Saturday, July 28, 2007

Power Outage

Rumor has it that when Dick Cheney went in for his pacemaker replacement/heart blackening procedure today he briefly turned over control of the U.S. government to George W. Bush.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Short Hiatus

I'm on a short hiatus but I will be back in a week or two. Play nice.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Non-Comp. Lit.

In a recent Christopher Hitchens article about the inadvisability of trying to satisfy the rage of particularly vile Islamic supremacists (thanks for that necessary bit of advice, there!), the professional controversialist writes something exceedingly bizarre.

He's discussing outrage prompted by Salman Rushdie's recent knighthood when he pens the following sentences:
In front of me is a copy of this week's Economist, which states that Rushdie's 1989 death warrant was "punishment for the book's unflattering depiction of the Prophet Muhammad."

There is no direct depiction of the prophet in this work of fiction, and the reverie about his many wives occurs in the dream of a madman (emphasis added).
I'll start off by stating that I in no way support the fatwa against Rushdie and I see it as a crime against literature and, more importantly, against the human conscience. That said, the Economist doesn't get it quite right. Quoting from the actual text of the fatwa, Rushdie et. al. were condemned to die because the novel was "compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an." That, I think we can agree, casts a much wider net.

What really caught my attention was Hitchens' statement that there is "no direct depiction of the prophet in this work of fiction." There's no real way around it: this is just plain false. The Satanic Verses contains a long section that deals with Muhammad and the circumstances surrounding his reception and recitation of the Koran.

In the novel, Muhammad is alternatively called "Mahound" and "the Messenger", but it would be disingenuous in the utmost to claim that this character is not actually supposed to be Muhammad. In fact, "Mahound" was a name routinely used for Muhammad in medieval and later European writings. Since the novel deals in part with the relationship between Islam and Europe, this would be an altogether appropriate—even artful—use of the name.

The fact that Mahound/Messenger has the text of a holy scripture dictated to him in a cave by the Archangel Gabriel and has other experiences drawn directly from the life of Muhammad would seem to seal the deal.

Hitchens has always borne up as a literarily astute and well read author. How then can we explain this egregious error? Such a statement could only be made by someone who has either not actually read the work in question, or whose recall of its details is so sketchy as to be downright untrustworthy. I find both options extremely difficult to believe, but there it is in print for the whole world to see.

The only other possibility is that because these descriptions of Muhammad/Mahound are part of a madman's dream, Hitchens thinks this means Muhammad has not been depicted "directly", but rather obliquely. This explanation is almost too stupid to countenance and, in any regard, would certainly have been too subtle an argument for the ignorami who condemned Rushdie's book in the first place.

The lesson? Don't trust everything you read.

Unless you read it here.

Devil in the Details

Andrew Sullivan dusts off his religious studies credentials and provides us a fascinating glimpse into Islam—and into his own mind, too.

Apparently, referring to non-fundamentalist Muslims as "moderate" or "secular" is passé. Professor Sullivan prefers the term "insufficiently crazed".

All Muslims are crazed. We know that. I mean, they're Muslims. It's just a matter of degree. Are you an actual terrorist, or just a potential one? Andrew Sullivan wants to know.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

News of Note

I want to put a spotlight on this story from AFP because so many Terror HawksTM claim stuff like this never happens.
Britain's main umbrella group of Muslim organisations on Tuesday strongly condemned the three failed car bomb attacks here, calling for cross-community efforts to tackle the extremist threat.

"Those who seek to deliberately kill or maim innocent people are the enemies of us all," said Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the moderate Muslim Council of Britain....

"Those who engage in such murderous actions and those that provide support for them are the enemies of us all, Muslims and non-Muslims, and they stand against our shared values in the United Kingdom," he added.
This story was in the top Yahoo headlines for a little while, but it seems to have totally vanished, and I can't find it at Breitbart or Google either. Not that I'm saying anything...

Fair & Balanced

I've spent much of the last several days dumping on Andrew Sullivan, but it's only fair give props where props be due. Today's extended primal scream about the Libby atrocity is Sullivan at his best.

Thought for the Day

From Talking Points Memo:
The deeper offense is that the president has used his pardon power to shortcircuit the investigation of a crime to which he himself was quite likely a party, and to which, his vice president, who controls him, certainly was.

The president's power to pardon is full and unchecked, one of the few such powers given the president in the constitution. Yet here the president has used it to further obstruct justice. In a sense, perhaps we should thank the president for bringing the matter full circle. Began with criminality, ends with it.
A black day for American democracy. One amongst many.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bumper Sticker for Our Times

Via The Truffle, in response to the Libby madness:
If you're not outraged, you're probably just waiting for January 20, 2009.
567 days, people. 567 days.

Moral Idiocy Watch

[Recent flooding] is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way. We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation....

We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate....

The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.
No, it's not a trailer for Evan Almighty—and it might not be what you'd expect at all.

Not too long ago, Jerry Falwell would be a usual suspect for suggesting that some weather catastrophe was God's judgment against society for permitting homosexuality. Of course, he's in hell now, and Pat Robertson was too busy counting his money to make these outrageous comments.

These awful words come not from some American fundamentalist or wild-eyed imam. They come for a prominent bishop in the Church of England. They are the words of the Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, to be exact, who, according to the Telegraph, said that floods are a judgment on society's moral decadence.

And he's not alone.

The Rt Rev James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, said the floods that have threatened large areas of England and Wales are God's way of "exposing us to the truth of what we have done." Whatever that means.

Anyhow, nice to see some good old-fashioned Western sanity to counter the threat of religious extremism and intolerance being imported into the UK from abroad.

Ugly Nativist Bigotry Watch

Not to pile on the poor guy, but I have to take exception to Andrew Sullivan's knee-jerk reaction to the pathetic show of terrorist "prowess" in Glasgow over the weekend.

The title of his post is a quote from a bystander describing what he saw as the police tried to wrestle one of the bombing suspects to the ground: "Every Time He Was Throwing A Punch He Was Saying Allah". I'll quote the entire post since it's only four sentences long.
That just about sums it up, doesn't it? And there's something oddly comforting about hearing these words from a Scot whose accent and common sense seem as alien to the Middle East's pathologies as can be imagined. What a cultural clash. But my money's on the Scot.
The first sentence is key to understanding one facet of Sullivan's general approach to terrorism: ridiculous oversimplification. (The fact that his other posture on the terror threat is deeply nuanced only makes this sort of consistent Neanderthal outburst all the more disturbing.) No, this doesn't about sum anything up. It tells but one small part of a much larger story. But Sullivan's not interested in a larger story right now, as we shall see.

The true, astonishing bigotry of this post comes in the second sentence. Sullivan's appeal to the speaker's accent, which he then illogically equates with "common sense", is alarmingly nativist. Contrasted as it is with the "pathologies" of a massive swath of foreigners, this description is clearly bigoted. How is this any different from what one might expect to hear from the BNP?

How can we trust Sullivan's take on the "cultural clash" when one culture is inferred from an accent, and the other from a bit of overheard dialogue? Are these the measly standards we live by today? Is this all we expect from our armchair pundits? If so, then no thanks.

How about a high road? What if we could be staunchly opposed to terrorism and Islamist theocracy without having to agree with Bernard Lewis, vote for Rudy Giuliani or gleefully and uncritically support some stupid cartoons that grew out of an attempt by a xenophobic European government to pander to its right-wing base? That might be nice.

Think about it: if we have really been reduced to this false dichotomy of black and white, then the irrationally-accented terrorists have already won.

P.S. Andrew, most of your colleagues in the hand-wringing class are convinced that these suspects are of Pakistani background. Just in case your facts are getting a little rusty, I'll remind you that Pakistan is definitively not in the Middle East. I suppose that just goes to show that ugly pathologies can crop up almost anywhere, like the Middle East, Central Asia—even Provincetown.
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