Thursday, February 23, 2006

Graven Images

In events that bear a striking resemblance to the aftermath of the release of the Satanic Verses in 1989 when Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini called on Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie and incited mass rioting in Pakistan and other areas it seems that the world is close to falling apart again. However it also seems that there are certain discrepancies that could make me bear the “Conspiracy Theorist” label.

The fact that certain Danish imams (religious leaders) would spread fake cartoons to inflame the situation is nothing compared to the selectivity of arrests in the area. 11 editors of newspapers in Yemen (perhaps other countries in the area as well, but the article did not specify) were arrested and await trial for printing either the entire images or partial images of the cartoons in their newspapers, this seems reasonable based on the fact that the area is ruled by Islamic law however, so is Egypt and they are apparently not applying the same stringency to the press there.“After all, Ahmed Abdel Maksoud and Youssra Zahran are free. They are journalists with the Egyptian weekly Al Fajr, one of the first Arab newspapers to publish the cartoons. They wrote a story about the caricatures and reprinted them in October — months before the conflict erupted — to condemn the drawings. “The fact that these cartoons were republished “months before the conflict erupted” is a very telling item. When news spreads, especially inflammatory news, it spreads like a grease fire – consuming everything; for example the riots in LA over Rodney King began the night the press got a hold of the tape. The main issue here is that the rioting started when someone actually lit the fuse and seems to want people to have mass chaos."The feelings of the Muslims are being exploited for some purpose," said Adel Hammoude, editor in chief of Al Fajr. "Religion is the easiest thing to use in provoking the people. Egyptians will never go out on the street in protest about what happened in the case of the sinking ferry or against corruption or this or that." (see link above)It also doesn’t help things that the same paper that published the cartoons had refused to publish other cartoons. The original reason that I heard was that the cartoons would be deemed offensive to Christians, however, this Story changed.

""My cartoon, which certainly did not offend any Christians I showed it to, was rejected because the editor felt it would be considered offensive to readers -- readers in general, not necessarily Christians," cartoonist Christoffer Zieler said in an email he sent to Reuters on Wednesday."""Having seen the cartoons, I found that they were not very good. I failed to see the purportedly provocative nature," he said in a statement. "My fault is that I didn't tell him what I really meant: The cartoons were bad." Kaiser said he told Zieler he had not used the cartoons because they were offensive to some readers."According to the editor, his reason for not publishing the Christian cartoons was because they were not funny or interesting. For anyone who has seen the actual published ones, hopefully you will agree with me. They are just not funny. One looks kinda cool, but they are just stupid. So either the Danish sense of humor is completely alien to mine or the editor had some ulterior motive in publishing it.
Most religious heads have been denouncing the cartoons but attempting to calm the rioting, but once that starts, tension just raises again from the inside.

From “Blast Destroys Shrine in Iraq, Setting Off Sectarian Fury”The New York Times By ROBERT F. WORTHPublished: February 22, 2006

The attack in Samarra began at 7 a.m., when a group of a dozen men dressed in paramilitary uniforms entered the shrine and handcuffed four guards who were sleeping in a back room, said a spokesman for the provincial governor's office. The attackers then placed a bomb in the dome and detonated it, collapsing most of the dome and heavily damaging an adjoining wall. "In the southern Shiite city of Basra, Shiite militia members destroyed at least two Sunni mosques, killing an imam, and launched an attack on the headquarters of Iraq's best-known Sunni Arab political party."

This was the version at 12:00 pm, however the version at 9:00 am the following morning said that a representative of the Sunni government said that several mosques were burned and the headquarters attacked "at the same time" but not in reaction to the explosion. Again, this is strange to me, but will cause internal anger. This mixed with the already growing hatred of the US from the Iraqi war and the hatred of the west over the cartoons, this could escalate into a world war. So what next? How can we secure ourselves against such an event?

“You don’t need to worry about security.” Bush tells America with his cute face and child-like reasoning.

According to Bush, the logic is that if Britain can manage ports on our soil, why shouldn’t another ally? Such as Saudi Arabia;

"I also want to remind folks that it's really important we not send mixed messages to friends and allies around the world as we combine, put together, a coalition to fight this War on Terror. So we'll continue to talk to people in Congress and explain clearly why the decision was made."
This reminder is a little funny for reasons to be discussed, however the main reason that we shouldn’t is because they are only a small cry better than Syria, who trains and funds terrorism and terrorist groups such as Hamas;

“The revelation that Hamas operates a command center in Saudi Arabia with close ties to Hamas militants executing attacks and the movement’s political and social-welfare (dawa) operations is remarkable. But neither the fact that individual Hamas operatives are active in Saudi Arabia nor the fact that Hamas receives significant funding from within the Kingdom is news.”

This quote is extracted from an article from September. So, though we have known of the connections between terrorist organizations and our ally for some months, we will apparently continue to give them free access to our eastern seaboard and control over our ports.

Another problem is the relationship between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Why is this a problem? Well, to play the card that the current administration loved to play for the past 5 years, 9/11. Two of the Hijackers were from UAE and many migrated here through their system, though they had know terrorist connections and were on a watch list. Marwan Al Shehhi, who piloted one of the hijacked planes into the towers was one of these individuals. AQ Khan, the Pakistani scientist with a name that sounds like he should be a Star Trek villain, smuggled nuclear materials, components and contraband to Iran, North Korea and Lybia through the UAE.

Why is this important? What does it have to do with Saudi Arabia? Location and status of boundary with Saudi Arabia is not final, de facto boundary reflects 1974. And while the UAE has a growing role as a heroin transshipment and money-laundering center, there is a death penalty for traffickers who are responsible for increasing consumption of heroin and cocaine in Saudi Arabia. The political structure of the UAE is an elected oligarcy sitting in a sort of Federal system of a “Supreme Council” who “elects” the President from the Al-Nahyan clan of Abu Dhabi and the Premier from the Al-Maktoom clan of Dubai and uses . Both of which are basically hereditary appointments from these clans. Where Saudi Arabia is a monarcy based on Islamic law. Both have serious human rights problems and corruption problems and have ties to international terrorist organizations, and yet they are both our allies in the “war on terror.” If Saudi Arabi takes over American Ports because it was ok for annother ally, as what seems the logic put forth by this administration so far, then why not UAE. Such an agreement will not strengthen the bonds of the region and could respark certain old problems there and send mixed messages to other allies.

Here is the point: Watch out world, we may all go caboom soon, so just keep an eye out for strangeness.

Here is the disclaimer: I recognize that the issue of images of Mohammed is sacrilegious but it is not you who is publishing them. If a non-Muslim draws, he is not breaking your laws because he is not bound by your laws. By the same respect, if you are going to publish something that you think to yourself, “hey, this might cause world wide riots because they are offensive” just think twice. We have to remember that there are angry and frustrated people out there and others, who seek power, that want to manipulate them. The last bit, be wary of who we call allies or who the yako in office has picked for his own purposes.

Here is a bit of confusion: If having images of people is a shunder in the Muslim religion then can someone please tell me how this is not a sin by the same rights?

"Holding pictures of the Iranian late spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini, left, and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Muslims chant slogans during a rally at the Saint Masoumeh shrine in the holy city of Qom, 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Thursday. (AP)"

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Good Luck Hilary

In a recent poll that has been splashing the newspapers yesterday and this morning, it was revealed that the United States is apparently ready for a Female President. According to these sources; the S.F. Chronicle amongst others, 79 percent of the participants in this survey were willing to vote for a Female candidate. What they so mention but fail to extrapolate upon is that the sample size (number of people who participated in this survey) is astronomically small. In most polls there are three things that are encouraged; randomness, wording and size.

The randomness issue is in reference to the sample; the participants are randomly selected from a larger group known as the population and the smaller selection is known as the sample. For example, the sample is meant to represent an entire state (the population) and the testers/pollsters select 100 people from one major city in that state (the sample). In this example, it is a very poor sample to represent the population the test is generated for, a random sample would have included other areas. You then come across terms like “blind” or double blind, normally this is generally referring to a study or poll where there is some sort of experiment. There are usually two groups, one where you apply the experiment to and one where you don't. (In medical drug trials it is usually something like Group A gets a drug and Group B gets a sugar pill) The unadulterated one is known as the control group and the other the test group. In a blind test the participant is unfamiliar which group he or she is in and in a double blind test neither do the testers. In polling this is hard; the only real “test” you are giving are the questions to see the reaction of the participants, however this leads us to the second issue - wording.

The wording of the questions are very important. Most pollsters and polling groups are paid by parties or candidates and the pollsters know what their varying bosses want to hear. So they will tweak the wording of the questions to generate the results that they want, either consciously or unconsciously. The general term for this is measurement error, where there is some error in the results as a result of something wrong in the test itself. For example, if I am a staunch conservative and want to prove that the U.S. Population is against abortion, my polling could have a question like; “Are you for or against the murder of unborn children?” where a question worded simply, “what is your opinion on abortion?” with a small list of possible responses could have been used. This is an extreme example but even in certain polls the decision to use one simple word or grammatical phrasing can alter results entirely. Other ridiculousness that comes about in the polling world surrounds the fact that you can change a poll any way you want to prove what you want. In certain polls those that examine the data will change the responses. Let us say that in a certain poll those being questioned were given the option to provide five responses; Strongly Favor, Favor, Undecided, Oppose, and Strongly Oppose. If the results are too similar or not providing the gravity that the pollsters want it to, they will simply group the Strongly Favors with the Favors, and the Opposes with the Strongly Opposes to only three possible responses. Not only does this alter the significance of the responses, it causes another error; those who responded to these questions could have answered differently had these been the original options. For example, an individual could have answered “Favor” to signify “Slightly Favor” but could have been so unsure that if the options were only three, he may have been geared more towards the middle ground since it now had more significance to the question – with five options there is more room with only three the answers mean more. It is a little hard to explain what I truly mean here, so I will try to put it another way; in a number response system as in 1 to 5, where one is Strongly Favor and five is Strongly Oppose, there is more of a gradient than for 1 to 3. In reference to size, it only makes sense that the larger the sample size of the population the better it represents that population.

If the population is say 295,734,134 and the sample size is 1,120, that is a rather small sample, that is approximately 0.0004%, not even a half of a percent. For those who wonder where I pulled those numbers, they are the totally population of the United States and the size of the sample used in the poll these papers are referring to. The sample was all from New York and grossly inadequate to make such claims as the Newspapers are attempting to. The wording I cannot comment on for I cannot find a copy of the poll, but, based on these other facts, it would seem that this poll does not show that America is ready for a female to run America, but that New York seems to be ready.

Here is the point; in the words of Public Enemy, don't believe the hype. If you see a poll or a survey out there remember to look at three things; randomness, wording and size. All those talking heads on Fox or MSNBC or other shows that have “call in polls,” the thing you should remember about those is that the population that they are sampling is not America, but the viewers of their programing, and the sample they get are those with enough time on their hands to call into the show and (in some cases) waste their money on the cost of the call.

Here is the disclaimer; I would love to see a female President, however, I would also love to have the media not treat us like idiotic children that will believe anything with the words “poll” in it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I thought Harvey Milk fixed this?

In this last year this country has held the issue of Homosexual marriage as a fore-front issue. The question of what is actually marriage and what it means for a couple to be in such a union is at the center of this issue. The paradox being that we are still denying that not allowing such an action to a specific demographic is treating a U.S. Population as second class citizens. The arguments have been wrung through the legal, political, and especially religious domains and here, I shall bring forth a few of these issues and address them in my own little manner.

It has been brought up that allowing Homosexuals to marry would change the definition of “marriage” or destroy the sanctity of marriage. Firstly, nowhere in the religious texts of the Jewish or even Christian religion is there a definition (I am not familiar with Islamic texts so I cannot comment on them). So, since there has never been a definition of the union that would not allow two men or two women to participate, that argument is invalid and, if a constitutional amendment be passed, would be erroneous and illegal based on some of the constitutional rights discussed later in this article. As for the supposed “sanctity” issue, I personally find it ridiculous because of the divorce rates and the fact that there has never been a generation of humanity where the majority of the population were in a “holy” and “perfect” union; there have always been domestic problems, cheating, dissolution and even savagery in such relationships. I sincerely doubt, as has been pointed out by the majority of comedians out there, that anyone will not be married or will divorce if homosexuals were allowed to get married.

Some protest that Homosexuals in general are “immoral” based on the passage in Leviticus that a man laying with a man like one lays with a woman is an “abomination” and that such a union being allowed legally would be offensive to themselves. Even if this were the case, by not allowing them to express themselves in this way, you are imposing your religion upon them. If we are to follow this course of action; denying certain religious freedoms then the United States would next regulate all forms of religious expression so that one group would not be offended by another's which could logically happen, seeing as how it has already happened in France and England (regarding to displaying religious paraphernalia on one's person).

There are many States in this country that still have laws on their books that should be repealed as a result of being discriminatory on the basis of a consensual sexual orientation (the consensual issue is to be addressed later). Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, and Utah all list consensual sodomy as a misdemeanor. The penalty for breaking these laws were a fine from $100 to $900. Texas, surprisingly enough, had repealed their version of this law in 1994, but in the others, they are still on the books. This is not the worst of the situation; Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia all have laws on the books that call such acts a felony which have the penalties of at 1-10 years in jail and harsh fines. Some of the codes even call the act a “crime against nature.” In most instances, such congress between a man and a woman are not subject to this law. These are instances of unjust laws that make sexual relationships between consensual adults illegal and are therefore unconstitutional, but again, we shall come to why later.

Another issue that has been consistently brought up (much to my surprise given the childlike nature of the argument) in my conversations with individuals from the other edge of the bench is the following scenarios; “if we allow gays to marry, what is to keep the path from moving towards individuals marrying animals or children?” To this ridiculous argument, I have two responses. First this argument brings the discussion towards the issue of consent; there should be nothing wrong with two individuals who are at the age of consent to have a union, anything else would be a gross abuse of their civil rights for equal protection and expression. Children and Animals cannot give consent and to even bring up this argument is ludicrous.

The second response I have to this manner of argument is that we could take this line of thought in the opposite direction; let us say that there is an amendment to the constitution that defines marriage as a lawful union between a man and a woman. What is to keep the next step from being that we refuse marriage between individuals with different skin colors? This argument isn't as strange as the right would make it sound. In the U.S. Supreme Court case “Loving V. Virginia” (1967) this situation was addressed. Virginia, at the time had a ban on interracial marriages and charged a couple who had recently been married in another state and setting up residency in Virginia with violating that ban. For those who may be wondering, it was a felony to break this law; "If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years.” The U.S. Supreme Court found that while, “marriage is a social relation subject to the State's police power... there can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause.” This argument can be directly applied to homosexual weddings, just replace the word “racial” with the word “sexual.” It is dumbfounding to me how anyone can deny that this is a gross violation of the Equal Protection Clause. This has been found in a few State Supreme Court rulings, such as one in Vermont in 1999 and Massachusetts in 2004.

It seems that there is some fear with the religious right that the government is going to come into their congregations and regulate their practices and force them to perform homosexual weddings. This is not the case, that would be unconstitutional. The reality of the situation is that if a congregation were to allow homosexual marriages in their church then that union would be recognized by the United States Government and any congregation would have the right to refuse to perform such a ceremony.

All I can really say to those who call the situation immoral or a sin and scream at homosexuals that they are bound for hell, is “so what?” Is it really your place to push your religion upon others? If they, in your eyes, sin and as such, in you eyes, go to hell for such action, let them. They are adults and can make their own choices and, look at it this way, you can have more room in your heaven. This situation on the sidelines, the legal and constitutional case is clear; by not allowing the homosexual demographic the right to express their religious and relationship beliefs and denying the same right you allow to a different demographic, you are committing unconstitutional acts. While I am not myself a homosexual, I do wish them luck and hope that the United States finds sanity in regards to this issue soon.