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Yorktown's Journal
Yorktown's Journal
May 8, 2015

In defense of the need to post blasphemous caricatures

Let me make this clear at the outset: I am not a fan of Mrs Geller: her opinions can be extreme, her agenda dubious, her style confrontational and provocative, let's just forget her for a minute.

The source of the problem illustrated by the Garland TX shooting, and the Danish cartoons worldwide fury, and the Theo van Gogh killing, and the Charlie Hebdo shooting, is that one ideology, Islam, wants universal respect under pain of violent coercion.

Yes, yes, yes, most muslims are decent human beings and citizens and condemn these shootings. The problem is not people (most muslims), it's the rules of the ideology they claim to adhere to (Islam): in islamic jurisprudence, penalties for blasphemy are very stiff, death being a clear option. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_and_blasphemy#Punishment_by_different_Islamic_schools_of_jurisprudence

Yes, yes, yes, many muslim clerics condemned the shootings in the West I quoted. But (link above), what they do not say is that blasphemy does require a stiff penalty under islamic Law (Shariah). And many other mainstream clerics living in muslim countries do not condemn such killings. Sometimes condone them (two Pakistanis burned alive for accidental damage to the pages of a Quran).

My point is one of principle: citizens in democracies should not allow free speech to be curtailed under the threats of so and so. I have a suggestion to make to make that point irrespective of Mrs Geller: let's millions of us post a caricature on their front lawn or Facebook page just to make the point no one can demand by means of threats to restrict freedom of speech. .

To make sure muslims do not feel singled out, let's add other caricatures ad lib: Buddha, the great Flying Spaghetti, Marx, GW, Jesus, whatever.

The key point is that there's no way any group can require compliance of speech. Let go of one liberty and then, when do you stop? Why not let fundamentalist christians and muslims forbid marriage equality? Drinking alcohol is offensive to Mormons and Muslims, why not forbid wine and beer? What a Brave New World we would build.

In short, Mrs Geller is the nasty knight of a just cause.

PS: an afterthought: please no ad hominem calling me an islamophobe, I'm not. I am commenting here the Garland TX shooting, Mrs Geller and free speech. But I do also call out the deficiencies of all other religions: the scourge of christian creationism vs schools, the hindu caste system, the violence in the jewish holy book, etc. Neither am I a fundamentalist atheist (whatever that means), I just am extremely attached to Freedom and Liberty.

PPS: edited the title from "In defense of Mrs Geller, nasty knight of a just cause" to "iIn defense of the need to post blasphemous caricatures" to make even clearer that the issue is NOT Mrs Geller

April 30, 2015

TPP: Obama Right, Critics Wrong

An excellent NYT editorial by Thomas Friedman:

Trade: Obama Right, Critics Wrong

The Opinion Pages | APRIL 29, 2015 - Thomas L. Friedman

I strongly support President Obama’s efforts to conclude big, new trade-opening agreements with our Pacific allies, including Japan and Singapore, and with the whole European Union. But I don’t support them just for economic reasons.

While I’m certain they would benefit America as a whole economically, I’ll leave it to the president to explain why (and how any workers who are harmed can be cushioned). I want to focus on what is not being discussed enough: how these trade agreements with two of the biggest centers of democratic capitalism in the world can enhance our national security as much as our economic security.

Because these deals are not just about who sets the rules. They’re about whether we’ll have a rule-based world at all. We’re at a very plastic moment in global affairs — much like after World War II. China is trying to unilaterally rewrite the rules. Russia is trying to unilaterally break the rules and parts of both the Arab world and Africa have lost all their rules and are disintegrating into states of nature. The globe is increasingly dividing between the World of Order and the World of Disorder.


It’s a civilizational meltdown: Libya, Yemen, Syria and Iraq — the core of the Arab world — have all collapsed into tribal and sectarian civil wars,..


What does all this have to do with trade deals? With rising disorder in the Middle East and Africa — and with China and Russia trying to tug the world their way — there has never been a more important time for the coalition of free-market democracies and democratizing states that are the core of the World of Order to come together and establish the best rules for global integration for the 21st century,


America’s economic future “depends on being integrated with the world,” said Ian Goldin, the director of the Oxford Martin School, specializing in globalization. “But the future also depends on being able to cooperate with friends to solve all kinds of other problems, from climate to fundamentalism.” These trade agreements can help build trust, coordination and growth that tilt the balance in all these countries more toward global cooperation than “hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism and letting others, or nobody, write the rules.”

As Obama told his liberal critics Friday: If we abandon this effort to expand trade on our terms, “China, the 800-pound gorilla in Asia will create its own set of rules,” signing bilateral trade agreements one by one across Asia “that advantage Chinese companies and Chinese workers and ... reduce our access ... in the fastest-growing, most dynamic economic part of the world.” But if we get the Pacific trade deal done, “China is going to have to adapt to this set of trade rules that we’ve established.” If we fail to do that, he added, 20 years from now we’ll “look back and regret it.”

That’s the only thing he got wrong. We will regret it much sooner.
April 1, 2015

Indiana Governor Declares Religious Law NOT Discriminatory

INDIANAPOLIS—Addressing the controversy surrounding his state’s recently signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Indiana governor Mike Pence forcefully insisted to reporters Monday that the new law has nothing at all to do with what it was explicitly intended to do. “Let me state directly that in no way is this law designed to allow the kind of anti-gay discrimination that is the law’s single reason for existing,” said Pence, emphasizing that provisions authorizing businesses to refuse service to gay customers were nothing more than the only explanation for the law being drafted in the first place. “Regardless of the widespread misconceptions surrounding it, I want to reassure Hoosiers of all backgrounds that this law will never be interpreted in the way it was unambiguously designed to be from the very beginning.” Pence further clarified that the act’s sole purpose was in fact to safeguard the free exercise of religion it was in no way whatsoever created to protect.

March 30, 2015

Are Republicans sure to lose in 2016?

There are not many Democratic candidates, and none seems to carry an unsurmountable bagage.

Not so for Republicans. The choice seems to be between:
- Bush IIIrd, and I think the dynastic effect would be a bit to rich in a modern democracy, or
- one of the other candidates using too extreme religiousness (some Ted Cruz quotes already are weird)

Any views of the inherent dynastic/extreme religiosity GOP weakness?

March 26, 2015

Did religion ever bring anything to mankind?

I can think of only one tangible positive input of religion, which I will present at the end (C).

But first, I would like to debunk the false claims (A) and the real ills (B) of religion:

(A) False claims:

1- No theoretical benefit: religion did not bring morality to mankind
Morality is the rules and opinions of the overwhelming majority.
If murder was condoned, life would be made worse (some psychopaths might disagree)
If theft was OK, the society's global efficiency would decrease (thieves and traders disagree)
All these basic rules exist in all societies, even in those which did not invent gods.

2- No social benefit: no link between religiosity and good behavior can be found
Studies have been made to try to correlate religious belief and levels of crime (murder, theft, rape) or abuse (drugs, alcohol). Not one of them found a positive correlation between belief and lower crime or abuse (there is even a slight correlation the wrong way)

3- Any supernatural claim of religion is either unproven or debunked
As scientific and communications means progress, claims of miracles recess. The last religious leader with lots of followers who claimed to perform miracles was Sathya Sai Baba. He always refused to perform his 'miracles' in front of a group of experts (scientists+trained magicians). But he did get caught on tape in what does look like cheap magic tricks.
As for other simpler benefits, like that of prayer, there has been only one large scientific quantitative study. Again, no or slightly negative benefit between prayer and one desired outcome.

4- the error riddled 'holy' books never created any good
Since the holy books are full of scientific mistakes and immoral decrees, they can not be moral compasses. The moral compass is brought by the reader to find passages which are fit for consumption.

5- the good done by believers is independent of religion
Religions claimed to be the channels of goodness, so people wanting to do good were enticed to do good in the name of those ideologies. But, as Doctors without Borders or other secular NGOs demonstrate, churches or NGOs are just conduits helping individuals channel their inner goodness.

(B) Tangible negative outcomes brought about by religion

Endless list. Some tokens: conversions by the sword (Frankish Empire, South America for Christianity, most of today's muslim world for Islam), Christian burning of witches, death for multiple imaginary offenses in Islam, imaginary title deed on some Mediterranean land in Judaism, ditto in Hinduism, etc. (not mentioning Celtic/Mayan/Moloch human sacrifices).
And in general modern terms, mutual exclusion rules: only Jesus/Allah/whatever saves.

(C) there is one benefit of religions: that of an appeasing placebo.

In Antiquity, religions pinned events on imaginary beings (from Thor to Allah), and this helped quell the fears of the population. It had an evolutionary benefit in that it helped societies relieve their angst. Earthquakes would go away after the sacrifice of this goat or that baby. A positive outcome, except for the goat/baby/female virgin/whatever. But one can't make religious omelettes without breaking one or two mammals.
In modern times, it is true that invoking the image of paradise will lessen the grief of a mother who just lost a young child. A real, tangible psychological benefit whose only fault is that it is grounded in a probably imaginary promise.

By all means, I do not have an axe to grind against religions. It's just that I do not see any real demonstrable benefits in today's world while I do see some real life problems caused by religion (People against stem cell research or gay marriages in the US. Charlie Hebdo, ISIS, Boko Haram, al Shebab, Saudi Arabia and the Talibans also come to mind)

Now, if you can come forward with demonstrable, tangible benefits of religion, I am quite willing to listen.

February 6, 2015

Has Free Speech gone down over the past 40 years?

The cartoon below was printed (without any uproar) in a French teen cartoon magazine in 1973.

Jesus Christ, R. Wothan, Mr. Jupiter, Louis Buddha, Claud Allah and Gaston Jehovah getting drunk.

That magazine still exists (PG, not R). And there was no uproar.

42 years later, French cartoonists get mowed down for roughly the same fun cartoons.

My question is simple: 1973-2015: Has Freedom receded?

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