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Archive for March 2008

We’ll Pray For You

An 11-year-old girl died of a treatable disease because her parent refused to take her to the doctor. Instead, they prayed for her to be healed. The parents reportedly believe she died because they didn’t have enough faith to cure her diabetes. The mother hopes that the girl could still be resurrected.

If I suffer from a fatal illness, for the love of me, please get me some medical treatment! Feel free to pray if that makes you feel better. Dab sacred oil on my head while invoking the aid of ancient, Sumerian, storm gods if you think it will help. Dance your mind away around the spilled guts of a sacrificial chicken for all I care. Just please pause in your superstitious mutterings and circumambulations long enough to get me safely into a competent doctor’s care. Then carry on.

If I get better, then please first thank the doctors whose application of godless medical science saved my life. I certainly will. Then you can go back to your storm gods and chicken innards if you like. I’ll thank you for your love and compassion and for caring enough to seek medical treatment. Don’t expect me to feel grateful for your application of superstition which has no power to heal me, or to save the life of an innocent child who deserved to live.

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Warning: This video contains disturbing depictions of violence.

Geert Wilders, a Dutch politician, recently released Fitna, a film representing his views on the Islamization of Europe and its consequences for liberal democracy.

I object to the film’s conflation of Islam with extremism. There are many Muslims who do not follow the kind of Islam portrayed in this film.

Having said that, the film speaks the truth about the barbarity of humanity and its relationship to religion. Liberal Muslims face similar challenges to the Judeo-Christian West when we contemplate our past and its holy books. The Qur’an and the Bible are both farces of antiquated violence, reminders of how far civilization has come. There are beautiful pearls of wisdom in their verses, but they are buried in page after page of shit. This confusion of wisdom and madness makes it easy for bigots to cloak themselves in the robes of a priest, pastor, or imam. Religion is often the torch bearer for our brute past. Religion often makes this kind of hatred and bigotry look respectable and good.

Gone are the days when we can hold a live-and-let-live attitude regarding religious extremism. Everyone who values the freedoms that came out of the Enlightenment—such as freedom of religion, speech, and the printing press—must fight side-by-side to give birth to a better world where humanity has left behind its violent past. We cannot, however, win this fight by reverting to violence ourselves, but must be willing to disrespect violent religious beliefs while preserving the right to hold those beliefs. We must be willing to break the social taboo against openly criticizing another’s religious beliefs. We must start a verbal war against those who would take our freedoms from us. Christians, Jews, Muslims, non-believers, humans of all stripes must find common cause against fundamentalist religion which clings so tightly to our violent past.

Update: Fitna was taken down for a few days due to death threats received by Some Muslims out there are doing a good job persuading me that Islam in fact is a religion of violence. Accuse Islam of being a religion of violence and get threatened with violence. Ironic, n’est-ce pas?

30/3/2008: Liveleak Update **

On the 28th of March was left with no other choice but to remove the film “fitna” from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don’t consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted. (emphasis added)

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FBI Rickrolling

Bruce Schneier pointed me to a scary development: the FBI can now get a warrant and confiscate your computer equipment indefinitely because you clicked on a link (or someone sent you an email with an illegal embedded image, or embedded an illegal image on a website you innocently visited, or your web browser pre-fetched the image, or someone uses your open wireless connection to access the image, etc.) all with court approval.

As one commenter on Schneier’s blog pointed out, the FBI has basically stooped to entrapment through Rickrolling.

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From the Mouths of Iraqis

Do we Americans want to take responsibility for what we have wrought in Iraq?

Intelligent, educated Iraqis are saying—based on a sound understanding of the situation in Iraq and the history of American dealings there—that America should get out of Iraq before we do any more damage.

The Americans in Iraq are like a virus, like a disease, and for us, we need to get rid of the Americans because the Americans just don’t know what they’re doing. Everything they do—probably even in good intentions—is bad for us. Everything they do, everything. There is nothing they are doing [that] is right.

They also don’t think the war ever about spreading democracy.

This amnesia [on the part of Americans about recent history] that I’m talking about. How would a people who’ve been oppressed for thirty-five years by a dictator that was supported by the United States, in a region where the United States supports dictators, how would they accept that America would come to spread democracy? Yes, some of them did.… But looking around… if the United States were interested in democracy, it would maybe topple Saudi Arabia. Why go to Iraq?

Contrast this with the constant drum beats of “the surge is working” that passes for most American journalism. Can we accept the idea that we broke Iraq and that we perhaps cannot fix it even with an extended occupation? Or would that be too much of a blow to our American exceptionalist ego?

Glenn Greenwald says of this interview:

The significance of the interview lies as much in what it says about the American occupation of Iraq as it what it illustrates about the American media. In the American media’s discussions of Iraq, when are the perspectives expressed here about our ongoing occupation—views extremely common among Iraqis of all types and grounded in clear, indisputable facts—ever heard by the average American news consumer? The answer is: “virtually never.”

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Slug Sex

Strangely poetic and beautiful is leopard slug sex—if you can get beyond any squicks concerning the fact that it is a homosexual/hermaphroditic act.


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