Saturday, February 09, 2013

Bangladesh's lesbian, gay, and bisexual prejudice needs to be stopped!

This is a short essay by a friend of mine.  He has my full support, as does his cause.  The right to choose one's sexual orientation needs support and protection, no less so than other individual rights.

Tibor R. Machan

Dear friends,

I would like to ask you for your support for a worthy cause I very
much care about.

In Bangladesh, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people encounter
extensive prejudice, discrimination, and violence because of their
sexual orientation. Many face discrimination at school, university,
and their workplace, are denied access to health care & justice and
find little support from family members & friends. Section 377 of the
Bangladesh Penal Code, a colonial law enacted in 1860 and left behind
by the British Empire, makes same-sex intercourse a crime punishable
by imprisonment for life. I described the impact this hostile
environment has on the daily lives of LGB people in Bangladesh in a
short article published about a year ago:

I'm a member of the Bangladesh Liberal Forum (BLF), a group of loosely
associated activists dedicated to the promotion of liberal values in
Bangladesh. We recently joined our forces with the Bandhu Social
Welfare Society (BSWS, and Boys of
Bangladesh (BoB, in order to combat
homophobia in Bangladesh. We believe in the power of education to
change the world and consequently created a brochure that we intend to
use to educate people about psychological, legal, and moral issues
pertaining to sexual orientation. We will distribute this brochure at
workshops and conferences, at universities and to NGOs and government
offices in Bangladesh. We will start distributing next month when BSWS
will hold workshops about the rights of sexual minorities with
students of two universities in Dhaka (ULAB and ASA).

I would like to invite you to support us in our struggle against
homophobia in Bangladesh and help us cover the printing cost. We just
ordered 5,000 copies of the English version of our brochure (which you
can find here: < >)
for 350 USD, and we will order a larger number of copies of the
Bengali version once the translation is completed. There is no
administrative cost, so every dollar you give will be used to cover
printing cost, and to educate people about this important issue. Your
donation may be in the form of cash or check. Please mail checks to me
at 8803 Timberside Dr, Apt 2, Houston, TX 77025. If you are in
Germany, the easiest way to give is by bank transfer (Ɯberweisung an
Rainer Ebert, Kontonummer: 54761000, BLZ: 61491010, VR-Bank Elwangen,
Verwendungszweck: LGB Bangladesh). If you are in Bangladesh, please
contact me.

Thank you for your consideration and support. If you have any
questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes


P.S.: I plan to thank supporters at - if you'd like to stay
anonymous, please say so.

Department of Philosophy
Rice University
6100 Main St, MS 14
Houston, TX 77005

United States of America

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Arrogance of Power

Arrogance of Power!

Tibor R. Machan

Just how utterly reliant on sheer power is President Obama can be appreciated from the fact that no one in his administration bothers to defend his policy of confiscating people’s resources.  Apart from calling upon the phony support of a few super rich folks like Warren Buffet -- who, I understand, is by no means offering his own wealth up for use by Mr. Obama (instead engaging in customary dodging and weaving, not paying up) -- no argument has been put forth by the administration for the progressive tax policy it relies upon.  Merely declaring that the very wealthy “may be asked” to contribute a higher percentage of their belongings isn’t an argument, merely a dishonest dogma.  Why, one may ask!  What principle supports this policy of public finance?  Why must those with exceptional talent, skill, luck, etc. be punished for possessing these?  

Sure, such very rich folks may not need their resources as badly as do poorer folks but why is that a justification for the confiscatory policy?  It simply is not.  Matters concerning who needs what, how much, etc., just have no generalized answer.  “Fair share” is a made up idea, a rationalization, based on nothing more than the wish to take, take, and take some more.  Such a wish has no standing in morality or public finance!

If the country were some kind of club or organization that came together voluntarily, with the provision that dues will be progressive, the case would be different.  But just being born into a society with greater advantages and resources than others possess doesn’t by any means serve as a valid reason to be subjected to confiscation.  Consent would be needed for that, otherwise what we have is nothing different from highway robbery.  

Some gullible folks have compared Obama’s philosophy of public finance to Robin Hoodism but that’s entirely misguided.  What Robin Hood did was to take funds back from those who taxed the population!  Robin Hood correctly regarded taxes as unjustified takings, as robbery!

Some of us are luckier than others; some of us work harder and earn more than others; indeed, the citizens of a free country are a highly varied lot in many respects, including how much they are worth economically!  No one is justified in becoming an equalizer unless consent has been given to take part in such a scheme. (Imagine a marathon race in which at every new position the participants were re-positioned in line with some notion of fairness! Oh, some have imagined that already, such as George Orwell in his classic tale, “Animal Farm,” and Kurt Vonnegut in his short story titled “Harrison Bergeron.” The practice of handicapping has nothing to do with fairness but with keeping the race interesting for spectators.)  

I do not like to ascribe motives to people when they embark upon various objectionable actions or the advocacy of mendacious policies.  Who know what lies in the hearts of such men and women -- envy, resentment, naive idealism, whatever! I do know that the progressive taxation system, even taxation itself, is a vicious way to support policies and projects that one supports in societies.  (We can all come up with innumerable great ideas that maybe others should also embrace but that’s no justification for robbing others of what belongs to them so as to fund those projects or of enslaving them to labor for these!)

I suppose calling the progressive tax policy “progressive” suffices for some people to justify and implement it, to impose it on others who reject it; but it will not wash.  In the end it all amounts to sheer, raw power wielding, comparable to what a lynch mob or bandit does.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

My List

My List

Tibor R. Machan

Once I learned to read there was no end to it.  I used my flashlight to make it possible after I was sent to sleep and my first books were quite a disorderly collection.  I read a bunch of historical novels in Hungarian, several about the 160 year long Turkish occupation of the country. This was followed with Hungarian translations of Mark Twain, Zane Gray, Max Brand and many other American and German novelists (Karl May). When I discovered these I simply devoured them all, nonstop. Earl Stanley Gardner’s series of courtroom stories, starring the invincible Perry Mason, never disappointed me.  Once I flew Hungary I continued with some more classical works, such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky but I kept up with the lighter fare.

I am still collecting new authors, like Philip Kerr and David Dawson and Robert B. Parker and others.  But my favorite reading still consist of the stories and novels and travelogues of W. Somerset Maugham.  The latter have been supplemented by Pico Iyer and Peter Mayle, two who can describe various parts of the globe most evocatively.  I am especially fond of Mayle’s stories of Provence, which cover history, architecture, cuisine, lodging, and all.

My profession allows me to travel to interesting parts but mostly to do work, so I am not able to tour extensively the places where conferences are being held and where I am asked to present talks. So I supplement my travels with reading the travel writers and by watching some of the travel programs, especially the ones hosted by Burt Wolf and Steven Reeves (though I much prefer the former).  Wolf has a real knack for mixing the several attractive features of the places he visits, architecture, history, religion, philosophy, literature, and art. His humor is delightful and, fortunately, he pretty much skips all politics so one can view his programs and feel like one is taking a vacation.

I finally got a Kindle--even lost one already--which makes taking along reading material on my numerous trips around the globe quite simple now. (I used to haul around books earlier and paid for this by ruining my back so I eventually needed two operations to repair it to reasonable fitness.)

Reading novels has for me the inestimable benefit of coming to know many more human beings than I have the occasion to befriend.  It amazes me how adept novelist are at entering the personalities of their character, navigating a great variety of lives so that the reader comes away from their stories with the impression of having met dozens and dozens of individuals and hundreds of situations.

Not every novelist is likely to suit every reader; different personalities will be entertained and informed in different ways.  Novelists may match up with some but by no means all potential readers.  It is like music and poetry.  While I believe there are standards of aesthetic excellence, there is also a sort of pluralism in art. Again, it is a bit like entertainment and sport--some work for me, some for you, etc., etc.

          My list may not be everyone’s but some will probably find it rewarding just as I did and still do. Friends of mine who know my taste and other values may well find dipping into the list quite satisfactory.  I certainly have enriched my life immensely doing so.