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April 2002 - February 2009 Archive
Reflections on Religion, Current Events, and Other Subjects

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Tuesday,September 30,2003

The paomnnehil pweor of the hmuan mnid.

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Amzanig huh?

posted at 09:33:42 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Monday,September 29,2003


President George W. Bush's ignorant and insulting speech to the United Nations General Assembly September 23 made clear that the US administration has all but written off any hope of obtaining significant international support for its colonial venture in Iraq. Bush came before the body as an unrepentant war criminal, whose actions had violated the UN Charter and international law by waging a war of aggression as criminal and unprovoked as those carried out by the Hitlerite regime in Germany more than 60 years ago. Having just last week publicly acknowledged there is no evidence of a link between the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington DC, Bush began his speech to the UN by invoking the ruins of the World Trade Center as the "symbol of an unfinished war." He likewise peddled yet again the now universally discredited pretext for the Iraq war, the claim that the Baghdad regime posed a grave and imminent threat because of its supposedly immense stockpile of "weapons of mass destruction." This, just one week after the chief of the United Nations' own inspection agency, Hans Blix, compared the US and British allegations about such weapons to the hunt for witches in the Middle Ages and amid reports that the unit set up by Washington to scour the country for the alleged tons of biological and chemical weapons materials has halted all searches.

Here is the affirmation of the radical "do your own thing" individualism of Frederick S. "Fritz" Perls' gestalt therapy, one of the giants of the disintegrative human potential movement (humanistic psychology) of the 1960s and 1970s (along with Werner Erherd's EST, Mike Murphy's Esalen, Carl Roger's person/client-directed therapy, Paul Bindrim's nude encounter etc.):

"I do my thing, and you do your thing. You are you and I am I. And if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful; if not, it can't be helped."

-- Fritz "do your own thing" Perls

It was Perls who coined the expression, do your own thing. Perls practiced group therapy. It was Carl Rogers who took Perls' approach and transferred it to one-on-one therapy.

posted at 02:03:34 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Friday,September 26,2003

Literalism, of course, means the *apparent* meaning. It is a form of "naive realism," which, among other things, assumes an exact correspondence between words and reality. Rather than words pointing to certain things, which would be the approach taken by most nominalists, constructionists, postmodernists, and critical realists, naive realists posit that words are isomorphic with reality.

The unfortunate consequence of literalism is a failure to understand contextuality and historicity. Hence, we see a hostility to higher (textual) criticism on the part of many Christian fundamentalists. If Paul says that women should not assume authority over a man, he is presumed by these literalists not only to be referring to a particular congregation or to a specific moment in time but, universally, to all bodies of believers then and in the future.

posted at 08:07:07 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Saturday,September 20,2003

>>No, as a socialist, you would clearly be more comfortable with Bush.<<

I don't understand. Socialism refers to economic radicalism - either public ownership, worker ownership, or some kind of public control. How is Bush a socialist? He is a proponent of the so-called free-market system.

>>Big government spending, fewer individual freedoms, the majority compelling the minority to conform to the government-approved norm, making nice with the Red Chinese... right up your alley!<<

Both parties believe in big government spending, notwithstanding Republican rhetoric. They just support different types of spending. The other points you raised are political, not economic.

posted at 06:42:43 PM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,September 17,2003

Interesting article:

Roy's Law

How far could Alabama's 'Ten Commandments Judge' go ruling according to what he calls the 'moral foundation' of our laws?

September 10, 2003

"It is a sad day in our country when the moral foundation of our law ... has to be hidden from public view to appease a federal judge."

With those few words, Roy Moore, the best-known Chief Justice in Alabama history, laid bare the logical spine of his assault on the separation of church and state. Based on the facts alone, it's a pretty weak spine.

Moore released his statement late last month, minutes after an out-of-state moving crew slowly wheeled away the massive granite monument to the Ten Commandments he had installed in the rotunda of the state's Supreme Court two years ago. It's familiar language. For almost a decade, Moore has been waging a campaign to establish the legal validity of the commandments. Just three years ago, he was elected to his lofty position by running a campaign reminding voters he was "still the Ten Commandments Judge."

But, while Moore has an enviable gift for political rhetoric, his grasp of law and logic seem a little weak.

The suggestion that the monument's removal was the result of a single judge's sentiment flies in the face of the facts. The ruling, handed down late last year, was affirmed this summer by a three-judge federal appeals panel in Georgia. And, when Moore announced he would defy that ruling, the eight Associate Justices of Alabama's high court voted to overrule their chief and comply with the order.

But what about the first part of Roy's response? He's made the assertion often enough (Moore once called his 5,300-pound chunk of religiosity "a symbol of the Judeo-Christian foundation of US law"). But could he make it stand up in his own court? If Roy Moore really wanted to be the Ten Commandments Judge, how far could he get without violating the oath he took when he became a judge?

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

-- In fact, Alabama law lets you have any number of gods -- before, after, or instead of. The Alabama state constitution strictly forbids the legal establishment of any religion, declaring that "no preference shall be given by law to any religious sect, society, denomination, or mode of worship." Which is, of course, what this is all about.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

-- Another strike. Under Alabama law, anybody can craft any number of images, graven or otherwise. In fact, dozens can be found in downtown Montgomery, including a life-sized statue of favorite son Hank Williams Sr. -- the late, great country musician who is definitely in the earth beneath and, if you believe many Alabamians, in heaven above, too.

3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

-- Sorry, Roy. Cussin' -- God-related or otherwise -- is essentially legit in Alabama. The state places no legal restriction on profane speech. Quite the opposite. The state constitution provides "That no law shall ever be passed to curtail or restrain the liberty of speech." Ungodly language in print, however, is another matter. Alabama school districts have banned plenty of books for 'profane' speech, including most of the works of John Steinbeck and Stephen King.

4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work. But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.

-- Nope. Alabama doesn't reserve the Sabbath for rest and religion (although the state does, for some reason, have a law prohibiting the playing of dominoes on Sunday). In Montgomery, you can even buy alcohol on Sunday. What's more, legally requiring Alabamians to rest on Sunday could prevent the Crimson Tide football team from playing for the national championship (the big game is the Nokia Sugar Bowl, scheduled for Jan. 4 in New Orleans).

5. Honor thy father and thy mother.

-- Alabama law doesn't require you to honor anybody, parents included. Which isn't to say that children get off easy. The state still allows corporal punishment in schools, and even shields school employees from any civil or criminal charges related to spanking kids. In 1999, about 5.5 percent of Alabama school children found that out the hard way. So, honor thy home room teacher, 'Bama boys and girls.

6. Thou shalt not kill.

-- Finally, a commandment that is legally binding. Sort of. Killing -- at least killing other human beings -- is against the law in Alabama. But, as Christian death penalty opponents have long argued, the state doesn't necessarily take the commandment to heart -- the state executed 28 people since 1978, including three this year.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

-- Adultery actually is against the law in Alabama. But you won't do any jail time for fooling around. Defined as engaging "in sexual intercourse with another person who is not his spouse and lives in cohabitation with that other person when he or that other person is married," adultery is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine. Which, by the way, is $9,000 less than you will have to pay if convicted in Alabama for selling a vibrator (state lawmakers banned the sale of sex toys five years ago).

8. Thou shall not steal.

-- You can't steal in Alabama. That's definitely against the law. Even for politicians and judges.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

-- Bearing false witness -- against neighbors, friends, enemies, or complete strangers -- is definitely a no-no in Alabama. Provided you do so under oath. In that case, it's perjury, and it's punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Outside of court, there's no statute against fibbing about your neighbor.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's.

-- You can covet in Alabama. You can covet houses, wives, servants, oxen, asses -- just about every thing that is your neighbor's. Of course, coveting oxen and asses is a little harder these days. There just aren't many around -- not like in 1861, when the state boasted 92,495 working oxen and 108,701 mules.

posted at 09:21:14 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Sunday,September 14,2003

>>I think you are right, though it's probably less that *intelligence* agencies can't figure it out (I think a bright westerner listening to al jazeera could figure it out) than the fact that when the translation hits the western streets, the discrepancy sounds like a bunch of lying rug merchants.<<

Well, the problem, IMO, is that Americans often have difficulty imagining that people in other cultures would not communicate exactly as they do.

Mubalaghah (Arabic, hyperbole) is extremely common in the Arab world. One recent example was in Iraq. Some Iraqis said that **everything** was taken from the Baghdad Museum. The U.S. government took that statement literally. Of course it was never intended to be literal.

>>And what you're saying is that, by western standards, that's the culture; that a certain unknown level of exaggeration is built into the language (and hence culture) so that it's a less reliable and exact means of expression.<<

No, it *is* reliable if one understands the idiom. Exact? English is more exact than most languages. In Arabic, one word can have diverse, even contradictory meanings.

However, if one understands the context, the meaning is usually clear. That is why Arabic is generally regarded as the second most difficult language to learn (after Mandarin Chinese).

>>IOW, we shouldn't expect them to be as reliable, that a range of unreliability verging on deceit is built into the language.<<

No, that is not what I said at all. I don't know whether you are really being serious, are you? If so, do you expect all languages to be like your own?

>>We could add, "not that there's anything wrong with that", but when it comes to conflicts between the 2 cultures, the ultimate question is whether we stick with our standard, or accomodate theirs ....<<

I think that is a false dichotomy. What is wrong with people who speak different languages simply trying to understand each other?

This morning on Fascist Fox (Fox and Friends): Constant references to former U.S. President Bill Clinton as "Bill." Would those spokespersons for the current administration ever refer to President George W. Bush as George? As Dubya? Perish the thought! How could one imagine such a thing from the Amurekin Information Ministry?

>>I think the intelligence agencies need to stuff him to keep the party going.<<

It could be. However, if they give up, and speculate that he is probably dead (if he is not), Usama (and al-Qa'ida) might be able to flex its muscles with fewer potential consequences.

>>Al Qaeda takes credit for everything. I believe they took credit for the Jordanian Embassy and the UN bombing although no one believes them.<<

That is because al-Qa'ida is a network, not an organization. If some group takes an action that they approve of, the al-Qa'ida leaders presumably feel justified in claiming ownership of it.

Also, Arabic is a much different language from English, which is often neglected by Western intelligence agencies. For instance, hyperbole is *much* more common in Arabic than in Western languages. What might be seen as misleading or "puffing" in English, would be understood as figurative in Arabic.

>>... you go to the Al Qaeda leadership and say that you want to join and strike a blow for Allah or whatever. They will tell you to go away until you have a plan as to how to do it and then they will consider it. If they like it, they will help.<<

For some types of operations, yes, but not for all of them.

>>Bush had decided on the bombing in July. Apparently negotiations had broken down over the pipeline--the Taliban wanted too much money and had to go.<<

IMO, that was merely an excuse. The $$ of the Afghan war dwarfed any demands for blood money. The Bush regime had found an opportunity to Americanize a country next to Iran, and it wasn't going to pass it up.

>>I haven't noticed any Saudi problems with the mullahs.<<

I meant with al-Qa'ida. The ulama (plural of "mulla") are happy if they are mostly left alone.

>>Who he?<<

McReynolds was the main democratic socialist candidate in 2000.

>>Whatever Israel wants the United States does.Why?<<

It depends on the interest group. To many of the neoconservatives, it is because they are Zionists.

To many in the Christian right, it is because they are Christian Zionists and believe various statements in the New Testament about the consequences of failing to support Israel.

To many political conservatives (and neo-liberals), it is because Israel is regarded by ***them*** as the only stable democrary in the Middle East, and that supporting Israel reflects U.S. economic and political interests in the region.

posted at 06:20:39 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Wednesday,September 10,2003

Why does the American public fear an imminent so-called terrorism attack? Because Bush has made it possible.

posted at 06:21:36 AM by Dr. Mark A. Foster

Copyright © 2002- Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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