Israel and Lebanon Continued

micadelic asks:

The world is outraged over the killing of innocents by Israeli air strikes and condemnation is coming from all corners. Where is the condemnation of Hezbollah and it’s Syrian and Iranian backers? These people deliberately put civilians in harms way.

It is a good question (and part of a good series of questions if you read the whole comment). I have a couple of reactions.

First of all, if I kidnap a baby and hold it hostage when I rob a bank, the police are going to make damn sure nothing happens to that baby. If they blow up me and the baby, there will be outrage. It was me, in this example, who was acting outright criminally and immorally, but the police would take every necessary step to protect that baby.

That is one piece of logic here: Israel cannot knowingly bomb civilians and expect any sympathy from anybody. Yes, the human shield concept is criminal and immoral, but you don’t just bomb ’em anyway.

To your broader point, I think the tactics of Hamas and Hezbollah have been widely and consistently condemned. For example, when Hamas was elected in the Palestinian elections they were cutoff from a lot of aid from a lot of countries. They are considered outright terrorists by many countries, as far as I understand it, and many support the outright destruction of both Hamas and Hezbollah. So, like we fought the Taliban and not the Afghanis, we need to fight Hamas and Hezbollah and not Arabs or Muslims.

The problem is, of course, that the ranks of Hamas and Hezbollah swell when Israel brings its military to bear on the problem, whether justified or not. So if we do it all wrong, we could be fighting a war with all Arabs and then, yes, it is old school, kill ’em all and round up the rest and it is a horrible alternative. Yes, we can kill ’em all (maybe). It is a horrible alternative that all sane people should reject. I also reject the notion that most Arabs (or Muslims) are anti-American. The main aggravator is the unfinished business of Israel and Palestine. First we didn’t solve that and now we are all making it worse. We need cooler heads to prevail and get back on track with a two-state solution. This is a symptom of that unfinished business.

Israel and Lebanon Continued

Let Reason Ring : Legalize Drugs

Former police chief Norm Stamper answers the question How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence.

OK, Left and Right, gather round. This is not a partisan issue. The prohibition of alcohol was a disastrous mistake and the prohibition of drugs is a disastrous mistake. The notion of it appearing that society is passively condoning drug use is not without merit. As Mr Stamper says:

Regulated legalization of all drugs — with stiffened penalties for driving impaired or furnishing to kids — would bring an immediate halt to the violence. How? By (1) dramatically reducing the cost of these drugs, (2) shifting massive enforcement resources to prevention and treatment and (3) driving drug dealers out of business: no product, no profit, no incentive.

The emphasis is mine. We can still educate and enforce laws against minority use and driving while impaired and other valid state’s interests.

The other general argument against legalization is the assumption of increased use. While this argument is not true, in my opinion, for most people, it will be true for some people. My mom is not going to try drugs even if they are legal. Many and perhaps most will not be one bit more likely to experiment with drugs in a legal environment. But some will and some who use drugs now will abuse drugs more efficiently in a legal environment. Let’s be clear: is it easy-peasy to acquire virtually any drug in any city in the US. The drug trade is not supply limited, in most cases. The prohibition of drugs is completely ineffective when it comes to meaningfully decreasing supply. But we might see more abuse or more profound abuse in some cases. We do need to prepare for how to deal with that and ideally prevent it, just like we try to do with alcohol abuse.

The jails are full of non-violent drug offenders. People are dying every day in the war on drugs. We can stop hemorrhaging money trying to fight supply. The time has come to figure out a plan to end the prohibition of drugs.

Let Reason Ring : Legalize Drugs

The (not) Big Three

Bitch | Lab said (or quoted or otherwise posted on her site) the following:

As I understand a radfem analysis, patriarchy is like an engine powered by three fan belts:

1. rape – alternator belt
2. prostitution – timing belt
3. porn – water pump belt

If you want to make the motor stop running, you need to bust those belts. Anything else is like trying to get a car engine to stop working by chipping the paint or taking a sledgehammer to the hood.

While the reality of these 3 things is not pretty and does represent very real oppression of women by men, these things to me are nowhere near the crux of the issue of patriarchy. As a percentage of the whole, these are little tiny rounding errors that effect very few people. Again, I am not trivializing these things, just stating the fact that this is not at all where the war of the sexes is waged.

What actually effects women every day is the sort of oppression that occurs at home and at work and in other social settings — women getting paid less, being sexually harassed, being treated as dumber or less capable or more irrational. These things happen every day to millions of women. Rape, while a horrible and devastating crime, effects relatively few women.

So while I do see why feminists would be concerned about, discuss, debate and try to effect change in regards to the big 3 above, IMHO they ain’t the big three at all. You could eliminate all 3 and you would still have a world full of dumb men (and women) who would treat women as second-class citizens, property and sex toys. To me the issues of financial and social equity are much more important than the activities of sexual criminals.

The (not) Big Three

Why We Blog

Why are we all doing this? Why, why, why? Why are we subjecting ourselves to the intimate scrutiny of others? People blog things they would never tell strangers or enemies. They accept the praise and suffer the insults of the ornery citizenry. Some wanna get out. What is the point of all this?

It’s really cool that blogs have become discussion areas. It’s publishing and its community all at once and it is fantastically successful at it. It’s almost what I envisioned the Nets to be in the Ender’s Game world — a virtual, chaotic debate forum where issues of the day are decided. Personalities are born and have influence and gain power solely through their participation, perhaps anonymously, in the discussion. The discussion is now largely online and largely in the blogsphere.

Attention is doled out meagerly. Very few people read most blogs. Yet in an instant someone can link to an obscure blog post on slashdot or digg or the dialykos and, boom, a zillion visits a day and a possible revenue stream.

A revenue stream. This is probably music to most of our ears. Financial independence from blogging is certainly compelling for most and possible for some. But selling ads is not necessarily the business many of us want to be in.

But even without zillions of visitors, many blogs make an impact. Local impact that isn’t local. The interconnections are like neurons, making the connections themselves just as important as what they are connecting. This is a chorus.

Where will that lead…? I don’t know. This discussion has started in a deeper way than could be achieved prior to the present day Internet. As the capabilities expand, I suspect the discussion taking place “online” will be virtually the only discussion taking place. I don’t mean, of course, to say that people won’t meet in person or engage in normal daily intercourse, but the debates of the future, on policy, and politics, will occur in what the blogsphere will become, whatever that is. There will always be big media companies but their influence will be muted. We have people on the ground now.

So I think we do this to change the fucking world. You talking about your cat and me getting mad at creationists or talking about astronomy is going to change the world. The game is on. Slowly, painfully, with many steps backward along the way, we have a real forum for ideas now.

Someday we will have a President of the United States who gained their influence solely through their interactions with the public network.

We blog to change the world.

Why We Blog

The Middle East

I’m not an expert on the Middle East and wanted to learn a bit more and spent some time with Wikipedia’s entry on the history of Israel. It is pretty in-depth and can lead you down a lot of different paths on all of the different wars and attempts to peace over the last 100 years. Israel became an independent modern state in 1948, only 58 years ago.

The surrounding Arab countries have never been happy with this. Israel has had to repeatedly defend itself from attacks by Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. It has maintained its independence, frankly, though the use of superior military power.

The Arab governments have, over the years, made peace with Israel, perhaps most notably Egypt in the late 70’s. This unfortunately lead to the assassination of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president, by his own people.

This is all to say that this is a very, very tricky situation. In a nutshell, some Arabs feel, and will always feel, that Israel unfairly occupied their territory and then defended it only through the help of the UK and the US. Thus, in their minds, these three military powers, the UK, the US and Israel have unfairly used military might to create and defend Israel at the expense of the Arabs who had lived there under the Ottoman Empire for 600 years.

Israel, on the other hand, has been a recognized sovereign entity for 58 years. Regardless of the complexities of unraveling thousands of years of history and animosities, Israel should not have to repeatedly defend its right to exist. It does exist. Period. No amount of war will make it un-exist. Any modifications to borders or ownership of lands will need to happen via diplomatic negotiations. Like it or not, the US, the UK and Israel will not let it happen any other way.

So what’s the answer? What’s fair? What’s rational and what will address the humanitarian and political issues that this situation continues to create?

I’m idealistic, I know, but with irreconcilable differences, the only hope is compromise. That, unfortunately, means no one is happy. Everyone gives a little. I think the rest of the world is just aghast that extreme views on both sides continue to doom innocent people to die. How many more people have to die? How much more suffering needs to be inflicted? It’s not helping. The death and the suffering are not getting anyone any closer to their goals. It is time for both sides to compromise.

This is why Bush’s arrogant idiocy in invading Iraq was so stupid. This was already a super tricky situation and he sent the bull into the china shop. Now those Republicans idiots are using the latest conflicts between Israel and Lebanon to start their war with Iran. Meanwhile Israel, because it had tens of people die from renegade attacks by Hamas and Hezbollah, is killing thousand of people in return. They are invading another country.

Let’s face it: Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist assholes with their heads so far up their ass they can’t breathe. They continue to work against their own best interest at every step of the way. They get further and further from their goals and more and more of their people suffer and die.

But the other side of the story is just as bleak: the US and Israel have their heads so far up their ass they can’t breathe. They continue to work against their own best interest at every step of the way. They get further and further from their goals and more and more of their people suffer and die.

The crux of the whole thing is the fact that Israel has the Palestinians under their thumb. A two-state solution has to be figured out. It should have been figured out a long time ago. Bush has not only not tried to get such a process going, he has worked against it by inflaming anti-American and anti-Israel sentiments in the Middle East. I personally think that Bush wants this all to happen so we can continue to occupy more and more of the Middle East and, in his fucked up mind, continued to kill Muslims. They think this is a war that must be fought. They are wrong: it is a war that should never be fought.

So to recap:

1. Arab countries have to recognize Israel’s right to exist and must eliminate violent dissent from any internal organizations.
2. Israel, the US and the UK need to make a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict an utmost priority.
3. The Palestinians need to negotiate and agree to a two-state solution in good-faith.

It can be done. Some day it will be done. We need to work on making that day soon. Yes, it is very, very hard. It can be done.

The Middle East

Stem Cells

It’s funny how Bush’s “culture of life” means that we can’t do research to save people’s lives. Billions of fertilizes eggs do not reach fruition. These are not children dying, they are a single cell or a few cells. Yes, these cells have potential but that potential does not represent a person in any way, shape or form. We have an opportunity to use some of these small clumps of cells to potentially save millions of lives.

It’s also funny how the Republicans are trying to play both sides. The Senate made a deal with the White House. The Senate can pretend they have half of a brain and that they support important medical research. Then Bush pretends that this research kills children. Rove is on the case making sure that a minority of religious zealots can doom millions of people to early death and cripple American research. The great advances of medical research will now be discovered abroad.

A culture of life should, perhaps, focus on people. The misguided agenda of the so-called Pro Life movement is tangibly killing people. These idiots will overturn important aspects of our Constitution, criminalize cutting-edge medical research, prohibit prophylactics such as Plan B and continue to undermine the rights of women and the hopes of the sick.

Although I wish no harm on anyone, it would be fitting if Bush fell and became a quadriplegic. Then he could hold that pen in his mouth and sign a bill that would doom him to an eternity of immobility.

UPDATE: Check out this very good article on stem cells at DailyKos.

Stem Cells

The Question Science Can't Answer

I’m pretty much an atheist. I think the whole notion of the afterlife is inconsistent with anything we see about how the universe works. It absolutely relies on a “specialness” of homo sapiens — that the universe is here just for us. This is absurd on every practical level. It is also true that, even if there is no afterlife, creatures like us homo sapiens would certainly invent one to insulate us from the horror of death. We’d all be nuts not to hope that when we die all sorts of cool stuff happens. That would be great.

But we can set aside the afterlife question and go one deeper, the question we all ask: why are we here? Yes, Big Bang nucleosynthesis and accretion disks and all this can explain it from the Big Bang forward, but why a Big Bang? Or better — whence a Big Bang? Where the fuck did all of this come from?

I agree with the likes of Carl Sagan who said something to the effect of, saying God did it but we don’t know where God came from is rather the same as saying we don’t know where the universe came from in the first place. You’ve only pushed the unknown one step further out. Maybe God did do it, no one knows for sure. But saying God did it does not advance our understanding, it’s just made-up words.

But still — how the fuck did we get here? I write, you read, we are fucking here, dammit, and I want to know why! Science cannot answer this. NO ONE can answer this, as far as we know. It is unanswerable.

So although I agree with the atheists, I say “pretty much an atheist” because to me, acknowledgment that we can’t explain why we are here or what created the matter/energy that started it all, means to me that those answers could be profound, profound in ways that we can’t conceive of. Imagine knowing where it all came from? What does that answer look like?

Does dying provide answers? That’s hard for me to believe. Can I say it is impossible? No. Can anyone? No. Yes, improbable as all fuck, but impossible, no.

We came from somewhere.

The Question Science Can't Answer