Category Archives: politics

Oot and Aboot

For the last few days or so I was in Amsterdam (briefly), Israel and Istanbul.  I had some thoughts along the way and I hope you’ll find them interesting.

Amsterdam:

Heineken tastes MUCH better in Amsterdam.  Now I won’t be able to drink it States-side, which kind of sucks. Hopefully the memory will fade soon and I will be able to go back to my ignorant bliss.

[On the flip side I had some Sam Adams while in Israel and near spit it out.]

Israel:

1) In the 3 days I was in Jerusalem I wanted to figure out why everyone finds it to be the place for religion.  Here’s what I came up with:

Ben Yehuda Str. 1:34am

Ben Yehuda Str. 1:34am

These images were taken within the same minute at on Ben Yehuda Street, Jerusalem .  However, my camera was set to New York time, so it is really 1:34 am (NY +7).  I’ve put up two images because I want to give the best view of the street that I can to make my point: the top image was with flash, which only reaches so far, but does not make blurry images; the second image was long exposure and gives a more accurate view, but, try as I might, I can only hold myself so still.  Hopefully you will be able to imagine how it looks between the two. (see this image from Wikipedia too)

The second picture – this is the more accurate to life shot – shows the street to be very bright and, in fact, unusually bright.  Times Square-bright even but, as you can see, this street has normal stores and streetlights; no neon, no giant billboards.  So how is this feat of lighting achieved?

Nearly everything in Jerusalem is made of the off-white Jerusalem stone.  Ben Yehuda street is an old, pedestrian only street with no asphalt and hence is white on 3 sides.  This makes it reflect light incredibly well, as I hope you can divine from my shoddy photography.

Imagine the extra hours of usable time that people would have because they needed less fuel for their lamps, and multiply this by thousands of years.   I figure that a place with nice weather and well above average lighting conditions, such as Jerusalem, would be conducive to people sitting around reading and arguing about stuff, and hence religious studies.

2) Gaza:

Israel on the whole seemed rather safe and so completely normal while I was there that it was hard to reconcile it with the place the media covers.  Granted I didn’t go anywhere near where the fighting was, but I was in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and observed how people were living, and I thought it could have been San Diego.  I’ve never been to San Diego, but I think it must be pretty with a friendly population that mostly speaks English and has nice weather, which was my experience in Israel.  So what is going on?

Again, 2 pictures:

israel

middle_east_map

The first map is of Israel alone and it is what we see when we are looking at the fighting going on.  The second is of the Middle East.  When an Israeli thinks about Israel, it is the second map and the distance scale of the first map that come to mind.  From this perspective, it looks as if Israel is a teeny bastion of non-Muslims trying to eek out an existence in a world of Islam.  If you look at the top map, Gaza doesn’t appear all that big, but since Israel is so small, that little bit of usable land is important.

Of course that bit of land isn’t so important to start killing people over.

However, what I was told, was that Gaza was part of long term strategy to take down Israel from within: Since there are many more Muslims in the region and world, if more can gain residency in Israel through Gaza, then in only a few years they will be able to out vote the Jews.  So every settlement matters because each represents an increased voting bloc and tips the balance of power away from the current establishment.

This presents a dilemma because either the Jewish state must change its democratic principles if it wants continued existence, or else die slowly to the ever increasing Muslim population.  So the crude, stop-gap  solution was to just eradicate the Palestinian settlements.  This at least explains some of the reasoning; whether the actions taken were justified is a different question.

Istanbul:

Everyone is interested in Obama.  These ads were ubiquitous (notice the second ad right behind the first on the left hand side.):

TurkObama

Garanti is a bank.

This is what Google Translate tells me the text says:

support loan interest rates

using the most comprehensive credit insurance for Turkey is out of 3 women in markets bonus

warranty package to revive the economy of the world will envy

Much of the world still operates with the dollar.  I bought some ridiculously nice leather shoes from a dingy shop for US $30 – they didn’t even accept Turkish Lira.  I handed the guy 2 20s and the man immediately became concerned: this confused me until he pulled a stack of Benjamins (US 100s) out of his pocket an inch thick and started going through it looking for a 10.  He had to go across the street to get me change.

My thought was that the  current US president is, for all intensive purposes, on the $100 bill.  Money has value because people believe that it guarantees something of worth, goods and services.  This guarantee of worth is made by large, trusted institutions likes banks and governments, and as the head of the biggest institution, Obama is where the buck stops.

So the unsurprising conclusion is that the entire world is counting on Obama to fix the financial crisis.  I don’t know anything about Garanti Bank, but 1.19% loans do sound good.

Posted in fun, politics, random idiocy, religion. Tagged with , , .

Evolution and Political Theory

Today my dad showed me a review of a book in the New York Times. The book is something about natural selection and how it supports/underpins capitalism and those who were capitalist first. This reminded me about an old objection to evolution: at the time Darwin wrote the “On the Origin of Species” the idea of capitalism was en vogue and therefore ‘struggle for survival’ was taken to be just a metaphor for capitalist society. Darwin’s theory of evolution was supposedly reduced to capitalism with window dressing. (ah how fortunes are reversed)

Thankfully I remembered my old response to this objection: evolution works just as well under socialism. The ‘metaphor’ that you use to describe the process of evolution is independent of evolution itself: we can use both a capitalistic ‘survival of the fittest’ and/or a socialistic ‘survival of communal’ to describe the process of evolution. This means that instead of focusing upon the struggle for survival, we focus upon organisms ability to best work within their community/environment. The organisms that work best within their respective environment will be the fittest.

Since evolution works with socialist metaphors, it is not dependent upon capitalism and I can’t see any reason for using evolution as support for capitalism, or vice versa.

Posted in biology, evolution, news, politics, science. Tagged with , , , .

Thanksgiving post

I am blatantly stealing a post from Fark Yaralar? because it is just too cool to pass up. Go To Fark’s site and support this awesomeness. And happy Thanksgiving!

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Monday, November 19, 2007

‘das kapital’ song by Lyapis Trubetskoy

Here is a song about capital & Marx by Lyapis Trubetskoy (????? ?????????) [from Belarus]

translation of lyrics:

For dinner I devour gold bars
Diamond desert, oil cream
My name is Baalzebul
Owner of the stratosphere
I am unrealistically cool
My respect is beyond measure

In my left hand is Snickers
In my right hand is Mars
My PR Manager is Karl Marx
In my left hand is Snickers
In my right hand is Mars
My PR Manager is Karl Marx

Capital! Capital! Capital! Capital!

I devour the cities and wash them down with the seas.
My beard covers the sky.
Thunder and lightning, rain and fog
My boots are licked by ministers and leaders.

In my left hand is Snickers
In my right hand is Mars
My PR Manager is Karl Marx
In my left hand is Snickers
In my right hand is Mars
My PR Manager is Karl Marx

Capital! Capital! Capital! Capital!

In my left hand is Snickers
In my right hand is Mars
My PR Manager is Karl Marx
I am the face of Madonna
Within me are rotten apples
Everyone on your knees!
Orchestra! The flourish!

Capital! Capital! Capital! Capital!

download mp3

Posted in philosophy, politics. Tagged with , .