Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Russia's lie about NATO

From Luke Coffey's article For Eastern Europe, Moscow is an existential threat, published by Al Jazeera:

"Russia's myths
There is a common misconception that the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act prohibits the permanent basing of NATO soldiers in central and eastern European countries. Russia regularly perpetuates this myth. This is not true. 

In regards to the question of permanent bases the Act states:
NATO reiterates that in the current and foreseeable security environment, the Alliance will carry out its collective defence and other missions by ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces.
Since this agreement was signed in 1997, Russia has failed to remove troops from Moldova as promised and increased troops in Ukraine, Armenia, and Belarus - all of which border NATO. 

During this same period, Russia has also conducted cyberattacks against NATO allies, invaded Georgia (and is still occupying 20 percent of that country), used energy resources as a weapon against its neighbours, and most recently, annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine.

Consequently, the "current and foreseeable security environment" has changed since 1997. Therefore, NATO is able to rightfully create permanent bases in its Eastern European member states."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ramadan makes no sense

Now is the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims are required not to eat and even to drink water (!) from sunrise to sunset.

This makes no sense and has no effect, except to make people feel miserable and interfere with their productivity. The requirement to fast during Ramadan is just another good reason to leave Islam.

Yesterday, the Islamic State caught two under-age Syrian boys eating and punished them by hanging them from a pole by their wrists. They were suspended at noon, and "they were still there in the late evening", according to an AFP report. I cannot yet find any information what happened to the boys in the end.

Commenter Mt. Pilot wrote the following:

"And we all know that all-ah is well pleased if you don't drink anything when it's a hundred degrees (Fahrenheit, roughly corresponding to Celsius 40 - M. M.) in the shade. He gets giddy and joyful when his creation is made to suffer for him.

Christ only asks that you believe in Him and make an attempt to follow His commandments... and even when we fail, all He asks is that you ask for His forgiveness.  His yoke is light and He is quick to forgive and slow to anger.  Follow Christ.

I'd add that you do not need to follow Christ, you can follow any deity you choose, or (what I prefer) try to find your path on your own. What is sure is that it is not a good idea to follow a God who demands you to torture yourself for no good reason. No wonder that so many intelligent Muslims leave their religion, if they can afford it, i.e. if they are lucky to live in a free land. Unfortunately, the two boys in the report are not so lucky.

Update: Reader Cat Brehme left the following comment to this post:

"My colleague is a Muslim and during Ramadan she just completely shuts down. She's tired, quiet and completely unproductive. Basically, you can just forget about her for a month and do her work for her. I don't follow any religion and I don't understand how intelligent people can enslave themselves to any religious rituals that don't make any sense whatsoever. This applies to any religion but especially Islam and Judaism. If I ran a company I would not employ any practising Muslims as they work a month less than anyone else does. It's completely unfair to your co-workers but just like anything to do with Islam, you cannot say anything because it's politically incorrect."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Unearthed: 7,000-yr-old tool workshop

In northern Bulgaria, there is a village named Kamenovo, close to the city of Razgrad.

(The map is from Bulgarian Wikipedia. I changed the bottom inscription to Latin, but kept Kamenovo with the original Cyrillic, because it is too difficult to change.)

It has been known for some time that stone tools found across the entire Bulgarian territory, and even beyond it in the southern Balkans, originate from the rocks in the vicinity of that village.

Now, archeologists claim to have found the prehistoric workshop for stone tools.

(The photo is copied from a DarikNews report, in Bulgarian, which is also the basic source for this post.)

The large-scale production of flint tools is thought to have started in early Chalcolithic age, about 4,800 BC. Between 4,500 and 4,200 BC, it expanded and supplied much of the Balkan Peninsula with tools. So we have large-scale production, division of labor, long-distance transportation and trade - a civilization, I'd say, if a fairly primitive one.

If you ask a young-Earth creationist about this time period, he will reply that the Universe did not yet exist!

To me, one of the strangest details in the story is the name of the village. "Kamenovo" means "Village of the stone(s)". Well, I guess that residents of the place in later ages have also found some use of the high-quality stone. Though I cannot find in the Web any reports of modern quarries, this is a more logical explanation than to suggest preservation of the name through more than 6 millenia and several languages.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Comparative criminal law: ISIS and Saudi Arabia

In my February post European Citizenship, I expressed outrage and dismay that the European People's Party, which is generally "my" party, opposed a European Parliament resolution in support of Raif Badawi.

What was the reason for this? According to Vote Watch: "The EPP group voted against the resolution and explained that it could not support the text as it stands because it associates Saudi Arabia with the organisation Islamic State, in regard to the type of punishments used. EPP representatives argued that they disapprove of the said association..." This rationale was confirmed by sources close to EPP, but I will not cite them, because they have not authorized me to do this. (Of course, the decision of the European People Party did not prevent nice people from its group to vote for the resolution despite the official party line.)

The "said association" between Saudi Arabia and ISIS "in regard to the type of punishments used", however, is the pure and simple truth. The diagram below, which went viral, is copied from the article Crime and punishment: Islamic State vs Saudi Arabia, by Mary Atkinson and Rory Donaghy, published in the Middle East Eye on Jan. 20:

From the same article:

"The Islamic State (IS) and Saudi Arabia prescribe near-identical punishments for a host of crimes, according to documents circulated by the militant group. IS published a list of crimes and their punishments on 16 December 2014 to serve “as an explanation and as a warning” to those living in territory under their control in large parts of Iraq and Syria. The document lists hadd crimes, which are considered to be “against the rights of God,” and includes fixed punishments for theft, adultery, slander and banditry. Crimes deemed hadd and their punishments are derived from the Quran and the hadith, the collected teachings and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad... But  while IS has actively sought exposure for their brutal punishments, Saudi Arabia has worked to keep evidence of their actions within the conservative kingdom. Authorities on Saturday arrested a police officer accused of videoing a woman being publicly beheaded in Mecca."

So the European Parliament members could be confident that criminal law of ISIS and Saudi Arabia is practically identical, as the resolution stated. Maybe the European People's Party worried that stating this inconvenient truth was too undiplomatic. However, the West's experience with Islamist states (e.g. the saga of the Bulgarian medics accused in infecting Libyan children with HIV) shows that it is to no avail to be diplomatic with them. If you are, they just smile in your face and continue their barbarities.

British minister: Torturing innocents is OK if Muslims want it

Quote from Francis Wheen's UK ministers have started to defend Saudi Arabia's flogging of Raif Badawi - it's breathtaking (the Independent, June 16):

"...Asked about the flogging and jailing of Badawi, the Foreign Office minister Baroness Anelay said in the Lords last week: “We maintain our view that freedom of religion and belief and freedom of expression are core rights that lead to long-term stability and good governance.”

But? Yes, of course there was a but, and one to take the breath away: “My Lords, I think we have to recognise that the actions of the Saudi government in these respects have the support of the vast majority of the Saudi population.”

Do they? Last Friday I asked the Foreign Office how the minister could be so sure. No answer has yet been forthcoming. Perhaps the “vast majority” of Saudis are indeed fanatical sadists who rejoice to see liberal bloggers whipped. Or, then again, perhaps they aren’t...

Even if you were a Saudi who deplored the flogging, you wouldn’t say so publicly – especially when you saw what happened to a man who did. Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, was given a 15-year jail sentence last July for criticising the judiciary and so “inflaming public opinion”. How the judges measured that inflammation was not revealed. Perhaps Baroness Anelay gave them the benefit of her psephological expertise.

(Psephology is a branch of political science which analyzes elections and public opinion.)

So we have here a truly democratic Baroness, for whom what is supported by the vast majority of the population is right. The Saudi population allegedly supports beating a man over a blog, so Britain has to recognize this. If the same or another population supports stoning a woman for adultery or burning her because she looks like a witch, this presumably must also be recognized.

Oh, wait. Not every population is entitled to having its opinion automatically recognized. The vast majority of the British population never supported uncontrolled immigration of Third World Muslims and enslavement of local girls by them, yet British authorities had no problem allowing this. So what matters is apparently not what the population wants, but what the Muslim population wants - or at least its most aggressive subpopulation. It is exactly this thinking of cowardly or self-hating Westerners that has made Islam an existential threat to the civilization.

Monday, June 15, 2015

To all for whom Edward Snowden is hero

From today's Yahoo!News report titled Britain pulls spies as Moscow cracks Snowden files: reports

"London (AFP) - Britain has been forced to remove some of its spies after Russia and China accessed the top secret raft of documents taken by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, British media reported.

The BBC and the Sunday Times cited senior government and intelligence officials as saying agents had been pulled, with the newspaper saying the move came after Russia was able to decrypt more than one million files.

"It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information," a Downing Street source said, according to the newspaper.

Downing Street told AFP on Sunday that they "don't comment on intelligence matters" while the Foreign Office said: "We can neither confirm or deny these reports".

The BBC said on its website, meanwhile, that a government source said the two countries "have information" that spurred intelligence agents being moved, but said there was "no evidence" any spies were harmed.

Snowden fled to Russia after leaking the documents to the press in 2013 to expose the extent of US online surveillance programmes and to protect "privacy and basic liberties"...

Snowden worked as a contractor at the CIA and National Security Agency, where he was able to download 1.7 million secret documents that showed how hundreds of millions of people had been under surveillance, according to the Sunday Times.

He previously claimed that "no intelligence service" could crack the documents, saying he was able to "keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments".

But an intelligence source told the Sunday Times: "We know Russia and China have access to Snowden's material and will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets."

An official from the interior ministry added that "(Russian President) Putin didn't give him asylum for nothing"..."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Raif Badawi and the value of thinking differently

Copying from a Tomowolade's post with the above title at Politics ad Infinitum, a British blog:

"Raif Badawi has been punished for the crime of thinking differently. In Saudi Arabia, the crime of thinking differently can land you with 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison...

What can be done to save Raif Badawi? Not much. Saudi Arabia is a geopolitical ally and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

What can be done to challenge the ideology that justifies Badawi’s oppression? A significant lot.

Civil society in the west is insufficiently hostile to Islamism because it assumes criticism of ideas is equivalent to bigotry against people. It assumes that a progressive case against fascism with a brown face is a contradiction in terms. It assumes, most of all, that Islam is a defamed religion and further criticism intensifies this defamation. In its desperate plea to eschew racism, the left has nourished de facto blasphemy law – and its primary victims are Muslims like Raif Badawi who think differently.

When gender segregation is condoned by some, and when the niqab is celebrated as a symbol of empowerment, and when student groups cheerily align with theocratic fascists, something stunningly clear emerges: In fetishising Islam as the religion of the oppressed, the left has lost sight of the people Islamism oppresses.

This is the great travesty of our age, for there are many like Raif Badawi out there... They face ostracism from people who want to kill them for thinking differently...

It’s important to support groups like the council of ex-Muslims... We should challenge Islamism whenever we see it, and defend liberalism whenever we don’t. It is important to celebrate our right to think differently – for it is our most precious freedom, and it should be extended to all."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bad news from Saudi Arabia

Bad news keeps coming from Saudi Arabia. In February, the court upheld the 15-year prison sentence of human rights activist Waleed Abulkhair, lawyer and brother in-law of Raif Badawi. He refused to renounce his pro-freedom activity and repent for it and so seems to have nullified whatever tiny chance there was for reduction of the sentence.

"Saudi Arabia jailed my entire family," complained Samar Badawi, wife of Waleed and sister of Raif. "When Walid was first jailed, I was just a wife. By the time the ruling was issued, I had become a mother. It was in court that he saw his daughter, Jude, for the first time. His daughter is almost a year old now, and her father is absent from her life."

Four days ago, the Saudi Supreme court upheld also the sentence of Raif - 10 years and 1,000 lashes. There are fears that he will be beaten tomorrow, as he was in January.

The touchy Saudis have again rejected criticism for their early-medieval "jurisprudence".

The million-dollar question is, why are Western countries still so eager to trade with Saudi Arabia? Why do representatives of the free nations love torturers' money so much?

Update: At least, the flogging was not resumed on Friday.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Not all are bad" indicates inherent flaw

I visited Dr. Amy's post Congratulate me; I'm on the Anti-Vax Enemies List!! and found something  noteworthy in the discussion below.

Commenter MaineJen, replying to an opponent, says:
"...Do you hear the similarity between "But not alllllllll male gamers threatened that female reporter with death!" and "But not allllllll CPMs ignore safety standards, take on high risk cases they have no business overseeing and refuse to transfer care even when both mother and baby's lives are in danger."
When you have to make the "But not alllllll..." argument, there is something inherently flawed and wrong-headed about the culture you're defending. Do you agree?"
(CPM is "certified professional midwife", a poorly trained variety of midwives who are allowed to practise in the USA, God knows why.)

Commenter The Bofa on the Sofa added:
"I like your description so much I am going to co-opt your words:
Bofa's Law
If your defense of a group consists of "Not all of them are bad," there is something inherently flawed about the culture you are defending.

Emphasis added by me. To acknowledge intellectual ownership, I intend to call it MaineJen - Bofa Law.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Why Islamophobia is healthy

Copying a fresh report I found at Yahoo! News:

"French 'anti-Islamophobia' group on trial for plotting attacks

Paris (AFP) - Members of a French group that said it was formed to combat Islamophobia went on trial in Paris on Monday accused of plotting terrorist attacks. 

Led by 37-year-old "emir" Mohamed Achamlane, the 15 members of Forsane Alizza, who called themselves the "knights of pride", have denied involvement in a terrorist organisation. 

Achamlane told the court he had no "terrorist inspiration" and only wanted to defend Muslims against mounting Islamophobia in France. 

The group was formed in 2010, gaining attention for organising protests against the government's decision to ban veils in public. 

It was disbanded two years later by the government, which described it as a "private militia".

After it was disbanded, the group put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries. 

"If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims," the message said.
Achamlane told the court on Monday that he was only calling for the "legitimate defence" of his community, adding "I am not racist, I am not an anti-Semite."

But prosecutors have put forward evidence including a list of "targets" that highlighted Jewish shops in the Paris region. 

Achamlane also tried to explain why he had released videos of himself giving inflammatory speeches with Kalashnikov rifles in the background, and using phrases such as "By all-powerful Allah, we will put scars on France."

"We wanted to make a provocative video with a wall of Kalashnikovs and my bearded head to redress the balance," he said, specifying that he felt Muslims were "excluded" from French society.

"There is no radical or moderate Islam," he added. "There is only authentic Islam."

A police raid in 2012 led investigators to fear the group was armed, although it remains unclear if the weapons found were real or usable.

Each member of the group faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. The trial is due to run until June 22 or 23."

No comment is needed, but still I'll write one.

As many people have pointed out, "Islamophobia" is a misnomer, because "phobia" means irrational fear, while the fear of Islam is perfectly rational. A Russian dissident once wrote that there is nothing wrong with anti-Communism, it is just the healthy reaction of a normal person when Communism is shown to him. The same is true for Islamophobia.

Time and again, our experience shows that the label of Islamophobia is used by aggressive Islamists and their leftist allies to shame us into submission while they are trying to destroy our civilization. The above report is about a group of alleged wannabe terrorists in France presenting themselves as an "anti-Islamophobia" brigade. In the USA, the Tsarnaev brothers also praised Islam and criticized Islamophobes, then proved Islamophobes right by killing children and women in the name of Islam. In January 2013, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev tweeted, "I don't argue with fools who say islam is terrorism it's not worth a thing, let an idiot remain an idiot." At his trial, Tamerlan's mother in-law testified that Tamerlan "always wanted to talk about how Islam was good". The inevitable conclusion? If you accuse people of Islamophobia, this puts under suspicion not their decency but yours.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Defending non-traditional names against racism smacks of stupidity

Groundless and ridiculous accusations of racism are one of the best ways to make a fool of oneself. Quoting from Karthick Ramakrishnan's essay Condemning non-traditional names smacks of racism, published in the Los Angeles Times:

"Duke University professor... Jerry Hough wrote that African-Americans “just feel sorry for themselves” and compared “the blacks” unfavorably to “the Asians.” He argued, specifically, that African-Americans adopt “strange new names” because they lack a desire for integration, as opposed to Asian-Americans, who choose “simple old American” first names... It seems worth pointing out that unfamiliar names are not necessarily a barrier for advancement. A prominent circuit court judge, and likely next nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, is named Padmanabhan Srikanth “Sri” Srinivasan."

A characteristic feature of poor argumentation is that the author produces arguments that suit better his opponents. Why is Judge Srinivasan using as his first name "Sri" - an abbreviation which may not be American but is certainly simple, old and, above all, easily pronounced? Maybe because he has found out that having to spell your name every time and to teach people its pronunciation is not the best way to make a career. I also suppose that, had he been born in America, he would most likely receive another name.

Ramakrishnan's text continues: "Unusual but European-sounding names — such as Imogen and Maxton — gain in popularity each year, and these are unlikely to lead to discrimination..."

I googled the two names and found out that they are not "European-sounding", they are European. Imogen is a character from Shakespeare's Cymbeline, and Maxton is a Scottish clan. So they may be rare but they are as traditional as it gets.

I wonder, why does an established journal like the LA Times publish such an article? I guess, because it is fashionable to deny reality and common sense. Reality is that, as one commenter wrote, "the faux Afro or ridiculous Hollywood names or trailer trash names that send a red flag to schools and employers... connote uneducated parents and/or urban ghetto and/or white trash." And common sense tells that if a child is born to trash parents, he is more than likely to be a trash himself, due to important environmental factors (their upbringing) and maybe even genetic factors (their heredity). Of course, there is a chance that the young person with the strange name will turn out to be a beautiful flower grown on bad soil, but employers hate taking chances. So, as another commenter asked, "Why would anyone hamper their child's chances at gainful employment and success in business?" Why, indeed?