30 June 2008

Stop the Presses: Long Time McCain Supporter Supports McCain

Fox News recently had a piece about Darragh Murphy, a McCain supporter since 2000, when she donated to his primary campaign. It appears that in 2008 she is going to support--surprise!--John McCain for president.

What is their excuse for running this non-story?

Well, it's simple, really. Fox paints Darragh Murphy as a former Clinton supporter who now intends to support McCain instead of Obama--part of a story claiming that the Democrats are in disarray. Pretty shabby, Fox. How about rounding up some actual news for a change?

[Sources: Rumproast, PumaPAC, Pandagon, and Fox News (at Youtube).]

23 June 2008

Quotation of the Day

It is often observed that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get you. It is equally true that when everyone insists you are wrong about something it doesn't necessarily mean they're engaged in an elaborate conspiracy. You could just be wrong.

22 June 2008

The Twonky

I read in the news that China is blocking still more websites in honor of the Olympics, and I see that ERV is still at war with the semicolon, so nothing much has changed. My brother's macaw has quit squawking now that I figured out that she wanted food in her dish, which quiets things down some here. I spent the time today I would have written something trying to figure out where much of the internet had gone. I tried to check out CNN--nothing. I tried to read something in National Review--gone. Yahoo was still operating, and most of the blogs seemed to be up and functioning, but virtually all news sources (except FOX, for some reason, if that counts) had disappeared.

Being me I quickly jumped to the conclusion that right-wing terrorist militias had taken over the news outfits of the world and that from now on we would be forced to rely on government handouts for our alleged information. It wasn't at all reassuring to find that Comcast appeared to be broadcasting a news show where CNN Headline News was supposed to be on the TV. One of my nephews, however, suggested that I should try accessing CNN through an internet proxy, and sure enough, that worked. CNN was still there; I just couldn't get to it from my usual point of departure.

Feeling a little like a character in that recent episode of South Park--the one where the internet disappeared--I sent my nephew down the street to his father's house to see whether they still had the internet up there. (This is my other brother's house--not the one who left his macaw here with me for the week; he's in Pendleton for an aerobatics competition. This is the brother who keeps fish, brews beer, and cooks the most amazing Chinese food.) A few minutes later my nephew returned, reporting that there was still internet a mere three blocks away, so whatever was keeping us from CNN et al was only targeting us, seemingly. (Okay, that's generalizing from very selected instances, but still--it's a straw in the wind, an augury of the cosmic powers.)

"It's got to be the router," my nephew explained, launching into a short dissertation that conveyed to me little except that apparently tiny demons live in our router and one of them had got lazy and was refusing to do his job. A high-ranking demon, apparently, or there wouldn't be so much of the damn internet missing. A few minutes and a couple of resets later the internet was back up and running again, and I was back at my keyboard launching data into cyberspace.

So I guess there were no terrorist right-wing militias clamping down on my news--this time, anyway. And it wasn't an evil corporate plot to destroy the internet either. Still, I've got used to living my childhood fantasy of having all the news of the world brought to my doorstep and available at my command--The Guardian, the Times of India, The Podunk Gazette and Cross-Time Wanderer--and it's downright unnerving to have it taken away from me at the whim of some internet demon. What if next time it's my ISP making decisions about what I should or should not be reading or listening to over the magic intertubes? Or some anonymous functionary in the depths of the great bureaucracy that passes for the free enterprise system here? The Department of Appropriate Content has decided that your choice of information is not acceptable by the community standards established by Free Information Act of 2007 and from now on you will abide by the Decency Provision (Subsection 3A, Paragraph 72) as determined by a committee of your peers....

A million years or so ago, in the golden age of sf, a fellow named Henry Kuttner wrote about a futuristic record player that took it upon itself to censor its owner's choice in music, books, and--well, everything. It ended badly. The day that the machines that bring us content, whether it be food, music, or news, start telling us what to eat, listen to, or read, is not yet. Still--

I can't help wondering, what the hell is it like to live in China?

21 June 2008

More Fake History from David Barton

Sorry I have been slow about blogging recently; I have some posts in preparation that should be ready soon, Allah willing. In the meantime, however, check out this post at American Creation, an actual historical site devoted to "the religious aspects of America's founding". It takes David Barton apart on such subjects as the Mayflower Compact and "In God We Trust". It's brief, but definitely worth reading.

20 June 2008

Quotation of the Day

Politics in this country is just embarrassing when we can actually be debating a 800-year-old human right.

08 June 2008

Forward Into The Past

A new Egyptian law on children's rights abolishes some common abuses. It:

  • Sets 18 as the minimum age for marriage for both men and women
  • Allows children to be registered under their mother's name
  • Forbids the practice of female genital mutilation
  • Forbids parents from harming their children

Predictably, Krazy Kultural Konservatives are up in arms over the bill. These are ideas imported from the West, shrieked the Muslim Brotherhood. They "are trying to transfer Western culture to the Islamic world" according to the Islamic Research Institute. "No to imported legislation" said a sign carried in a protest organized by a conservative member of Parliament.

Do we see a theme here?

What on earth is so objectionable about these measures? Some of them (at least) seem way overdue. Well, let's take them one by one.

Marriage at 18

None of the reports explain what exactly is involved here; presumably the point is to prohibit forced marriages when at least one of the partners is too young. This however goes against sharia, according to some:

...Islamic scholars ... say shariah encourages early marriages. Early marriages are also common in rural areas, and raising the marriage age could lead villagers to resort to urfi marriages (common-law marriages without a contract), with all its negative repercussions.

Mohamed Ra'fat Osman, of the Islamic Research Institute agrees: "Islam allows marriage at any suitable age, provided the person seeking marriage has the means and his circumstances enable him to form a family."

Another problem was pointed out by Hussein Ibrahim, a Brotherhood spokesman:

Why are they increasing the marriage age for girls when we have more than nine million unmarried youths? This is the problem that they should concentrate on solving, not adding to it.

He predicted that the law would cause misery and destroy the Egyptian family.

Children Registered Under Mother's Name

Under the previous law, "illegitimate"children--children whose father refused to recognize them for whatever reason--could not obtain a birth certificate, and so were denied health care, education, and other "benefits". Under the new law birth certificates can be issued in their mother's name, thus clearing this idiotic bureaucratic hurdle. Obviously no sane person could object to this. But wait a minute:

Mohamed Mukhtar al-Mahdi, chairman of the Sharia Associations, which runs many Egyptian mosques, said naming children after their mothers was unacceptable because it was in direct contravention of a Koranic verse.
The verse reads: "Call them by (the names of) their fathers: that is juster in the sight of God." It continues: "But if you do know not their father's names, then they are your brothers in faith." [Source]

Ismail El Deftar, a professor of Hadith at Al Azhar University, countered this claim by noting that that some of the Prophet’s companions--el Zubair Bin Safia, for example--were named after their mothers.

Another complaint is that allowing benefits to "illegitimate" children might encourage sex outside marriage. [source]

Female Genital Mutilation

This cultural practice--involving slicing off a girl's external sexual organs--is both ancient and widespread in Africa and the near East. It is still widely practiced today, despite the documented negative health and emotional effects on the victims, with Egypt as one of the worst offenders. It has been illegal there for some time, and the new law strengthens penalties for its commission. Still, there are supporters of the practice--and the law still has a medical necessity exception.

Of course you'd expect the religious types to be at the forefront of the defense of this atrocity, and you would not be disappointed. Saad al-Katatni, president (no less) of the Muslim Brotherhood, proclaims "Nothing in Islam forbids circumcision [Muslim-speak for female genital mutilation]." But by the same token there is nothing in Islam mandating female genital mutilation, according to Abdel Moaty Bayoumi of the Islamic Research Center, and now that the downside of the practice is known, it falls under the Islamic doctrine that whatever inflicts harm is haram--religiously prohibited. And according to the BBC both "[t]he Grand Mufti and the head of the Coptic Church said female circumcision had no basis either in the Koran or in the Bible." But

Nagy El Shahabi, head of the El Geil Party, said that female circumcision is a deeply-rooted tradition in Egypt’s villages. “People shouldn’t be punished for practicing their customs and traditions,” he said.
“If we apply the prison sentence, all people in Upper Egypt will end up in prison.”
In response, Council Speaker Safwat El Sherif said that if the society wants to develop it has to change its habits.
However Krazy Kultural Konservatives have an answer:

Those who supported the practice argued it was appropriate when female genitals protruded too much, adding that it was needed to preserve the woman's virtue.
Against such arguments there is no rational reply. (I would note that our own Kultural Konservatives oppose a vaccine against cervical cancer for similar reasons.)

Prohibition of Harm to Children

I'm not clear on what this actually prohibits, but it does apparently forbid corporal punishment--which could put them ahead of the United States in this respect. Of course religious nuts have a problem with this. If parents are forbidden to beat their children it will lead to the breakdown of the Egyptian family or some such nonsense. Abdullah Samak, described as "scholar and teacher", is opposed to any law that prohibits parents from beating their children. The law would give parents who harm their children up to six months in prison.

On the other hand:

Ismail El Deftar, a member of the Shoura Council and a professor of Hadith at Al Azhar University, refuted claims that the law contradicts with Islamic teachings. He said that shariah calls upon parents to raise their children wisely without inflicting harm or beating them.
Bayoumi agrees. He says that beating hurts children physically and emotionally. The Prophet Mohamed, he added, called for a kind of reprimand that does not inflict harm or cause psychological damage.
In agreement, Refaat El Saied said that some would say they will beat their children in spite of the law. “I tell them ‘beat them so they would become retarded as you.’”
[Thanks to Aardvarchaeology for this story.]

07 June 2008

So Soon We Forget

I mentioned the other day that the "nation not founded by religionists but by Christians" quotation attributed to Patrick Henry actually first appeared in 1956 in a short-lived segregationist magazine. Dead Racists Society has another wonderful quotation coming from the same gang of idiots in that same year: a burlesque of the Declaration of Independence, beginning:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary to abolish the Negro race, proper methods should be used. Among these are guns, bows and arrows, sling shots and knives.
We hold these truths to be self evident that all whites are created equal with certain human rights; among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of dead niggers.

The words were also part of a speech given by Democratic Senator James Eastland to the White Citizens Council. Christian Nationites might want to ask themselves--is a well this foul one they really want to drink from?

03 June 2008

Patrick Henry Redux

My scanner is working again, thanks to my nephew's efforts, so I can upload that page from the American Mercury of September 1956 containing the original version of the "religionists" quotation so often falsely attributed to Patrick Henry:

Once again let me point out that the burden of proof is on anybody claiming that a quotation is genuine. This alleged Patrick Henry quotation fails the test in all possible ways.

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