Thursday, January 27, 2011

BBC Newsnight: Homeopathy

A practice no longer suitable to be called medicine in veterinary care, but still so called in human health care:

From Drevan Harris in The Guardian:
In December the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) – which governs the use of medicines in animals – made clear that homeopathic treatments could only be classed as medicines, and thus prescribed by vets, if they were able to demonstrate efficacy.
Homeopathic products cannot demonstrate efficacy to any satisfactory degree and so this means that they can't be used by vets to treat animals. The use of homeopathy to treat animals – "there's no placebo effect in animals, is there, so it must work" the homeopaths claim – has long been a mainstay of the homeopathy industry's argument.
The logic of the VMD's decision is unquestionable. If it doesn't have efficacy, it can't be a medicine. And, ethically, if a medicine doesn't work then a sick animal deserves to have real treatment not sham treatment. The danger of course is that people may be lulled into believing a homeopathic remedy is actually treating their pets or livestock, when in fact a treatable disease is being allowed to get worse. This is avoidable harm – in other words, irresponsible behaviour or even animal cruelty.
The BBC report and the debate in the studio afterwards identified the obvious irony: that homeopathic medicines can't be provided by veterinary professionals to animals, but can be provided by healthcare professionals to humans – including those not able to make an informed choice, such as children and adults without the necessary mental capacity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

From the Film Archive

Palestine Papers, Ctd

Tony Karon thinks the Palestinian Papers will have a more devastating effect on Mahmoud Abbas and the PA than it will on Israel.  Of their short-term effect on domestic politics, this seems obvious, as Abbas' government is inherently more unstable than that of a proper state.  But the exposure of Israel's U.S.-sanctioned intransigence seems likely to both reduce international patience with Israel, and breed skepticism towards its sincerity in negotiating a fair solution to what has, until now, been misnamed the "peace process."  In Time:
Abbas and Erekat, of course, are operating within the limits of a process in which the Palestinians have no leverage, peace being something of a misnomer since Abbas and Erekat are not at war with Israel. In fact, they have nothing to offer that Israel's leaders believe they currently need; the status quo is acceptable to the Israeli side. So, Abbas advocates could argue that the concessions he's alleged to have offered may be the only realistic way to achieve a deal given the absence of any U.S. willingness to press Israel. But it's precisely that sense of the slim offerings available at the negotiating table that has prompted even many leaders in Abbas' own Fatah movement to urge him to break with the U.S.-led process and adopt strategies to pressure Israel.
The furor over the documents will, of course, reinforce the claim by more hawkish Israelis that no matter how accommodating Abbas is willing to be, he lacks the political authority to sell his own people the deal he's offering Israel. Some may also argue that the disclosures show that Abbas' insistence on a settlement freeze as a precondition to resuming talks was a red herring, tossed out by a leadership willing to concede Israel's rights to those settlements but not to face the moment of truth with their own people on the terms of a peace agreement. Israeli doves will counter, however, that the documents undercut the mantra that "there is no Palestinian partner" for peace and raise questions about the Israeli leadership's willingness to compromise.
The major impact of the "Palestine Papers," however, will be on the administration of President Abbas. It's not really a democratic administration, of course. The last Palestinian legislative elections were held in 2006 and were won by Hamas; Israel then simply detained enough Hamas legislators to prevent the legislature from seating a quorum, and Abbas has been governing by decree ever since (even though his own term of office expired in January 2009)...
Indeed, the Palestine Papers may well have made the position of Abbas politically untenable. Not only do they militate against him seeking a democratic mandate for another term of office; the fallout they may generate could underscore the unlikelihood of any Palestinian leader being able to accept the terms Israel is currently willing to offer for a two-state deal. The possibility that a two-state solution can be agreed to by the parties themselves has just become a little more remote. And that leaves the matter of ending the occupation and realizing Palestinian rights back in the lap of the international community.
More.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Visualize the Palestinian Papers

The Guardian's Datablog releases a map drawn from the leaked information, plotting concessions which the Palestinian Authority was prepared to accept, but which were rejected by both the Israeli and Bush administrations. Click to enlarge.

C-SPAN's Q&A with Christopher Hitchens

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Human Planet

 This documentary series is one long overdue. The incredible preview is available in 1080p, once playing. (h/t Daily Dish)

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Prison Air, Ctd

Declan Walsh reports from Islamabad on the growing acceptance of theocratic tyranny in Pakistan, and on the exile of a scholar who dared stand against the blasphemy law:
"The blasphemy laws have no justification in Islam. These ulema [council of clerics] are just telling lies to the people," said Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, a reformist scholar and popular television preacher." 
But they have become stronger, because they have street power behind them, and the liberal forces are weak and divided. If it continues like this it could result in the destruction of Pakistan." 
Ghamidi, 59, is the only religious scholar to publicly oppose the blasphemy laws since the assassination of the Punjab governor, Salmaan Taseer, on 4 January. He speaks out at considerable personal risk.
Ghamidi spoke to the Guardian from Malaysia, where he fled with his wife and daughters last year after police foiled a plot to bomb their Lahore home. 
"It became impossible to live there," he said. Their fears were well founded: within months Taliban gunmen assassinated Dr Farooq Khan, a Ghamidi ally also famous for speaking out, at his clinic in the north-western city of Mardan. 
The scholar's troubles highlight the shrinking space for debate in Pakistan, where Taseer's death has emboldened the religious right, prompting mass street rallies in favour of his killer, Mumtaz Qadri.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

QFTD

"How will history look on a church that made a saint out of a Pope who ignored, suppressed, and had underlings covering up the rape of countless vulnerable children?" - Andrew Sullivan

Rational Drug Policy

Portugal implemented an approach to personal drug use vastly more reasonable than our own.  Personal possession of all drugs was decriminalized nine years ago with very promising results.

The Supreme Court of Assholedom

So, Matt Taibbi conceives a new institution:
I want to create a new Supreme Court of Assholedom. Structured much like the actual U.S. Supreme Court, it will employ nine justices, whose job it will be to regularly preside over important cases of national social consequence -- to wit, to decide a) whether or not a certain person is an asshole, and b) if he or she is, how much of an asshole.

The court will consider cases of all types. They will have titles ranging from things likeUnited States v. Sarah Palin after the Tucson Shooting, to Taibbi v. Fat Guy in the Next Seat Who Monopolized the Whole Armrest on a Flight to Denver, to Humanity v. Anyone Who Has Ever Generated and/or Sent a Spam Message.

The court will focus particularly on establishing case law in those areas where existing laws don't apply. For instance, it's not against the law to be the highly-compensated attorney representing the Gigantic International Megabank that recently foreclosed on an old lady in suburban New Jersey because she entered one number incorrectly on one check for one monthly mortgage payment (there actually is such a case). That's not illegal, but if that's how you make your living -- if you paid for your S-Class Mercedes helping Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein throw old ladies out of their houses -- I'm pretty sure you're an asshole...

Other cases might establish important lasting societal precedents. For instance, a case such as Reader from Portland, Oregon v. Guy Driving 48 MPH In His SUV Full of Kids on I-84 might have a ruling that reads as follows:

Opinion (Hypothetical Justice #2): If you're driving really slowly on the highway and you accelerate every time someone tries to pass you, you're an asshole.

Dissent (none).

That's precedent that could stand forever. And if someone commits one of these offenses, people will be free to access these rulings, print them out, and show them to the offender, saying: "Look, you're wrong and you're an asshole, there's even case law on this."  (h/t 3QD)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gates Foundation: End Autism-Fraud

Christopher Elias @ the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation blog:
What we’ve learned throughout this time is that vaccines are the most successful and cost-effective public health tools we can employ to save lives, particularly among the world’s children. Vaccines are responsible for preventing more than 2 million deaths each year. Complacency or hesitancy about vaccination, however, can cause diseases previously thought to be eliminated to reemerge. In the aftermath of the Wakefield study we saw the reemergence of measles, which became endemic in England and Wales in 1998. 
Perhaps the silence within our community occurred because the repudiation of the Wakefield claims seemed so obvious to us. We knew that when it comes to the link between vaccines and autism, the science has never wavered—there simply is no proven connection. But we need to appreciate how easily fraudulent or suspect science can influence public perceptions and political support. When “junk science” has the power to drown out the evidence, we have to use our voices to keep the focus on the real science. After 13 years, it seems that vaccines are finally vindicated. This important moment certainly calls for celebration, but also for reflection. One man’s fraudulent assertions in a respected medical journal led to a flurry of needless infections and deaths, not to mention a black eye on one of the world’s most successful public health interventions. While we hope that such a tragedy never happens again, we need to be ready for it if it does. Silence is no longer an option.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Never Tell Anyone Outside the Family..."

The famous line from one crime syndicate applies to another:
7 hours ago:  DUBLIN (AP) — "A newly revealed 1997 letter from the Vatican warned Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police — a disclosure that victims groups described as "the smoking gun" needed to show that the Vatican enforced a worldwide culture of cover-up.
The letter, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to The Associated Press, documents the Vatican's rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to begin helping police identify pedophile priests following Ireland's first wave of publicly disclosed lawsuits.
The letter undermines persistent Vatican claims, particularly when seeking to defend itself in U.S. lawsuits, that the church in Rome never instructed local bishops to withhold evidence or suspicion of crimes from police. It instead emphasizes the church's right to handle all child-abuse allegations, and determine punishments, in house rather than hand that power to civil authorities...
Child-abuse activists in Ireland said the 1997 letter should demonstrate, once and for all, that the protection of pedophile priests from criminal investigation was not only sanctioned by Vatican leaders but ordered by them.
"The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican's intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere," said Colm O'Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International."

No Signs of Abatement

The Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani "on Monday categorically said that the government had no plans to amend the blasphemy law. Neither have we thought of it nor we are going to think of such a thing." Dera Ghazi Khan, in Pakistan's Daily Times:
The PM said that those who were saying that a committee had been formed to amend the blasphemy law were wrong, adding that no such committee was formed. However, a committee at the party level was formed to discuss proposed legislations moved by MNAs and this committee had rejected any amendment in the blasphemy law, he said, adding, “I cannot even think of making an amendment in the blasphemy law.”
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Pakistan, the rabid religious forces gain confidence.  The humiliations described below were carried out by the same group of which Mumtaz Qadri, Salmaan Taseer's murderer, was a member:
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Two Christian women, mother and daughter, who recently suffered violence and humiliation, are now in a safe place. An angry mob turned against them in Lahore, beating them, after they were accused of blasphemy. The incident began with a dispute between the two and a Muslim woman, who is married to their son and brother, over the religious education of the mixed couple’s daughter. Mgr Rufin Anthony reacted to the fact, slamming Pakistani society’s increasing intolerance, a sociological problem it must deal with the utmost urgency. 
Speaking from their hideout, John Chand, son and brother of the victims, told AsiaNews that the two women “are afraid of being attacked by extremists” and are hiding to avoid being killed. 
The mob beat Saira Chand and her mother so badly that both lost consciousness. At some point during the attack, some of the abusers put necklaces made of old shoes around their necks, smeared their faces and put them on the back of donkeys to parade around their east Lahore neighbourhood. After regaining consciousness, the two women vehemently rejected the accusations of blasphemy, touching their feet repeatedly, to demand pity from their tormentors. 
A local Muslim leader, Mian Muhammad Sameer, said he did everything to get the two women to “confess” their crime of blasphemy. 
A member of Sameer, the same organisation to which Malik Mumtaz Qadri, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer’s murderer, belonged, he said he was proud of his wife, who “beat Saira more than anyone else.” 
“Her hand is so swollen she hasn’t been able to cook since the day of the incident. I’ve been getting my meals from a restaurant,” he added.

Gotta Draw the Line Somewhere...

Katy Perry is, apparently, an arbiter of which giant swaths of cultural history are acceptable for an artist to reference. Religious iconography is not one of them:
“I am sensitive to Russell taking the Lord’s name in vain and to Lady Gaga putting a rosary in her mouth. I think when you put sex and spirituality in the same bottle and shake it up, bad things happen. Yes, I said I kissed a girl. But I didn’t say I kissed a girl while fucking a crucifix.”
But you just did Katy, you just did.

I won't even mention, in the above tradition of Perryan apophasis, that "I kissed a girl and I liked it" is an incredibly unbiblical lyric to feed millions of young ears.

Monday, January 17, 2011

No Criticism in Lanzaland

Robert Lanza has written another irritating article announcing his new "theory of everything" (no, I am not exaggerating - he calls it that). I have offered rebuttals to Lanza's "biocentrism" articles on previous occasions, only to have them deleted. I decided to try again... no dice. The following was censored:
"I would just point out what is obvious:  the claim that space-time is supervenient upon biology is self-negating, as an independent and pre-existing space-time is necessary for both abiogenesis and the evolution of creatures capable of consciousness. Therefore, space-time cannot be a construct of biological systems. 
To claim that the extancy of the universe is a product of human consciousness, is more arrogant still.  So, in "-centric," you have the right suffix to describe your theory, though I could think of a better prefix.
This is not a scientific theory, but rather a metaphysical belief system unsupported by any evidence whatever."
Apparently, the "theory of everything" cannot withstand a challenge, even one put by a non-scientist such as myself.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Update: I returned home to notice that the comment-count had decreased on Lanza's article, which happened to be occupying another tab, unrefreshed. Below is a screenshot of another comment deleted after having been posted for four hours. The commenter's words will survive here.

Edge World Question

Lawrence Krauss @ Edge.org's "World Question 2011: What Scientific Concept Would Improve Everybody's Cognitive Toolkit?"
The notion of uncertainty is perhaps the least well understood concept in science. In the public parlance, uncertainty is a bad thing, implying a lack of rigor and predictability. The fact that global warming estimates are uncertain, for example, has been used by many to argue against any action at the present time. 
In fact, however, uncertainty is a central component of what makes science successful. Being able to quantify uncertainty, and incorporate it into models, is what makes science quantitative, rather than qualitative. Indeed, no number, to measurement, no observable in science is exact. Quoting numbers without attaching an uncertainty to them implies they have, in essence, no meaning...
Other answers here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

QFTD

"The most important scientific revolutions all include, as their only common feature, the dethronement of human arrogance from one pedestal after another of previous convictions about our centrality in the cosmos" - Stephen Jay Gould

Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunis?

Marc Lynch, in yesterday's FP, wondering where the pro-democratic voices in the conservative press are when it comes to Tunisia (as well as the U.S. press more broadly):
Perhaps they've had nothing to say simply because there has been little coverage of Tunisia in the Western media, and the United States has few interests or leverage in Tunis, making it a marginal issue for U.S. political debate. Tunisia is not generally on the front burner in American thinking about the Middle East. It's far away from Israel, Iraq, and the Gulf, and plays little role in the headline strategic issues facing the U.S. in the region. Despite being one of the most repressive and authoritarian regimes in the region, Tunisia has generally been seen as a model of economic development and secularism. Its promotion of women's rights and crushing of Islamist opposition has taken priority in the West over its near-complete censorship of the media and blanket domination of political society. Indeed, the United States has cared so little about Tunisia's absolute rejection of democracy and world-class censorship that it chose it for the regional office of MEPI, the Bush administration's signature democracy promotion initiative...
They can't shy away from Tunisia simply because it isn't Egypt. Tunisia is topic number one with Arab publics today, even if it isn't yet in Washington, and Arab audiences keenly notice their silence. If U.S. advocates of Arab democracy don't step up to draw attention to Tunisia's protests, it will only reinforce the skeptical view that their advocacy of Arab democracy is mainly about putting pressure on Hosni Mubarak or scoring points against the Obama administration. And that will weaken any future advocacy.

xkcd

               














 








(via xkcd)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

QFTD

"I have an existential map. It has 'You are here' written all over it."  - Steven Wright

Science and Morality Panel

Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Pat Churchland, Simon Blackburn, Steven Pinker, and Peter Singer discuss science and morality at ASU Origins - a fantastic conversation moderated by Roger Bingham. The only participant who is mildly soporific is Blackburn, I'm sorry to say.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"We Challenge Them"

QFTD

"The tooth fairy teaches children that they can sell body parts for money."  - David Richerby

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Blasphemy Is a Victimless Crime

          We liberals must overcome the colonial-guilt generated, wholesale purchase of bad multiculturalism, that is, the multiculturalism more aptly named multimoralism, and turn it in for good multiculturalism, a global pluralism that celebrates cultural diversity without ceding human rights as being culture-specific.  Cross-cultural criticism is indeed legitimate, and to grant this one only need admit that between an oppressive theocratic model like that of the Taliban and our familiar liberal-democratic model there exists a true competition of ideas.
          Whenever I hear, in referral to one or another barbaric and backward foreign practice, "but who are we to judge?  After all, what can we say about a different tradition with different values," I respond with the question: "but who are we not to speak? Who are we to remain silent?"
          Justifying silence when those whose rights are being violated happen to be of a different ethnicity and culture is a species of racism, poorly disguised under the disintegrating mask of "respect."
          Since the impulse to punish the "crime" of blasphemy seems to have been successfully resurrected after the long era of its enlightened death, and is metastasizing from the Middle-East into Europe and elsewhere, the left's duty to sacrifice its modern tendency towards "tolerance" of intolerance is now urgent.  Defending the victims of thought-police, whether in the West Bank, Iran, or Pakistan, is a liberal cause and, though briefly co-opted and then discarded by neoconservatives, it will always remain as one.  We can no longer accept its banishment to the realm of cultural-imperialism.
          The murder of Salmaan Taseer, the jailing of Waleed Hasayin and Aasiya Bibi, the cartoon-inspired rampages, the anti-blasphemy resolutions in Ireland, Pakistan, and the U.N., and all similar attacks on free speech and expression require an opposition that is orders stronger than the one so far timidly mounted.  Forcefully, because the argument that certain emotionally held ideas should be so respected as to be walled-off from criticism is, though specious, one that is catchy and superficially rational.

On the left in "dark times," Bernard-Henri Lévy in conversation with Arianna Huffington:


and a similar despair from Nick Cohen in The Guardian:
When Ireland published a law that said it was a crime to "outrage a substantial number of the adherents of [a] religion", the Organisation of Islamic Countries took up Dublin's dangerously vague definition to help in the oppression of their own people's freedom of thought. And it is not only brave politicians and intellectuals such as Taseer and Rushdie who suffer. 
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing the marvellous Norwegian singer Deepika Thathaal (Deeyah). To Norway's shame, religious thugs harassed her and her family and drove her out of the country for the crimes of being glamorous and sexy and singing about freedom. 
She came to Britain, and to Britain's shame, our religious thugs called her a "whore" and threatened to kill her too. She fled to America and told me that if white racists had driven an Asian singer from two countries, her case would be a cause celebre. As it was, the bigots who persecuted her had brown rather than white skins, so Europeans looked away.
She has learned what many dissidents from the Muslim world already know: it has become an act of some courage in the 21st century to make the sensible point that there is no god and we should grow up.
After hearing of the Taseer assassination, Salman Rushdie eulogized a country's once possessed moderation with "RIP Pakistan."  It is important to consistently remind ourselves that there is no guarantee that liberal-secular values will, of themselves, triumph in the long run. Thus, justifying a related laziness with naïve optimism is a dangerous and unethical gambit.

As humanity is global, so are its rights.  Anything less than full-throated and equitably applied  advocacy of this fact should no longer be tolerated.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Measured Accountability

James Fallows on violent political rhetoric as it relates to the attempted assassination of Rep. Giffords:
1) anything that can be called an "assassination" is inherently political;
2) very often the "politics" are obscure, personal, or reflecting mental disorders rather than "normal" political disagreements. But now a further step,
3) the political tone of an era can have some bearing on violent events. The Jonestown/Ryan and Fromme/Ford shootings had no detectable source in deeper political disagreements of that era. But the anti-JFK hate-rhetoric in Dallas before his visit was so intense that for decades some people debated whether the city was somehow "responsible" for the killing. (Even given that Oswald was an outlier in all ways.)

That's the further political ramification here. We don't know why the killer did what he did. If he is like Sirhan, we'll never "understand." But we know that it has been a time of extreme, implicitly violent political rhetoric and imagery, including SarahPac's famous bulls-eye map of 20 Congressional targets to be removed -- including Rep. Giffords. It is legitimate to discuss whether there is a connection between that tone and actual outbursts of violence, whatever the motivations of this killer turn out to be. At a minimum, it will be harder to anyone to talk -- on rallies, on cable TV, in ads -- about "eliminating" opponents, or to bring rifles to political meetings, or to say "don't retreat, reload."

Criticism 2011

Morgan Meis, The Smart Set:
Some critics seem to know instinctively, to feel it in their very critical bones, that the death of the critic-as-authority is the birth of another kind of criticism.

I call that other kind of criticism, the kind that doesn't rely on authority and judgment, Romantic criticism. I call it that because of what I learned, long ago, from that melancholic and suicidal German, Walter Benjamin. Early in his career, Benjamin wrote a typically esoteric and maddeningly impenetrable essay called "The Concept of Criticism in German Romanticism." There is much in that essay that I take to be wrong. There is something in it that I suspect to be crazy. But there is an important idea in it, too, an idea that took its first form in the ramblings of men like Friedrich Schlegel and the poet Novalis. The idea is that criticism does not stand outside the work of art, but stands alongside, maybe even inside, the work of art, participating in the work in order to further express and tease out what the artist already put there. In this theory of criticism, we don't need the critic to tell us what is good or bad, to tell us what to like and dislike. We need the critic, instead, to help us experience. We need the critic in the way that we need a friend or a lover. We need the critic as a companion on a journey that is a love affair with the things of the world. Benjamin once referred to this form of criticism as "the first form of criticism that refuses to judge." The primary virtue of this kind of criticism is its inherent generosity. It wants to make experience bigger, it wants to make each work of art as rich as it can possibly be. Its sole medium, as Benjamin put it, is "the life, the ongoing life, of the works themselves."

Friday, January 7, 2011

QFTD

"...there are those who see this as an act of Muslim faith, are congratulating Qadri and warning of other such attacks. When the cleric of Mohabbat Khan Mosque announced rewards for those who kill the so-called blasphemers, I was reminded of the words of Akbar Bugti who asked, 'What use have I of a God who needs me to defend him?'"
Gulmina Bilal Ahmad, today, in Pakistan's Daily Times.  (h/t 3QD)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

In Prison Air

    The fabric of a culture is ragged and rotting when free speech assassins are cheered and their bullets made holy. Such is the case with Pakistan and the murder of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Punjab and opponent of the country's absurdist law criminalizing blasphemy as punishable by death. For taking this position he was shot 27 times by Mumtaz Qadri, a member of his own security detail, while other guards watched without bothering to intervene.
    It is the national reaction to his murder, however, that has rendered Pakistan's end as a somewhat moderate Islamic country so disturbingly clear. Both of the mainstream religious parties, one “moderate” and one hard-line, stated that Taseer's views justified his killing. But it isn't just Islamic party apparatchiks praising the killing, it's the punditry and the public as well, as Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif laments in The Guardian:
Taseer's body was still in the morgue when I started to find out more about the sensitivities of our people. Whereas most people rushed home and sat glued to their TVs, probably agreeing or disagreeing with those TV presenters, many of those interviewed at random seemed to approve. "Well, murder is wrong, but he did say bad things about our Prophet," one man said. Another claimed that if he had got a chance he would do the same thing. When asked how they knew that Taseer had committed blasphemy, they just shrugged as if saying they just knew. As if they had decided that he just seemed like the kind of guy who would do something like this.
Even before Taseer was given a burial, his killer had become a hero of sorts. Constable Mumtaz Qadri belonged to Punjab's Elite Force, a police force usually deployed to provide security to VIPs. And although he had acted alone, at least some of his colleagues knew that he was planning to assassinate the governor. He had made them promise that they wouldn't shoot him in the act. Hence, after pumping 27 bullets into the governor's body, he calmly handed himself over to his colleagues who had apparently kept their promise. They tied his hands and legs with a nylon rope and took him away. By the evening, Qadri's picture had replaced a thousand profile pictures on Facebook. He was a mujahid, a lion, a true hero of Islam. We wish there were more of him.
    The forces within Pakistan who increasingly assent to this kind of thinking demonstrate the power of a religious ideology to manacle minds and justify punishment for thought-crimes. It is worth noting in this case that Taseer is not alleged to have committed anything that could be considered blasphemy, rather he only opposed a law that is intellectually abusive and capriciously enforced.
    If enough Pakistanis manage to glimpse their their country's course toward an intellectual prisondom like that of Saudi Arabia, then perhaps the trend can be reversed. But that is a difficult feat when citizens who would organize against religious forces are increasingly faced with the “no true Muslim would...” inoculation. The illiberalization of a once relatively moderate Pakistan by means of religious justification, however, once again establishes the need to oppose these arguments globally. Particularly, we who support freedom of expression should activate whenever we can against anti-blasphemy resolutions (such as the U.N.'s non-binding R 62/145) which ultimately amount to the incarceration of free-thought and criticism.
    Oscar Wilde's oft quoted line from The Ballad of Reading Gaol applies here:
Vile deeds like poison weeds bloom well in prison air, it is only what is good in man, that wastes and withers there.

Wakefield Worms

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Opening Cant

One of the first matters on which the new Republican House will vote is the repeal of the deficit-reducing HCR bill.  In order to do this without specifying payment for the increase to the deficit that repeal would cause they will deploy hypocrisy at light-speed, exempting the legislation from their own pay-as-you-go rule.  Ezra Klein explains:
House Republicans are in a pickle: One of their new rules says that new legislation must be paid for. But the health-care bill reduces the federal deficit by more than $100 billion over the next 10 years. Luckily, they've figured out an answer to their problem: They've decided to simply exempt the repeal bill from the rules. That means they're beginning the 112th Congress by lifting their own rules in order to take a vote that will increase the deficit. Change we can believe in, and all that.
I am so terrifically shocked.  Really, I am.