banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Right wing Christian fundamentalist arrested planning another bomb attack ...

Oops - not so fast. MSNBC is reporting that an AWOL U.S. soldier has been arrested while planning a bomb attack on Fort Hood, Texas:
Killeen, Texas, police arrested Pfc. Naser J. Abdo, 21, of Garland, Texas, on Wednesday at a motel near Fort Hood, police said. The Austin American-Statesman reported that Abdo, an infantryman with the 1st Brigade Combat Team (Rear Provisional) of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., was arrested at an America's Best Value Inn on South Fort Hood Road.

U.S. officials told NBC News that police went to Abdo's motel room on a tip from a gun dealer who said Abdo was asking suspicious questions about smokeless powder, a component often used in pipe bombs. Explosives were found in the room and in a backpack, the officials said.

A U.S. military official said Abdo was overheard saying he wanted to attack Fort Hood and that he repeated the statement after he was in custody. Authorities said it was not clear whether his alleged intended targets were soldiers in general or specific individuals on the base.
What could his motivation be? Probably reading Mark Steyn and Bruce Bawer:
Abdo was arrested on a child pornography warrant, police said. He had been wanted since he went AWOL earlier this month after he was recommended for a court-martial in a child pornography investigation at Fort Campbell.
...

Abdo sought conscientious objector status last year, arguing that his Muslim beliefs prohibited military service. The Army approved his application in May, then, two days later, it charged him with possession of child pornography, which put his discharge on hold, he said on a Facebook page.

...

Abdo's campaign to leave the Army got considerable coverage beginning in August, when he gave several televised interviews.

"As my time came near to deployment, I started asking the question more seriously whether God would accept what I was doing and whether I was really meant to go to war, as opposed to the peace that Islam preaches," he said in an August interview with Headline News. He made similar comments in interviews with al-Jazeera.
As recently as June, Abdo was pursuing his battle on the Facebook page, where he describes himself as "engaged in a struggle against religious discrimination and for freedom of conscience in the US Army."
Right - got it. Struggling against religious discrimination, Islam preaches peace, blah blah blah.

The tolerant Middle East

Guess which Middle Eastern cities hold massive Gay Pride parades every year? That would be Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Tel Aviv's parade was held on June 3:
Tens of thousands of people attended Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride Parade Friday afternoon, carrying colorful banners calling for equality.

“Being gay is ‘shaveh’ [worthwhile/ equal],” read the poster above the stage at Meir Park, where the parade began.

The event kicked off with a celebratory party in the park, complete with dancers, singers and drag queens.

Police closed streets along the parade route and near the beach, as the procession and street party got under way.

Organizers said that up to 100,000 people took part in the parade, but police put the number at some 70,000.

Police reported no unusual incidents of violence, and the parade concluded peacefully.
Jerusalem's event takes place today. Though not without controversy, specifically protests from the Orthodox Jewish community, it is expected to draw 5 000 people:
More than 5,000 marchers are expected to participate in Jerusalem’s 10th annual Gay Pride Parade on Thursday afternoon.

Open House Executive Director, Yonatan Gher, called Thursday a “combined social struggle,” which will have at least three distinct protests imbuing the city with the air of social fervor. Indeed, protesters will include the doctors marching towards Jerusalem, students and families camped out in tents across the city, and thousands of gay-rights activists marching downtown.

He estimated that the gay pride parade could almost double – from 4,000 participants last year to 7,000 participants this year – given the revolutionary vibe of the capital.
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, the gay activists who marched in Toronto's Pride Parade last year, take note: the country you are so vehemently trying to delegitimize is the only country in the Middle East where homosexuals can live openly and free from state harrassment. Your embarrassing protest would be better directed at Iran:
On Sunday, November 13 [2005], the semi-official Tehran daily Kayhan reported that the Iranian government publicly hung two men, Mokhtar N. (24 years old) and Ali A. (25 years old), in the Shahid Bahonar Square of the northern town of Gorgan.

The government reportedly executed the two men for the crime of "lavat." Iran’s shari`a-based penal code defines lavat as penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts between men. Iranian law punishes all penetrative sexual acts between adult men with the death penalty. Non-penetrative sexual acts between men are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are punished with death. Sexual acts between women, which are defined differently, are punished with lashes until the fourth offense, when they are also punished with death.

“The execution of two men for consensual sexual activity is an outrage,” said Jessica Stern, researcher with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch. “The Iranian government’s persecution of gay men flouts international human rights standards.”

In addition to the two executions last week, there have been other cases of persecution and execution of gay men in Iran in recent years.

• In September 2003, police arrested a group of men at a private gathering in one of their homes in Shiraz and held them in detention for several days. According to Amir, one of the men arrested, police tortured the men to obtain confessions. The judiciary charged five of the defendants with “participation in a corrupt gathering” and fined them.
• In June 2004, undercover police agents in Shiraz arranged meetings with men through Internet chatrooms and then arrested them. Police held Amir, a 21-year-old, in detention for a week, during which time they repeatedly tortured him. The judicial authorities in Shiraz sentenced him to 175 lashes, 100 of which were administered immediately. Following his arrest, security officials subjected Amir to regular surveillance and periodic arrests. From July 2005 until he fled the country later in the year, police threatened Amir with imminent execution.

• On March 15, 2005, the daily newspaper Etemaad reported that the Tehran Criminal Court sentenced two men to death following the discovery of a video showing them engaged in homosexual acts. According to the paper, one of the men confessed that he had shot the video as a precaution in case his partner withdrew the financial support he had been providing in return for sex. In response to the man’s confession, his partner was summoned to the authorities and both men were sentenced to death. As the death penalty was pronounced against both men, it appears to have been based on their sexual activity.

“These abuses have created an atmosphere of terror for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people throughout Iran,” said Stern. “But arrest, torture and execution are not limited to gays and lesbians. Any group of people deemed ‘immoral’ becomes subject to state-sanctioned persecution and even murder.”

Queers Against Iranian Terror anyone?

[crickets chirping]


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bias? What bias?

The New York Times has published an article by John Tierney about liberal bias in academia which attempts to answer the question "why are conservatives such a minority at so many graduate schools?" Here's an excerpt:
“The most effective way to keep out a whole class of people who are unwelcome isn’t to bar entry, but to make sure that very few in that class will want to enter,” Dr. Wood wrote. “If it comes down to it, entry can still be impeded through other techniques, the feminist and the multiculturalist vetoes on the faculty search committee being the deadliest as far as conservatives go, although there are others.”

Republican scholars are more likely than Democrats to end up working outside academia, as documented by Daniel Klein, an economist at George Mason University. Dr. Klein, who calls himself a classical liberal (a k a libertarian), says that the university promotes groupthink because its system of “departmental majoritarianism” empowers the dominant faction to keep hiring like-minded colleagues. And when a faculty committee is looking to hire or award tenure, political ideology seems to make a difference, according to a “collegiality survey” conducted by George Yancey.

Dr. Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, asked more than 400 sociologists which nonacademic factors might influence their willingness to vote for hiring a new colleague. You might expect professors to at least claim to be immune to bias in academic hiring decisions.

But as Dr. Yancey reports in his new book, “Compromising Scholarship: Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education,” more than a quarter of the sociologists said they would be swayed favorably toward a Democrat or an A.C.L.U. member and unfavorably toward a Republican. About 40 percent said they would be less inclined to vote for hiring someone who belonged to the National Rifle Association or who was an evangelical. Similar results were obtained in a subsequent survey of professors in other social sciences and the humanities.

Dr. Yancey, who describes himself as a political independent with traditional Christian beliefs and progressive social values, advises nonliberal graduate students to be discreet during job interviews. “The information in this research,” he wrote, “indicates that revealing one’s political and religious conservatism will, on average, negatively influence about half of the search committee one is attempting to impress.”

Most academics claim to be politically unbiased, but it's a moot point when the academic environment at graduate schools is subtly hostile to conservatives and the pool of graduate students self-selects for liberals.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"A double tragedy for Norway"

Bruce Bawer writes at Pajamas Media that the attack in Norway will have an unwelcome side effect - that of silencing legitimate criticism of immigration policy and Islamic extremism in the country:
During those hours when we all thought this was a jihadist attack, one thought that crossed my mind was that this would change the political map of Norway. For years, the Progress Party, which is the second largest of Norway’s seven or eight major parties, has led the way in calling for more responsible policies on the immigration and integration of people from Muslim countries — and has been demonized as a bunch of right-wing extremist xenophobes who hate Muslims. I assumed that after this attack, Norwegians would vote in a Progress Party-led government in the next elections. Now it appears that the man who committed all these murders is a former member of the Progress Party and is, indeed, a right-wing extremist xenophobe who harbors (according to Dagbladet) a “violent hatred for Muslims” and multiculturalism, and who targeted the Labor Party youth camp because he blames the ruling Labor Party for the Islamization of Norway. Norway’s political future looks very different now, in short, than it did 24 hours ago.

...

It is deeply depressing to see this evil, twisted creature become the face of Islam criticism in Norway. Norwegian television journalists who in the first hours of the crisis were palpably uncomfortable about the prospect of having to talk about Islamic terrorism are now eagerly discussing the dangers of “Islamophobia” and “conservative ideology” and are drawing connections between the madness and fanaticism of Breivik and the platform of the Progress Party. Yesterday’s events, then, represent a double tragedy for Norway. Not only has it lost almost one hundred people, including dozens of young people, in a senseless rampage of violence. But legitimate criticism of Islam, which remains a very real threat to freedom in Norway and the West, has been profoundly discredited by association with this murderous lunatic.

This was evident in an article in the New York Times today by Nicholas Kulish titled Norway attacks shine light on right-wing extremism in Europe. Extremism of any type is dangerous, of course, but the events in Norway are being linked to political issues of great importance in an attempt to stifle perfectly legitimate criticism from conservatives. Kulish writes:
The attacks in Oslo on Friday have riveted new attention on right-wing extremists not just in Norway but across Europe, where opposition to Muslim immigrants, globalization, the power of the European Union and the drive toward multiculturalism has proven a potent political force and, in a few cases, a spur to violence.

The success of populist parties appealing to a sense of lost national identity has brought criticism of minorities, immigrants and in particular Muslims out of the beer halls and Internet chat rooms and into mainstream politics. While the parties themselves generally do not condone violence, some experts say a climate of hatred in the political discourse has encouraged violent individuals.
Mike McNally points out in a post titled Can the Left Resist the Temptation to Exploit the Norway Attacks? that the events in Norway will inevitably be used to de-legitimize conservatives and stifle legitimate political discourse:
The rush to get Breivik’s profile out there suggests an eagerness to exonerate Muslims by the authorities, and the regularity with which the “right-wing” connection is being repeated by the media suggests both relief and relish: not only do we not have to report bad things about Muslims, we get open season on right-wingers.

Right-wing fundamentalist Christian. It’s a slam-dunk for the liberal-left; the ultimate caricature of conservative extremism; the bogeyman that had until now existed largely in their imaginations made real.

...

As we learn more about Breivik (some scraps of biography are emerging), people on both the left and right will scrutinize his ideology as they did Jared Loughner’s after the Tucson, Arizona shootings. But there’s very little to scrutinize. Breivik and others who think like him are racists, pure and simple, and racism isn’t an ideology; it’s an irrational attitude that manifests itself as anything from unease to hatred, and one that isn’t exclusive to the left or the right.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ghana about to arrest homosexuals?

According to this report, the government of the Western Region of the African nation of Ghana is about to arrest all homosexuals in the area:
The Western Region Minister Paul Evans Aidoo has ordered the immediate arrest of all homosexuals in the region.

He has tasked the Bureau of National Investigations and all security agencies to smoke out persons suspected to be engaging in same sex.

He also enlisted the services of landlords and tenants to provide reliable information which will lead to the arrest of homosexuals.

His directive follows months of campaigns against the practice of homosexuality in the country.

Only yesterday, the Christian Council of Ghana capped months of protestations against the practice of homosexuality with a strongly worded message against the practice and courting Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals.
Homosexuality is illegal in Ghana, and the country's Bureau of National Investigations (BNI)is poised to begin rounding up homosexuals to deal with the "social canker":
The Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) has begun investigations into the growing rate of homosexuality in the Western and Central regions, Western Regional Minister, Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo has revealed.

According to the minister, there is the need for a thorough investigation into what he terms a "social canker" which has contributed to the growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the country.

...

Mr Paul Evans Aidoo revealed on Adom FM on Wednesday that, even though homosexuality is illegal, it is still widely practiced secretly which makes it very difficult to arrest the culprits.

He said it is very important for the homosexuals to be identified, especially those infected with STDs to control the spread.

The Western Regional Minister added that the BNI is working closely with the police, Ghana Health Service and the NGO to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Mr. Aidoo stressed the need for more education on the dangers of homosexuality in the country.

I have a suggestion for the gay activists at Queers Against Israeli Apartheid: here's a situation where a government is actually persecuting and arresting homosexuals and encouraging neighbours to "smoke them out". Dust off your protest signs and get to work. The Ghana High Commission in Ottawa is located at 1 Clemow Avenue - I eagerly await your response.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Pro-gay rights socialists vs pro-gay death Islamists

Australian Ted Lapkin comments on a recent protest outside a Jewish-owned business in Melbourne:
This unruly mob was so stereotypical that could have been supplied direct from central casting. There were 'kafiyeh' Arab-scarf-wearing Leftwing atheists rallying in defence of the theocratic medievalists of Hamas. There were radical feminists protesting on behalf of an Islamic radical regime that would slap them into a burka so fast it would make their head swim. And let's not forget the Rip Van Winkle hippies, that de rigueur cohort of aging radicals who've never outgrown their anti-Vietnam war protest stage.

And all the while, these protestors were chanting the puerile, poetically-challenged slogans we've come to expect at such events: "hey hey, ho ho [FILL IN THE BLANK] has got to go."

But the most notable ditty of the evening told of liberating Palestine "from the river to the sea". For anyone not immersed in the intricacies of Middle Eastern geography, those boundaries include the entire territory of pre-1967 Israel proper.

...

I've already written about the bizarre strange-bedfellows alliance that's developed between pro-gay rights socialists and pro-gay death Islamists.

Hamas foreign minister Mahmoud a-Zahar has described gays as "a minority of perverts and the mentally and morally sick". And then there's the other perennial favourite cause of the modern feral Left - that surrogate of Teheran known as Lebanese Hezbollah.

Perhaps president Ahmadinejad knew what he was about after all when he declared that homosexuality is unknown in his country. Gay relationships between consenting adults are a capital crime in Iran and many young men have paid the ultimate price for being true to their own sexuality.

But the Trotskyists aren't about to let a little thing like the hanging deaths of Iranian homosexuals get between them and what really matters. There's a much larger principle at stake here. In the eyes of the hard-Left, the task of destroying the Jewish nation-state trumps all other considerations.

This is the same cognitive dissonance that infects Canadian anti-Zionists like Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, who produce an annual flurry of publicity by trying to march in Toronto's Gay Pride Parade. It takes willful ignorance of the facts for gay activists to publicly advocate the dismantling of the only country in the Middle East where gays can live in peace.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Hideous Public Art: the Ottawa Stainless Steel Edition

It's been a long time since I've written about hideous public art, let alone mined the rich vein of hideousness to be found in the nation's capital, but a weekend in Ottawa has inspired me to take up the keyboard once again. Ottawa is often a city of great beauty, but these two sculptural monstrosities executed in industrial stainless steel effortlessly blight the landscape around them in a uniquely Canadian way.

The first work is located in front of Minto Place, a modern office development at the southwest corner of Slater and Kent Streets. Titled Northshore, it is the work of Canadian artist Noel Harding.





















Admittedly the site, a bleak concrete pedestrian plaza in front of the tower, is an unlovely place, but this sculpture makes it even uglier. When I first glimpsed it I thought "Who put the giant teapot on the sidewalk?" On closer examination, it became clear that it was some kind of post-modern statement, since there was a slowly revolving Christmas tree stuck in the top and some dead vegetation poking out the spout.





















Sadly, there was no helpful plaque on the plinth to explain the symbolism to perplexed passers-by, so I was left to my own devices. I figured that this being Ottawa, it had to have some political message; perhaps the dented teapot shape was meant to symbolize our throw-away consumer culture and the Christmas tree was a comment on the shallowness of our secular lives.

Fortunately the truth is only a Google search away:
landLAB and artist Noel Harding were selected as the winning team for a public art commission at 180 Kent Street in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for the private developer Minto. The work, as titled, points outside itself – being a city mind dreaming of the woods. The silhouettes of plantings imagine, identify, and celebrate a symbolic character of the Canadian Wilderness that resonates in a quintessential relation as if holding the reality of Tom Thompson’s “The Jack Pine.” Plant material becomes more than simply landscape as they pay homage to nature itself; celebrated within a grand vessel. Reflective steel becomes the giant trunk of a fallen tree with an extruded branch, renewal in the reality of living trees and grasses protruding – turning (1RPM) in the physical illustration of time. NORTHSHORE is a confirming statement. The meanings are rich in evolution and layering yet succinct and pointed in symbol.
Oh, well I see it now that you mention it. However, the "living trees and grasses protruding" from the spout have dried up and died in the blast-furnace heat of the concrete plaza, and I fear the revolving Christmas tree isn't far behind. The theme of renewal and "dreaming of the woods" is a tough sell here, but that must be all part of that rich layering thing.

There is one pleasing aspect of the sculpture - it's shiny convoluted surface distorts images like a funhouse mirror, so at least there's some minor entertainment value to walking past it on the sidewalk.





















While I was in Ottawa I took in the exhibit of paintings by the 16th Century Italian artist Caravaggio and his contemporaries which is on this summer at the National Gallery of Canada. After spending a few hours immersed in the lush paintings of the Roman Renaissance, we took advantage of the beautiful weather and took a walk around the grounds of the gallery. On the Nepean Point side we were confronted by this monumental piece of stainless steel jutting a hundred feet into the air:





















This work, by American artist Roxy Paine, is titled One Hundred Foot Line, and it juts out of the park at Nepean Point like a piece of wreckage left behind by an F5 tornado. It is truly gigantic, and it sticks out like an Axis of Ugliness smack dab in the middle of one of the most scenic spots in the city. Here's a shot with Parliament Hill in the background:





















Here's another from Parliament Hill itself, looking across the Rideau Canal with the Ottawa River in the background:





















To truly appreciate its visual assault, you have to stand close to it. The bright sunlight glares off its polished surface and makes it impossible to ignore:





















What to make of this work? It looks like a jagged lightning strike or a gargantuan inverted icicle. Its installation in this location seems to me a deliberate thumbing of the nose at the philistines who built the Parliamentary precinct in their beloved Gothic Revival style and the nearby Chateau Laurier Hotel like an oh-so-quaint Loire Valley castle. The unwashed masses would recoil at the idea of razing these cutesy relics of colonial oppression, so why not put a brutal 100 ft high piece of jagged stainless steel right beside the statue of Champlain on Nepean Point so it's visible to all the tourists visiting these corny buildings?

The National Gallery helpfully explains this sculpture to the perplexed:
A monumental new sculpture now graces one of Ottawa’s most picturesque skylines, thanks to a new acquisition by the National Gallery of Canada. At 30.5 metres high, One Hundred Foot Line by critically-acclaimed contemporary artist Roxy Paine is his most ambitious sculpture to date in terms of upward scale. Overlooking the Ottawa River from Nepean Point, One Hundred Foot Line beautifully references Canada’s capital and its proximity to nature as well of industry in this region.

One Hundred Foot Line is from a series of tree sculptures called Dendroids that has earned American artist Roxy Paine significant international acclaim in recent years. Made from unyielding, stainless steel pipes used in manufacturing and heavy industry, One Hundred Foot Line is a masterful example of Paine’s intense fascination with trees and his technical ability to create sublime structures from industrial materials. For him, the Dendroids represent an attempt to observe trees as a language governed by rules and structures and reflect his thoughts on human encroachment on the environment.

The sculpture presents a meandering tree trunk that has lost not only its leaves but all of its branches. The tallest of Paine’s Dendroids to date, the work welds together dozens of stainless steel cylinders into a seamless whole. The National Gallery’s sculpture distinguishes itself from others in this series through its uniform shimmer which displays a calmly discerning monumentality. As a glossy line extending steadfastly upward, Paine’s latest offering is a bold statement on the relationship between nature and the “man made” in our contemporary world.
Oh bullshit. It "beautifully references Canada’s capital and its proximity to nature"? It "displays a calmly discerning monumentality"? How about this - it's an act of artistic vandalism that was installed to deliberately mar the landscape of one of the most beautiful spots in Canada. One only hopes it gets struck by lightning fairly soon. That would indeed be a "bold statement on the relationship between nature and the man made in our contemporary world"