Saturday, October 14, 2006

Same as it ever was

(Punches FAWLTY in the gut.
FAWLTY falls to the floor behind the desk.)
Now, I'm not a violent man, Mr. Fawlty!

(From behind the desk)
Oh yes you are!

Thirty-eight prominent Muslims have sent a letter to Pope Benedict lecturing him on Islam. A big deal is being made of this by Reuters and the usual suspects, but it isn't really anything more than the same old obfuscations fancied up and given a slightly snottier tone than usual. The tactic of claiming loudly to be a force for justice and peace while all evidence points to the opposite is practically the sixth pillar of Islam.

Much of the letter is devoted to the argument that despite the glorification of violence in the Koran, Muslims reject violence. The writers point out ...

... the sacred formula Muslims use daily, In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Is it not self-evident that spilling innocent blood goes against mercy and compassion?

Yes, it is. Is it not also self-evident that a great many Muslims either see things a different way or have a different definition of "innocent"? So once again we face the tired old argument that the ceaseless bloodshed across the Muslim world and wherever Islam intersects with any other belief, secular or religious, is not the work of good Muslims. Fine, for the sake of argument, I will accept that. But the bloodshed is undeniably the work of people whose beliefs (whatever you call them) were generated by Islam. They say so themselves (and further, they often claim the mantle of "good Muslims" and accuse others of apostacy). So what are we to do? The west will always arrive at this same absurd impasse when it tries to speak rationally with people for whom reason is not a virtue, and for whom logical thought and discourse are nothing more than tools in a bag of tricks.

So perhaps we should just play it their way:

We in the west would like to correct some misperceptions that exist in the Muslim world about our sense of mercy and compassion. Those young men and women in uniforms tramping around the Middle East and Asia with guns in their hands are not soldiers. In fact, the U.S. Army is not really an army. It's more of a construction team. Those explosions you hear are merely the work of the demolition division. Once they're done, the building will begin. They are, to the last one, merciful and compassionate, as our society teaches them to be. Should any of them stray from our beliefs and do something obviously unmerciful or uncompassionate, then clearly they are not really of our society, are they? They ceased to be our responsibility the moment they began acting against the mercy and compassion we hold so dear. So don't come blaming us for what they do. And the War on Terror is not really a war. You see, war is peace, and terror is justice, and "on" and "of" are both prepositions, so you could say that it's actually the Peace of Justice.

And after all, the Koranic verse that now conveniently abrogates all others is, "There is no compulsion in religion." But we'd like to take that one step further, just to put everyone's mind at ease. We firmly believe that "There is no compulsion in anything." So do what you like. Chop off the heads of Buddhist teachers and Wall Street Journal reporters. Blow up marketplaces and nightclubs. Rent SUVs and drive them through crowds of college kids. Poison police officers eating evening meals during Ramadan. Revive polio by banning vaccines. Take children hostage with guns and bombs on the first day of school. Buy young boys and force them to jockey camels. Kill nuns when the Pope says something that pisses you off. Fly planes into buildings. Cut off the genitalia of twelve-year-old girls. Then marry them. We don't care. Do what you like. We trust your self-evident mercy and compassion. And don't complain about all those men and women with the uniforms and the guns; don't complain about the planes, the helicopters, the prisons; don't complain about the U.N. inspectors or the trade sanctions. We've got nothing to do with all that.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mark Foley is not gay

Here's a bit of amusing idiocy from Marshall Darts in today's Daily Kos:

The best thing for the whole country is to force the Republican Party to "out" every gay on their side of the aisle in Congress, whether on staff or a politician.

This is not a homophobic reaction to the Mark Foley scandal.

Um. Yes it is.

Quite the contrary, it is to expose Republican hypocrisy and to take the gay issue off the political table.

No, it's not. It's a tiresome expression of the left's creeping fascistic tendencies, this time to require that people wear their sexual preferences on their sleeves. (I'll take a "polymorphously perverse" armband, if Woody Allen didn't get the last one. Or does he get a pedophile one?) And it isn't exactly hypocrisy for a closeted gay politician to oppose gay rights or same-sex marriage. It would be hypocrisy for an openly gay politician to do so. The closeted one could say he is living the lifestyle he advocates for all gays: secret. Furthermore, I don't agree that Mark Foley has the right to call himself gay just because's a pedophile who targets boys. Sex between adults and minors is not "gay," it's morally reprehensible. And it's a crime just about everywhere in the good ol' Dar al Harb.

Some gay-rights groups have intelligently taken Foley's self-outing for what it is: a cheap ploy to shift the focus from his apparent criminality. Matt Foreman, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was quoted in the Miami Herald as saying, "It's irrelevant if he's gay or not." But a spokesman for another gay advocacy group, Human Rights Campaign, said that organization would not take a stand one way or the other on the issue of Foley's sudden gay-ness. "We're not going to comment on it,'' he said. If HRC is in the business of protecting gay rights, they should comment on it, because Foley's donning the mantle of the oppressed homosexual damages all gays' chances of achieving acceptance and equal rights.

Anyway, if we follow the advice of Marshall Darts, why stop with just the right side of the aisle? Is he suggesting there are no closeted gays in the Democrat Party? Or maybe he's saying that all closeted gay Democrats support gays on issues like same-sex marriage. What about former governor of New Jersey Jim McGreevey?

Democrat? Check.
Gay? Check.
Closet? Check.
Opposed same-sex marriage? Check.

McGreevey claimed he opposed gay rights so nobody would suspect he was gay. Wow. I guess we're lucky his dirty little secret wasn't that his grandparents were Jewish.

So Mr. Darts, if you're concerned about hypocrisy, don't talk about outing only Republicans. And if you are concerned about rights, don't advocate outing anyone. The right to be openly homosexual should be respected, but so should the right to privacy. Expose crime, expose corruption, and certainly expose the pedophiles. But if sexual orientation truly doesn't matter, then treat it like it doesn't matter.

The memory of the monarch

A monarch butterfly feeds on milkweed flowers outside our house.

The ubiquitous milkweed is crucial to the monarchs' survival during their migrations to and from their southern wintering sites. This particular plant is actually called "Butterfly Milkweed," and it can be found all from New York to Minnesota, often covered in monarchs. Kind of the Denny's of the butterfly world. Milkweed plants often serve as home to the insects' larvae, and pollen stored as fat provides the butterflies with the energy to make migrations of nearly 3,000 miles.

Monarch butterflies demonstrate a form of inherited knowledge that goes beyond simple behavioral instinct. The monarch in this photo is on his way to a forest in southern Florida or Mexico, the same forest where his now-deceased grandfather or great-grandfather spent last winter. Despite the passing of one or two generations that never had the need to make the trip back south, this butterfly will be able to find his way. I wonder if Carl Jung knew about this? It sounds like butterflies have a collective unconscious, whether or not we do.

From the Department of Misplaced Modifiers

Government corruption in Nigeria has hit a new low:

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Un-revolution in Iran?

This could well turn out to be nothing, but I will throw it out there for the hell of it. An Iranian blogger opposed to the current Islamic regime claims there is fighting in the streets of Tehran at this moment.

According to Anti-mullah's latest post, an Iranian cleric who has supported an end to theocracy is evading arrest while his supporters battle police in the streets around his home. Apparently, the clerics in charge have found probable cause by claiming that Ayatollah Boroujerdi has claimed to be the Twelfth Imam, the international man of mystery who disappeared down a well about a millenium ago and whose return is eagerly awaited by Shia Muslims.

The most obvious question is: "Who gives a fuck?" When it comes to imam-vs.-imam, I definitely have no dog in that fight. But I have to admit that I like the idea of anti-government riots in the streets of Tehran. If Muslims are going to hurl rocks at somebody, I'd rather it be the mullahs' plainclothes death squads than Belgian police.

There's a mention in Anti-mullah's post that this uprising (or at least the backlash against it) may have some connection to the Baha'i faith, which is an odd outgrowth of Shia Islam that regards all religions as equally valid. I guess that's the next best thing to my belief that all religions are equally invalid.

In any event, this is what passes for progress in the Muslim world. Though I generally like what Anti-mullah has to say, I can't get too worked up over this news. If the best anti-theocratic leader the Persians can muster is just another imam, they're doomed.


Anti-mullah reports that the defenders of Ayatollah Boroujerdi did not stand much chance against the regime's water cannons and bullets. Apparently popular support for Boroujerdi was rather half-hearted, possibly for the same reason my post above was less than effusive: the average Iranian isn't going to waste time or risk bloodshed in a struggle between one cleric and another.