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Saturday, August 09, 2014

Links - 9th August 2014

The gay radicals of the past didn't want equality: they wanted liberation, and thought marriage was oppression - "The Gay Liberation Front that emerged out of the Stonewall riot insisted that "complete sexual liberation for all people cannot come about unless existing social institutions are abolished". It was pretty clear that one of the social institutions that would have to be done away with was marriage. A Gay Manifesto, an influential radical pamphlet published in 1970, described marriage as "a rotten, oppressive institution"... As for Britain's early Gay Pride get-togethers – they viewed marriage and the family as "a patriarchal prison that enslaves women, gays and children". To depict last night's passing of the gay marriage bill as a victory for these early campaigners is a bit like saying the nuking of Hiroshima was the joyous outcome of CND marches... the gay marriage campaign of today, with its drab demand that homosexuals be granted equal access to the social institution of "rotten, oppressive" marriage, represents not the fulfilment of early gay radicals' demands but the warping of them, the stomping of them into the dirt of history. It is a well-known fact that most radicals end up going straight, eventually donning a suit and tie and accepting a fat wage packet in return for tempering their ideals. But the gay movement, in switching from loathing marriage to longing to enter into it, and from demanding that the state get our of their lives to pleading with the state to officiate their relationships, has performed an about-face that is unprecedented even in modern radical politics... I think it is to do with the gay movement's embrace in recent years of the deadening and divisive politics of identity. Early gay rights warriors were interested in autonomy, which meant their key demand was for the state and the "moral majority" to butt out of their lives and let them do whatever they wanted. Their demand was for moral independence. Today's gay rights spokespeople are obsessed with identity, and as we know, cultural identities are insatiable beasts, constantly needing the recognition and flattery of officialdom and society in order to survive. Thus, their key demand is for the state to come into their lives and give its blessing to their lifestyles and relationships, to effectively say: "Your way of life is valid. We accept it." It is the very opposite of the moral independence and autonomy demanded by yesteryear's gay radicals – it is a needy and cloying demand for state approval rather than a radical insistence that the state has no business determining which relationships are acceptable and which are not. Don't be fooled by the excitable tweets and tears of joy currently being produced by the gay rights lobby – for the gay marriage campaign actually speaks to a shocking lack of confidence among modern-day homosexuals, to a collapse of gay moral autonomy, even to a crisis of gay love. Once, and tragically, this was the love that dared not speak its name; now, equally tragically, it is the love that must have its name bellowed out by the state and the respectable press lest the self-esteem of those who practise it be even slightly damaged"

Sid Ra's answer to What does it feel like to be an unattractive woman? - Quora - "To highlight the importance of beauty, imagine a simple scenario: if a group of women are offered a million dollars in exchange for facially aging fifteen years, how many do you think would take the offer? No matter how many platitudes we state about personality being paramount, the truth is that a woman's looks are the number one hurdle she faces in nearly all of her life interactions."

'Technology Gandalf' Is The Only Meme We've Ever Needed

Barry Hampe's answer to Feminism: What is wrong with the statement: "To the extent that feminists are for equality, I support feminism."? - Quora - "I said nothing negative about feminists. I cast no slur on them. I said, in effect, "Here is where I stand on equality for women. To the extent that others stand with me on this, I support their organization and beliefs." The fact that this seems difficult for some feminists on Quora to understand and accept, frankly, calls into question their good faith on equality for women. If my unconditional support for equality for women, regardless of my view of feminism, is not enough, then they are obviously more about the political aspect and image of their organization than they are about equality. I have to say that it appears to me that those who take exception to my answer are intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They have driven away a supporter. In the past three days, I have gone from support for feminism with what I considered a minor qualification (about which these nit-pickers seem to be proving me right), to "I no longer give a damn. If this is what feminism is about, then I want nothing to do with it." I still absolutely have unqualified support for equality for women, and I appreciate the many women (perhaps Not True Feminists) who understood that from my original answer and my answer here."
Addendum: Keywords - "you have lost an ally", "i have been"

How tests can help us overcome the "soft bigotry of low expectations" | The Thomas B. Fordham Institute - "In a 2000 campaign speech, George W. Bush famously said:
Some say it is unfair to hold disadvantaged children to rigorous standards. I say it is discrimination to require anything less—the soft bigotry of low expectations...
For a new study recently published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, Rutgers-Newark psychology professor Kent D. Harber and his team gave a poorly written essay to 113 white middle and high school teachers. The teachers were told that the essay was written by a black, a white, or a Latino student and that their feedback would be given directly to the student to help him/her improve. According to one article:
The results showed that the teachers displayed a “positive feedback bias.” The teachers provided more praise and less criticism if they thought that the student who wrote the essay was Black or Hispanic...
in AP classes, there are not only rigorous standards and quality curricular materials, but there are also assessments to which all students will be held, regardless of their background, prior knowledge, or experience. And these assessments set a clear bar for where all students should be. Such clarity makes it more difficult to allow personal biases—whether deliberate or subconscious—to subtly lower standards for students from whom you don’t expect quite as much. It’s become popular in many education circles to decry “teaching to the test,” but this latest research provides one more reason why these independent checks on what students have actually learned are a critical element of an effort to close America’s achievement gap."
Minorities are not always 'disadvantaged' by their race (of course, whether giving equal grades for unequal work is discrimination is another issue)
Given that people complain about bias against minorities, you'd expect them to favor standardised tests which are less likely to be biased

In what ways is it impolite to say no in Japan? - Quora - "Generally speaking, it is impolite to say no by saying 'no' (いいえ iie)."

William Oliver's answer to Racism: Is it true that we're all a little racist? - Quora - "there is a notable difference between prejudice and active discrimination. Everyone has prejudice, this is something that we will probably never escape. But it is important to realize that prejudice is not the same as malice. Prejudice is almost instinctual for some, but some truly do not mean any harm. We need to stop attacking people simply for being prejudice, as these people often have good intentions. If you are prejudice, but you know that it is wrong to be prejudice then you are clearly trying your best. Instead, we should strive to help them remove this prejudice as much as possible."

Adultery is not cruelty, Supreme Court says - The Times of India - "Merely being "intimate" with another woman is not sufficient ground for a man to be held guilty of inflicting cruelty on his wife on the charge of failing to discharge his marital obligations, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday... The SC reading of what constitutes cruelty brought relief to a man who had been convicted by both the trial court and the high court for behaviour that resulted in the suicide of his wife due to an alleged extra-marital affair at his place of work. The ruling came in a case where the wife committed suicide suspecting the husband of intimacy with a woman colleague in office. The trial court and the Gujarat high court held him guilty under Section 498A for causing cruelty to his wife and under Section 306 of IPC for abetting suicide."

Adultery law biased against men, says Supreme Court - The Times of India - "Taking up a matrimonial dispute, the Supreme Court on Thursday concurred with criticism of Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code which punishes a man alone for adultery for having consensual sex with a married woman. The criticism of the bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R M Lodha was on two grounds — that the provision reduces a married woman to a property of the husband, and that punishment is meted out to the man though the woman with whom he had consensual sex was an equal partner in the alleged crime."

Personhood movement, chimeras: How biology complicates politics. - "The impulse is clear. The sponsors, including Ryan, want to protect what they see as human life. They want to prohibit abortions. Unfortunately, they may love life, but they do not understand its earliest developmental stages. Their proposed legislation and the personhood movement ignore the existence of chimeras, among other developmental phenomena... If one twin absorbs part of the other, did it commit homicide? Perhaps so. Conjoined twins are considered to be two different people legally, but what if one of them has only legs and feet that stick out from the fully formed twin (which has actually happened)—is the one twin is a person with some extra parts, or did he or she also commit homicide in some way? What about a chimeric person—does he or she get two votes because of having come from two different fertilizations? If fertilization defines personhood, then surely so. Clearly, this easily leads to nonsense"

High Taxes Are Not a Prime Reason for Relocation, Studies Say - NYTimes.com - "a large majority of people move for far more compelling reasons, like jobs, the cost of housing, family ties or a warmer climate. At least three recent academic studies have demonstrated that the number of people who move for tax reasons is negligible, even among the wealthy... Despite the allure of low taxes, Mr. Depardieu hasn’t been seen in Russia since picking up his passport and seems to be hedging his bets by maintaining a residence in Belgium. Meanwhile, Russian billionaires are snapping up trophy properties in high-tax London, New York and Beverly Hills, Calif... “People who are very rich, who are retired or who aren’t tied to a particular location, do change their residency at a high rate based on tax differentials.” But there aren’t many people like that. “Tax-induced flight is rare,” Professor Tannenwald said. “The rate of interstate migration is low to begin with. To the extent that people leave a state, or shun a potential destination, they do so primarily for other reasons, such as to find more affordable housing, better job prospects or a more attractive climate”... for most people, even the very affluent, it’s not that easy, since most successful businesses and high-paying jobs are tied to specific locations. In addition, “entrepreneurship and earning power are clustered in highly competitive regions like Silicon Valley, Los Angeles and New York City,” he said. “People making over a million are typically close to their peak income years, and are enjoying the fruits of long-term career investments. This is hard to walk away from.” His research in New Jersey found that, while some people left, any lost revenue was more than made up for by added revenue from people who stayed. He estimated that New Jersey’s 2004 tax increase on incomes over $500,000 raised nearly $1 billion a year, “with little cost in terms of tax flight.”"

Friday, August 08, 2014

The violence of moral binaries

""When people thought the earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the earth was spherical, they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together."

The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that "right" and "wrong" are absolute; that everything that isn't perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong."

- The Relativity of Wrong / Isaac Asimov

Even if one doesn't subscribe to strong moral relativism (that nothing is really right or really wrong), there is a weaker and related form of moral equivalence which holds that moral evaluations brook no comparisons - it doesn't matter how right or how wrong acts might be: all that matters is whether they are right or wrong. Sometimes this is phrased as opposition to the "Oppression Olympics"; a current application of this principle is that ISIS's genocide in Iraq and Israel's Palestinian death toll in Gaza are both equally bad.

In other words, it's just as much of a tragedy when you cut your finger as when you walk into an open sewer and die (with apologies to Mel Brooks).

Of course, this goes against many generally-agreed-upon moral principles - the distinction between sins of omission and commission, between first and second order effects, the importance of intent and the importance of looking at what the real-world consequences are. So this view manages to piss off people in both major schools of thought on ethics (deontology and consequentialism).

There are also practical problems; as Dawkins points out, if this moral stance were true, "judges shouldn’t be allowed to impose harsher sentences for some rapes than for others. Do we really want our courts to impose a single mandatory sentence – a life sentence, perhaps – for all rapes regardless? To all rapes, from getting a woman drunk and taking advantage at one end of the spectrum, to holding a knife to her throat in a dark alley at the other? Do we really want our judges to ignore such distinctions when they pass sentence? I don’t, and I don’t think any reasonable person would if they thought it through. And yet that would seem to be the message of the agonisingly passionate tweets that I have been reading. The message seems to be, no, there is no spectrum, you are wicked, evil, a monster, to even ask whether there might be a spectrum."

Another practical problem is that one doesn't have a good guide to action; if one is forced to choose between two (or more) unpleasant actions (or actions with unpleasant consequences), one will be unable to choose. For example, should one fire the incompetent worker who needs the job to feed his family - or the brilliant one who is independently wealthy?

Related: Philippe Bourgois on The violence of moral binaries:

"[[Binford] misreads my discussion of the continuum of violence in El Salvador as a judgment on the moral worth of the FMLN guerillas. I recognize Binford’s moralistic reading well because at times I share it. My own intellect and emotions are shaped, at least partially, by the same historical and ideological forces that make Binford uncomfortable with reports of bad news about the behavior of the poor, the socially vulnerable, and socialist revolutionaries.

To put it starkly, at the cost of some simplification, I would say that the crypto-puritanical, upwardly mobile, immigrant heritage of the United States imposes an unusually polarized understanding of politics and practice. It invites us to view individuals and actions as either all bad or all good, sinful or virtuous, noble or ignoble...

[My book shows] how, under circumstances of extreme misery in the midst of stupendous wealth, victims turn into victimizers. It also steadfastly argues against binary conceptions of worthiness. It presents the coexistence of ‘good’ with ‘bad’ in the very same person and households as well as in the same sector of practice...

In a withering critique of the analytic limitations and political failings of recent ethnographies of race and poverty in the US metropolis, Loïc Wacquant identifies what he calls ‘the unwritten “code of writing about the poor” in American social science’ that produces moralistic and depoliticized accounts of urban marginality. The ‘five cardinal rules’ include the dictate to ‘spotlight the deeds of the worthy poor, exalt their striving, strength and creativity, and emphasize success stories, even as they are marginal and non- replicable’. The list culminates with the prescription that ‘last but not least, you shall bring good news and leave the reader feeling reassured’ (Wacquant, 2002)...

We cannot write effectively against the unpleasant products of power and inequality if we remain trapped in a US moralism that obses- sively seeks to distinguish between the worthy and the unworthy poor at home and between brutal terrorists and humane freedom fighters abroad. Ethnographic methods, sensibilities, and politics oblige us to touch, smell, and even feel the actual existing social suffering that we may not want to admit to ourselves we have witnessed"

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Why do many liberals support Hamas?

Gabriel Seah's answer to Why do many staunchly left-wing and liberal people support Hamas, which is diametrically opposed to the very beliefs that they hold sacred, such as free speech, pluralism, religious freedom, women’s rights, LGBT rights, etc.? - Quora

Besides being against free speech, pluralism, religious freedom, women’s rights and LGBT rights, Hamas's charter also calls for Israel's destruction and they attack target civilians (which as Human Rights Watch [among others] notes, is a war crime - Gaza: Palestinian Rockets Unlawfully Targeted Israeli Civilians)

Certainly some liberals do support Hamas, with slogans like "We are all Hamas now!" and "Victory to Hamas!" (Hamas no, human rights yes) being cheered. Yet, others do not support Hamas per se and would not support it without the existence of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Partly it depends on what you mean by "supporting" Hamas. Certainly when it comes to a choice between Israel and Hamas most liberals would sympathise more with Hamas, and they are more critical of Israel than they are of Hamas (if they are at all critical of the latter).

In that context, liberals "support" Hamas for 5 main reasons:

1) Images of death and suffering
2) Israeli wrongs
3) Anti-US bias
4) Islamophobia-phobia
5) Anti-Semitism

In turn:

1) Images of deaths and suffering

Liberals are very sensitive to other people's suffering and power relations.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general (and in 2014's Gaza conflict in particular), the bulk of the deaths and suffering are on the side of the Palestinians.

Since Hamas is on the Palestinian "side" (among other things, being the government of Gaza), liberals see the greater suffering of Palestinians as proof that Palestinians (and by extension Hamas) are the wronged party.

Hamas knows that images of Palestinian suffering are great PR and its strategy is to maximise Palestinian suffering. Bill Clinton summarises the strategy:

"Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage on Israel by  forcing it to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas," he told  Indian NDTV news channel.

Hamas had a "strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own  (Palestinian) civilians so the rest of the world will condemn them,"  while Israel couldn't "look like fools" by not responding to the heavy  missile attacks.

(Bill Clinton: Hamas "forces Israel to kill civilians")

Images of death and suffering are not the only motivation, however. There is a lot more of that in Iraq and Syria, but liberals do not spend as much time and energy on the problems in those areas, instead focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As for power, liberals tend to support the underdog, regardless of whether it is right.

As Haruki Murakami noted when in Jerusalem (Murakami in Jerusalem: 'Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg.'):

"Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg."

Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg.

So because Hamas is clearly the underdog in the Gaza conflict, liberals reflexively support it.

2) Israeli wrongs

It is hard to conclude that Israel is totally blameless in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As I note in Gabriel Seah's answer to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Who is wrong in the Israel-Palestine conflict?:

the  Israelis have been building settlements in the West Bank, which makes a  future solution harder to achieve. Many Israelis' treatment of the  Palestinians in the Occupied Territories leaves much to be desired (e.g.  3 Israeli teens arrested for spitting at Palestinian woman), and the army seems to use disproportionate force sometimes (The Dahiya Doctrine and Israel's Use of Disproportionate Force).  One might even blame Israel for not being more generous in giving the  stateless Palestinians concessions - given that they were stateless for 2  millennia themselves.

Given that Israel is Hamas's most visible enemy in the world media (quietly, Arab leaders prefer Israel to Hamas for various reasons that I shall not go into here: Arab leaders, viewing Hamas as worse than Israel, stay silent - The Times of India), some antipathy towards Israeli actions is translated into support for Hamas, which opposes Israel.

3) Anti-US bias

Liberals are very skeptical (to say the least) of anything Western governments (and in particular the US government) do in foreign policy (The left's irrational fear of American intervention).

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

In this vein, since the US supports Israel, those who are anti-Israel (like Hamas) must be the good guys.

This is similar to how many liberals supported Venezuela's Hugo Chavez despite his running the country into the ground and subverting its democracy (Hollywood's Liberals Hail Chavez as Great Social Hero) - Chavez defied the USA, so he had to be on the side of Good.

For an example closer to Gaza, some liberals opposed the 2007 troop surge in Iraq that stabilised the country, since it represented a larger US presence in Iraq (rather than the smaller one they desired). A 2008 Gallup poll found that 79% of Democrats thought the surge either didn't help or made matters worse despite clear evidence that civilian deaths declined while military deaths did not increase (MIT economist analyzes troop surge in Iraq). Even more tellingly, in an experiment (Blank slates or closed minds? The role of information deficits and identity threat in the prevalence of misperceptions), even when presented with evidence that the surge stabilised the country, many supporters of withdrawal (who we can take as a proxy for being liberal) did not change their minds.

4) Islamophobia-phobia.

Most liberals, especially in the West, have a background in the Judeo-Christian tradition/Western Civilization. Islam is a "minority" and so "powerless" (with reference to point 1 on suffering and power).

This is why many Liberals - even feminists - don't say much (if anything) about women's rights in the Islamic world or other human rights issues for fear of  appearing "racist", ethnocentric. and/or Islamophobic.  Instead they pick on trivial problems in Western world.

The Palestinians are mostly Muslim and Hamas is a Muslim organisation (as opposed to Fatah, which is secular). Meanwhile Israel is a Jewish state (which ties in to the last point about anti-Semitism), so the choice is clear.

5) Anti-Semitism

Lastly, some support of Hamas is due to good ole anti-Semitism.

To be sure, you can criticise Israel without being anti-Semitic. Yet, when your slogans include  “Death to Jews!,” “Hitler was right!,” “Gaza is the real Holocaust” and “Jew, Jew, cowardly swine, come out and fight on your own!” (The moral corruption of the political left), it is hard to conclude that anti-Semitism isn't involved.

Also, double standards abound. We hear about (and people get outraged about) Israelis cheering attacks on Gaza (presumably because they are happy action is finally being taken to stop Israelis being terrorised by rocket attacks) (Israelis gather on hillsides to watch and cheer as military drops bombs on Gaza). Yet, nary a word is said about Palestinians cheering as rockets are launched at Israel (Palestinians in Hebron cheer as Gaza rockets fly toward Israeli population centers).

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Links - 5th August 2014

1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible - Elizabeth Wurtzel - The Atlantic - "Let's please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don't depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own... For anyone who doesn't care to count, but understands traffic signals mixed with policy speculation, I think it's safe to say that the day is near when a teenage girl will be forced to get a vaginal probe before she is issued a learner's permit in the state of Virginia... I have to admit that when I meet a woman who I know is a graduate of, say, Princeton -- one who has read The Second Sex and therefore ought to know better -- but is still a full-time wife, I feel betrayed... A job that anyone can have is not a job, it's a part of life, no matter how important people insist it is (all the insisting is itself overcompensation). Even moms with full-time jobs spend 86 percent as much time with their kids as unemployed mothers, so it is apparently taking up the time of about 14 percent of a paid position. And all the cultish glorification of home and hearth still leaves us in a world where most of the people paid to chef and chauffeur in the commercial world are men. Which is to say, something becomes a job when you are paid for it -- and until then, it's just a part of life"
If "not all feminists" are like this, they are certainly doing a great job at shaping the common perception of feminists as hysterical and oppressive
If being a parent is so easy, why complain that men don't pick up the load?

maybe genius: Strong Female Characters and Devaluing the Feminine - "Part of the push toward the Strong Female Character includes a push toward devaluing the feminine in favor of the masculine, even while keeping the ladies gorgeous and perfectly coifed. The characters I refer to are often the only valuable female character in a sea of male characters. They rarely interact with other women, let alone are good friends with any. Because other non-strong women are just so boring and useless, you know? They can't be bothered with normal female friendships and support. They're too busy proving that they're one of the guys."

Can secularism benefit Malay-Muslims? - "Secularism has been a dirty word for Malaysian Muslims largely because of the two legacies: the Kemalist legacy in Turkey and the British legacy in Malaya."

Economics and ethics: Lying commies | The Economist - "The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers of high rolls."

Singapore Judge Says Reasons Needed to End Gay-Sex Ban - Bloomberg - "“What’s the legal criteria?” Andrew Phang asked lawyers for the three men who claim the law violates their rights to equality and to life and personal liberty under the Asian city state’s constitution. “The court can only listen to one voice, the legal voice,” the judge said yesterday... “Maybe this is not the right forum to canvass these arguments,” Phang said. “Maybe it’s across the road to parliament.” The court is being asked to venture into policy formulation on an “intensely controversial area” with emotive arguments based on extralegal values, he said"

Hamas Is Using Civilians as Human Shields but Its Latest Directive Is the Most Shocking - "To drive home the point on the human shield tactic, the IDF tweeted this animation comparing Israeli homes with bomb shelters in the basement with Gaza homes used by Hamas to hide weapons"

James Altucher's answer to Wealth: What is the most reliable way to be making at least $250,000/year within 8 years of graduating with a Bachelor's in Computer Science? - Quora - "First off, forget about your bachelor's in Computer Science. I did that and then went to grad school for CS. Worthless. The only way to make real wealth is to get rid of your salary. In a salary, by definition, you are creating wealth for others and you are creating a chain and handcuffs for yourself... I'm on the board of a billion revs employment agency. I can tell you the facts: income is going down relative to inflation for 40 years in a row. And the entire middle class is getting fired. I don't mean this in a scary way. It's just the facts right now. Maybe it will change. I hope so but I doubt it. I'm not even suggesting go out and start a company. Running a company is a lot of painful work. Employees have sex with each other and clients want bribes and programs don't work at demos. More than half the unemployed have college degrees (another comment: "College is not just about the money". And my response: "then don't let your kids get $100,000 in debt just so they can read books for a few years.")... I kept seeing this guy Steve Scott on Amazon. His books kept beating my books on Amazon's lists. How could "23 Anti-Procrastination Habits" rank higher than "Choose Yourself!" Other books would be: "70 Healthy Habits", or "How to Start a Successful Blog in One Hour". And every few weeks there would be another book. First I noticed it under Steve Scott. But then, with a completely different picture, I noticed the same style of books coming up under SJ Scott. He was like a machine of books. ".99 is the New Free", "Declutter Your Inbox", and on and on."

Gong Cha Menu | Green, Oolong, Earl Grey, Fruit Tea & Milk Coffee | Singapore - "Today, the health benefits of tea such as its high levels of antioxidants as well as its low calorie content are available throughout Singapore as well as the rest of the world."
This is rich

Nation’s Liberals Suffering From Outrage Fatigue | The Onion - America's Finest News Source - "According to a study released Monday by the Hammond Political Research Group, many of the nation's liberals are suffering from a vastly diminished sense of outrage... "For a while, I wanted more fuel for the fire, to really get my blood boiling," said Madison, WI resident Dorothy Levine, a reproductive-rights activist and former Howard Dean campaign volunteer. "I read the policy papers on the Brookings web site. I subscribed to The Progressive. I clipped cartoons by Tom Tomorrow and Ted Rall. I listened to NPR all day. But then, it was like, while I was reading Molly Ivins' Bushwhacked, eight more must-read anti-Bush books came out. It was overwhelming. By the time they released Fahrenheit 9/11, I was too exhausted to drag myself to the theater.""

A Marijuana Lubricant That Gives You a 15-Minute Climax

Kamikaze, the Original Suicide Bombers? - "Tore Torihama, a woman once called the kamikaze's "mama-san." She ran a small restaurant in Chiran where many of the pilots had their last meals and confided all the things they could not say in their heavily censored letters home. "My grandmother told me the boys knew the war was lost, knew their lives were being thrown away by their commanders," he said through a translator. "They flew their missions because the social pressures on them were so great, they could not back down." Today, he has transformed the old restaurant into an alternative kamikaze museum, to keep alive the message passed on by his grandmother — that the suicide pilots were not heroes, but the victims of fanaticism. "

Kathleen Parker: Fair warning, provoking a thought is literature’s job - The Washington Post - "literature, apparently, is fair game for those tortured souls who fear that some -ism or another might leap from a page, causing what exactly? A moment of discomfort? An opportunity to sort through one’s emotional attic? Or, heavens, exposure to an involuntary insight?... Mightn’t students Google a book in advance of reading if they’re so fearful of a psychological crisis? One is surprised that student organizers at these schools would use such a loaded word as “trigger,” given its obvious association with guns. Without making light of anyone’s ethnicity, race or trauma, especially rape or stress disorder suffered by veterans (another specific group of concern), such precautions are misplaced in an institution of higher learning where one is expected to be intellectually challenged and where one’s psychological challenges are expected to be managed elsewhere. There are, besides, other ways to inform oneself about a course or literary assignment that might be problematic for whatever reason. Then again, if reading “The Great Gatsby” causes one undue angst owing to its abuse, classism, sexism and whatever-ism, then one might consider that college is not the right place at the right time... Most if not all of Shakespeare and the Greek tragedies would require so many labels they’d look like a Prius in Portland. Lest I leave anyone unoffended, studying at the adult level, that is, in an institution of higher learning, isn’t supposed to make one feel good — or necessarily bad. It is to make one feel challenged, excited by new ideas, elevated by fresh insights, broadened by others’ perspectives."

Monday, August 04, 2014

Palestinians Cheer Carnage

Palestinians Cheer Carnage - WSJ
(an article from 2002)

"In Gaza last week, crowds of children reveled and sang while adults showered them with candies. The cause for celebration: the cold-blooded murder of at least seven people -- five of them Americans -- and the maiming of 80 more by a terrorist bomb on the campus of Jerusalem's Hebrew University. The joyful response of so many to the death, suffering, and mutilation of students and university workers raises pointed questions about the health of Palestinian society, both mental and moral. It makes many Israelis ask whether, even if a cease-fire is reached and negotiations someday resume, peace with the Palestinians is possible.

There is, of course, nothing new about Palestinians applauding terror. During the Gulf War in 1991, they danced on rooftops in praise of Iraqi Scud missiles raining on Israeli neighborhoods. Again, in the mid-1990s, after bus bombs in Israel killed dozens -- one of them was my sister-in-law -- an estimated 70,000 Palestinians filled a Gaza stadium to cheer a reenactment of the massacre. The deaths of over 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11 was another cause for dancing in Palestinian streets, though Arafat's men suppressed foreign coverage of the fete.

The terrorist acts and their gruesome effects are celebrated as inspiration for the next generation. Most recently, a West Bank university held an exhibition in honor of the suicide bomber who killed 14 Israelis at a Jerusalem pizzeria in 2001; the props included painted puddles of blood and scattered body parts. Palestinian parades regularly feature columns of masked and hooded youths girded with cardboard explosives, proclaiming their frenzy to kill. Palestinian babies have also been photographed -- proudly -- in suicide bomber's garb.

Such festivities contrast radically with the reaction of Israelis to the deaths of Palestinian civilians in a recent attack on a Hamas terrorist leader in Gaza. Though "collateral damage" is virtually unavoidable in battle, though the army apologized for its mistake, and though the terrorist himself bore some responsibility for the tragedy by hiding out in a densely populated area, Israelis were deeply disturbed. Many engaged in introspection over anti-terrorist tactics; some took to the street in protest. There was no gloating, no cheering, certainly, but rather nationwide expressions of remorse, even shame.

For all its anomalies, Israel is at base a healthy society. The reaction of Israelis to civilian casualties, even among their mortal enemies, is similar to that shown by Americans after the accidental bombing of villagers in Afghanistan. But the Palestinians are different. Though Palestinian spokesmen often seek to justify terror in terms of popular frustration and despair, there is no rational explanation for the outbursts of joy bordering on ecstasy at the dismemberment of innocent children, women, and men. Beyond the controversy over settlements and territory, beyond the bitter conflict over Jerusalem, there is something else at work in the delight displayed by Palestinians over slaughter -- something sick and perhaps even evil.

Readers of Richard Rhodes's recently published book, "Masters of Death," learn that, after a day of shooting thousands of Jews, members of the SS Einsatzgruppen often repaired for a celebratory drink and banquet. The Nazis' behavior is readily identified as barbaric and insane. Surely those same adjectives apply, then, to Palestinians who rejoice not only when great numbers of Jewish civilians are butchered, but when their own children are blown up in the process.

For all the kudos discretely given SS killers by the regime, Nazi Germany never publicly lionized them, never plastered their pictures on the streets, or openly encouraged children to emulate them. That kind of adoration for mass murderers can only be found, in abundance, among the Palestinians.

The majority of Israelis, myself included, are willing to make far-reaching sacrifices for peace and to embark on a process of genuine reconciliation with the Palestinians. Yet that same majority will have immense difficulty forgetting the horrific scenes of carnage and the spectacle of Palestinians extolling them. For us, the issue is no longer merely borders and topography nor even the terms of a cease-fire, but whether a fundamentally sound society can trust one that has lost its mental and moral bearings.

The damage to peace efforts has been massive, and the chances for repairing it are slim. Still, a sane and responsible Palestinian leadership might yet arise and put an end to the bombings and their public glorification. The alternative is the elimination of all hope for a peaceful settlement in this or even future generations. For the Palestinians, who are now paying a staggering price for their ruinous resort to terror, that is reason enough not to celebrate."
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