Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Another Dogfight

Pashupatinath is the symbol of faith for hindus around the world.

Nepal's street demonstrations have evaporated, but the grievances that shook the country are still far from resolved. One local women's group in the year 2000, for example, found 118 laws that discriminated against women. The Nepalese government voted unanimously to rectify the situation, but other problems remain. "Some Hindu groups took to the streets in the southern town of Birgunj on Monday denouncing the parliament's decision to turn the world's only Hindu kingdom into a secular state. They also demanded that the country be declared a Hindu kingdom once again." Other groups, however, seem to favour the separation of religious and political authority. So here we go, yet again.

Money To Burn? How 'Bout Witches?

Now I've seen everything. Never mind soy bean futures or junk bonds. If this doesn't turn a profit, nothing will. There's one (or one hundred? one thousand?) born every minute....

Then there's THIS World Cup story. "According to Iran’s top clerics, it is immoral for a woman to attend a football match because she would be looking at the bodies of male strangers.... Where are the economic sanctions and the Olympic boycotts on behalf of women? Why doesn’t FIFA take a stand against Iran’s treatment of female football fans? Why not simply say to Iran, 'play fair at home or you won’t play away'?"

Should be a fun couple of fortnights in Germany.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Keen Eye For The Obvious

This story speaks for itself. The first question that comes to mind is: what took so long? The next question is: why aren't more people coming to their senses like this more often?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Anti-Porn Re-Born

Many of those participating in the march were women. -BBC

It is indeed a remarkable thing to witness 10,000 people protesting in the streets of Jakarta...especially when one considers that "they were supporting a bill before parliament which would include a ban on public kissing and erotic dancing...mak[ing] organising erotic dancing punishable by up to 10 years in prison," according to the BBC. In a remarkably enlightened twist, "public kissing on the mouth" will only get you five years. Needless to say, members of the Islamic Defenders Front (IDF) were right out front defending their right to violate women’s rights. One 27-year-old protester told the AFP "We think the anti-pornography bill is a good weapon to curb the growth of the sex industry in Indonesia, which is thriving in Jakarta and many other cities." Why are all of these monotheistic misogynists always so afraid of women? Even the Saudi king has told his country's media not to publish photographs of women in the newspapers anymore. "One needs to think if he would want his daughter, sister or wife to appear like that. Of course, no one would." Appear like what--a goddamn human being!?

On the upside, Mohammad Yazid wrote an editorial May 9 for the Jakarta Post with the self-explanatory title of "Anarchy tarnishes Islam’s image amid fight against backwardness." Here’s a small sampling:

Wafa Sultan, a Syrian-American psychiatrist, harshly criticized Muslims in her interview with Al-Jazeera TV on Feb. 21. She said: "The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations... It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality..."

Voicing opinions by force has become common in Indonesia recently. Last year some 10,000 members of the Indonesian Muslim Solidarity Group assaulted the Ahmadiyah Indonesia Congregation (JAI) compound, the Mubarak campus, on Jl Raya Parung, Pondok Udik, Bogor. Armed with stones and clubs, attackers trashed and burned a dormitory for female students.

*[See entry for April 12: Cover to Cover: Hijab vs. Playboy]

Il faut dire aussi que les chiffres et l'histoire changent avec la source qu'on utilise. Radio-Canada dit : "Il interdira aussi les écrits, dessins, photos et films à caractère érotique," et qu'il n'avait plus qu'environ 5,000 manifestants.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sing It Sister

Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since May 2003. -BBC

We could use more sisters like Aung San Suu Kyi. Many more. Under house arrest since 2003 for the crime of winning an election (yikes!), today Ms. Suu Kyi was paid a visit by Ibrahim Gambari, the UN Under Secretary for Political Affars. Ms. Suu Kyi, you see, is trying to democratically (read: peacefully) take down Burma's ruling military junta. Compare that with this.

[Update: It looked as though Ms. Suu Kyi would soon be a free woman, but it was not to be.]

First Aggression, Then Regression

As if we haven't done enough to the indigenous populations of this continent already, now we've got the Pentacostals poisoning their minds with anti-Evolution crusades. And in the case of the Inuit, they are so far removed from the resources to re-establish some measure of sanity that the chances are good that it will soon be difficult to distinguish those isolated northern communities from asylums. *[Of note: We've already turned many of these communities into outposts of drug rehabilitation -- minus the rehab, of course. See also: posting of May 10.]

Dam It All

The Chinese have succeeded in blocking the Yangtze River so that they can harness its flow to generate hydro-electricity. Isn't it strange, however, that whenever human beings require more "energy," the solutions usually involve the destruction (dams) or plunder (forests) or destruction (fossil fuels) of Mother Earth? Our appetite in this regard shows little sign of diminishing in the foreseeable future.

China's controversial Three Gorges Dam project hits a significant milestone on Saturday, when it is expected to reach its final height of 185m (607 feet). But it will not be fully operational until 2009.

The primary aims of the dam are to alleviate flooding on the Yangtze River and generate power. Fourteen turbine generator units are already in operation. -BBC

And then there's all those displaced peasants.
But how can peasants trump Progress on the march?

At least 1 million people are being relocated to make way for the project. -BBC

Friday, May 19, 2006

Not Just Yet...

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch MP who was to be stripped of her citizenship for lying to immigration authorities, is not leaving the country just yet. According to this AP report, she "will stay in the Netherlands until her citizenship is reviewed, her spokeswoman said Friday." Assez bizarre, cette histoire...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Da Feeble Code

According to the folks in this BBC story, the Da Vinci Code will pack Dante's inferno with anybody who sets foot in a theatre daring to air this most recent doomsday-tempting blasphemy. I really hope we see some theatres burnt to the ground so I can post 'em -- in the interests of top-notch journalism, of course. Naturally, I find such behaviour morally reprehensible myself -- entertaining, but reprehensible nonetheless. Below are three samples from the linked article. It should be noted that these reactions are coming not from Catholics but Muslims. [How feeble must be the foundations of these monotheistic belief systems for their adherents to resort to threats, and then acts, of violence so frequently and so zealously?]

Roman Catholics in the Indian city of Mumbai have received Muslim support in protests against the release of the movie, The Da Vinci Code. Film censors have cleared the movie for release in India on 19 May.* An umbrella organisation of Islamic clerics in Mumbai have labelled the film as "blasphemous" because it spreads "lies" about Jesus Christ.

Syed Noori, president of Mumbai-based Raza Academy, a Muslim cultural organisation that organises protests on issues concerning Islam, said: "If the government doesn't do anything, we will try our own ways of stopping the film from being shown. We are prepared for violent protests in India if needed.

"The Holy Koran recognises Jesus as a prophet. What the book says is an insult to both Christians and Muslims," Maulana Mansoor Ali Khan, general secretary of the All-India Sunni Jamiyat-ul-Ulema, told the Reuters news agency. "Muslims in India will help their Christian brothers protest this attack on our common religious belief," he said.

Then the reinforcements.

In India, which is home to 18 million Catholics, the head of the Catholic Secular Forum has begun a "hunger strike until death." Joseph Dias said he wanted others to join him and pledged to continue until the film was banned. His organisation has described The Da Vinci Code as "offensive" because it breaches "certain basic foundations of the religion."

Like the one that for centuries punished with death anybody who challenged the Catholic Church? Now Islam, whose fundamentalist cadres still treat impertinent questions with the balm of death, has also been offended.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Une Histoire Assez Bizarre

La députée libérale néerlandaise Ayaan Hirsi Ali à La Haye, le 24 janvier 2006

Il le faut suivre...en français ou en anglais, if you prefer.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Above: Lights in the window of the Al-Fanar Hotel in Baghdad show the locations of members of the Iraq Peace Team during a nearby US bombing attack. (Al-Jazeera) -- is a supplementary news portal from the people who brought you the Electronic Intifada (founded 2001) and veteran antiwar campaigners Voices in the Wilderness (founded 1996). Electronic Iraq was launched on 8 February 2003 to offer a humanitarian perspective during the then-looming conflict, as the U.S. government made clear its determination to go to war against Iraq. It was the alternative news moonshot. Before, during, and after the US "Shock & Awe" bombing campaign, eIraq writers from Voices in the Wilderness' Iraq Peace Team reported on what they saw and heard via available Internet and a satellite modem connection. Visitors got a never before seen glimpse of war and its aftermath through the eyes of peace activists based at ground zero. -Electronic Iraq

It's Your Choice, Ma'am

In Ethiopia's wild south, abduction is a legitimate way of procuring a bride. The practice has been going on so long that no-one can remember how it all began. -BBC

According to this story of a 13-year-old girl, abduction and rape are the preferred techinques employed by would-be suitors in Ethiopia. In one region, "92% of all marriages result from girls being captured and kidnapped." That's mind-numbing if it's accurate. "In many cases girls are often raped and beaten after they have been captured," the report says. "Head teacher Hundessa Negesso said poverty was a key reason for abduction." What else is new? Here's a link "Challenging Fundamentalisms," which is exactly where this kind of barbarism is rooted.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Lunatics Running The Asylum (Part III)

Life on this planet isn't an overly complicated affair but for some reason people continue to insist that it ought to be twisted up into logical pretzels, bellowing that they have the "right" to believe whatever they choose and that, furthermore, the rest of us have a responsibility to support their freedom to babble on like senile vagrants. Here's the story.

In 2003 Canada's equivalent to the Texas Badlands, otherwise known as Alberta, decided to get with the times and instituted a requirement that every new driver's licence should have a photograph of the citizen to whom it was issued. Well, the Hutterite community in Wilson Colony, just east of Lethbridge, challenged the new regulation by refusing to have their licences renewed because, according to them, the Bible's second commandment forbids photographs of the faithful. Their lawyer argued that "their charter rights to freedom of religion" were being infringed upon and that since the number of licences in the community had dropped from 37 to 15, the communal farm community's survival was in danger of extinction. [Evidently it hasn't occurred to any of these brainless clods that one needs a vehicle to drive, not a licence; and that if the real concern is the farm's "operations" as claimed, then by limiting themselves to driving only farm machinery, and only on private property, it's not very likely they'll be pulled over by the police anyhow.] Last week Justice Sal LoVecchio ruled in favour of the "conservative religious sect." [Nor, evidently, has it occurred to any of these brainless clods to punch "Hutterite community" into Google's search engine to find a few posted Hutterite photographs and a quick lesson in the magnitude of the idiocy they're mired in.]

As Mark Twain so astutely pleaded : "Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either."

"A little learning...

is a dangerous thing," George Bernard Shaw once remarked, "but we must take that risk because a little is as much as our biggest heads can hold." According to a BBC story published today, "Brazilian archaeolgoists have found an ancient stone structure in a remote corner of the Amazon.... Its appearance is being compared to the English site of Stonehenge." This discovery is undoubtedly a significant one, but how does the BBC reporter then make the leap to : "It was traditionally thought that before European colonisation, the Amazon had no advanced societies"? If the author is suggesting that pre-historic England constituted anything remotely resembling an "advanced" society, he'd better take a second look at the facts since his Anglo-speaking cousins are making a strong case that the English-speaking world is anything but advanced.

Exhibit A:

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What's All This About Creationism?

A large fragment of an asteroid that punched 160km-wide (100 miles) hole in the Earth's surface has been found. The beachball-sized fossil meteorite was dug out of the 145-million-year-old Morokweng crater in South Africa.

(Of course, God has other plans for Africa.)

The crater is hidden beneath the Kalahari Desert.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Who'd Have Thought?

...a little glimpse at what's going on in the Muslim world. Milliyet is a liberal publication in Turkey's capital, Istanbul. Gotta love the internet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

You're Under Arrest

Clashes continued for two days before police regained control. -AFP

You have to wonder at the motivating logic when the ostensibly capitalist Mexican government tries to arrest three impoverished citizens "on suspicion of trading without permits," as the BBC put it. If the authorities feel that it's appropriate to arrest vendors whose street stalls often double as their homes, then what should we be doing with the Kenneth Lays of this world?

(photo -AP)

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Joys Of Independence

East Timor's Foreign Minister Jose Ramos-Horta on Friday appealed to the nation to remain calm. “Democracy is still young in our country and people react fearfully to incidents by leaving the city,” Mr Ramos-Horta said in a statement.
A number of houses and cars were destroyed in last week's riots.

It's a good thing the American government lifted its arms embargo on Indonesia. And it's also good to know that Condoleezza Rice has already addressed the issue. "These principles are now at the heart of our emerging partnership with Indonesia -- a young democracy with which we share traditions of tolerance and moderation and unity in diversity."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Suds And Duds

In the world of salesmanship, as in politics, the big lie is what captures people's imaginations. And there is nothing more unnerving to the imagination than people wondering how they appear to other people. The Chairman of AutoNation Inc., Mike Jackson, seems to think that the "premium luxury [car] segment will grow at double the rate of the volume market" in the next five years. And why is that? "The Baby Boom generation," he says. It "simply shows no signs of slowing down or retiring." You mean they still haven't outgrown stripping down and soaping up the vintage Mustang in the diveway?

Are we still talking about the group of people born between the Second World War and the middle of the 1960s? If the boomers, now already well into middle age, aren't showing signs of "slowing down or retiring" then maybe all of these buff specimens ought to suit up and head over to Iraq or Afghanistan. Those punks could really use the help, don't ya think? Somebody who knows a thing or two about real leadership, somebody to take charge, light the way, vanquish the enemy and deliver us all into the promised land of easy retirement... .? Thanks but no thanks. The boomer's lobby group (AARP) expects that, by publishing surveys like one on the Boomers International website from August 2002, it "will make breakthough contributions to the relatively unexplored field of midlife pyschological development," and continue making this world a safer place for the boomers. Lord knows that after American Bandstand, Woodstock, California Dreamin' and Leave It To Beaver they've earned the right. "Contrary to conventional wisdom about their denial of aging, baby boomers really do have their eyes on the future," the AARP report begins. "Asked about how much they think about their futures, nearly two in three say often." [How's that for definitive?] Yes, these same boomers who "account for over 40% of total consumer demand...the most affluent consumer group that exists...and own 79% of America's financial assets," again according to the AARP, ought to get everything they have coming to them. And so they shall....