Condemning Suicide Bombings

Aziz Poonawalla is a devout Muslim with a great blog. That’s why his post condemning the suicide bombings in Israel is so good. He uses the Quran to show how these violent acts are against Islam:

Lanat upon Na’il Azmi Abu al-Hal. Lanat upon the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Lanat upon Abdul Aziz Rantissi… When innocent children are slain, it is indeed as if the whole of mankind are slain. And those who perpetrated, those who planned, those who approved, those who conceived, and those who justify this act of harabah will indeed face a dreadful doom in the hereafter.

He has a lot of good posts. Go read him.

Die Another Day

We saw the latest Bond movie, Die Another Day, yesterday. Bond is always fun to watch. The plot is also crazy and impossible. There are lots of explosions and action. The villains are always personal enemies of Bond. And then are the women. This latest movie is definitely the best of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies. And the cars are nice, both Bond’s Aston Martin and the villain’s Jaguar.

Beliefnet’s Belief-O-Matic

I found it interesting that the top-most faith in the quiz I took yesterday was Reform Judaism. I asked my wife, brother and sister about the quiz. Their top-most faith also came out to be Judaism, orthodox in one case and reform in the rest. However, the rest of their ranking was very different.

I guess it has to do with the fact that Judaism and Islam have a lot in common. They have similar rules and beliefs. Thus, I find it really sad that there is a conflict between the adherents of these two great religions. From talking to some of my Israeli and Jewish friends, it does seem that they have some misunderstandings about Islam (caveat: this is a generalization from my experience, so it might not be true for everyone). Also, there are anti-Semitic feelings among Muslims (the same caveat applies here.) That in fact is a topic in itself which I would like to talk about in a separate post once I am back in Atlanta.

Belief-o-Matic

What religion are you?
The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.

Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.

1. Reform Judaism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (100%)
3. Liberal Quakers (99%)
4. Secular Humanism (84%)
5. Bahái Faith (81%)
6. Neo-Pagan (81%)
7. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (77%)
8. Sikhism (77%)
9. Orthodox Judaism (71%)
10. New Age (69%)
11. Islam (66%)
12. Jainism (66%)
13. Mahayana Buddhism (64%)
14. Theravada Buddhism (64%)
15. Nontheist (56%)
16. Orthodox Quaker (53%)
17. Taoism (53%)
18. New Thought (47%)
19. Scientology (45%)
20. Hinduism (40%)
21. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (37%)
22. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (32%)
23. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (30%)
24. Seventh Day Adventist (27%)
25. Jehovah’s Witness (26%)
26. Eastern Orthodox (22%)
27. Roman Catholic (22%)

Happy Thanksgiving

I have a flight to catch to New Jersey in a couple of hours. Blogging will be light over the next few days as I enjoy the holidays with my wife. Regular blogging will resume on monday. Enjoy your turkey.

Mitzna and the Settlements

Unqualified Offerings and Talking Dog have joined me in supporting Amram Mitzna for the Israeli PM. Now, as Jim says: “if he can just bring some actual Israeli voters into the tent he’ll be cooking with gas.”

The Talking Dog also mentions:

Israel invested BILLIONS in the settlements — this investment can be traded against the troublesome “right of return” once and for all, because that’s what friends do. If the Palestinians refuse to make such a deal, any pullout should include physical destruction of the settlements and scorched earth — that’s what you do for enemies.

Interesting suggestion. Actually, when Israel returned Sinai to Egypt, the Egyptians offered $XX million (I can’t find the exact figure right now) for the tourist resort in Taba that Israel had built, but Israel refused and flattened EVERYTHING (in Taba and elsewhere in Sinai) before leaving.

Tax the Poor

It seems like the Wall Street Journal editorial I mentioned before was inspired from Neal Boortz. Writing on his website on Aug 1, Boortz describes “THE DEMOCRATS’ (SECRET) PLAN FOR AMERICA”:

Remove a majority of voters from responsibility for income taxes
This is the biggie —- and they’ve made no attempt to hide their goals here. The Democrats have been working on this plan for decades —- with no small amount of help from the cowardly Republicans. The idea is simple. Using “refundable” tax credits and deductions and such ideas as the fraudulent Earned Income Tax Credit the Democrats are working to shift the entire burden for the payment of federal income taxes onto a minority of US taxpayers. Right now the top 50 percent of taxpayers pay almost 96 percent of the taxes. The Democrats are close to their goal. When the majority of voters have no federal income tax liability it will be almost impossible to pass any meaningful tax cuts ?— and further tax increases will be a piece of cake, especially if the taxes only affect those to be considered to be rich. Through this ploy the Democrats plan to create a defeat-proof socialist congress.

Jeez!

Voting Systems

I have always felt that the first-past-the-post (or plularity) voting system as practised in the US (except the Louisiana senate seat) and the UK is flawed since a house elected using this system does not reflect the will of the voters. A political party can easily get a two-thirds majority in parliament with only a third of the vote if there are more than two parties running for election. However, a pure proportional representation system has its own flaws. It gives more power to the fringe elements and makes the system somewhat unstable. A lot of countries therefore follow some sort of a hybrid system. For example, Turkey uses proportional representation with a minimum of 10% votes required to be represented. This resulted in 363 out of 550 seats in parliament for the AKP in recent elections even though they got only 34% of the vote. In fact, the elected parliament there represents only less than 54% of the electorate (I am talking of the people who voted; in such discussions, I don’t care about those who did not bother to vote.) Just a few more seats for the AKP would have given them the power to amend the constitution with a two-thirds majority. What’s more, they did not even need more votes to do that: if the share of the opposition party (CHP) had been a bit smaller than the 19% they got, it would have given AKP 367 seats.

The flaws of the above systems then are obvious. However, studies of voting systems have shown that all systems can give bizarre results under some conditions. Consider an instant-runoff system with three candidates. If 35% of the voters prefer A first and B second, 33% B first and C second, and 32% C first and A second, then the votes of the last-placed C go to A resulting in a win for A. However, if A does something great during the campaign and increases his support at the expense of B, then B places last in the election. So, B’s votes are assigned to C and C wins the election.

Another problem with all voting systems other than the plurality vote and proportional representation is that they are more complex for the voters. I guess they can’t be used in Florida then.

In my opinion, the following characteristics are required for a good voting system:

1. It should reflect voter opinion somewhat accurately.
2. Fringe parties/candidates should not have much influence. This can probably be accomplished by instituting a minimum threshold of votes required for seats in the parliament. However, this threshold should not be too high, a la Turkey, to undermine #1.
3. Usually two-third majorities in parliament have a lot of power, including the power to amend the constitution. Therefore, two-third majority should be very difficult to achieve without a mandate from the electorate.
4. The system should encourage a smaller number of parties (preferably 2) without making it impossible for new parties to break through.

I know most Americans are not interested in changes in the voting system. However, being the oldest demoracy, we are working with an old system while there are better alternatives available.

Website: Proportional Representation Library

Iraqi No Fly Zone

Jim of Objectionable Content writes well-argued and thought-provoking posts. Yesterday, he took on the no fly zones in Iraq:

As policy, the no-fly zones appear both poorly conceived and executed… The no-fly zones have been a mixed bag at best when it comes to their stated purpose of protecting dissidents… The no-fly zones make normalization of relations with Iraq nearly impossible. Enforcement of the no-fly zones constitutes an undeclared air war against Iraq, and it has since the policy began in 1991… Though they serve almost no justifiable military purpose and are untried as a negotiating lever, the no-fly zones make it practically certain that no rapproachement with Iraq will occur. Enforcing the no-fly zones is effectively a commitment not to make peace with the current Iraqi regime. How can we, when we are bombing them?

Go read the whole post.

Kurds

Unqualified Offerings is surprised to hear about Syrian Kurds. In fact, Kurds are mainly divided in four countries: 13 million in Turkey, 4.6 million in Iran, 4.2 million in Iraq, and up to 1.6 million in Syria. In addition, there are around 65,000 Kurds in Armenia. There might even be a small number in Azerbaijan. Who drew those boundaries? Were they crazy?