Recent news

Here’s a quick round-up of some recent news:

President Obama has been sworn into his second term. The ceremony was a small one done inside the White House in order to meet constitutional requirements that the inauguration take place on January 20th, but there will be the usual public spectacle tomorrow. I expect FOX Noise and other conservative mouth-pieces to compare the turnout between the President’s first inauguration and this one, attempting to make the argument that he has lost popularity and doesn’t enjoy any sort of mandate. It will be a shitty argument since 2nd inaugurations are traditionally filled with less pomp and circumstance.

So-called responsible gun owners keep shooting each other. This weekend has seen ‘Gun Appreciation Day’, an event apparently organized by some guy by the name of Larry Ward. The result has been at least 5 accidental shootings as linked above, but I’ve seen unconfirmed Facebook pictures floating around placing the number at 8. This isn’t any surprise considering how many accidental shootings occur in homes with a single gun.

Over 40 million private sector workers do not have paid sick leave. This is one of the many flaws that arise from the magical hand of the free market. We can’t expect the private sector to voluntarily offer paid sick time to employees; these businesses are looking at the short term. If they had a longer and wider view of the economy, they would recognize that their sick employees spread disease, resulting in greater loss to the economy through more people who call out. Moreover, if their sick employees do call out, that’s a loss to the employee. And as we all know but as conservatives ignore, the economy is majority-run by the consumer. We need people making and spending money.

Religious fighting continues in Mali. I find it interesting that a country with its own religious strife, Nigeria, is getting involved with one-door-over neighbor, but it isn’t overly surprising to see religion filling the gap left by corrupt governments, thus creating greater instability and less freedom. That’s sort of what religion has been doing for the past few thousand years.

Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin has been charged with taking bribes. I only find this satisfying because of how disgusted I was when he said New Orleans needs to stay “a chocolate city”. It was blatantly racist horseshit.

The AFC Championship game takes place tonight. The Ravens are rolling into Foxborough at 6:30 tonight, hopefully to face another devastating loss. I don’t know, though. I fully expect a close game, so I won’t be shocked if my Patriots are golfing come Monday. I just hope they utilize their hurry-up offense way more than usual given the comments of a Raven linebacker.

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The religious fighting of Nigeria

As I have pointed out a number of times here, severe violence in Nigeria has long been based in or exacerbated by religion. In many cases we see Islamic sects bombing Christian sects, causing eye-for-an-eye retaliation. The motivation is sheer religious fervor, belief that one’s faith is more important than others’ lives. In other cases we see a division of goods and farmland which leads to disagreements. These disagreements often escalate into violence. Of course, no one would see such systematic violence were it not for religious labels. It would certainly still be there – Nigeria has distinct ethnic groups and that can and does cause problems – but much of the bloodshed would disappear. For, why would Nigerians fight other, for all intents and purposes, random Nigerians? (Looking at the situation this way, this arbitrary nature of division resembles the one between different Christian sects of Northern Ireland in relatively recent years.) No rational, fair-minded person can look at what is happening in this West African nation and deny that religion is a significant problem, often even at the base of the problems. We may see things come to a head in coming years:

Northern Nigerian Christians said on Tuesday they feared that a spate of Christmas Day bombings by Islamist militants that killed over two dozen people could lead to a religious war in Africa’s most populous country.

The warning was made in a statement by the northern branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), an umbrella organization comprising various denominations including Catholics, Protestant and Pentecostal churches.

Some political-religious leaders are denying as much will happen, even going so far as to lie about the nature of the conflict. But the facts are the facts. People are fighting and religion is making things worse. There are surely solutions, but I’m not going to pretend I know what they all are. Nigeria has democracy, the usual curing agent for much violence. It could be strengthened; rooting out corruption and greed would be a start – these things inevitably lead to someone’s oppression and that leads to as much violence as religious fervor does. But this is a small piece to the problem here and, again, I’m not going to pretend like I know all the answers. Nigeria is a complicated nation which is going to have to wait many, many years before it sees peace between its two violent religions.

Thought of the day

Anyone who doubts that religion is a huge dividing force need only look to Nigeria to correct their error in thinking.

Religion continues to kill Nigerians

I’ve long been following the crisis in Nigeria. People have been murdering each other for quite some time there, with part of the basis being fertile farm land, part of it being poverty, part of it being government corruption, but the biggest part being religion. The most recent attacks reflect that.

Nigerian authorities on Friday arrested 92 people allegedly affiliated with a militant Islamist group that the government says is responsible for a string of recent killings in the country’s northeast.

Three men were arrested with bombs in their possession in the vicinity of Jos on Christmas Day, authorities said

The Jos region lies on a faith-based fault line between Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria and the mainly Christian south.

At least four people were killed and another 13 wounded Friday in a bomb blast at an army barracks in Abuja [on New Year’s eve], the deputy police commissioner said.

I would prefer not to have the perfect example to illustrate the point that religion causes divide and fosters violence, but it is what it is. Without Christianity and without Islam dividing the city of Jos, Nigerians would either be able to more easily resolve issues over farm land or they wouldn’t have any violence in the first place. (These most recent attacks are driven by extremists, but it remains that many of the other attacks have been over non-religious issues which are heightened and worsened by the presence of religion.)

Religiously-motivated violence gets worse in Nigeria

It’s only getting worse.

Witnesses say people are fleeing their homes in central Nigeria over fears of renewed religious violence between Christians and Muslims.

Witnesses say there has been at least one death in the city of Jos and people began fleeing on Saturday.

A military spokesman confirmed there was unrest in the city, but gave no details.

It isn’t going to be easy for Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to deal with all the violence it currently faces. Some of it comes from corruption that pervades its entire government. Some of it comes from poverty. But much of it comes from religion; religion is the cause of all the killings between Christians and Muslims going on right now. To cause a significant change in the dynamics of the region, the fact of religion would need to be removed. It cannot simply be replaced with anything – only a simpleton would think that – but without religion, the basis of any violence would change. (It would also change if one religion was all that dominated, but then the entire country might come in conflict with entire other nations.) In places like Northern Ireland, an elimination of the Catholic/Protestant divide throughout the later half of the 20th century probably wouldn’t have completely eliminated all violence there, but it would have subtracted from the equation one significant piece of unnecessary (and untrue) ideology.

For Nigeria, the Christian/Muslim divide is acting as a reason to kill over a lack of fertile lands. Eliminate that divide and the lack of good growing land still exists, but one significant reason for all the murders will be gone. I suspect that for this country corrupt officials might step in to fill the void of controversy and unrest, but they would actually be a step forward in an effort of social and political reform for the better.

They certainly couldn’t be any worse than the two violent religions that have such a strong hold in Nigeria right now.

Religion-based violence continues in Nigeria

The religious-based violence has only been intensifying in Nigeria.

Funerals took place for victims of the three-hour orgy of violence on Sunday in three Christian villages close to the northern city of Jos, blamed on members of the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group.

While troops were deployed to the villages to prevent new attacks, security forces detained 95 suspects but faced bitter criticism over how the killers were able to go on the rampage at a time when a curfew was meant to be in force.

Media reported that Muslim residents of the villages in Plateau state had been warned by phone text message, two days prior to the attack, so they could make good their escape before the exit points were sealed off.

Survivors said the attackers were able to separate the Fulanis from members of the rival Berom group by chanting ‘nagge’, the Fulani word for cattle. Those who failed to respond in the same language were hacked to death.

Don’t be fooled by the use of a language barrier. That only acts as a tool for what is yet another case of religiously-based violence. Remove religion from this situation and these acts of violence have no real label, hardly a root.

“Nigeria’s political and religious leaders should work together to address the underlying causes and to achieve a permanent solution to the crisis in Jos.” [said a Vatican spokesman]

There is no permanent solution to violence. There are only best solutions. In this case, it is necessary that religious divides be destroyed – and the only way that will happen is either if one group absolutely dominates the landscape or if both groups dissipate. There is nothing like the organizing power of religion and bizarre beliefs (i.e., no depictions of a misogynistic asshole or, say, belief in Jew zombies – and inconsistent beliefs, at that) to get a whole pot of hate and violence stirring.

However the archbishop of the capital Abuja, John Onaiyekan, told Vatican Radio that the violence was rooted not in religion but in social, economic and tribal differences.

“It is a classic conflict between pastoralists and farmers, except that all the Fulani are Muslims and all the Berom are Christians,” he said.

Fulani are mainly nomadic cattle rearers while Beroms are traditionally farmers.

That must be why there are so many battles in the western U.S. where cattle herders and farmers cross paths. Wait. Wait. That’s right. There’s a homogeneity to the religion of America. And when there were ‘battles’, they were highly localized and not based upon religion.

This whole herders v farmers argument is hand-waving bullshit. No one is denying that there are almost always a number of factors that lead to violence, but that is a far cry from being able to discount religion’s culpability, especially in this situation. Nigeria has a long history of violence based upon unnecessary ethnic divisions that were primed and exacerbated by religion. It has always been religion that has intensified Nigerian history, not merely fence-cutting and grazing in the wrong place. In fact, one of the major obstacles to better governance in Nigeria is the massive number of political parties as organized by religious affiliation. (And this is probably still better than what we can expect from Iraq in coming years.)

And what the archbishop above is omitting is that Nigeria is still very much an agrarian economy. Nearly 2/5 of the population lives directly off the land. Doesn’t it seem just a little suspicious that it is where Christians and Muslims collide that the violence is occurring?

More religious killing in Nigeria

If religion could fuel our vehicles and homes, we’d never have an energy crisis.

Sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in central Nigeria left 326 people dead last week, a state police commissioner said Monday, pledging to bring those responsible for the killings to justice.

There are conflicting accounts about what unleashed the recent bloodshed. According to a state police commissioner, skirmishes began after Muslim youths set a Christian church ablaze, but Muslim leaders denied that. Muslims say it began with an argument over the rebuilding of a Muslim home in a predominantly Christian neighborhood that had been destroyed in November 2008.

There is disagreement on the minutiae of the violence, but there is clear agreement that religion is the root of it all.