Out of the same mouth

January 31, 2011 1 comment

Dec 23, 2010

Today’s special session of the Human Rights Council concerning the ongoing crisis in Cote d’Ivoire underscored the international community’s commitment to ensure respect for human rights and to address serious abuses. We applaud the African Group for leading this session.

The United States joins the international community in condemning the growing violence, the grave human rights violations, and the deterioration of security in Cote d’Ivoire. We stand with the Council in calling for the immediate end to the violence and other abuses, and we will work to hold those responsible for these human rights violations accountable.

When the United States joined the Human Rights Council, we promised to work from within to improve its effectiveness as we strive to achieve our common goals. Today’s special session exemplifies this new approach and reaffirms that the Council has an important role to play on all issues where human rights are in question.

President Alassane Dramane Ouattara is the legitimately elected and internationally recognized leader of Cote d’Ivoire. We reiterate our call for former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately. The rights of the Ivoirian people can only be fully realized when democracy is respected and the rule of law restored in Cote d’Ivoire.

Jan 28, 2011

We continue to monitor the situation very closely. We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces.

At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.

As we have repeatedly said, we support the universal human rights of the Egyptian people, including the right to freedom of expression, of association and of assembly.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to allow peaceful protests and to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications.

These protests underscore that there are deep grievances within Egyptian society, and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.

As President Obama said yesterday, reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt. Egypt has long been an important partner of the United States on a range of regional issues. As a partner, we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political and social reforms.

We continue to raise with the Egyptian government, as we do with other governments in the region, the imperative for reform and greater openness and participation to provide a better future for all.

We want to partner with the Egyptian people and their government to realize their aspirations to live in a democratic society that respects basic human rights.

When I was recently in the region, I met with a wide range of civil society groups, and I heard from them about ideas they have that would improve their countries.

The people of the Middle East, like people everywhere, are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives.

As I said in Doha, leaders need to respond to these aspirations. And to help build that better future for all, they need to view civil society as their partner, not as a threat.

Ladies and gentlemen, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Shi said.

December 1, 2010 1 comment

Categories: Uncategorized

Protect Dissent

October 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Don’t hospitals have the internet?

September 26, 2010 2 comments

From The Guardian:

Some clinics provide pornography for men masturbating in clinic rooms to produce sperm for IVF with their partners.

[…]

The average spend on magazines was £21.32 a trust a year…

Categories: Nonsense

It’s resolution, baby…

September 25, 2010 Leave a comment

This is the text of a resolution currently before the Texas State Board of Education. The resolution is, in fact, sponsored by the board’s chair and its secretary. You can read the full uninterrupted text here (PDF), or follow along with my commentary interspersed below.

RESOLUTION

WHEREAS pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias has tainted some past Texas Social Studies textbooks…

Good to start from a solidly neutral base free of inflammatory language…

…such as:

Ooh, examples. My apologies. Obviously it’s going to be methodical and considered.

• In one instance, devoting 120 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 248 (more than twice as many) to those of Islam; and dwelling for 27 student text lines on Crusaders’ massacre of Muslims at Jerusalem in 1099 yet censoring…

Censoring? Omitting to mention, or actually censoring? Are there blacked out lines of text in the section in question?

…Muslims’ massacres of Christians there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268, implying that Christian brutality and Muslim loss of life are significant but Islamic cruelty and Christian deaths are not (see documentation in Appendix I-A);

• In another instance, allotting 82 student text lines to Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 159 (almost twice as many) to those of Islam;…

I don’t know what the maths textbooks are like in Texas (probably full of that pesky al-jabr and such), but I sure am glad they took the time to point out that 248 is more than twice as much as 120, and 159 is almost twice as much as 82.

…describing Crusaders’ massacres of European Jews yet ignoring the Muslim Tamerlane’s massacre of perhaps 90,000 co-religionists at Baghdad in 1401, and of perhaps 100,000 Indian POWs at Delhi in 1398; thrice charging medieval Christians with sexism; and saying the Church “laid the foundations for anti-Semitism” (see documentation in Appendix I-B);

Because 1:1 parity in the number of lines of text given to a particular subject would prove what? If it takes an author 183 lines of text to describe Christ’s death on the cross, how many lines should that author dedicate to the dropping of an atomic bomb?

(Note: Arguments containing the word ‘thrice’ tend to be somewhat old-fashioned, quoth.)

• In a third instance, spending 139 student text lines on Christian beliefs, practices, and holy writings but 176 on those of Islam; claiming Islam “brought untold wealth to thousands and a better life to millions,” while “because of [Europeans’ Christian] religious zeal … many peoples died and many civilizations were destroyed;” and contrasting “the Muslim concern for cleanliness” with Swedes in Russia who were “the filthiest of God’s creatures” (see documentation in Appendix I-C);

Now, I’ve never seen the textbook in question, but being a naturally cynical sort, I looked this quote up. It’s a description of the Vikings written by Ibn Fadlan in the 10th Century. The Rus were possibly still pagan at the time. Not exactly ‘the Swedes in Russia’. For the record, Ibn Fadlan also reports that he had never before “seen people of such perfect physique.” If the rest of his description is accurate, I doubt the good men and women of the Texas State Board of Education would be huge fans of the Rus either.

and,

WHEREAS pro-Islamic/anti-Christian half-truths, selective disinformation, and false editorial stereotypes still roil some Social Studies textbooks nationwide, evidenced by:

• Patterns of pejoratives towards Christians and superlatives toward Muslims, calling Crusaders aggressors, “violent attackers,” or “invaders” while euphemizing Muslim conquest of Christian lands as “migrations” by “empire builders” (see documentation in Appendix II);

‘Patterns of pejoratives’ – now this is interesting. There are actually several methods of systematically analysing a text for its bias; such methods rely on identifying precisely these kinds of patterns. What method have they used? Exactly what are the patterns? Or do they just mean they managed to find the words ‘violent attackers’ in one place, and the words ’empire builders’ in another?

• Politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization, indicting Christianity for the same practices (e.g., sexism, slavery, persecution of outgroups) that they treat non-judgmentally, minimize, sugarcoat, or censor in Islam (see documentation in Appendix II);

• Sanitized definitions of “jihad” that exclude religious intolerance or military aggression against non-Muslims – even though Islamic sources often include these among proper meanings of the term – which undergirds worldwide Muslim terrorism (see documentation in Appendix II); and,

WHEREAS more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly, as they are now doing (see documentation in Appendix III); and

WHEREAS Texas’ elected State Board of Education (SBOE) is a principal democratic check and balance on otherwise often-unresponsive editors and -unaccountable authors, making the SBOE the premiere venue for Texans’ effective exercise of the constitutional right of petition to redress curricular grievances; now, therefore, be it

What?

RESOLVED by the SBOE, that diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions in Social Studies texts; that Social Studies TEKS cannot provide relief, because they tell what a course should cover, not all it should avoid; that under Texas Education Code §28.002(h) and (i), the SBOE must enforce “the basic democratic values of our state and national heritage;” that chronic partiality to one of the world’s great religions, and animus against another, flout democratic values and the letter and spirit of this rule; and that Texas Administrative Code §66.66(c)(4) provides, “[N]o instructional material may be adopted that contains content that clearly conflicts with the stated purpose of the Texas Education Code, §28.002(h)” (emphasis added); and be it further

It’s fair to say that I haven’t exactly studied the Texas Education Code in detail. I imagine, however, that should the textbook in question already breached it, there would be measures open to the board via their normal channels, without the need for this bizarre resolution.

RESOLVED, That the SBOE will look to reject future prejudicial Social Studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world’s major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by
demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others, as in the above-cited instances.

‘Offend Texas law’? Take them to court. The only thing that can be proven by a resolution like this is that those sponsoring it are substantially better placed to promote their own views and censor those of others than the authors of any textbook.

Does this book fail to offer a critical appraisal of Islam? I’ve no idea, I haven’t read it. There’s no coherent argument made, or evidence presented here that it does. Taking everything at its worst, there seems to be three cherrypicked instances of comparisons possibly favourable to Islam.

There are two basic views of the purpose of education. One is that it serves to help people understand and make up their own minds. The other is that it provides them with a set of approved facts. Even if this book was or is guilty of doing that for Islam, resolutions like this – pulling the exact same trick – aren’t even remotely close to being the answer.

Anyway, Texas, it’s all that evolution crap you want to worry about.

The Conservatives do not have the answers.

August 11, 2010 3 comments

Transcript follows or click on the image for a larger version:

Nick Clegg

85 Nethergreen Road

Sheffield

S11 7EH

Dear Mr Keefe

I’m sure that you, like me, have found the last 13 years of Labour government bitterly disappointing. Since he promised to end ‘boom and bust’, Gordon Brown has led us into the worst financial crisis for 60 years.

On 6 May voters in Shefield Hallam have a choice between the Liberal Democrats, who have worked hard for this area, and the Conservatives. No other party can win here.

The Conservatives do not have the answers.

The Conservatives are out of touch with modern Britain and their plans for the economy will only make life more difficult for most people, and risk making the economic crisis worse.

This country has been failed by decades of Labour and Conservative government. Together they have failed to improve the country.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for a fairer Britain, one in which a £2.5 billion investment in schools ensures that children have greater opportunities to succeed. We believe in a fairer tax system in which nobody pays income tax on the first £10,000 they earn.

The Liberal Democrats continue to push for a fairer Britain.

We have called for reform of our political system, removing safe seats in Parliament, giving constituents the right to sack corrupt MPs and getting big money out of politics. We have policies that will bring about a prosperous, stable and green economy.

I consider it a privilege to represent Sheffield Hallam in Parliament, to support local campaigns and to help individual residents with their problems.

I want to continue to work hard for Sheffield Hallam and to make Britain better, but I can only do this with your support.

With best wishes,

Nick Clegg

PS – Remember, your vote is important. This General Election is your chance to deliver real change. With your support we will clean up politics, deliver fairness, and change Britain for good.

Letters

July 30, 2010 2 comments

[tweetmeme source=”MattKeefe” only_single=false]

Letter writing is one of the great undervalued literary forms. Letter writing probably contributes the outright majority of the world’s literary output – almost certainly so today, in the age of the email – but most people writing letters and emails are blissfully unaware of the fact they’re doing any such thing.

The value of letters is both intentional and incidental; they reveal as much about their times as any newspaper, and as much about their author as any diary. The letters of Mary Wortley-Montagu – published at her behest in her own lifetime – essentially introduced English society to what was then known as the Orient, and the Islamic empire of the Ottoman Turks; Anton Chekhov’s letters from his journey the length of Russia, from his home in Moscow to the prison colony on Sakhalin Island in the Far East, chronicled the realities of life in the Russian Empire – something which Chekhov himself subsequently spent much of his life struggling to change.

Many of our language’s great aphorisms come originally from written correspondence, such as Thomas Jefferson’s advice in a 1792 letter to George Washington that “delay is preferrable to error”, or Benjamin Franklin’s observation that “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy three years earlier. Sometimes it’s the repartee that goes down in history, as when George Bernard Shaw wrote to Winston Churchill ahead of the opening of his play Major Barbara: “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend – if you have one.” Churchill’s reply was that he could not make the first night, but would attend the second. If there was one.

All of which is why I think this blog – Letters of Note: Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience – is so interesting. It’s the kind of blog that really should be collected into a book, but probably won’t be. I recommend you have a look, and it’s updated daily, so check back often. Letters featured include Gandhi’s letter to an American follower, correcting him on the matter of Gandhi’s presumed hatred of the British, Philip K. Dick’s letter to the FBI, informing them that a series of burglaries at his home as well as several approaches by strange men were all part of a plan to enlist science fiction writers in a communist plot to start World War III, and a 14-year-old Slash’s letter to an ex-girlfriend after she dumped him for talking about his guitar too much.

Categories: Opinion