Trump, Saudi Arabia, and Iran

Yesterday I posted the weird photo of Donald Trump, the Saudi King, and Egyptian dictator al Sisi placing their hands on a glowing orb, something that has sparked plenty of mockery and internet memes. Some have said that touching the orb was what caused a sinkhole to suddenly open up in front of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida at roughly the same time.
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Using ‘principles’ to hide the fact that you are being a jerk

It is a common tactic for people to invoke some high-falutin’ kind of ‘principle’ as a shield to deflect criticisms of their appalling views. The one that is most commonly invoked these days is to say that you are ‘fighting political correctness’ when you are denigrating minorities, gays, women and other marginalized groups whom you think are getting too uppity. The next step is to claim that your right to free speech is being denied when you get criticized for your words. These people seem to think that the right to free speech means that one has the right to not be criticized for exercising that right.
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This seems to never get old

That Americans are woefully ignorant about world geography is well known. My first experience with this was when I first came to the US for graduate studies. When I told people that I was from Sri Lanka, most people had never heard of it. That was not surprising since this was before the various vicious ethnic and political conflicts in that country had brought it greater notoriety. When you add to that the fact that the country was known as Ceylon before 1971, the lack of awareness was perfectly understandable.
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Fighting religious indoctrination in South African schools

I have been hearing from Christopher, a reader of this blog and is a secular activist in South Africa, about a court case that being waged in that country to remove religious bias in their public schools. The group that has brought the case is called OGOD which is an acronym for the Afrikaans Organisasie vir Godsdienste-Onderrig en Demokrasie. The group challenged the practices of six schools that are explicitly teaching Christian doctrine.
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Film review: Lion (2016)

I was quite disappointed with this highly acclaimed film, based on a true story, that was nominated for six Academy Awards (though it did not win any) including for best film and for best supporting actors for Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman.

The first half of it is about a five-year old boy Saroo in India who lives in a remote town with his mother, older brother Guddu whom Saroo idolizes, and sister Shekila. His family is extremely poor and his mother works as a laborer gathering rocks in the heat of the day. Guddu and Saroo engage in petty thievery to buy food for the family and help out their mother. But one day while he and Guddu are out on another such mission, Saroo gets separated from his brother and, after falling asleep on a train, ends up in Kolkatta, a teeming city over a thousand miles away. After wandering the streets fending for himself and fending off people who seem friendly initially but have darker motives, he ends up in an orphanage with a large number of other street children. A kindly official, after failing to locate his mother, arranges for him to be adopted by an Australian couple (mother played by Kidman) living in Tasmania.
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Why Buddhism can be as violent as any other religion

The country of Myanmar provides a good example of my view that the true nature of a religion becomes visible when that religious group is in the majority and enjoys state support. Myanmar is a country that is almost 90% Buddhist but in the southern part of the country that borders Muslim-majority Malaysia, Muslims are in the majority. So what do we see? We see Muslims in the southern part attacking Buddhists and Buddhists in the northern part attacking Muslims.
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Trump predicted the appointment of a special prosecutor

Seth Meyers has the videotape of Trump’s prediction during the campaign and also tells us of the preparations being made for the five-nation trip by White House officials and foreign leaders because of Trump’s ignorance, unwillingness and/or inability to learn, and short attention span. The whole process reminds me of the perpetual nervousness of parents of an uncontrollable, bad-tempered toddler, wondering when he will throw a tantrum or otherwise embarrass them.
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