Planned Parenthood: Undercover Video Kicks Up Firestorm

When I started this Blog, I committed to publish clear and blunt Wild Duck opinions on even the most controversial issues. But I also made a promise to myself to refrain from commenting on a few things, simply because I didn’t want to use my Blog for these issues, nor defend my belief system:

  • Personal vendettas against vendors, no matter how egregious the practice
  • Religious beliefs of any public figure
  • gagThe abortion debate

Two Down; One to Go

Despite pure intentions, the gag rule had to go. I have already violiated the first two prohibitions…

a) Personal Vendettas

First, there was my interminable frustration over a ludicrous string of billing errors by Verizon (it was resolved only after 3 years, 150 phone calls and 120 statement credits). Incompetence and disrespect for customers of this magnitude begs to be shared.

Rent-a-Terstappen desk-s2Then, there was the unforgivable lies, deceipt and theft by Rent a Terstappen—the Dollar / Thrifty car rental franchise at the Frankfurt airport. If they tried these tricks in the US or anywhere else in Europe, the franchise owners would be in jail and the corporate office would be decimated by a class action suit.

Finally, Keurig/Green Mountain has finally removed restrictions from their Keurig 2.0 brewer,due, in part, to this scathing review of their haughty business practices.

b) Religious Beliefs

Religion keeps popping up, just like Whack-A-Mole. I have finally come to realize that it was an unrealistic and unnecessary editorial restriction. I don’t really care to debate your faith or my background—I just don’t feel that any reasonable and representative government should recognize, support, defend or lie in bed with any religions, period.

First, there was the town that wanted to balance the display of a public Christmas tree with a public Hanukkah menorah (Editor’s Tip: Get rid of both. Neither belong on public property). Then, there was the US congressman who believes that the universe is 6,000 years old and the New Testament is his working job manual. He is a member of the Space Sciences committee and makes decisions that affect NASA.

Finally, I wrote a popular piece that justifies an agnostic belief (or is it a lack of belief?). And, of course, I have frequently published stories about Islamic extremism and Daesh (aka ISIS OR ISIL). Anyone who participates, contributes or sympathizes with the so-called Islamic Caliphate SO-oo-o needs to be dragged out and shot.

…And so, now there is but one frontier to cross. That is, my self-imposed prohibition on treading into the topic of abortion and public policy.

c) Abortion

Looking over the first three years of this Blog, I find that abortion has rarely been mentioned; only referenced in two political articles.

The problem isn’t that abortion is a contentious issue. A Wild Duck thrives on contention. In case you hadn’t noticed, I love to justify my opinions. fetusBut, the ethics and legal recourse are difficult to debate, because the Pro-Life camp believes that abortion is murder. If one party to a debate believes that the other side is engaged in unjustifiable homicide, the two will forever be locked in a stalemate. Sure, abortions will go on. But, depending upon prevailing winds—religion, ethics & politics—they will either be legal or illegal.

FWIW: Wild Duck is Pro-Choice

I am staunchly Pro-Choice. There! I have said it. But, beyond the next few paragraphs, I don’t care to justify my opinion on the issue. It could not possibly serve any point.

A women’s right to choose the disposition of her body, her womb and her unborn baby (or ‘fetal parts’, depending on your ilk) should be supreme and inviolate—until a child is born and is breathing apart from the mother. Pro-choice is not a nihilistic philosophy. Advocates do not set out to end the life of a fetus. We simply believe that incredibly difficult and personal medical decisions belong with family and physicians rather than government.

Pro-choice advocates believe in family and their capacity to make tough personal choices. We don’t survey the ethics and religious doctrine of neighbors and we don’t bring a community of pundits, analysts, and our neighbor’s clergy into the bedroom or our doctor’s office. Callout-abortionThere must be a clear delineation between an individual’s medical and ethical decisions and the rights granted to a new life—even if a fetus could survive apart from the mother. I feel strongly that government should stay uninvolved. The dividing line (the point at which society should forcibly intervene or punish) should be the birth of a child.

Sure, a fetus is viable and every bit as human just before birth, but a mother doesn’t abort at a late stage with callous recklessness. It is a very tough choice. One must ask if this difficult choice should be made by family with their doctor, or by a government, reigid rules and popular consent. The decision demarcation cannot be conception or anytime before birth.

I have often hoped that, someday, a simple, easily obtained medication (like Plan B) would make this entire debate moot. But nothing is that easy. Abortion options that are too quick, too simple and too easily concealed raise other serious questions… Has the family weighed all options? What if someone slips an abortion pill into a woman’s drink? I will not address these questions. This article is about a current news event.

Planned Parenthood: Signs of Trouble

One issue that is squarely in the spotlight this week is the sale of fetal body parts. When there is a potential for money to exchange hands, the incentive can drive the decision to abort or even influence a doctor’s methods and practices. For this reason, federal law prohibits the sale of human body parts. But it allows for the the donation of tissue and organs and it allows for the use of human tissue in medical research.

This video, released two days ago, has sparked a firestorm. It has also sparked the fury of Republican presidential candidates, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz. They promise congressional investigations and a push to defund Planned Parenthood.

In the video, Deborah Nucatola, a senior director of medical services for planned parenthood, casually discusses abortion procedures and organ harvesting with an undercover investigator for a right wing group. Clearly, the investigator is after a smoking gun and he wants to generate media hysteria and a congressional backlash. He succeeds in spades. But what exactly does the smoke point to?

One day after the story broke, defenders of Planned Parenthood argued that although the discussion was in a shockingly cavalier, nothing illegal was offered or discussed. Dr. Nucatola mentioned a paltry $30 or $100 dollars to cover the added cost of having the doctor save and preserve specimens. Although details are gruesome, the fee clearly does not constitute “selling body parts” including some that may be illegal. Yesterday, The New York Times, defended Planned Parenthood in this article. Factcheck.org (admittedly, a democratic web project) makes the same point here.

But Is The Video Damning? You Bet.

I support Planned Parenthood. For nearly 100 years, they have been a beacon of truthful information, respect and victim empowerment. They balance fanatic zealots who seek to undermine a woman’s natural right to have providence over her own body.

The tangible issue raised by the undercover video is whether the incentive to sell or even donate fetal tissue and organs influences the choices made by pregnant women or the methods employed by abortion providers. And, of course, whether it influences the motives and actions of Planned Parenthood. But no one is selling body parts. This was not the 600 pound gorilla—the intangible issue hit home by the video. It is the tone with which life-terminating procedures are discussed. It comes across as cavalier and disrespectful…

I stand with Planned Parenthood, but I do not stand with supporters who feel that the video is anything less than destructive. Callout-Planned_ParenthoodIt points to a problem with attitude, ethos and consistent signaling. The video reflects poorly on Planned Parenthood and their mission.

Likewise, another undercover video from Inhuman, captures Planned Parenthood CEO, Cecile Richards, in a wink-and-nod at the very end of the video. This, too, reflects poorly on Planned Parenthood. While it is likely that Ms. Richards was simply patronizing a visitor that she wanted to get rid of, it doesn’t reflect well on the organization or it’s mission.

Perception & Reputation

The survival of every organization—even churches, governments and non-profits—relies, in part, on a marketing component. I am less concerned with how the enemies of Planned Parent spin this video than I am with how it perceived by it’s supporters.

The bottom line is that the brand has been tarnished. Recovery will be arduous and, perhaps, long in coming. It is not a forgone conclusion that Planned Parenthood will recover. But it is also a fact that Planned Parenthood stands for freedom, privacy, woman’s rights, and the sanctity of family. Even if the organization is damaged or destroyed, we must never forget the noble mission for which they stand.

Related

Chicago taxes Netflix—Why not!

Service taxChicago is my birthplace and my favorite place to visit family. Unfortunately, it is also a city guided by morons.

Chicago politicians think that they can tax cloud and streaming services that sell to their residents, including Netflix, Spotify, Pandora, XBox Live—and even premium email services.

They can enact a cloud tax, of course. But can it be applied fairly? Can it be enforced? —At what cost? It certainly can’t be enforced at a cost that is less than many times the anticipated revenue. But who cares? This is Chicago!

More likely, any attempt to enforce such a screwy tax would simply move the providers further away from Chicago jurisdiction. If the entire country is compelled to honor and collect taxes on behalf of every other municipality, then the service will simply be moved to another country. After all, we are talking about virtual services, aren’t we?!

Can you imagine the Chutzpah? As if there is something local about internet content.

  • The broadband service itself?
    Sure. It fits within a framework of municipal services. These can be taxed as telecommunication services—at least if they have a fixed delivery address.
  • internet-tax-increaseBut a service that originates out of town and is designed for users on the go? Not a chance!

Can Chicago tax at the source? Good luck. Can they tax at the consumption point? (i.e. tax anyone using a service within their jurisdiction). Let’s think it through. The dim bulbs who enacted this tax, haven’t tried thinking, so we will pose the easy questions…

Will they tax tourists passing through airports and checking email or watching Netflix in the waiting area? What about a Chicago resident who watches TV primarily at his child’s home in the suburbs? Does he pay the tax to Chicago? Perhaps the city will create a bureaucracy of exemptions for tourists and residents who consume entertainment while traveling. Why not? Whatever tax is ultimately collected could be used to employ more Internet Savvy politicians! Then it becomes a jobs bill!

Here’s another good scenario: What about an XBox account that was purchased as a gift by an out of state Grandpa. He used his own address so that he can pay the bills. Is Grandpa now an illegal tax delinquent? chicagoWill there be a warrant for his arrest when he visits little Billy? Or will Chicago perform deep-packet inspection to ensure that Billy is lawfully using the Internet and is not using an out of town XBox account?

Perhaps, the tax is simply levied on a subscriber’s billing address. That would be real smart, Mr. legislator! What about a Chicago residence who is traveling far from home? I occasionally use a VPN relay to get around Netflix geographic restrictions. Does a Chicago resident traveling or living in Germany pay a tax to Chicago for viewing Netflix?

This is not a minor land grab. It is a serious attempt to tax the flow of bits.

wing_nuts

Chicago City Council meeting

It is doomed to failure, of course. Perhaps city council overlooked the fact that the state recently struck down the Amazon tax. Florida even backed down from taxing real-world services such as dental cleaning, Federal Express, fitness membership and private school tuition. If they found it difficult to tax these businesses with Florida addresses and direct customer contact, just how far do they think a tax on cloud services will fly?

Wild Ducks know that I am given to sarcasm. I promised a few readers that I would tone it down just a scooch. But when wing nuts enact wacky legislation in the name of helping constituents (or in the name of religious freedom), avoiding sarcasm is an unreasonable expectation. Their actions beg to be put into perspective. Not one of these idiots sat down to consider whether a cloud tax is reasonable, fair or enforceable.

Ellery responds. Speak your opinion here.

Will Hillary Gag Her Critics?

My friend, Peter, is at it again. He’s the dude with a geographic license to wear loud, floral print shirts that don’t tuck in. We used to be friendly competitors in the email security space. But we both switched careers long ago and we are now fast friends at a distance.

I said “at a distance” because we are separated by both land and politics. At 5100 miles (8200 km), we are geography separated as far as two people in USA can be! And the political distance between a bible-toting redneck and a blue-blooded Libertarian is nearly as great! Actually, I am exaggerating the metaphor… Neither of us is at the fringe—but as the pendulum swings, we each tend to be adrift from the center!

I have always been impressed with Peter’s ability to initiate passionate and popular debate. While this Blog elicits between zero and ten comments for each article, a simple post on Peter’s Facebook wall gets 75 responses, often within hours. His capacity to generate discussion and debate not only speaks to Peter’s breadth of contacts, but more importantly to a keen sense of hot-button issues!

Last week, Peter asked his friends to opine on Hillary Clinton. He was critical of her desire to vet Supreme Court nominees based on their willingness to restrict free speech rights for campaign commercials that slander a candidate in proximity to an election.

His question refers to this article. [Click below to read in a new window]

Hillary

Actually, the use of the term slander is my spin. Slander invokes a very different legal bar, and it is not a form of protected speech. But Hillary openly opposes the airing of any critical opinion in the days leading up to an election.

Peter asks:

If you and your friends pool your resources into a corporation making a movie that comes out 30 days prior to an election criticizing candidate Ted Cruz, should you be arrested? If you answered “No”, then I hope you also agree with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United.

 

A Wild Duck response…

I have read and understand the Powerline Blog piece on Citizens United. I fully agree with the Supreme Court decision. And, of course, I believe that Clinton should avoid a litmus test that buttresses her effort to thwart our First Amendment.

My initial reaction was to wonder if anyone feels differently? Who can argue with free speech, especially when it comes to politics. Perhaps I live among a small circle of friends, but I can’t think of anyone—regardless of their politics—who would expect or desire a different outcome. (I am assuming that the Powerline article was not slanted—or lacking some germane point!)

Big Business, Money and Free Speech

What if big money backs free speech? Surely, that type of speech should be restricted. Right? Not on your life! The argument that organizations are not people and that they shouldn’t enjoy basic rights just doesn’t hold water. And the argument that money buys elections is just daffy!…

What are we? Idiots and sheep?! There is no such thing as “buying” an election. Not in a country with a free press, free speech and the Internet. Of course, access to money helps any persuasive campaign, just as a well-funded ad campaign helps Coca-Cola sell more soda than Fred’s regional cola. But, when was the last time that you or a family member voted for a candidate because she had more TV ads? If you ask me, modern electioneering is comprised mostly of negative attack ads. I suspect thst expensive messages leading up to an election are more likely to dissuade voters than they are to “buy” votes.

Hillary as President

I have not yet formed a position for or against Hillary as a presidential candidate. But, I would give her a pass for being pig-headed on this issue, at least in public discourse. The ramifications of free speech have hit too close for her to think straight. I doubt that she will find a credible candidate for Supreme Court Judge that would vote to prohibit an opinion piece, regardless of its sponsors or timing.

On Second Thought

church-&-state-sHere, at Wild Duck, I rarely equivocate. My opinions are as pig-headed and bull nosed as Hillary’s. But once in a while, I acknowledge that there may be another side to an issue. (Not the free speech issue. On that, I stand firm). But, on assuming that a candidate—if elected—would not act on their radical or religious beliefs. On this point, I can no longer vote with smug assurance…

I once gave Republicans a pass on the issue of a litmus test. I assumed that they would  never hand pick ANTI-choice justices or ANTI separation of church-state justices. I thought it impossible that any educated individual could be a bible thumper. I was wrong. Clearly, some politicians and judges mix religion with politics or seek to force our sisters and daughters into back room abortions.

And so, Peter, I shall reflect on your question a bit more! Regards from your slightly more liberal friend on the mainland.


 

Like Peter Kay, Ellery occasionally pontificates on politics of the day. But,
unlike Peter, Ellery is apt to opine from a liberal or Libertarian perspective.

Fool’s Mission: Asserting Open Carry Rights

There is a cottage industry afoot that entails making an amateur video of yourself or a friend asserting the right to walk down the street with a gun, but without a badge. After all, we live in a country with a 2nd amendment (the right of citizens to bear arms) and some communities drive this point home by having explicit open carry laws.

LiveLeak.com has recently staked their fame on videos submitted by yahoos, often featuring gang members or reckless youth brazenly taunting police. (“I was just walking down the street officer…minding my own business!)”. In one particularly troubling video, a guy walks into a police station wearing full body armor and carrying an AR15 assault rifle. He calls this behavior a “2nd amendment audit”. Yeah, right! By the same logic, you could test your right of peaceful assembly by surrounding a midnight girl scout campfire with gang members carrying grenade launchers, hand cuffs and duck tape.

There is no confrontation in the police station audit, but check out this video, instead…

Drop to the ground!

This is not a video about race, guns or constitutional rights. It is a video about two individuals and their girlfriends making an a*s of themselves.

It’s not the message about race that bothers me…

In this video, one protagonist is white and the other is black. But before we get into the sub-plot, let’s address the main premise… Do these guys have a constitutional right to bear arms?

Yes they do! But there is no national consensus on what it means to “bear arms”. Do they have a constitutional right to display automatic weapons as they walk down a street? That’s certainly in doubt. If so, then you could extrapolate this to a right to carry grenades and chemical bombs. Do they have a right to openly carry weapons down the streets of this particular community? Perhaps. Maybe. I don’t know.

But even if their actions are intended to assert their rights or demonstrate a bias toward black males, they are still idiots. Regardless of laws and rights, a society lives on norms of conduct, safety and behavior. Quote me all the rights that you wish; we still can’t have citizens walking down the street with assault rifles or Uzis. Unlike the police, there is no way to know if they have been adequately trained, screened for mental health, enraged by a recent incident, or simply looking for trouble.

These guys are clearly jerks. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t understand their motives. I was once young, arrogant, with a chip on my shoulder, and also an idiot. Too bad that there isn’t a better way to communicate across generations and save these dolts from making the same mistakes in an effort to assert their ‘rights’.

The Narrator’s Other Message

To be fair, the accompanying article explains: “The white guy did not have a gun pulled on him, the black guy never got a chance to say anything before a gun was pulled on him.” The video shows two separate events. One in which a white man is challenged without apparent fear or violence and the other in which an officer draws a gun on a younger black man and yells for him to drop to the ground before engaging in any discussion. Is there a point here about race, balanced law enforcement and prejudice? Sure! But that doesn’t change the fact that both men are idiots.

Let’s be clear. Race is not a main point of the video. In the opening scene, a lunkhead states that he will stage a provocative exercise for “educational purposes” and to ensure that the state of Oregon does not trample on his rights. As to the race angle, there are certainly other ways to research and present sociological data. In fact, it can be done in a manner that solicits the viewer to reflect on their own bias and perhaps take action in changing perceptions and practices. But this certainly wasn’t a primary motive for the white guy wanting to demonstrate his rights. He just wanted to poke a bobcat with a sharp, flaming stick. In his book, it makes him hot stuff; a really big cheese. In my book, he demonstrates about as much sense as a soft boiled egg.

What do you think? I would particularly like to hear from some gun rights supporters. Is it reasonable to demonstrate your rights by walking down a busy street with an assault weapon?

Bad for business: Laws that bully LGBT

I really tried to ignore the brouhaha over Indiana’s thinly veiled discriminatory law. There is little I can add to the public discourse. In my circles, it seems kind of obvious that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will be short lived. After all, even with a public demonstration of a narrow mind and intolerance, no governor can stand against business for long.

For those who have lived under a rock these past few weeks, a quick study might ask What’s the big deal? After all, we have a federal law with the same name. But there is a big difference!  The federal law protects individuals from government intrusion or coercion, while the Indiana law was crafted with the opposite intent! It allows individuals (business owners or employees) to claim a legal basis for their interaction with others. It sets the stage for commercial discrimination and goofy legal defenses…

Saturday Night Live suggests giving businesses helpful signs to show that they embrace the new law

Saturday Night Live offers a friendly storefront sign to businesses that embrace the new law.

Under this law, a McDonald’s cashier can contest being fired for telling each customer to praise Allah—or for refusing to serve customers who don’t respond in kind. After all, he is just exercising his religious freedom. This doesn’t just open a can of worms—It sends a crop duster to spray worms over the entire state!

This slideshow from Huffington Post presents first-hand quotes and tweets from 26 politicians, corporate heads (Apple, Nike, Twitter, Angie’s List, Yelp, NASCAR, etc).

Some people stand with the Indiana governor, such as former governor Jeb Bush, and senators Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum. But it is revealing to note that no corporation or sports team wants this pretext to commercial discrimination. They are vociferous in distanancing themselves.

Of course, not all politicians stand with Indiana Governor Mike Pence. The governor of Connecticut is a lightning rod in mustering dissent. So are the mayors of Seattle, Denver, and Washington, DC. You can imagine the statement from Oregon’s governor Kate Brown (she is openly bisexual).

Yea, brother! Are you a straight, God-faring Christian?

Indiana Governor Mike Pence: Straight, God-fearing and bad for business

Financial repercussions are beginning to mount. Angie’s List is canceling a $40 million expansion of their headquarters (this means fewer jobs!). The alternative rock band, Wilco, has cancelled a tour stop in Indianopolis. Salesforce.com is cancelling a business deal. The Colts, NCAA and NASCAR cannot easily relocate, but they are apologizing to fans and reminding them that these venues welcome all fans–both on and off the field. Hillary Clinton called it a “sad decision”. The founder of Yelp calls it “unconscionable”.

Governor Pence insists that the law is misunderstood and that it was not intended to be a pretext for commercial discrimination. In response, check out the opening section of a letter signed by Angie’s List CEO and the heads of eight other large corporations. It points out that intent is not really the point. It’s all about effect:

Regardless of the original intention of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we are deeply concerned about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state. All of our companies seek to promote fair, diverse and inclusive workplaces. Our employees must not feel unwelcome in the place where they work and live. 

To clarify the law, Governor Pence is rushing a corrective ‘fix’ into the legislative docket. That’s just another head slapper. Why bother?! You don’t fix lunacy, you drive a wooden stake through it, bury it, and hope that your opponents forgive or forget.

Wild Ducks wonder how long Hoosiers must wait before Governor Mike Pence rolls back his spiteful and bad-for-business legislation. We also wonder how the governor could have acted on such bad advice. On the other hand, if he acted on his personal conviction, then — red state or blue state — I wonder how he became governor!

ISIS burns Jordanian Pilot. To what end?

Moa’ath al-Kasasbeh-01aThree days ago, ISIS released a video in which the Jordanian Pilot, Lt. Moa’ath al-Kasasbeh, was burned alive in a cage. The result? A blitz against ISIS positions and logistics with the fury of an enraged leopardess. Jordan and the US led coalition is getting sympathy and support from near and far—even from prospective allies with no former stake in this war.

Why do people commit atrocities on a deeply personal and individual level? Think about it before reading further.

Since you’re still reading, you will obviously learn my opinion:Actually, I just can’t figure it out…

I ‘get’ that some people/groups/governments/rebels want land, power, money, sex—or simply revenge on those they feel have brought suffering or dishonor to their people, their cause or their prophet. I also get that they commit atrocities in an attempt to achieve their goals. But, I cannot fathom why the really bad guys inevitably do things that are so grotesquely evil, inhumane and appalling that they bring unity and resolve to their enemies!

Referring to ISIS actions and tweets: “It is a PR stunt”. But PR serves a purpose, even if it is a twisted purpose or one hell-bent on religious fervor. I doubt that decapitations, burning a man alive, and kidnapping a young, female aid worker help the cause of ISIS, even among the angry, dispossessed youth that they routinely recruit.

charlie-hebdo-cover-603x8002Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, fellow at the Middle East Forum and researcher at the IDC Herzliya academic institution, explains that the video is a “wholly new level of public advertisement of brutality” and that it is “designed to terrorize the outside world, especially the Arab states taking part in the US-led coalition.”

How can anyone be so distorted as to think that such disgraceful and abominable tactics achieve anything other than invigorating enemies and generating massive sympathy for the other side. More to the point, do they not realize that their families will be hunted down and killed, humiliated or otherwise brought to justice?

ISIS believes the US led coalition forces to be an infidel, a disciple of Satan or a rabid animal (metaphors that radical Islam invokes toward anyone who is free, living under democracy, has a brain or a conscience). But even if you believe these things, it makes no sense to back a dog (or Satan) into a corner and poke him with a stick—especially if your opponent has satellite reconnaissance, powerful weapons and growing community sympathy.

Related:

Piers Morgan describes his reaction to viewing the ISIS video of Jordanian Pilot, Moa’ath al-Kasasbeh, burned alive in a cage. He didn’t want to watch, but is glad that he did.

Can Saudis say “Je Suis Charlie”?

Update: This article was written 2 weeks before the death of the Saudi leader

On Jan 23, (Friday morning, local time), Saudi King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al Saud, died. His half brother, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, ascended to the throne as expected. He promptly assured the international community that policies, alliances and contracts would continue as before.

Je Suis CharlieThe Saudi government is publicly standing with France in condemning the slaughter of editors and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, a satire magazine. They were gunned down in the name of defending the prophet’s honor.

Of course, the governments of Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Iraq are waging war against extremist group Islamic State with expanding air and ground support from a US-led international coalition. Yet, I am sickened by the irony of their “outrage”.

saudi-arabia-domestic-violence-sThe Saudis have no compunctions in savagely beating Raif Badawi for the crime of promoting free speech and debate. They have no problem beating women who drive a car or who travel without a male relative. We must take stock of our affiliations. It’s time to run with those who share our ideals and who appreciate a common humanity. The Saudi royals are neither just, moral or humane.

The fact that so many in the west consider the Saudi kingdom to be moderate or “a friend” is both ironic and a travesty. These are barbarians with starkly warped ideals. Saudi Delegate at UNThey are as backward and ruthless as those who slaughtered the journalists at Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Both groups respond to free thought and debate with righteous violence.

It’s time for western governments and NGOs to recognize that the Saudis are no more evolved than the Ayatollahs in Iran or the Imams and Muftis who promote and export Sharia Law the word over.

Consider the relationship of China with the US and Canada. The Chinese are a major trading partner, but few would suggest that this partnership indicates a shared kinship of political ideology or compatible individual freedoms. China’s government may change some day, but for now, modernization is limited to their economy and with a slightly heightened awareness of environmental issues. Democratic process and Personal freedoms be damned.

Saudi FlagLike China, the Saudis are our temporary trading partner. We must not confuse trade or even military cooperation with friendship and we must constantly reevaluate the limits of our business and financial arrangements. Unlike China, Saudi Arabia bankrolls extremism and exports intolerant ideology that destabilizes the global community. They are no better than ISIL, Boka Haram or the most radical of Sharia-inspired zealots. The Saudi government is barely shy of being an enemy to every free democracy. I am not against constructive engagement. But we should also understand an ideological adversary and maintain a comfortable distance.

Suggested Reading:

Is Islam a Religion of Tolerance?

In my armchair observation of the world’s major religions, they each have scriptures, righteous examples or commandments that seek the destruction or subjugation of other races, infidels or non-believers. In short, among all the talk of love, peace and coexistence, there is inevitably a doctrine, which—if interpreted literally—espouses hate or the smiting of people who are different. Is this the case for every religion? Perhaps an exception is Buddhism and other religions that are associated more with spiritual or political philosophies rather than a deity (e.g. Confucianism is not really a religion).

islam_385x261But here’s the thing: Despite holy scripture that places adherents spiritually or morally above their neighbors, few individuals believe or act on scripture that suggests burning neighbors, cutting off their hands, or raping their daughters. They also leave their neighbors to establish and administer their own political and cultural practices, according to their own set of beliefs. That is, most cultures accept the universal maxims: “Live and let live” and “Treat others as you wish to be treated”.  Adhering to these two simple golden principles of non-interference and cooperation are the keys to living in a multicultural world. Everyone understands this. Everyone lives it! Well, not quite everyone…

islamThe problem with Islam, as I see it, is that a large fraction of followers actually implement an “interference doctrine”. But when an institution combines a nihilistic philosophy with growth and evangelism, it takes the form of a cancer: Constantly pushing out its boarders and consuming anything in the way. Many Islamic adherents (how many?) refuse to accommodate tolerance—at least for those outside of its beliefs, even when an Islamist community is a minority in the homeland of other cultures and philosophies.

I believe in tolerance. Given a connected world with a great many cultures and beliefs, it is the only way to foster peaceful and productive coexistence. The concept of Sharia Law—practiced against non-believers and especially outside of an Islamist homeland—is not only intolerant and abhorrent, it is impossible to reconcile within any framework of coexistence. Therefore, the only philosophy or practice of which we should be intolerant is intolerance itself.

Islam-10

I honestly don’t know the fraction of Islamists who teach hate and who seek to spread intolerance. But I can see that the absolute numbers are staggering. It’s not just growing in the Arab world, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali and Timbuktu. It has taken root in France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Finland and even in North America. While I cringe in response to some reader suggestions (“We must destroy Islam. We need to institute a genocide”), I honestly don’t see how to contain a cancer by any means other than destroying it. As with any cancer, there is an urgent imperative to prevent spread and the consumption of surrounding tissue.

Is it possible that Islam can be gently prodded to correct the extremism within its many sects and among its zealous Mullahs? I don’t know. And I don’t know if we have time to engage on such a benign level. Despite my disdain for intolerance, I keep returning to my own maxim: The only thing of which we can be justifiably intolerant is intolerance itself. I believe that if we do not quickly squash intolerance, the haters will consume us.

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That’s my opinion on the growth of a very destructive force from the dark side. My father had a considerably less tolerant plan… He died before there was a western acronym for ISIS [ISIL, Daesh, The Caliphate], but he once wrote that captured Taliban and Hammas fighters should be killed and a video sent to their families. The video would show the corpse of a religious extremist as it is buried alongside open carcasses of pigs, including intestines and pork brains. He figured that the graphic display of eternal damnation might persuade the next generation from spreading their hate and killing across other cultures. I hold out hope for a more civilized and humane way to encourage tolerance among neighbors.

In response to the titular question: Is Islam a religion of tolerance? It doesn’t appear to promote tolerance at any level. Not from religious leaders and not that I can see from the adherents. If Islam were tolerant, we would see swift condemnation of terrorist acts. We would see acceptance of other cultures and practices. We would sense an acceptance that women can be educated and treated as something other than cattle, and we would see a peaceful and productive coexistence with the greater communities, both religious and secular.

All 4 photos: http://enriqueiglesias.com

Malaysia 370: Unexplored possibility

Malasia Air flight 370With nearly a month since the disappearance of Malaysia Air flight 370 with 239 souls on board, the pundits have put forth many theories to explain the mystery of the missing jumbo jet. They explore possibilities such as mechanical failure, terrorist passengers, a mentally unbalanced pilot or copilot, a fire or electrical problem caused by batteries or something stored in the cargo bayand the leading early theory: a plot to steal the plane.

But I have not seen another explanation—one that, to me, seems entirely more likely…

Malasia Air pilot & copilot

Zaharie Ahmad Shah,      Fariq Abdul Hamid

A reasonable explanation for the disappearance of this plane is the accidental lockout of authorized individuals from the cockpit. In the past decade, the cockpits of large planes have been turned into fortresses. The cockpit door has been fortified to withstand attack by axe or explosive. To enter the flight deck, a layered security protocol requires a passcode from the outside in combination with authorization from the inside or 3rd party cooperation. If the flight crew rushed to the doorway due to an innocent event (say the injury of an attendant who was just entering or someone falling as they stood up), or if the crewman remaining in the cockpit was incapacitated by accident or illness, it seems entirely possible that the plane could fly on autopilot while the crew struggles in vain to re-enter the flight deck.

No one at the controls

No one at the controls

Cabin-Ground Communication?

I wonder if Boeing or a jumbo jet pilot can tell us this: If all individuals are locked out of a cockpit as a plane flies on, is there any way to establish voice contact with the flight controllers in Malaysia, Vietnam, or even via satellite? I can imagine that a call might be possible from the cabin phone or perhaps there are Bluetooth-like devices in the galley. But with the recent fortress-like upgrades, I wonder if designers had sufficient foresight to ensure that every plane shipped in any configuration was equipped with cabin-ground capability—and that the all devices were charged and the crew regularly tested on their location and use.

New Topic: Black Box Pinger

While we’re discussing the disappearance of Malaysia Air flight 370, here is something else that I could never figure out.The media informs us that the best batteries we can achieve in a small, indestructible container last for only 30 days. (And that assumes that they are fresh, were recently charged, and stored at the proper temperature!). But this raises a very obvious question (obvious to Wild Ducks, that is)…

“Pings” broadcast from gray cylinder (left)

“Pings” broadcast from gray cylinder (left)

Rather than using a limited reserve to continuously ping for help, why not listen instead? After all, the ping can only penetrate ocean water for a mile or two. It would consume far less power to wait in “standby” mode until the unit is interrogated by a roaming device seeking response. In fact, if the pinger was primarily in a passive state until polled, I bet that the designers could budget for a much bigger energy burst on the ping. After all, when sensing an interrogation, someone is getting within range and we saved all the energy we would have spent on thousands of useless pings during past months!

Ellery Davies is a partner at CRYPSA, the Cryptocurrency Standards Association.
He is a frequent contributor to Yahoo News, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.