of the above” energy strategy that favors the fossil fuel companies that are destroying the planet and corrupting Washington.

Proponents of Electrify and Power Africa have been most publicly enthusiastic about new discoveries of vast reserves of oil and gas on the continent, which has many African activists wary of a resource grab. Executives from companies like General Electric—which according to Forbes has recently pivoted its attention to the continent—have appeared on the podium with President Obama to applaud the policy.

At a March Senate hearing on Power Africa, Del Renigar, Senior Counsel for Global Government Affairs and Policy at GE, even noted that one of the company’s “most significant efforts to date has been focused on the privatization of the Nigerian power sector.” He lauded the potential of Power Africa to help “reduce the obstacles” to negotiating deals for power projects. And some backers of dirty energy are attempting to use the initiative to weaken the existing environmental safeguard policies of national development finance institutions such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Well, God forbid we allow the Africans to develop the vast reserves of oil and gas on their continent. That might actually alleviate the endemic poverty of the region. To be sure, there is a danger that countries that rely on the export of energy will be plagued with corruption and will fail to develop a more diverse economy. One only needs to look at the example of a country like Nigeria or much of the Middle East to see what a curse large reserves of oil can be. But again, that is not what the climate justice advocates are worrying about. They don’t seem to want the African people to have “dirty” energy. If that means that the African people must make do without energy, well, too bad.

They do address this objection.

The backers of keeping dirty energy in Power Africa like to portray their opponents as privileged elites who want to keep Africans “in the dark” by denying them electricity and industrialization, while keeping their own lights on.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The real concern here is that U.S. taxpayers will wind up supporting African energy development that caters to corporate industrial zones and natural resource exporters, leaving the majority of Africans in rural and neglected urban areas still without access to power and exposed to dangerous pollution.

Yes, that is precisely what they want, to keep Africans in the dark. Of course energy development will cater to corporate industrial zones and natural resource exporters, at first. But, if corruption is kept to an acceptable minimum and the economies of the various African companies are opened up to the free market, the amount of wealth in Africa will increase. Over time, prosperity ought to spread from the industrial zones out to rural and urban Africa, unless people like the Climate Justice movement interfere with the process.

A climate justice movement with a clear vision for a clean, equitable energy future is making itself heard. The drivers of this movement are people living on the front line of dirty energy in poorer countries and in low-income neighborhoods in wealthier nations like the United States. They understand firsthand the effects of dirty energy pollution and climate chaos, and are champions of innovative forms of clean rural and urban electrification—not only in the Global South, but just as urgently in the heavily polluting Global North. In fact, an international campaign to demand climate justice, representing over 100 groups in developing and developed countries, has called for efforts to ensure “people’s access to clean, safe, and renewable energy sources.”

In Africa, climate justice activists are speaking eloquently about a new economy for Africans and everyone else that leapfrogs fossil fuels and delivers electricity to hundreds of millions of people through clean energy and energy efficiency.

There are reasons why fossil fuels still produce most of the energy in the world. Fossil fuels are cheap and efficient. Renewable energy sources only make up around 9% of the total energy consumed in the United States. Of this 9%, 30% is from hydroelectric sources. The trouble is that Africa does not have many navigable rivers, only the Nile and the Congo can be traveled any great distance from the ocean. African does, however, have a number of small, swift rivers that are ideal for the construction of hydroelectric dams and other facilities. Unfortunately, they are not often near the largest concentrations of populations. Still, hydroelectric power does have a future in Africa. I don’t think that is what these people have in mind, though. I have a feeling they would oppose the construction of dams as much as they oppose the construction of coal-fired power plants.

The bottom line is that if you insist that Africa only be powered by clean, renewable energy that has a minimal impact on the environment, that is the same as insisting that Africa have no power at all. If technologically advanced countries find renewable energy to be expensive and limited, why should African countries be any different. One of the biggest problems that I have with the environmentalists is their doctrine that their concept of environmental purity come before the good of human beings, particularly the poorer, darker skinned human beings. This is just another example of their callous disregard for the welfare of the world’s poor.

German 419 Scam

May 27, 2014

I have become used to receiving emails from people around the world who want to send me a share of money that they have obtained in various shady ways, if only I will help them. I have gotten such messages, usually in broken English supposedly coming  from Burkina Faso, Libya, and Portugal. Who knows where they have really been sent from? I have also been  informed that there is an agent with a package waiting for me at an international airport. Now I have received such a message written in German.

Attn: Bitte
 
Ich bin Herr Kofi Bentum, der Leiter der Revisionsabteilung in meiner Bank hier in Ghana, Wir hatten einen auslдndischen Kunden, der eine Gold-Hдndler ist und er hinterlegt eine groЯe Summe Geld in der Bank, schlieЯlich starb bei einem Autounfall ohne nдchsten kin, mцchte ich Sie auf meiner Bank als die nдchsten Angehцrigen einzufьhren, so dass dieses Geld auf Ihr Bankkonto ьberwiesen, dann teilen wir das Geld je 50% 50% werden.
 
Wenn Sie sich bitte mir zu helfen, dieses Geld kontaktieren Sie mich unter meiner E-Mail sind: (kofibentum2014@yahoo.co.jp) fьr weitere Informationen.
 
GrьЯe,
Mr.Kofi Bentum
I happen to know a little German, at least enough to understand the general meaning of the message but I ran it through Google Translate to learn the details.

Attn: PleaseI am Mr. Kofi Bentum, the head of the audit department in my bank here in Ghana, we had a auslдndischen customer who is a Gold Hдndler and he deposited a groЯe sum of money in the bank, schlieЯlich died in a car accident without nдchsten kin, mцchte I will einzufьhren on my bench as the nдchsten Angehцrigen, so that this money ьberwiesen to your bank account, then we share the money 50% 50%.

If you please to help me this money are contact me at my e-mail: (kofibentum2014@yahoo.co.jp) closed for more information.

GrьЯe,
Mr.Kofi Bentum

The untranslated words were  those which have umlauts or that double s, ß that is sometimes used in German. Mr. Kofi Bentum apparently did not use a German keyboard and the ß  and the vowels with umlauts look like Cyrillic letters. I am not sure if the mistakes or oddities in wording are the result of Google Translate or Mr. Bentum’s unfamiliarity with German. Perhaps I can improve the translation by using a German dictionary.
I am Mr. Kofi Bentum, the head of the audit department of my bank here in Ghana. We had a foreign customer who was a gold dealer and he deposited a large sum of money in the bank, then died in a car accident without next of kin. I would like you to withdraw it  from my bank as the next of kin, so that this money is transferred to your bank account, then we share the money 50-50.
If you would like to help me get this money, please contact me at my email… for more information.
Regards,
Maybe I should travel to Nigeria or Ghana and get work polishing up the emails they send out.  Maybe not.
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A Bug or a Feature?

May 24, 2014

Some recent events in Africa, the death sentence for a young woman from Sudan for being a Christian, and Boko Haram‘s kidnapping of more than two hundred schoolgirls has elicited condemnations from people around the world, including some in the West who believe that any criticism of Islam counts as islamophobia. I suppose that would be too much to hope that these people will finally make the connection and realize that we, the civilized world, really do have a problem with Islam. No doubt they will mouth the usual platitudes about Islam being a religion of peace and explain that these detestable deeds are the actions of ‘extremists’ such that are found in any religion. Well, people of virtually every religion have committed atrocious deed in the name of their gods, yet somehow these days, this seems to happen far more often among the practitioners of one particular religion, Islam. The question that needs to be answered is whether violence , terrorism and intolerance are bugs, problems with misunderstanding the teachings of religion, or features, understanding the teachings of the religion all too well.

Before going any further, I would like to deal with a particular idea that I have seen in various places, the idea that Islam is where Christianity was several centuries ago. This notion has more to do with vague ideas about moral progress than with any serious study of the comparative histories of the two faiths. The idea seems to be that there is a definite direction to history in continuing moral improvement. This seems true enough. We no longer have slavery or burn witches. Still, I am not convinced that there has been any real change in human nature. We do not have slaves because we have machines. If our machines were to fail us, slavery, or some form of unfree labor would make a swift comeback. The history of the doctrines of every religions alternate between periods of comparative laxity and rigor. The more rigorous periods do not necessarily coincide with violence and intolerance. It is difficult to imagine a religious revival among the Jains or the Quakers producing suicide bombers. The idea that Islam is somehow behind Christianity and less morally developed is condescending and doesn’t really explain why Islamic rigor is more associated with violence than Buddhist or Christian rigor.

This idea also ignores the very real differences in the teachings of the two faiths. Jesus said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Mohammed agreed and added that dying by the sword in the cause of Allah was the greatest fate any man could hope for. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. Mohammed was a political and military leader as well as a prophet. A Christian who commits an act of terror is acting against the teachings of his Savior. A Muslim who commits an act of terrorism is following the instructions of his prophet.

I don’t recommend that you take my word for this. Consider that Sudanese woman. She has been sentenced to death for apostasy, leaving Islam. Almost everyone in the West finds any punishment at all for apostasy to be an infringement of religious liberty. In the Middle East, the death penalty for apostasy enjoys wide support.  Here is a defense of the death penalty for apostasy from what seems to be a fairly reasonably religious authority. Read the Koran. It is full of incitements to violence, especially Sura 9.

Consider these stories about Mohammed and his companions.

The apostle said, “Kill any Jew that falls into your power.”  Thereupon Muhayyisa leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him.  Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time, though he was the elder brother.  When Muhayyisa killed [the Jew] Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, “You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?”  Muhayyisa answered, “Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.”  This was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam… [Huwayyisa] replied exclaimed, “By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!” and he became a Muslim. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 554)

When he asked who I was I told him that I was one of the [Muslims].  Then he laid down beside me and lifting up his voice began to sing: “I won’t be a Muslim as long as I live, nor heed to their religion give.”

I said (to myself) ‘you will soon know’ and as soon as the badu was asleep and snoring I got up and killed him in a more horrible way than any man has been killed.  I put the end of my bow in his sound eye, then I bore down on it until I it out at the back of his neck. (al-Tabari 1440)

When he [Muhammad] asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr bin al-Awwam, “Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad bin Maslama and he struck off his head.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 764)

Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Ka’b). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” (Bukhari 59:369)

There are man, many more. These stories are from the hadiths, anecdotes about Mohammed’s sayings and deeds. These stories were transmitted orally for over a hundred years before Muslim scholars began to write them down. There is no way to know if any one of these anecdotes is a true account, if the story has become corrupt after numerous retellings, or if it has simply been fabricated. The scholars who collected these hadiths were aware of this problem and rejected many that they believed to be spurious. Even the ones that they collected were felt to have varying degrees of reliability. It doesn’t matter, though. The important point here is that these were actions that the first generations of Muslims believed to be worthy of approval and imitation. Violence in the name of Islam was something approved of and even part of the attraction of the faith. Read that first story again. Huwayyisa was so impressed by the willingness of his brother to kill a family friend that he immediately converted. (Either that or he was afraid his brother would kill him if he didn’t convert.) To the early Muslims, fighting was a way to get plunder in this life and paradise in the hereafter. Mohammed approved of violence and since he is considered to be the ideal for every Muslim to emulate, his followers ought also to approve of violence.

To answer the question then, violence and intolerance are features of Islam, not bugs.

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Titus Andronicus

May 10, 2014

Most people today think of Shakespeare’s plays as the sort of thing that only the refined, intellectual highbrows could appreciate. They forget that Shakespeare was wildly popular with all classes of Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan audiences loved violence and gore as much as any modern audience and Shakespeare was always happy to give the theater goers what they wanted. Sometimes his plays are every bit as gory as anything made by Quentin Tarantino with bloody battles, eyes being gouged out, maidens raped, and worse. Shakespeare’s play Titus Andronicus is really in a class by itself as far as blood and gore on stage goes, as some patrons of the Globe Theater discovered recently, according to this account in the Telegraph.

With 14 deaths, brutal rape scenes, mutilation and cannibalism, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus has never been one for the fainthearted.
But the gruesome scenes at the Globe Theatre’s latest revival have proved too much for even the most daring of theatre-goers.
Members of the audience have been fainting during the play’s most violent scenes, with others reporting feeling sick and warning of sleepless nights.
The play, a revival of Lucy Bailey’s 2006 production, is publicised with a warning that it is “grotesquely violent and daringly experimental”, with a “terrible cycle of mutilation, rape and murder”.
The play’s most famous scene sees Titus murder the sons of his rival Tamora, Queen of the Goths, later feeding their remains to her in a pie. A spokesman for the Globe confirmed five members of the audience fainted in a particularly gory five-minute scene, adding front of house staff are “very well trained to look after people”. It is understood all five fell while watching Lavinia emerge from being brutally raped, with her tongue cut out and holding bloodied stumps for arms. “Shakespeare definitely didn’t pull any punches when he was writing Titus – it is a brutally violent play and Lucy’s production is a bloody, exhilarating, incense-laden feast for the senses,” the spokesman added. “But not one for the squeamish!” One theatre-goer, who watched the show’s opening night, said there had been “quite a few droppers” in the audience, who fainted upon seeing so much blood. Another reported he had “almost puked” by the interval, while a third warned: “You will definitely need a strong stomach”. Others praised the “Brilliantly staged and flawlessly acted” production, but warned of “blood and violence galore”. “Can’t fall asleep after watching a great but gory performance of Titus Andronicus,” one ticket-holder wrote on Twitter. Sources at Shakespeare’s Globe confirmed trained first aiders were present for the show. The theatre is well-versed in fainting audience members, after visitors blanched at the blood and gore in the original 2006 production.
Titus-Andronicus_2896890b
And you thought Shakespeare was boring. Titus Andronicus is one of the best known examples of a revenge play along with Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. A revenge play is a tragedy in which the protagonist seeks revenge for some wrong committed by the villain, generally the murder of a kinsman. The genre was very popular in Shakespeare’s time but curiously, Shakespeare didn’t really use it much. Of his plays only Titus Andronicus and Hamlet could really be considered revenge plays, though there were elements in some of his other plays, such as Julius Caesar and Macbeth. Titus Andronicus was one of his earlier plays, his first tragedy,  and may have been a collaboration with George Peele. Perhaps as Shakespeare became more established and popular, he was less inclined to follow trends. After all, at the height of his career, he was the one setting the fashion in drama. I hope the promise of blood and gore will encourage people to investigate Shakespeare. Shakespeare really doesn’t belong to the intellectuals and the literature professors. He belongs to all of us.
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The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled

March 28, 2014

After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, many of our political leaders took pains to assure us that Islam is a religion of peace. The nineteen men who committed the atrocities on that date were said to have followed an extreme version of Islam, a version not shared by the vast majority of peace loving Muslims. Many people, however, cannot help but wonder whether a religion whose adherents are responsible for most of the terrorism in the world today might not promote violence in its teachings. Being a religion with more than one and a half billion followers, contemporary Islam is of course very diverse. There are many, many Muslims who are indeed peaceful, and many who are not. How, then, can we determine whether the doctrines of Islam promote peace or violence?

One way, might be to go back and look at the founder of the religion. After all, a tree is known by its fruits. The Prophet Mohammed in Arabia founded Islam more than fourteen centuries ago. To this day, Muslims look upon him as a perfect man to be emulated. Stories of his sayings and deeds, known as the Hadiths, are second only to the Koran as a guide to Muslim behavior. So then, learning whether Mohammed was a man of peace or of war should go a long way in determining whether Islam is a religion of peace or of war.

That is just what Harry Richardson has done with his book The Story of Mohammed, Islam Unveiled. Mr. Richardson tells the story of the life of Mohammed using Islamic sources including the Koran. Along the way, he shows how Mohammed’s example is used by terrorists to justify their actions. For, Mohammed was not a man of peace. He and his religion were peaceful enough when they were a small sect in Mecca. After the move to Medina, where Mohammed took power, the new religion quickly became very violent and intolerant. Under Mohammed’s rule, any atrocity or betrayal was justified if it furthered the cause of Islam. As Mr. Richardson shows, this same ends justify the means mentality is still used by all too many people in the Islamic world.

islam

Harry Richardson covers most of the same ground as Robert Spencer does in his books about Islam. I think though, that Richardson’s approach is more accessible than Spencer’s. He begins with the assumption that the reader knows little or nothing about Islam and explains the results of his own research referring to his sources. Although Mr. Richard may have begun his studies knowing little about Islam, he was clearly spent a lot of time and effort educating himself. He is also less confrontational than Robert Spencer often has been.

I can strongly recommend that anyone interested in what is going on in the world of Islam read this book and then go on to read the Koran and other Islamic scriptures. If we are to prevent more attacks, we need accurate information about those who regard us as the enemies of Allah. Our leaders are not interested in telling us the truth about Islam, so we must educate ourselves. Harry Richardson’s book is a good place to begin.

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Using Vaseline

March 21, 2014

There are times when I feel optimistic about the future of the human race. Sure, we have problems, but we are intelligent enough to find solutions. After all, we call ourselves Homo sapiens, wise man. Then, I come across an article like this one from Fox News and I lose all hope for the future.

A 39-year-old Argentinean woman died after attempting to enhance the size of her breasts by injecting them with Vaseline, Medical Daily reported.

Sonia Perez Llanzon was admitted to the Lucio Molas hospital in Santa Rosa, Argentina after experiencing trouble breathing. Though Llanzon initially denied what she had done, she eventually confessed to doctors that she had injected herself with Vaseline several weeks earlier in the hopes of making her breasts larger. Doctors found several lesions on both breasts as a result of the home injections.

The Vaseline had entered Llanzon’s blood stream, causing blood clots that travelled to her lungs. Llanzon experienced a pulmonary embolism – a blockage of an artery in her lung – which resulted in her death.

“In all my medical career, I’ve never seen a case like this. The human body has antibodies to remove bacteria and viruses, but it hasn’t got any mechanisms against this type of product,” Julio Pla Cardenas, chief of surgery at Lucio Molas told La Capital.

I can’t imagine what this woman must have been thinking. Surely you do not need to know much about the workings of the human body to understand that injecting a foreign substance, such as Vaseline is not a good idea. It gets worse though. Here is what the men are trying.

Pla Cardenas said he has noticed an increasing number of people using Vaseline injections as a form of body augmentation, including men who have injected the product in the hopes of enhancing penis size.

That is a rather sensitive part of the male anatomy with a lot of blood vessels. I am trying not to be crude, but I would think that an injection of Vaseline, without any medical attention, would tend to impair the functioning of that organ. I just can’t imagine.

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The Return of the Black Death

March 6, 2014

I also found another email from Melanie Jones, when I checked my email. Watchdog.net is concerned about an outbreak of bubonic plague in Madagascar.

Dear David Hoffman,

The bubonic plague once wiped a third of the world’s population — and now, Black Death is sparking one of the worst outbreaks globally in years.

Black Death has already killed 20 villagers after a sudden outbreak in Madagascar, and the Red Cross warns the island nation is at risk of a plague epidemic. Even worse, strains of the disease seem to be spreading, and may even be mutating to populate at lower elevations.

The World Health Organization needs to send help to Madagascar, and to keep this potentially deadly disease from spreading. With antibiotics, bubonic plague is now treatable — but without them, this devastating illness will cause lymph swelling, pustules, gangrene, and an agonizing death.

That’s a fate no one should suffer — and a problem we can’t afford to ignore. Please, join us in calling on WHO to start beating this plague virus back, treating victims and keeping it from spreading!

PETITION TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: Don’t ignore the bubonic plague outbreak in Madagascar. Help the Red Cross keep it from being an epidemic, sending medicine and stopping it from spreading the other nations.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
— The folks at Watchdog.net

P.S. If the other links aren’t working for you, please go here to sign: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4115?n=59053903.CFWH_H

This is a serious problem and I certainly hope that the World Health Organization is doing everything it can to help the victims in Madagascar and to prevent the spread of this disease. I have no problem with Melanie Jone’s message or petition. I just wonder what good signing this petition is going to do. I doubt that the World Health Organization is going to pay any attention to an online petition. I imagine that the WHO is already doing what it can with the resources at its disposal. If they are not, no petition is going to make the people in charge change their minds.

This is why I don’t usually sign online petitions. I think that online petitions are just a way for people to think they are making a difference without actually doing anything to make a difference. Clicking like buttons on Facebook or signing petitions is actually worse than useless because it leads to a sense of complacency that might discourage any real effort to help resolve the problem. There is little or nothing I can do about the bubonic plague in Madagascar and I am not going to delude myself into thinking that typing my name while sitting on my butt is actually doing something.

 

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Who’s Laughing Now?

March 2, 2014

Back during the 2012 presidential campaign, Mitt Romney made the statement that Russia is our number one geopolitical foe. Obama and the Democrats laughed at Romney for this statement, saying that Romney was out of touch and still living in the Cold War. In 2008 Sarah Palin predicted that Russia might invade the Ukraine because of Obama’s indecisiveness. She was derided for being an ignorant snowbilly who couldn’t understand that Barack Obama was bringing forth a new era of smart diplomacy. During the 2012 Vice-Presidential debate, Paul Ryan emphasized that we live in a dangerous world, which thanks to President Obama’s actions, or rather inactions, was becoming more dangerous. Joe Biden giggled at such a foolish statement.

English: Barack Obama and Joe Biden

Well, it looks as though Russia is preparing to invade the Ukraine. We seem to be entering into a new Cold War with Russia. Russia is negotiating for access to bases for its ships and bombers in strategic spots throughout the world. Who’s laughing now?

The bad guys all over the world, that’s who. They know that a weakened America gives them more freedom to act, often in ways that do not promote the cause of peace and freedom. I hope that those who believe that America is what’s wrong with the world are paying attention to what is happening in the world. We have had several decades of (relative) peace and prosperity. Many people in the West have come to believe that this is what is the norm. It is not. If America is weak or fails uphold its responsibilities for helping to keep the peace in the world, things could get very bad, very quickly. Then, none of us will be laughing.

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