Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stupidities on the Right and the Left

Today, I’ll just bring to your attention a few randomly selected stupidities I recently came across in the media or in informal chitchat - just for the fun it:

1. Putin is the World’s Most Powerful Person:

A few weeks ago, Forbes Magazine ranked Vladimir Putin as the world’s most powerful person. In second place was Germany’s Angela Merkel, in third place President Obama. The other seven among the top ten were the pope, the head of China, Bill Gates, the head of the US Federal Reserve, the head of Britain, the head of India, and the head of Google. (See The World's Most Powerful People). This is a stupid list. Especially stupid is Putin’s number one ranking: he heads up a country whose Gross Domestic Product is one fifteenth that of the US. Russia’s economy is ranked thirteenth in the world. It is behind Italy, South Korea, about equal to Mexico and Spain, and only slightly larger than that of the Netherlands. Read more...

Of Sleepy Ants and Crickets


A Children's Story

Once upon a time there was a cricket and an ant. The cricket was really happy. He was so happy that you might wonder if it wasn’t too tiring for him to be so happy all the time. I mean, he was always dancing and singing and he didn’t even have to carry an instrument to accompany himself, since he could make music just by rubbing his legs together.

The ant was not really that happy. She didn’t have much time to dance or sing, because her mother had told her that ants have to work hard to be good ants. So she worked and worked, built her nest, gathered food, even in the dead of winter when the ground was frozen and all the other insects were either not born yet, or hybernating. She didn’t smile a lot, only when she fell asleep and dreamt of feasting on an especially large bowl of sugar, because ants like sugar as much as you like chocolate chip cookies. Read more...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On Being Liberal, Conservative, Nice or an A... hole

Here is a question for you: Is there a correlation between how nice a person is and how liberal?

Logically, liberals should be nicer than conservatives. They believe in giving to the poor, in sharing wealth, in making love and not war, in turning the other cheek, in kumbaya. Conservatives should be mean. They believe in competition, the survival of the fittest, in selfishness, in fighting wars, etc. 

But then, why do I know so many liberal a....holes and so many nice conservatives?

During my forty years as a professor, I had many conflicts with many colleagues. Several of them were a...holes, and as everyone knows, most professors are liberal.

On the other hand, many conservative people are as kind as can be; they are the salt of the earth. So there are four possibilities: 1. Nice liberals. 2.Liberal a....holes. 3. Nice conservatives. 4. Conservative a....holes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Two Problems: 1. America's out-of-control Weapons of Mass Murder; 2.The Metastasis of ISIS

Following the San Bernardino massacre on December 2, many Americans feel that “something has changed,” that “something new has happened.” That’s because this time, the perpetrators were a Muslim couple who are said to have been radicalized, presumably by Isis propaganda.

However, As Marcos Breton noted in his December 6 article in the Sacramento Bee, San Bernardino does NOT open a new chapter. As Breton writes, “Some may say that terrorism is back in America. But it has already been here for quite some time.” San Bernardino may drive Americans even deeper into fear, and this may become “the new normal,’ but this is not logical.

This year alone, 462 people have been killed in mass shootings in America. San Bernardino was just the latest rampage. Some of the assailants have been native-born white supremacists or right-wingers, some have been Muslims, and most of these aberrant individuals’ motives are unclear. That’s why I suggested in my previous blog that we should try to capture more of them alive, so as to find out what makes them tick. Almost all of them have been native born, including the Fort Hood mass murderer Nidal Hasan and now Syed Farook (but the Tsarnaev brothers, Boston Marathon attack, were foreign-born). So far, it is wrong to say that much of the mischief in this country is caused by (Muslim) immigrants. Read more...

Monday, December 7, 2015

Why Islam Needs a Reformation

 The latest terror attack in San Bernardino has caused a huge discussion on gun control laws or rather, the lack of it in the United States. Only today did the news finally focus on the motive behind the attack, which was to show 'sympathy' for ISIS and its cause: the establishment of a global caliphate and to impose Sharia law throughout the world.

Ayaan Hirshi Ali, author of 'Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation', would classify the San Bernardino terrorists as 'Medina Muslims'. Medina Muslims want a return to the original 7th century brand of Islam, impose Sharia law and wage war (Jihad) against the 'Infidel'. Only 3% of Muslims belong to this group, but that's about 48 million Jihadists, enough to scare the bejesus out of anyone. She calls them by that name because , after Muhammad went to Medina, he became ‘radicalized’ and started to attack unbelievers, if they refused to convert.

She distinguishes them from 'Mecca Muslims' (the majority of Muslims), who practice their religion and are not inclined to violence. Mecca Muslims, however are in a constant state of 'cognitive dissonance', trying to fit their religious values in a modern world. There are two alternatives for this group to live without cognitive dissonance: leave their faith, as Hirshi Ali did or become radicalized and join the Medina Muslims. The third group of Muslims, the one Hirshi Ali belongs to, she calls the 'Reformist Muslims'.

Terrorism is the modern day equivalent of the 16th century European Wars of Religion. As the title of her book suggests, Hirshi Ali argues that the only way to stop the religiously motivated killings, is if Islam undergoes a Reformation, similar to the Protestant Reformation in the Catholic Church.

But she doesn’t stop there. Being an ex-Muslim herself, she identifies five precepts that are inherently harmful and prevent Islam from going through a reformation.

The first and foremost point is for Islam to open itself up to criticism, including satire. There is nothing more invigorating and empowering than for a doctrine or world view to be challenged. Islam would gain from a healthy dose of scrutiny. It would weed out the parts that are causing so much suffering to Muslims themselves, especially women. The Quran, after all is written by men, and the fact that reason has been removed from its text, proves that it can be put back by men. Read more...

Thursday, December 3, 2015

San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Roseburg, Chattanooga, Charleston, Isla Vista, Killeen, Washington, Santa Monica, Newton, Aurora, etc. Ad Nauseam...

 It happened again, as it now happens almost daily. On December 2, three terrorists murdered fourteen people in San Bernardino, and wounded many more. Two suspects are dead, one is still on the loose as of this writing. And the list goes on (See Mass Shootings in the US).

Yes, they are/were terrorists. You don’t need to know who they were, what their religion and ethnicity is/was. Their actions by definition makes them terrorists, as is Robert Dear, who murdered three people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic on November 27, and all the others, regardless of race creed or color. Some random thoughts about this topic:

1. America is afflicted by a lethal combination: There is a diffused rage that is spreading like wildfire, and Americans are armed to the teeth with the most sophisticated weaponry imaginable. This is a very combustible mix.

License to Kill: Deer Hunt in the Blue Hills

I like deer. They are elegant herbivores that often come in my yard to nibble on the birdfeeders and I often wonder how they survive the harsh winters in New England. I see them get thinner and thinner, and by the end of January, their ribs show through their matted coat, some of them limping, but always in groups, sharing the feed in the buckets that we put out for them, when we know there is nothing else for them to eat.

I like them so much that I have become involved in fighting against so-called ‘controlled deer hunts’ in my area. One hunt is underway in the Blue Hills, a 6000-acre state park near Boston. This hunt was proposed and approved by the Mass Department of Fish and Game, who did its own study and determined that there were too many deer in the Blue Hills, knowing that it gets most of its funds from hunting licenses. Do I detect the smell of conflict of interest here?

Why Blame Deer?

It is easy to blame the deer for things that people have no control over. They are blamed for spreading Lyme Disease, for causing collisions and for destroying the forest. But the only crime that deer are guilty of, is that they have the ability to co-exist with people.

Even though deer are hosts to ticks, they do not "carry" or "spread" Lyme Disease. In fact, they provide a buffer between the host (white-footed mouse) and humans by collecting the ticks on themselves, mostly adult ticks that usually are no longer infected. "There is no direct correlation between deer density and prevalence of Lyme disease", says John Rohm of the Virginia Department of Game & Inland Fisheries. “When the deer are killed, the ticks seek alternate hosts, such as pets and people.”

Forest growth is influenced by so many factors other than deer that it is hard to mention them all: acid rain, insect damage, disease, development, pollution, loss of soil fertility and invasive species. Even non-native earthworms have significant influences on forest ecology. But it is harder to shoot earthworms or chipmunks and field mice, than it is to shoot a deer, so they get the blame.

Many people believe that reducing the deer population will result in fewer car collisions. But over an eight-year hunting period in Millburn New Jersey, the number of deer-car collisions did not decline. Read more...