the minor premise

the minor premise

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Open note to Senator Durbin

I've been in the habit of using email connect systems to keep my legislators posted on how I think they should proceed on certain issues, and am on a couple of alert networks for issues I think especially important. A few days ago, after the Child Custody Protection Act was passed, (to my Senators: thank you, gentlemen!) I was alerted that Democratic leaders were still trying to stonewall the bill. I used the connect system of the organization that notified me to fire off a quick form email to Senators Richard Durbin and Harry Reid. This afternoon I received the following email from Durbin:

July 27, 2006

Dear Mr.______

Thank you for contacting me about the Child Custody Protection Act (S.
403). I appreciate knowing your concerns about this legislation.

This bill would establish penalties for transporting an individual under
the age of 18 across a state line to obtain an abortion. The proposed law
would apply to minors who live in states that require parental involvement in the minor's abortion decision.

There are limited exceptions to this proposal. The minor and the person
transporting the minor are not liable if the abortion is necessary to save
the life of the minor, or if the person transporting the minor is the
parent of the minor or reasonably believes that parental notification or
judicial authorization was provided prior to the abortion.

I am concerned that this bill would punish a grandmother or a young friend who is only trying to assist a young woman in a difficult situation. No federal law can create trust and communication between parents and
children where none exists. This bill would create additional
complications for young women involved in extremely difficult family

I will continue to keep your thoughts about this legislation in mind as it
is considered in the Senate over the coming months. Again, thank you for
your message. Please feel free to keep in touch.


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator


I fired off a response on the spot. As a general rule I'd recommend a cooling-off period, but I don't always follow good advice. If I had, I think I might have been a little clearer, and dealt with his claims point-by-point instead of barrelling through, but here it is:

Precisely what constitutes 'reasonable belief' of parental notification?
If parents are to be able to care properly for their children, they cannot have the government undermining them behind their backs. What if your 'grandmother or young friend' transports the girl to a clinic where she has serious complications and dies or is damaged for life? How would you explain this to the parents then?

I am the mother of two daughters, sir. If one of my girls got pregnant while a minor and any relative or 'young friend' were to transport her across state lines for an abortion, I would be livid when I found out-- not at her, but at the person who interposed him or herself between us in her time of need. How do you propose to protect underage girls from exploitation by abusive adults with an imperative to cover up their dirty work?

If I had a mulligan, it probably wouldn't have been a bad idea to point out that if a 'grandmother or young friend,' or any other adult who is not an underage girl's legal guardian were to take that girl across state lines for any reason other than an abortion (be it a tattoo, a tryst, a picnic at the beach, or charity work) without express parental consent, that would constitute an abduction. The parents would be well within their rights to press charges if they so chose, and in the case of injury to the minor the penalty could be considerable. Whether or not that minor has a great relationship with her parents would be irrelevant.

Another point that I probably ought to have made was the old 'hard cases make bad law.' Granting carte blanche to anyone who wishes to take a teenage girl to another state for an abortion just because there are a handful of abusive parents out there is irresponsible and violates the integrity of the majority of families who are not disfunctional. Besides, a judicial bypass option is always available. In a case of genuine abuse, the state ought to be involved anyway, and if it is not already involved with the family when a pregnant teenager comes to them for an abortion bypass, it had better get there.

Now, I wonder if I'll get a response?


Changes in latitude, no change in attitude.

For some time now I have had a Mike Keefe (Denver Post, 2002) cartoon magneted to my refrigerator. The center of the drawing is dominated by a bare earth mound, around which all the action takes place. The lower right corner depicts an Israeli tank commander firing at a fleeing Arab boy. Running around the mound's left side is an Israeli woman carrying a child. She is fleeing an explosives-belted, checkered-kaffiyeh'd Palestinian terrorist in hot pursuit. Assorted bodies, unidentifiable as to ethnicity, are scattered around. The only object anywhere on the mound is a sign at the top, reading "Moral High Ground." The cartoon itself is titled Unoccupied Territory.

I was not greatly surprised, therefore, when the Levant finally went up in flames last week; as I had other things to do and had nothing new to say about the situation, I had pretty much decided to leave the matter alone. That is not to say that I have no opinions. The cartoon I described above, I think, outlines them rather well.

Visiting the blog Rantings of a Sandmonkey yesterday, I read with no little sense of irony the following composition by an Israeli blogger:

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

Israel: Cut it out!

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

Israel: I'm serious, cut it out!

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

[Israel slaps Hezballah]

Hezballah to Lebanon: Mom! He hit me!

Lebanon: Stop whining. I have other things to deal with.

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

[Israel slaps Hezballah again]

Hezballah: You wanna piece of me? Come and get it.

Stop that fighting back there! Hezballah, try to stop poking, OK?
You're bothering your mum. And you, Israel, keep your hands to yourself.

Israel: Yes, dad.

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

[Israel slaps Hezballah again]

Hezballah: Mom! He hit me again!

Lebanon [distracted]: mm hmm

Hezballah: poke-poke-poke

[Israel punches Hezballah in the face, drawing blood]

Hezballah, touching his nose and then staring at the blood: Oh Sh*t! What did you do that for?

Funny? well, in a grim, outsider-standing-on-the-sidelines-headshaking-at-the-sheer-idiocy, EMT-at-the-wreck-site, survivor-of-the-disaster sort of way, it is. Or, as Jimmy Buffett sang it on my car radio this morning, "If we didn't laugh, we would all go insane."

Not that every reader saw it thus. One commenter (presumably Middle Eastern) responded:

i guess this story, to better describe the reality , should include raping the mother and mutilation of some brothers of this nasty child as a just retaliation to his acts.

and then with the aid of two or three others proceeded to flay the author, Sandmonkey, and anyone else who wasn't outraged by the piece. I refrained from commenting as the box was getting crowded and I had little expectation of persuading anyone to think. I did reflect that, as Hezbollah's modus operandi has included occasional small-team raids to randomly murder Israeli civilians, following the commenter's logical line of reasoning would require changing some of Hezbollah's annoying poking to lunges with a switchblade. (Picture that in the back seat of your car, Moms and Dads!)

Personally, I have no interest in arguments about whose land is whose; even if you assume everything surrounding the Med from Cracow to Madrid belongs to you, killing an unarmed squatter on your property is still murder. As far as I am concerned--and I think history will back me up on this--Jews and Arabs all came from the same general area, and if they can't stand living with each other then they had darn well better come up with a plan for fair and amicable division of the property. Bloodying each other for generations over a stupid strip of desert and then demanding that the rest of us take your side--or else--is beneath loathsome.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

From the News

I thought this was a really cool archeological find:
Ancient Book in Bog
But I feel kinda sorry for the poor medieval monk who dropped his psalm book in the bog to begin with!

This cartoon just about sums up for me the situation in the Levant right now. That and it seems to me the cartoonist managed to put a hint of Picasso's Guernica into the image, which is pretty impressive in a cartoon.


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Shaw on Islam, part III: Genuine?

You may remember that we discussed the alleged G.B. Shaw quotes on Islam coming from a publication called The Genuine Islam .

"If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe, within the next hundred years, it could be Islam." He also said, "I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitaltity. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess the assimilating capacity to changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age." (Shaw, The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936).

You may also remember that, aside from that one quotes, we could not find a trace of a publication by that name ever existing. I was lucky enough to gain access to Brill's Index Islamicus in my search for the mystery periodical from Singapore. The Index Islamicus purports to index publications Islam from 1909 until the present. I could not find no reference to George Bernard
Shaw ever writing a work on Islam from 1909 forward. I could not find any reference at all to a work by any author or any publishing house entitled The Genuine Islam . I did find what appeared to be an annual publication produced in Germany, entitled simply Islam . In 1936, it was at number 23; no volume number was used. Also, George Bernard Shaw never wrote an article for the publication. While proving a negative is always more difficult, I must conclude that the quote and the periodical never existed.

While I have exhausted the resources available to me (and then some), perhaps you have a way of verifying the quotes and the existence of the periodical. If you are able, please let me know how long The Genuine Islam was in publication. When did it begin? When did it end? Are there any surviving copies? Was it published exclusively in Singapore? Did G.B Shaw actually write the quotes in another work? If so, what was the work and when was it
published? I would really like to know.


Update 1/09: There is additional information on this question! Go here or to the full thread at the bottom of this post.


Morning Scripture Study

I have been reading Neferteeti fairly regularly for updates on the Egyptian Christian Copt minority and some pretty good amateur apologetics. As the author has both Muslim and Christian readers the combox can get pretty heated. Things got rather rough in the box for her latest post and were already in decline when one commenter decided to declare another a catamite (if the term isn't familiar, look it up; I'm not going to explain it here) and debate got bogged down in whether or not Mohamed was a pedophile. The aforementioned commenter produced verses from Numbers 31 as evidence that, whatever Mohamed may have been, the ancient Hebrews were much, much worse: he asserted, in fact, that these particular verses pointed to the sexual abuse of female battle captives as young as three years old. (Boy, the stuff one misses in the Bible when one reads without a gutter mindset!)

Well, that's not the sort of thing one just lets go, so of course I had to put my oar in. I have reprinted my comment below as combox comments tend to get overlooked, I spent half the morning looking up references when I had real work to do and feel like I ought to do something with the research, and I figure I might save someone else a step or two if the matter comes up again in discussion. I am not, I point out, a theologian , Bible scholar or historian, and I am going pretty much entirely off the Bible here and no other data on the history of the period, so I caution against stretching this info to cover matters which it was never meant to cover.

The comment:

I must say, it never occurred to me that the ancient Hebrews might be in the business of debauching 3-year-old girls. Of course, as even among many ancient cultures the sexual abuse of prepubescent girls seems to have been regarded as somewhat outre, I can't imagine why that image would have come to mind unless either the behavior were plainly described as such in the Biblical texts or I had a bit of an unhealthy fascination with the subject.

Although I am no Bible scholar, I am not entirely unfamiliar with Mosaic Law. It had always been my impression that the Law of Moses placed some of the strictest limitations on sexual excess of its time (cf. Lev. 20, 9-21.) It was also progressive for its day in that it gave a modicum of rights to women, Hebrew slaves, and even non-Hebrew slaves and battle captives. Refer, please, to:
Lev. 19: 20-22 which declares the sexual abuse of a married female slave a sin requiring atonement;
Deut. 21: 10-14, which gives non-Hebrew female battle captives a period of mourning before they can be taken advantage of by their captors and moreover grants them a degree of status as legal wives (with the rights inherent therein) of their captors;
Deut. 22: 25ff. which offers some recourse against rape to women;
Deut. 23:16-18 which offer some protection to runaway slaves and prohibit the practice of temple harlotry;
Deut. 24: 14 which prohibits the defrauding of any slave, Hebrew or non-Hebrew and 17ff which defend the rights of orphans.
Thus even a female battle captive taken as a slave could claim some basic human rights.

While no reference to age is made and the terms 'women' and 'girls' tend to get used interchangeably ('girl' probably being applied specifically to a young woman who is a virgin) there is certainly nothing to indicate that prepubescent children were considered sexually exploitable under the law. References to children are pretty consistent in the Pentatecuch: children are not to be sacrificed to Molech (Lev. 20: 3-5--common practice among the Hebrews' near neighbors,) and orphans (i.e. children who do not have a parent to protect them) are not to be abused. Period. (Deut. 24: 17 and 28: 19.)

Now, a little context for Numbers 31: 13ff. If you go back to Num. 25, you will find the roots of the conflict. The Moabites and Midianites worshipped a fertility god called Baal. Some of their rites probably included full-scale bacchanals, and some Hebrew men, allowing their brains to be ruled by their gonads, got caught up in these rites to the point at which they posed a threat to their culture. Moses raised an army to clean out that hornet's nest once and for all, and that army killed all adult males but kept "the women of the Midianites with their little ones (note the distinction) as captives." Moses was enraged by this because, of course, the Midianite women were the cause of all the trouble to begin with, and ordered the slaughter of all male children (not nice, I know; but he probably saw them as a future fighting force against him) and all females who were not virgins (i.e. any female who was old enough to have participated in those fertility rituals--I will not speculate as to what constituted Midianite sexual maturity.) He then ordered that the remaining females be distributed as chattel with the rest of the booty from the battle. There is nothing in the account that would remotely suggest that girls as young as 3--or of any age, were then summarily ravished by their captors, and much in Mosaic Law that would indicate that this would not have been tolerated. [Note that although the Lord frequently speaks to Moses and instructs him on how to proceed throughout this chapter, in this case the order is cast as coming directly from Moses. It is not presented as any sort of divine injunction. Moreover, it is clear that Moses is uncomfortable with the idea of slaughtering noncombatants, as he also orders a period of ritual purification for the participants--with the idea, presumably, of staving off the wrath of God.]

I have used the New American Translation of the Bible as a resource for this. The helps section in the supplementary material notes that this translation is made from the original language sources with an effort to clarify obscure readings. The editorial staff consists of many Biblical and language scholars who are, I suspect, not in the business of bowdlerization and would be scandalized at the thought of doing so.

That's it. And now, I have veggies to pick, dishes to wash, dogs and children to feed, laundry to fold, and a small load of wood flooring to purchase before my quarter-bucket of adhesive dries out to unusability.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Thursday the Rabbi Encountered a Fearsome Mob of Livid Lactivists*

...In which we return to lactation, a smattering of theology, and what the Rabbi coulda been thinking.

[For clarification of what this post is about, please refer to my previous post, Mammary Memories.]

*I realize the above title isn't nearly as snappy as were the titles of the Rabbi Small mysteries popular in the 1970's (e.g. Monday the Rabbi Saw Red, Wednesday the Rabbi Got Wet.) But I couldn't help myself. Mea culpa.

Being cable/dish nonsubscribers by choice (some would have it, by Luddite Yours Truly's fiat) I was completely unaware of Shalom in the Home and Rabbi Shumley prior to the email that launched Part I of the Minor Premise Lactation Series. So I have to rely on my sister-in-law's judgement regarding the show and the Rabbi's motivation.

Sis's response to me indicated she wasn't buying my suggestion that the Rabbi might for religious reasons be endorsing procreation over extended lactation, and I must admit that's a bit of a stretch.

In Sis's humble opinion, the Rabbi's intent is to save marriage, which is strained enough in our culture as it is and which he believes comes under additional strain from the (perfectly normal) temporary decline in frequency of marital relations that
generally follows the birth of an infant. I'm astounded, however, at the lengths to which he is willing to take it. His heavy-handed defense of marital relations almost as an end in themselves literally throws the baby out with the bathwater (pun intended--mea maxima culpa.) It is as if nothing else matters if Papa ain't happy, and Papa ain't happy unless he's being serviced.

First, a little biology:
Lactation in the human confers with it (at least, until we start to meddle with artificial feeding, pacifiers, and schedules) a period of natural infertility (a.k.a. lactation amenorrhea.) It usually runs at least six months (if you don't mess with Mother Nature) and often lasts longer, in some cases until total weaning. This fills two needs: it ensures adequate care and nutrition for the infant and it gives the mother some recovery time. (Repeat after me, as often as necessary to soak it into the gray matter: God knows what he's doing!) And yes, estrogen suppression and the release of oxytocin and prolactin during lactation do tend to have the effect of suppressing the female libido. Lest this seem to be all disdvantage, realize that these hormones are also powerful mellowers and enhance the mood of the lactating woman.

Next, a little reality:
As I pointed out in my previous post, it's not just breastfeeding that puts strain on a couple--it's adjusting to the squalling, messy, perpetually hungry, totally dependent little being with no proper sense of time that the two of them have engendered Getting up at midnight to feed a baby is tiring, and can disrupt the lovelife. Spending fifteen extra minutes at midnight fixing a bottle is even more tiring and disruptive. Total up the extra time spent in a baby's first year juggling bottle paraphernalia, preparing feeds that otherwise would be at the ready, washing laundry with more severe stains that don't want to come out, and perhaps treating additional illness and rashes, factor in exhaustion from all the extra work and drain to the household economy, and you can easily introduce more stressors than you've eliminated.

Then, a little amateur psychology:
In his column the Rabbi cited a case in which a couple's marriage was foundering, we were told, due to the lack of relations between them. (Sorry, can't find the quote--see Note 1 below.) The mother was nursing an 11-month-old and, according to his assessment of the situation, was inseparable from the child. It seems to me that an astute counselor would know better than to jump on the mother's breastfeeding as the culprit in the relationship's decline (although it may have served as a handy excuse for the wife's neglect of her husband.) The average 11-month old is seldom so excessively mother-dependent for one thing, so good counseling would dictate looking for additional factors in the marriage for this behavior. (Some babies are high-need: I raised one; I know. Still, by this age they tend not to need or want to be hanging on their mothers 24-7.) Pressure to wean abruptly in this case would likely have been traumatic for the baby, produced resentment in the wife, and allowed any other problems affecting the couple to fester and multiply. I doubt it would have solved the husband's loss of consort problem.

The Rabbi strikes me as squeamish to a fault about the perfectly natural process of lactation:
One is the de-eroticization of a woman’s body, as in her husbands eyes one of the most attractive parts of her body becomes, in effect, a cafeteria...
Here we have a wife employing her body in a perfectly natural and commendable way, and a husband with an overactive gross-out factor. So we propose suspending the normal and commendable in order that he can persist in his puerile view of sexuality? I suppose we also need to provide him with a divided dish at meals so the peas don't touch the potatoes!

Personally, (thank goodness) I haven't had to deal with a male who is this squeamish about breastfeeding; in fact I believe that most men, especially if they are educated about the benefits of breastfeeding, are real enthusiasts. But, we do live in a culture that has tended in recent generations to be a bit schizo about the nurturing and sexual aspects of breasts and I grant that such men probably do exist. What to do?

I have had people in my acquaintance who have had to deal with excessive reactions of various kinds--some could not cope with blood, others with spiders, still others with heights. Those who have dealt with their reactions effectively have generally instituted a plan of incremental exposure along with relaxation exercises. (Actually, the acquaintance with the heights problem just went bungee-jumping, but that was an unusual case.) Thus I propose that any man for whom the thought of his wife nursing conjures up images not of a placid Earth Mother or contemplative Madonna but of a Horn and Hardart's should (1) Acknowledge he has a problem, (2) Educate himself about breastfeeding, (3) Practice incremental exposure to lactation, with physiologic breathing or meditation if need be, (4) Work on those Earth Mother visualizations, and (5) Be really, really nice to his wife. (5) actually doesn't have anything to do with his problem, but it does increase the likelihood that his wife will be nice back so that maybe he won't see breastfeeding as such a big deal. Not to suggest the Rabbi is projecting or anything, by the way, but perhaps it would do him some good to practice the above techniques himself,

Fnially, a little lactation theology:
On certain points, Jewish and Christian theology run fairly parallel:
[Disclaimer: I am NO theologian. If my amateur attempt runs a bit more to The Cotton Patch Gospel than to Evangelium Vitae, I beg your indulgence. I'm doing my best.]
1. God don't make junk.
2. If God made it, you would be wise to respect it.
(I'm not sure, but I think this is more or less what you'd call Natural Law!)
This applies in all sorts of ways--the prohibition on tattoos and such in Judaism, for example; that on artifical contraception in Catholicism and most of Christianity before the last century. One would think it would apply to the natural phenomenon that has enabeled humanity to survive and thrive as well. (Did the Rabbi give any thought to the fact that, only a few generations ago, any couple following his advice would have been far less likely to produce any surviving children?)

The Christian perspective of marriage is that it is unitive (biologists call this pair bonding) as well as procreative. Neither of those two aspects can exist independently. While the possibility of creating new life should not be eschewed, neither should be that bonding. (Bear with me, I know it sounds like I'm about to go off down the Rabbi's primrose path.) Nor should procreation or bonding trump other marital virtues, such as the raising of children and the sacrifice of one's own wants and needs. Self-sacrifice is, after all, one of those learning experiences in marriage that leads not only to better parenting but also to better partnering. In giving up first claim to his wife, a father not only promotes the health of his child, he grows as a husband. In appreciating his willingness to do so and striving to accomodate his needs willingly whenever she can, a mother grows as a wife. Quality marital relations do not depend on quantity marital relations. Mutual desire to please and connect with each other counts far more than the number of encounters per week or month.

Note 1: I have been having difficulty locating the original text or Rabbi Boteach's column at the address given in Mammary Memories If I find a new link I will add it or the full text here later.

Note 2: After writing up my two bits' worth above, I was interested to find this quote:

Marriage should be put before the children. Children will outgrow your love someday. They'll move out and find the love of a stranger. You'll want them to have the memory that love is real because they saw it at home, and to believe they'll find a soul mate instead of dating aimlessly, like we see so much of now.

I found it here but I think it originated in a promotional statement for Boteach's TLC program. It certainly clears up for me where the Rabbi is coming from. It changes my views not one whit, however. While it's good for children to know their parents love each other, it's more important for them to develop an ability to trust at an early age. This happens when their needs are met, consistently, by the people who care for them. A baby who knows his needs will be met grows into a child who doesn't have to be whining constantly about every little thing, because he knows his needs will be met. That child grows into an adult who can postpone gratification to meet the needs of others because that behavior has been modeled for him from birth. Meddle with the sequence at your own peril!

Harvest: Second bloom of eggplants. Found some brijndal recipes at Ashbury's Aubergines.
Yard Eco: Lots of house finches at feeders. Quite a few juvenile cardinals as well. Anoles out often (especially under the spigot, until it rained;) toads have been a bit more reticent, presumably because of the dry spell. Spiders have been coming out of the woodwork recently; a number of species I'm not familiar with as well as my nomination for prettiest darn spider in North America, the Crablike Spiny Orb Weaver. Black and yellow Argiopes were out in force down at the swamp last week, and the preponderance of the evidence on the boardwalk indicated that the gray foxes have been munching out on berries.
Knitting: Finally finished that darn (of course pun intended) trekking sock. Miraculously, it even fit. Let the Second Sock Syndrome commence!

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

--attr. Dallan Forgaill, 8th C; trans. Mary E. Byrne, 1905; versed Eleanor H. Hull, 1912. Melody: Slane


Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Quick Note

There has not been much time for blogging, as I have been laying a wood floor. Rabbi Boteach's opinion piece on breastfeeding has led to some interesting e-mail discussions with my sister-in-law, with some biochemical input from my brother-in-law. I am thinking of posting on these conversations as soon as I get some time. The discussion contains some insights on the history and ramifications of artificial infant feeding, and answers at least one question that was raised in theIf Breast is Best post recently on Jimmy Akin's Blog.

In the meantime:
Harvest: Tomatoes tapering off considerably (thank goodness!) Still getting cukes, most of which have fortunately been at least partly edible. Have been picking most of them small and pickling in small batches. No lack of cayenne peppers. Bell peppers coming along nicely, if small; picking about 1-2/day.
Weather: Hot and sticky, rain sporadic in isolated cells. Was relieved Friday morning before launching into some outdoor work that it was a balmy 90F and not overly humid. Of course, by late morning it was a different story.
Yard Ecology: Hummers regularly at feeders. Need to refill front yard feeder already. Have been getting some house finches back at feeders again. Noted two males in good health 7/13. Have not seen evidence of conjunctivitis in any birds recently. Observed juvenile Carolina Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse in backyard yesterday; thrashers in neighbors' yard may be nesting again. I haven't seen much of them, but they're noisy enough. Mini-squirrels bigger, more agile. Have added a squirrel feeder which is very popular.
Knitting: Broken through glut. Still have a baby gift to finish, but a nice set of 5 preemie caps done in conjunction with the honorable daughters is ready to go to the knit shop, which delivers them to the local NICU. They had a series of classes on making the hats and consequently have quite a pile in a variety of styles and colors. The preemies will be very stylish! My trekking sock is on the back burner. Second sock syndrome is not a problem, as I have yet to finish the first one. Have almost finished a felted tubular bag, though.
Reading: Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder by John E. Miller. Another find from the library's new book shelf. Having been a fan of Wilder's books as a girl, I am enjoying reading about the history behind them. Though Miller can be a bit redundant in spots, his biographical material is well-researched and related in a generally engaging manner.


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Perfidy and Revisionism

Two fine 4th of July thoughts by people who wish our country and our government ill:

That this woman taught college is truly chilling!
[I quote:]

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
Death, desolation, tyranny, cruelty. Check,check, check and check. I don't know what perfidy is but I bet yours is unparalleled and unworthy. It's like deja vu out the wazoo, man. And that's BEFORE the whole King George/George Dubya thing gets going.

[end quote. My dear professor, have you ever heard of a dictionary? They are making some lovely computer software packages so that you don't have to undergo the stress of touching an old-fashioned book. It means treachery, disloyalty. You should be familiar with it.]

The full screed can be read here

Hat tip to Michelle Malkinand Power Line.

BTW, The author no longer teaches at a University because of her threats against a blogger of an opposite political persuasion. Perhaps a dictionary is the least of her shortcomings.

While the next fine individual deplores the founding of the United States, he contradicts himself almost in the same breath.
[I quote:]
They believed that it was wrong to tax colonists who did not have representation in the legislature, but the tax, not the lack of representation, was the grievance. ....
John Steinbeck noted that the American Revolution was different from that of France's or Russia's because the so-called revolutionaries "did not want a new form of government; they wanted the same kind, only run by themselves."

[End Quote. Contrary to the first statement, the second is correct; the founding fathers wanted a say proportional to their population in parliament. They believed that a parliament so constructed would not have arrived at the same taxes for the colonies. The founding fathers wanted a parliamentary democracy, a representative democracy. If that could not be provided in London, then it would have to be provided in the colonies themselves.]

Read the whole unfortunate piece here

Note that neither of these fine authors offers a replacement for our current form of government, and one shudders to thinkwhat tyranny would fill the vacuum that their desires would create.



Saturday, July 08, 2006

Shaw on Islam? Part II: Can I Get a Witness?

In my previous 'Shaw on Islam' post, I reviewed my attempts to document two quotes seemingly endorsing Islam attributed to George Bernard Shaw.
As I noted there, I found few references to them except for a number of Islamic sites and only the sketchiest references. [D tried tracking down the cited source, The Genuine Islam, and could find nothing conclusive. He will hopefully supply a report later.] I am thus left at 'maybe he did, maybe he didn't' and as yet have no answer to the first of the two questions I mentioned.
As per the title of this post, I'd love to find a definitive answer to the question of whether there is published documentation of the quotes. If anyone can direct me to something more conclusive than what we've got already, please make free!

My second question, I distilled to 'What was the writer thinking?' Obviously I can't pretend to know exactly what was on his mind when he chose to bring up the quotes. But I can surmise that his intent was to lend support to his faith and make it appealing to others by pointing out a great Western scholar who appears, after thorough study, to have endorsed it. In this post, I will attempt to explain why I don't consider him successful from an academic or common sense standpoint. Whether he was successful in terms of increasing esteem for Islam among the readership of the newspaper, I can't say. I suspect the reaction of a good percentage was "Y'mean that CNN feller?"

The most basic failing of this method of evangelism is, of course, the lack of documentation. As one who once had to track down a copy of Mythlore years before the Internet and the current Tolkien craze put that publication on the map, I can empathize with the difficulty posed by obscure primary sources. But you can't just pull quotes out of thin air. The recent media scandals revolving around plagiarism, faulty sourcing, and fiction presented as fact ought to have made that clear. Unless a quote is so widely known that there is no question as to its source (and perhaps even then--there is no shortage of misquotes and false attributions out there,) it's prudent to verify the primary source first. In this case we have citations that have apparently been kicked around from website to website--but nobody's bothered to check the primary source and some don't even seem to be certain what sort of publication it is. It is somewhat reminiscent of the persistent rumor launched by Lady Hope of Darwin's deathbed recant of his theory. (Boller, Paul F. and John George, They Never Said It. Barnes & Noble, 1989.)

Even if we presume authenticity of the quotes, however, it would be wise to consider their originator before running with them. First of all though Shaw may have been a great scholar, he was by no means infallible. His list of widely known 'endorsements' included, for a time at least, the major fascist movements of his day. Second, one of Shaw's claims to fame was his gift as a satirist. A quote that appeared in a few of the directories I researched was, "Americans adore me and will go on adoring me until I say something nice about them." Indeed, when Shaw praised you, it was a good idea to brace for the backhand. Some of his 'endorsements' had a double edge. Note that the first quote says nothing of the moral superiority of Islam (which, for a religion, is really the only thing that matters.) It merely praises the capacity of Islam to dominate. The second quote, again, praises the religion's 'vitality' and 'assimilating capacity'--not its theological soundness or purity of spirit. Faint praise, from a religious standpoint. Moreover, it's not the sort of remark likely to predispose the intended subjects of that 'assimilating capacity' to welcome it with enthusiasm.

Finally, Shaw's relentless consistency makes him a dangerous choice for Celebrity Spokesman. His good friend, G.K. Chesterton, described him thus:
The thing which weak-minded revolutionists and weak-minded Conservatives really hate (and fear) in [Shaw], is exactly this, that his scales, such as they are, are held even, and that his law, such as it is, is justly enforced. . . If he dislikes lawlessness, he dislikes the lawlessness of Socialists as much as that of Individualists. If he dislikes the fever of patriotism, he dislikes it in Boers and Irishmen as well as in Englishmen. If he dislikes the vows and bonds of marriage, he dislikes still more the fiercer bonds and wilder vows that are made by lawless love. If he laughs at the authority of priests, he laughs louder at the pomposity of men of science. If he condemns the irresponsibility of faith, he condemns with a sane consistency the irresponsibility of art. He has pleased all the bohemians by saying that women are equal to men; but he has infuriated them by suggesting that men are equal to women. He is almost mechanically just; he has something of the terrible quality of the machine.(Chesterton, Heretics, ch. IV. Many thanks to Enbrethiliel of Sancta Sanctis, who graciously supplied the quote despite my quibbles over her Quizilla quiz! The entire chapter is reproduced online here.) One can imagine Shaw enthusing over a pet philosophy like Tom Cruise over Scientology, but the difference is that Shaw was also capable of demolishing the weaknesses in that philosophy with scathing criticism. And when those weaknesses were brought to his attention, he was known to do so.

Interestingly enough, while I was trolling for verification of the original quotes, another reputed (but unfortunately unsourced) quote by Shaw came up on several (mostly Islamic, but also one Hindu) sites. It was, "Islam is the best religion with the worst followers."

From today's readings:
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:9 NAB

Update 1/09: Go here for the latest update or click the full thread below.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Shaw on Islam? Part I: C Loves a Mystery

One of our local papers' letters columns has its share of regulars and irregulars. One of the latter generally takes the position of Islamic apologist. In a recent letter, among the usual pleasantries about 'People of the Book' and plaudits for the mercy of Saladin and tolerance of Caliph Omar, he tossed off some quotes that I found rather intriguing:

I like to quote George Bernard Shaw, the great scholar and philosopher: "If any religion had the chance of ruling over England, nay Europe, within the next hundred years, it could be Islam." He also said, "I have always held the religion of Muhammad in high estimation because of its wonderful vitaltity. It is the only religion which appears to me to possess the assimilating capacity to changing phase of existence, which can make itself appeal to every age." (Shaw, The Genuine Islam, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936). This great scholar was well-read, and wrote these words after doing thorough research. There are other great Western scholars who also have come to the same conclusion. [C's note: He does not, however, mention any of them by name.]
[Source: The Augusta Chronicle, Sunday, June 25, 2006. A copy of the text accessible without registration is listed below. The original is available with registry via the newspaper's archive.]

Now I've read a little Shaw (plays, mostly,) and D a bit more than I, but we're by no means Shavian scholars. Still, some things about those quotes (and their context) struck us as odd. Not having read every single word Shaw ever wrote, I'd be a fool to deny the statements are his. In fact, based on what I do know of the man's life and views, I think it's plausible they are. (That fact does not increase my confidence in his judgement, his scholarship notwithstanding.) Nonetheless, two things about the quotes perturbed me:

(1) What documentation is there for Shaw having made these remarks, and why have I never before heard of them? (After all, for a Bio major I did spend entirely too much of my college years in English lit classes. You'd think it would have come up at some point.)

(2) What in Heaven's name was the letter writer thinking? (This one will have to be a separate post, else I will go way too long.)

Now, taking on Question (1.)

Curious about the quotes and their original context, I went a-huntin'. Our 1971 Britannica had a lot to say on Shaw's philosophical and political views, but was blithely unaware of his status as a prominent Islamophile. Ditto Wikipedia. My old Norton's Anthology of English Literature included the text of Mrs. Warren's Profession and a few pages of mostly literary commentary, but nothing on Islam. Online, in addition to Wikipedia, I set off on the usual searches: Shaw websites, Shaw on Islam, Shaw quotes, and the quote itself word-for-word. I also searched for the cited resource The Genuine Islam. My findings follow:

A search of quote directories for the quotes or anything similar turned up nothing. Not that there aren't plenty of them out there, and not that they didn't have reams of Shavian material, mind you. The above quotes were just not included in any collections I searched. Likewise, none of the Shaw biographical sites mentioned his proposed affinity. If Shaw was a fan of Islam, that fact is so obscure that references are scanty indeed.

A search on Shaw on Islam got me a little bit further, and one on the quotes themselves went far to clearing out the enormous quantities of flotsam and jetsam normally dredged up in a Net search. I found many sites dedicated to Islamic apologetics that either cited the quotes themselves or some other reference to Shaw's enthusiasm for Islam. I was only able to locate such references on a few non-Muslim sites. The first quote was posted by a commenter in a thread on the decline of Europe on, and on an atheists' forum, in which it was brought up in a 'Hey, anybody know anything about this?' context. (Nobody did, but quite a bit of speculation followed regarding Shaw's admiration for Mussolini and fascism at about the same time.)[I have since lost track of the url for this site.]

A search for the source The Genuine Islam left me genuinely mystified. Is it a book by Shaw? [An essayist on one Islamic site I visited indicated that it was.] A periodical? Was it actually published in 1936, or did it merely cite quotes supposedly made in that year? It wasn't listed on Wikipedia, or anywhere else that I noticed, among his works. I could possibly find something in an exhaustive search of research library catalogs (or possibly archives of Books in Print or Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature, but my initial findings were not encouraging. I trawled through and the Library of Congress' public use site and turned up nothing comparable; a search engine turned up plenty of pages with the words 'genuine' and 'Islam' on them, but no single title of that name except for one of those Islamic apologetics sites.
Thus the results of my meanderings over the 'Net left me with two possible conclusions:

(1) The quotes were made up out of whole cloth by someone other than Shaw (presumably an Islamic apologist who saw some benefit in the perceived admiration of a notable non-Muslim intellectual.) They have since been tossed around on a handful of like-minded websites and occasionally crop up as rumors elsewhere, but haven't gotten very far because they are obscure and not credible.

Although the odd semantics of the first quote and syntax of the second lend some support to this view, I'm still not convinced it is correct. I have yet to find (despite efforts,) the one thing that would put the quotes' credibility to rest for good: a definitive debunking by a reliable authority. Moreover (as I have mentioned already,) based on my very general knowledge of Shaw's ideas, I have no reason to doubt their authenticity. Still, the available data don't entirely assuage my doubts, either.

(2) The quotes (or at least, the sentiments behind them) are legitimate, but have been generally overlooked either because they are very obscure and comprise only an infinitesimal part of Shaw's extensive range of interests, or because they discomfited his biographers and editors to the extent that they avoided bringing them up. I'm inclined to think that the former possibility is more likely. Shaw was a busy man, who wrote much and said more, and whose interests encompassed a variety of philosophical viewpoints. A few cryptic remarks on a religion that most of his contemporaries considered at best an exotic curiosity and a worst part of a barbaric and degraded culture would be unlikely to attract much attention when he had so much to say on so many other matters. Moreover, though Shaw had a few characteristics in common with Islam (he avoided alcohol and pork--but also all other meat; he was mostly celibate prior to his marriage; he embraced 'benevolent' government control) he held many views in direct opposition--atheism, for example, and the view that traditional marriage stifled a woman's mental growth.

I doubt that deliberate obfuscation of the quotes took place precisely because of the points made above. Prior to the second half of the twentieth century, most Westerners did not see Islam as a threat, or as anything other than a curiosity. Shaw's biographers and editors would likely have taken any endorsements of Islam as merely another quirky idea of his and either mentioned them as an aside or ignored them as unimportant. At any rate, there is little doubt that Shaw did discomfit his colleagues with some of his other views; his atheism was certainly problematic for some, his Socialism for others, his professed admiration for Fascism for most. Yet the written record on these matters is lengthy.

This leaves me little closer to certainly on the 'did he say it' question than when I started out. I remain with no reason to doubt the quotes, but little evidence for them and less reason to assign them much significance. I am posting this in hopes that others will be able to point me to well-referenced, disinterested sources of information on Shaw's view of Islam, and I intend to post further information as I encounter it. I am hoping my community library has a good biography or Complete Works to get me started.

In Part II of this essay, which I hope will be mercifully brief, I will try to explore the second of my two original questions: Why bring up these quotes to promote Islam?

End Notes Were Just Easier:
Some Quotes:
The Quotations Page
Elise Bauer's Personal Page
World of Quotes
Notable Quotes
I also looked at several shorter directories not included here, none of which contained the quotes in question.

Some Shaw Biogs:
Bernard Shaw: A Brief Biography
Online Literature
Famous Irish Lives

Some Non-Islamic Sites that carry the quotes:
Think/Exist I did not find these quotes under the GBS section, but did find them in a section headed Islam. As this site is set up for submissions and anybody can submit a quote, the verifiability is still up for grabs as far as I'm concerned.
Reaction_to_Danish_Cartoons Again, a reader-submitted statement with no verification beyond that I have already given.
Augusta Chronicle Blogs Site--includes the text of the orig. letter

A few Islamic Sites that carry them:
What Non-Muslims Say
hikm: an attempt at wisdom [blog]

These quotes seem to be making the rounds of Islamic sites, and to list them all would take up too much space. Besides, in most cases I have seen the quotes are thrown in as comments with little explanation and no referencing besides that already given. I suggest anyone who wants to study this further do a search on either of the quotes.

As The Genuine Islam remains a literary mystery to me, I include only the address for the site by that name here. If I learn anything more about this work I will post on it at a later date.

Update 1/09: Go here for the latest update or click on full thread below.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Just Shootin' the Bull

This has probably been all the way around the Internet twice, but it left me laughing just the same. Hon. Son #1 got it from a bud a few days ago. I haven't verified the statistics, but I found the conclusion awfully funny! So what the heck, might as well post it:

(A) The number of physicians in the U.S. is 700,000.
(B) Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.
(C) Accidental deaths per physician are 0.171.
(Statistics courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Health Human Services.)

Now think about this:
(A) The number of gun owners in the U. S is 80,000,000. (Yes, that's 80 million.)
(B) The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups is 1,500.
(C) The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is .000188
(Statistics courtesy of FBI)

So, statistically, doctors are approximately 9,000 times more dangerous than gun owners.
Remember, "Guns don't kill people, doctors do."


Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!!!
Out of concern for the public at large, I have withheld the statistics on lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention.

Cue up the Vaudevillean exit music...