Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Censorship Tells the Wrong Story

A fantastic campaign, more of which is cataloged at My Modern Met.

QFTD

"America is the only country in the world that that has the luxury of creating an economic crisis when there isn’t one. Ours is the only democracy with a debt ceiling, with the exception of Denmark, which raises its ceiling well in advance of when it would be reached. Economists say that our “debt crisis” is an unforced error, because people are more than willing to lend us money, at pretty good rates. This is the benefit of having a really good credit score.

And yet there are some who wish to call the credit card company to voluntarily reduce our credit limit after they just maxed it out. This tells us that politics triumphs economics in this country. That we ended up with so much debt is a result of politics, anyway. For all the talk of budgetary restraint coming from Congress, the fact is it was Congress that authorized all the spending that has brought us to where we are. Yes, every single dime." - Elvin Lim

Monday, July 18, 2011

Kiryas Joel: Trending Towards Theocracy in N.Y.

Americans United for the Separation of Church and State on the existence of what is essentially a de facto mini-theocracy in the Empire State.
Kiryas Joel is an enclave of ultra-orthodox Jews who belong to the Satmar Hasidic sect. Members of this group believe in separating themselves from others – they’d rather not be around non-sect members. Thirty-four years ago, they won the right to create their own village from the surrounding community of Monroe. 
The village’s founders might have envisioned an idyllic community where people of a shared faith lived in harmony. It hasn’t worked out that way. As often happens when people live in insular communities, factions emerge. Dissidents in Kiryas Joel don’t like the way the town of about 20,000 is being run. The dissidents, who by some accounts now make up 40 percent of the community, say religious discrimination is rampant. They say if you don’t belong to the right synagogue, you’re a second-class citizen. 
A local newspaper, the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., reported, “The case alleges discrimination against dissidents…in various facets of public life, from tax exemptions for synagogues to election improprieties to selective enforcement of village noise ordinances. Among the most serious allegations is that Kiryas Joel’s Public Safety Department, a quasi-police agency, has acted as enforcers for the main congregation and tolerated acts of violence and intimidation against dissidents by unruly crowds of young supporters of Satmar Grand Rebbe Aron Teitelbaum, the leader of Kiryas Joel’s majority faction.” 
...visitors to Kiryas Joel might be forgiven for believing they have stepped into a mini-theocracy. A sign at the village entrance admonishes visitors to dress modestly. Cleavage-revealing tops for women are verboten, and both sexes are told to cover arms and legs. Couples are advised to “maintain gender separation in public places.” 
The sign was erected by the town’s largest synagogue. Its wording is tough, but in fact the village can’t legally enforce rules like this. Still, women who dare to visit the community while wearing skimpy summer outfits have reported scowls and glares. (Imagine the reaction from the Religious Right if this were a town of fundamentalist Muslims and they erected a sign reading, “Women are welcome to visit if accompanied by a male relative. Please respect our values by wearing a burqa.”)
More.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

For the Annals of Megalomania

Watch Assange arrogate himself credit for the Egyptian revolution.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Drugs and the Meaning of Life


Sam Harris separates psychedelics, and the right to them, from the non-discriminate modern category of "drugs."
The “war on drugs” has been well lost, and should never have been waged. While it isn’t explicitly protected by the U.S. Constitution, I can think of no political right more fundamental than the right to peacefully steward the contents of one’s own consciousness. The fact that we pointlessly ruin the lives of nonviolent drug users by incarcerating them, at enormous expense, constitutes one of the great moral failures of our time. (And the fact that we make room for them in our prisons by paroling murderers and rapists makes one wonder whether civilization isn’t simply doomed.)
I have a daughter who will one day take drugs. Of course, I will do everything in my power to see that she chooses her drugs wisely, but a life without drugs is neither foreseeable, nor, I think, desirable. Someday, I hope she enjoys a morning cup of tea or coffee as much as I do. If my daughter drinks alcohol as an adult, as she probably will, I will encourage her to do it safely. If she chooses to smoke marijuana, I will urge moderation.[2]  Tobacco should be shunned, of course, and I will do everything within the bounds of decent parenting to steer her away from it. Needless to say, if I knew my daughter would eventually develop a fondness for methamphetamine or crack cocaine, I might never sleep again. But if she does not try a psychedelic like psilocybin or LSD at least once in her adult life, I will worry that she may have missed one of the most important rites of passage a human being can experience...
I have visited both extremes on the psychedelic continuum. The positive experiences were more sublime than I could have ever imagined or than I can now faithfully recall. These chemicals disclose layers of beauty that art is powerless to capture and for which the beauty of Nature herself is a mere simulacrum. It is one thing to be awestruck by the sight of a giant redwood and to be amazed at the details of its history and underlying biology. It is quite another to spend an apparent eternity in egoless communion with it. Positive psychedelic experiences often reveal how wondrously at ease in the universe a human being can be—and for most of us, normal waking consciousness does not offer so much as a glimmer of these deeper possibilities.
Image Credit: Alex Grey