Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Illness


Sorry I've been out for so long; I'm severely incapacitated by a double-whammy of flu and bronchitis. Hardly able to keep up with meals, much less world news.

But, for what it's worth, a commenter over at Hit&Run has a good question about Dean:
if he's willing to leave a church over a bike path, how do we know he won't walk out on a major trade summit or something over the dinner menu? Or maybe he'll stop nominating judges because a Senator stole his parking spot.

Another thought: any doubts I ever had about Iran -- and I had many, largely from my admitted ignorance of the country -- are now gone. Any government that says, "we don't give a hoot how many people you could save, being technologically-advanced and in much closer flying range than the Europeans; we'd rather see our citizens die than be helped by zionist scum," is not worth a second thought. Bring it down.

That's all, folks.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Steppenwolf


Bob gave me a fabulous Christmas present -- a turntable/radio/CD/Cassette player! So, I've been running through my father's old records: Woodstock albums, soundtracks to movies like "Wild in the Streets" (which I heartily recommend), and a whole lot of Steppenwolf.

Steppenwolf, which has a great pianist, is not your average druggie hippie band, nor your average steel-guitar band. Their song, "I'm asking," admonishes parents to raise their children with tenderness, with discipline, and with a strong moral compass. What are the chances of coming across that in a rock band today?

On the other hand, I've just finished knitting a very involved sweater for him, made from Navajo wool I bought at the Grand Canyon over a year ago (been working on it ever since). Of course, what's my luck, but he tells me last week that he's allergic to wool. I've never noticed him avoiding it before; he tries on wool coats and sweaters in stores regularly, and I've never seen him check a tag. I'll give this sweater to him anyhow, as fifteen months of work is simply not something I plan on abandoning. I hope he makes at least a pretense of liking it; how was I to know?

Eh, but I'm feeling kind of low about the whole thing. I did have a nice telephone conversation with his mother, though, which is always a good thing.

And I'm off to see my father's farmer family in North Carolina tomorrow morning, so no blogging before Friday. Merry Christmas or whatnot, all!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Huzzah for Secularism, II


Here's an update on the French anti-free-exercise case.

Of course, there is an actual reason behind the French argument. There have been instances such as "women fulfilling national defense duties refusing any rescue operations with men." That, I believe, should not be tolerated under the excuse of free exercise. What I don't understand, though, is why things that hamper the function of society, such as that example, or such as the woman I know with the State Department in India, who was moved from Saudi Arabia because men there refused to meet with a woman, should be lumped in with wearing yarmulkes and headscarves:
A Muslim employee of the city of Paris was recently suspended for refusing to take off her scarf or shake men's hands.

True, the headscarf and the segregation both have as their reason an interpretation of religious diktats. However, telling men that you do not wish to associate with them is different from wearing a large cross.

On the headscarf question, the French might do well to look at India's army: that army would be decimated if Sikhs were kicked out. So, the Sikhs get to stay in. But what about their hair-regulations? Easy: compromise. They've got special "regulation" turbans as well as combat ones with helmets inside (I was shown one once; they're nifty!); if men's hair gets too long/thick to have it under the helmet-turban, they have to trim it, but they don't have to be crew-cut. Same with beards: they don't have to be clean-shaven, but they do need to keep them trimmed enough to be out of the way. Nobody wants you tripping over a four-foot-long beard. But what about wanna-be hippies? What about the scraggly appearance of the army when everyone goes without regular haircuts? Well, you can only grow your hair long, as a man, if you keep it out of sight under your turban.

There is one very good point at the end of the Excite article, however: the law, however well-intentioned it may be and however evil and repressive headscarves may be, may well have the effect of further radicalizing and militarizing disaffected Muslim youth. That is a risk France really should not be taking.

NPR to the rescue!


After writing the last paragraph of the post below, I turned on NPR for "All Things Considered." Who woulda' thunk it, but that bastion of extremist reactionary knee-jerk right-wing conservatism had a segment solely devoted to bashing the UN for being sissies about Iraq! (Ok, I admit it, the adjective isn't mine; it comes from my father, when I told him about the segment and he assumed I got it from (insert adjective here) 950AM, the station which carries Rush Limbaugh. He sputtered some when I told him it was NPR, a station even he can't deny leans rather left.)

They played soundbites from various Iraqis saying, in effect, "the UN didn't want to help Iraqis in the first place, and they tried to keep America from helping; when they finally went in, they didn't do much, and they ran the first time they got scared, unlike the Americans; they mess up every place they go; Milosevic's trial is pretty much an interminable opportunity for him to keep grandstanding until he goes to cushy exile in southern France; and now they want us to let them run the country and run Saddam's trial?" The NPR announcers seemed, curiously, to agree. The Kofi Annan quotes tossed in for balance seemed to have been selected so as to provide proof of the truth of the Iraqis' statements. (In fact, he sounded almost as if he could have written the post below!)

There is hope for the world, after all!

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Those Ignorant Natives


(In other news: I've got the flu. Back to your regularly scheduled blogging, below.)

There are a few things we all must remember, in light of the US's unilateral and illegal abduction of the freely-elected ruler of a democratic nation:

We must make sure that Saddam Hussein has a trial with an outcome acceptable to the UN. After all, the hypocritical US claims to adhere to a policy of "innocent until proven guilty," at the same time that they arrest and kill non-white Iraqis on the assumption that they are guilty. In that light, we must remember that Mr. Hussein may well be innocent of these heinous charges. We hear he had body doubles (and who wouldn't, with the US after you?) -- those videos of Mr. Hussein walking along shooting people, or having half his government colleagues executed, well, they could be just lookalikes trying to frame him. We should not jump to conclusions! Additionally, if there are any unacceptable practices during the trial, such as emotional arguments based on concocted stories about alleged crimes, we must, in all fairness, demand an acquittal!

Additionally, like all good Catholics, we must agree with the Vatican that Mr. Hussein is simply a scared and weak man, being treated like a "beast" by the US (can you imagine the audacity? searching a human for lice and cavities (well, and suicide capsules) the same way one would search children in public schools?), and that the death penalty is a barbaric holdover of the dark ages. If those barbarous medieval Iraqis still support it and feel that murdering their democratically-elected ruler is just punishment for crimes he may or may not have committed (remember, the trial has not yet taken place), we must enlighten them as to the backwards nature of their beliefs (but, of course, without making it seem that the West is superior, even though we are part of the West and we are superior -- we'll have none of the US's conceptual imperialism).

We also believe the US should immediately pull out of Iraq; in fact, we are confused why they have not acted as any sensible group would, by fleeing the country at the first sign of opposition. (As I mentioned a while back, and have later seen verified, the UN left Baghdad after they were bombed; why isn't this story getting more play?) A country so obviously bent on the destruction of its own and its allies' soldiers would certainly not think twice about allowing the destruction of a country filled with people who look different and speak another language. Any of its actions must be viewed with the utmost skepticism!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

DU theorists


On the biggest news day of the season, it is not a good idea to spend your one hour of computer time on Democrat Underground. After a few minutes of "it's all fake" and "now Rove gets to torture that dear sweet innocent Saddam and make up a story for him to tell," my head is about to explode.

Anyhow: enjoy; celebrate; pray that the international-types don't get their way for the no-death-penalty cushy-exile probably-get-off-on-a-technicality trial; and keep warm!

Friday, December 12, 2003

Christmas (Home Free)


Like some other people, I'm scaling down; going to be in Houston with 1) more things to do, 2) more competition for the computer, and 3) all these people who stand around and look over your shoulder whenever you're writing anything, which gets creepy after a while. I'll still be around, just not writing four big posts a day like today.

So, merry Christmas and whatnot to all of you!

Swastika fear


Ignorance bugs me. It bugs me more when people, through ignorance, force people to change things that are harmless.

This was brought to mind by an article reporting that Microsoft was pulling a font that contained swastikas. It was a font from Japan, they report, which leads me to believe that it was put in as a Jain religious symbol, alongside a cross, an Om, and a star of David. Now, I have no problem with that decision; Microsoft can do what it wants, and there is no reason why they should have swastikas in their font, be they Germanic or South Asian swastikas. What I do have a problem with are the people who are eager to erase swastikas from India, people incapable of believing that perhaps it is a benign symbol (or, more literally, a "good symbol") which was twisted (literally -- it was inverted in Germany) and used as a symbol of evil in WWII.

Ann Landers wrote an advice column a few years ago in which she betrayed her ignorance of the matter. Someone wrote in with concerns about a cloth from India including swastikas in the pattern. Ann Landers responded with fury, assuming that Nazi symbols had gotten to India, and telling her correspondent to get rid of it.

In every South Asian Studies class I have been in that involved a visual element, when students saw the swastikas that are all over many Jain, Buddhist, and Hindu temples in India, they were incensed and distressed that India has so many Nazi sympathizers. The teachers are obviously as tired as I am of explaining that just because Germans used an Indian symbol does not mean that Indians are now all Nazis. I also hear reports (secondhand) that some well-meaning western groups are going into India and trying to convince people to paint over, chisel out, cut off, and otherwise remove swastikas from their holy sites, and stop making traditional Jain offerings involving rice in the shape of a swastika.

Now, I agree that non-Asian companies had better have a dang good reason if they want to sell products with swastikas on them. I also think that it would be nothing but considerate to hint to immigrant neighbors that, if they can see a way around it, they might prefer to put some other symbol on their curtains and draw a different mandala shape in front of their door in the morning -- or put an explanatory sign next to it -- in order to avoid becoming the innocent targets of anti-Nazi sentiment. However, people really should keep in mind that swastikas, especially (and nearly exclusively) when used by Asians, have an entirely different meaning from the one Hitler represented.

Huzzah for secularism!


France is following Germany in trying to ban Muslim headscarves, Jewish kippahs, large crosses, and other such non-"discreet" religious wear. Apparently, it's now offensive to know that your classmate is religious. What will they ban next -- people named Mary and Jesus, Goldberg and Levy, Fatima and Muhammad?

Of course, there are circumstances when wearing religiously-prescribed clothing will make it impossible to participate in various activities. In those cases, I think the choice should be left up to the individual which of the two to choose; I do not think that religious freedom should be used as an excuse to force permission to participate in said activity.

One well-known example is the driver license photo question: if the woman believes she must wear facial covering, that is her right, but when it conflicts with being allowed to drive, she has to choose either to drive, with a license photo showing her face, or keep her face covered and not drive.

Another example is athletic activity. I take my argument in this area from a skirt-wearing Orthodox Jewish girl I know here. She is very athletic; when she goes for walks, and sometimes when she jogs, she wears a skirt; when she wants to do something more involved, she wears shorts. She discussed grade school sports with me, saying, if students show that they can participate in school-day P.E. activities just as well as other students without removing their special clothing, that's fine, and they should be allowed to continue. If their items cause problems, then they should either change their clothing, change their sport, or, if those are not possible, change their school. For elective sports activity (school teams), unobtrusive additions to the uniform should be permitted, but only so long as they do not cause a disturbance. If your yarmulke or headscarf falls off and you have to go chasing after it, well, don't wear it; if it stays on, that's fine (same for scrunchies and other hair-things). If your pectoral cross comes out from under your uniform top and catches on the volleyball net or whacks a teammate, take it off; if it stays put, that's fine. If you can't wear a uniform (it doesn't allow a full-length skirt, it's a bright color, etc.), don't play the sport. Non-elective sports (P.E. requirements) should allow clothing which does not hamper the student's performance, however.

Reconstruction


(I don't like that word; it brings to mind obscene behavior after the civil war. But, there's no other.)

If it is true that The first question that should come to mind when thinking about the contracts is not "Is this good for the United States?" but "Is this good for the people of Iraq?" ... perhaps the argument can be made that governments which obviously do not have the best interests of the people of Iraq in mind (be it that they argued against the war on political (not humanitarian) grounds, that they can reasonably believed to have opposed the war because it would threaten their economic deals with the country, or that they actually provided Saddam Hussein and his supporters with weapons during the time of conflict) should be excluded from the reconstruction. If they have been demonstrated to put "Is this good for our country?" ahead of "Is this good for the people of Iraq?" then they would have a lot to prove before they should be allowed to take a financial profit from the reconstruction.

Divide and Conquer


I have heard suggestions, mostly in jest, that the GOP should play on Dean's relative lack of black support (as Charlie Rangel points out). They should push for Dean as the nominee; then, they should work to convince black voters that Dean is not the candidate for them, and try to get them to vote on racial lines and write-in Sharpton or someone else.

That might actually be a successful tactic; who knows? It's been done in India; it worked, and it's screwed over the country and led to perhaps millions of deaths.

People keep telling me that the US is not India. Often, I agree. Our teenagers have less self-respect; their court system is quite FUBAR; the Teamsters, I hear, run NYC; the (bizarrely mostly Islamic) criminal underground runs most of India and, most importantly, has some measure of control over the cinema, undoubtedly the best tool for moulding public opinion. But I should not deceive myself that the US is more calm, logical, and practical than India: as one billboard in fall 2000 said, "Think Indian elections are confusing? Try following the US elections!" Nor should I let myself think that the US has moved beyond senseless mob violence: as Cincinnatti and L.A. show, India hasn't got a patent on race (or religion) riots. It is quite easy to find writings from the turn of the century and from the 1930s poignantly believing that the West, and especially western Europe, has become civilized and moved beyond war. Truth is: unfortunately, we never will.

In short: don't even joke about trying to inflame racial tensions for political purposes. It's simply not worth it.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Polyamory, anyone?


Now the Christians want in on the multi-love action:
"There can be fidelity in threesomes," Kolodny said. "It can be just as sanctified as anything else if all parties are agreed." But she was careful to stress that polyamory is unacceptable "if there is deceit."

Kolodny said polyamory does not usually involve simultaneous group sex. But there are exceptions, she admitted, as she recalled a friend of hers who shares a bed with his wife and male partner. When asked by a workshop participant how polyamory was different from "recreational sex," Kolodny responded that consensual recreational sex could be a part of polyamory. But polyamory usually involves some level of commitment and intimacy.

Her arguments against genetic hardwiring (or even predisposition) are interesting as well.

What is a headscarf for?


covering her head showing a woman's weakness & the rules that take her freedom
--the Iranian girl

One more thing


Ok, ok, one last thing: when people used to ask me, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I would answer, "a tap-dancing grocer." No, seriously. I have a drawing of myself, executed at age five, in such a role (with the addition of my location up a tree).

Today, when I get asked similar questions, I have a similarly unfeasible dream: I want to be William Safire. He writes like a dream, is generally sensible and knowledgeable, and he gets to be syndicated for a grammar and language column.

(On the other hand: I have no idea why they put the "Readers' Opinions" side bar in. It is obviously selected somewhat at random, or Friedman's column would never have gotten anti-Jewish comments perma-posted. But what does it show? The weak logic and soundbites -- to say nothing of ridiculous grammar -- of NYTimes readers, more than anything else, I fear.)

Late Night Irrelevancies


I am proud to be Adrianne #3.

I am also done with my first semester of graduate education, and I think I've earned a good night's sleep.

Dark side to the joke?


I can't say for sure, but it does seem to me that painting Dean as McGovern would really be begging for an equation, however irrational, of Bush with Nixon. "They both lie!" and all that. "I am not a crook" played at pictures of Bush. Just doesn't seem to be a foolproof strategy.

Vande...


Through a typographical accident en route to Ravenwood, I ended up a a lovely, albeit very occasional, picture blog of India. I want to go back; I may yet, this summer.

Scroll down that post to the third picture and following.

That is a massive temple (she grossly underestimates it to be the height of my apartment; the caves next door, which look like a parking garage, are twelve stories of stone; I'd estimate this temple at around fifteen normal stories) carved out of solid rock.

Someone imagined it. Someone sat on a rock one day, chisel in hand, and thought, "Hmm. I'm on this lovely expanse of rock, and I'm a stonemason. What could I do? Little elephants? Devotional murtis? nah, that's boring. How about a TEMPLE THE SIZE OF MY VILLAGE?"

And then he sits there, on that rock, with his chisel, and dreams up a temple. Then he begins: chip, chip chip.

On the Bill


As The Spoons Experience says, "ironically, Iraqis now have more freedom to criticize their government than Americans do."

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Quote of the Day


Freedom of expression is functionally meaningless if it does not include the freedom to offend. If it is inoffensive, then it does not need safeguarding.
--Ramesh Thakur

Places I am glad not to live


How's this, from an old news clipping I have lying around: In Pakistan, thanks to a law made by Pres. Zia ul-Haq, rape (at least in 1984) "had to be substantiated by four male witnesses and the victim was required to identify the rapist. Safia, a 16-year-old blind girl, gave birth as a result of a double rape. To the Pakistani courts this made her an adulteress and she was sentenced to 16 public lashes and three years in jail."

Glad, very glad, I don't live in Pakistan. Met a woman with the US government in India; she had been moved from first Saudi Arabia and then Pakistan because government officials refused to meet with a woman. India, for all its faults, has no problems whatsoever (or, at least, no more than America) with women in high governmental positions, and, by comparison, very few problems with women in general.

Moonshine


You've got to love variations in what counts as slang: "Seventeen persons, including a woman, lost their lives in two different areas of Kollam district after consuming hooch."

Eye Candy


For the discriminating gentleman, I heartily recommend Tack-O-Rama Pinups.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Link of the Day


Here's a new one: American imperialism is terrorism racism fascism Christian fundamentalism.

Ahh, the things you find when you wander violently Hindu (and bizarrely pro-Jewish) websites.

Ah, those tolerant Europeans


Some days, I am very very glad that I chose to go to UT instead of SOAS.

HinduUnity is gloating that egging was done at a symposium featuring Wendy Doniger, William Dalrymple, SOAS's own Rachel Dwyer, and others who question Hindutva.

Whether or not this claim is true (and I have not seen it independently confirmed), it's enough for me that people are hoping to egg them. That doesn't go on at UT, as far as I know.

Quote of the Day


For it is characteristic of all pragmatists, from William James down, that in building their Utopias they surreptitiously slip in through the back door the "absolutes" that they have ostentatiously kicked down the front stoop!
--WSJ 1939

Holocaust Denial vs. WWII History


It's well known that most of the people who say, "well, there were no gas chambers, and only a few thousand Jews were killed, and they all deserved it," also point out that Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, etc. were also targets. However, recently I've been seeing people who only point out the latter being labelled as Holocaust deniers.

Why is this such a problem? Does the undeniable fact that Jews were not the only target make six million an any less atrocious figure or what went on any less despicable? Is there some reason why people want Hitler's practices to have been about only Jews? If not, why do people get angry when, with no challenges to the Jewish aspect, the other targeted and undesirable groups are mentioned?

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Lone Star State


I am thrilled to learn that King Ranch is bigger than Rhode Island.

Texas is great.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Google Report


Good to know I'm high up on the list of results for searches for porn involving yellow rectangular sea cartoons.

Flippery Fish!


Wow -- I'm tied for sixth in a category! Where did that come from? And two people have voted for me! Gee, thanks!

Speaking of which, this from Hugh Hewitt is just mean:
Note Lileks is nominated under Best Hummels-Related Blog.

That's just not fair -- the guy's not blogging this month, and can't even defend himself!

A&F


Well, Abercrombie and Fitch have very very quietly pulled their catalogue, after much complaining, and there was much rejoicing (although they say it will be back soon).

In other news, CBS reports that A&F bases their employee practices on race and appearance. Not that that's a new story. Harvard's newspaper did a story on exactly the same thing four years ago, quoting several former and current employees. In a very clever move, they questioned a store manager about an alleged book detailing that and other disreputable practices; the manager insisted that no such book exists, and then the students produced one they had somehow procured. Denials were sputtered; crow was eaten.

In my opinion, the key here is not the practice itself, but the honesty. A clothing store, just like a television news station, has, or should have, the right to hire the people they feel their desired consumers would most like to be around or watch, based on both physical and personality characteristics. If they feel that their consumers prefer looking at 5'11" Germanic males with square jaws, then they should be able to hire to fit customer preference. They should also admit it; people who are angered should not shop there; and, if enough opinion turns against them, then the company should change their hiring practice -- not because of the opinion per se, but because it's good business to please the customer.

Guess that's the libertarian in me coming out (since, I hear, I'm definitely not Republican).

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Damn Blogger


Problem with Blogger is, one needs to copy a post before posting it, because there's a good chance that a thirty-minute post will get erased en route.

Another Conspiracy Theory


School desegregation and the push to smaller class sizes is part of a sinister plot by whites to subjugate non-whites. Divide and conquer, you see? If you get small class sizes, with no more than a couple of each minority group, they can't band together and rise up against oppression, you see? Problem is, it hasn't quite worked out, as they are still allowed to (subversively) self-segregate at the college level. Have to quash that!

Racism is alive and well in 2003...


See especially the comments on this frightening article.

A Very Good Law


I think this one should still be enforced:
LAW: A man may not seduce a woman by lying, and claiming he will marry her.
COUNTRY: USA / STATE: Mississippi
CITATION: 97-29-55 Seduction of female over age of eighteen by promised or pretended marriage.
ACTUAL: If any person shall obtain carnal knowledge of any woman, or female child, over the age of eighteen years, of previous chaste character, by virtue of any feigned or pretended marriage or any false or feigned promise of marriage, he shall, upon conviction, be imprisoned in the penitentiary not more than five years; but the testimony of the female seduced, alone, shall not be sufficient to warrant a conviction.

In other news, I've been slow due to much holiday travel and exams and such. UT gets out on Friday, which is just silly.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Recommended Reading


I'd forgotten how much I like Bill Whittle.

Polyamory, anyone?


Along with Eugene Volokh and many others, I see no legal difference between legalizing homosexual relationships and legalizing other relationships between consenting adults that do not fall into the one-man-one-woman category. I have been ridiculed here in the past for suggesting that there are polygamy and cousin-marriage advocacy groups. Anyone who has even a passing awareness of consent-law arguments would know such criticism is unwarranted -- as would anyone who has spent much time in Utah or among communities of immigrants from (often Western) countries where cousin-marriage is quite legal.

Anyhow, Scalia said it would come to this: Utah Polygamist Invokes Ruling on Gay Sex. Not that I am defending him against the charges of child rape or criminal nonsupport of children, but he's got a point -- now, he's got a legal foot to stand on when saying his consenting polygamous relationships are just as covered by "privacy" as consenting homosexual relationships.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Quote of the Day


""I think that gay marriage is something that should be between a man and a woman."
--Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Life Imitates Fiction


I have a book, popular a while back, entitled Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. It consists of edited versions of faerie tales with anything to which people have been known to (successfully) take offence altered.

Well, Tongue Tied is reporting,
Researchers have decided that age-old fairy tales such as Cinderella and Snow White contain so many stereotypes that they are just as harmful to children’s psyches as the misogynist, violent, drug-addled videos of current popular culture.


I suppose I should have seen this coming.

Indian Elections


Sonia Gandhi, who appears to be coloring her hair now, voted today. Like most elections, a few people have been killed and injured, communists have stolen electric voting machines, and several other machines have been damaged. Look for the same here next year!