Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

“If we’re giving no quarter to intolerance, shouldn’t we be starting with the mutilators and the honor killers?”


To count yourself as a liberal, you have to stand up for liberal principles. Free speech, separation of church and state, freedom to practice any religion or no religion without the threat of violence. Respect for minorities including homosexuals, equality for women. It amazes me how here in America we go nuts over the tiniest violations of these values while gross atrocities are ignored across the world.

We hear a lot about the Republican war on women. It’s not cool. Rush Limbaugh called somebody a slut. Okay. But Saudi women can’t vote or drive or hold a job or leave the house without a man. Overwhelming majorities in every Muslim country say a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. That all seems like a bigger issue than an evangelical Christian bakery refusing to make gay wedding cakes.

The Fate of Free Speech


What are the major threats to free speech today? Perhaps the overarching condition that threatens free speech is the spread of political correctness. This has sharply curtailed candor about all manner of contentious subjects.  It is no longer possible, in polite society, to speak frankly about race, about differences between the sexes, or a hundred other topics — so-called “climate change,” for example, or the relationship between Islam and free speech.

George Orwell was right when he observed that the first indispensable step towards freedom is the willingness to call things by their real names.  The cause of freedom is not aided when a director of National Intelligence says (and says with a straight face) that the Muslim Brotherhood is “a largely secular organization.”  Nor is it aided when the U.S. president, his secretary of State and other underlings lie about what caused the Benghazi massacre.

The triumph of political correctness has encouraged an epidemic allergy to candor.  The hope is that the embrace of euphemism will alter not only our language but the reality our language names. And to a large extent, it is working. Unfreedom does not become freedom by calling it free, but the misprision can help spread and reinforce the fog of self-deceit. Terrorism committed by Muslims is not Islamic terrorism but “anti-Islamic activity,” A Muslim Army officer who goes on a shooting rampage at Ft. Hood while shouting “Allahu Akbar” is guilty of  “workplace violence” not slaughter undertaken to advance the cause of Islam, etc., etc.

For Arab immigrants, a Canadian passport and a GCC job may no longer mix


Gone are the days when you could benefit from Canada and the Gulf at the same time.

Nima and her husband—a Jordanian couple with two children—arrived in Ontario last year with an unequivocal goal after staying nearly ten years in Qatar: To grab Canadian citizenship within three years and go back to the oil-rich Gulf region to stack up tax-free dollars. But now that Canada has stretched the time frame required to become a Canadian citizen to four years, in addition to obliging prospective citizens to commit to living in the country, Nima’s longtime dream seems to be evaporating.

“We really don’t know what to do; everything has been ruined,” Nima says, referring to the new, partially implemented law.

She tells that her husband, who is still working in Qatar, does not want to quit his job, fearing he won’t find a decent salary in Canada’s competitive job market. Her frustration deepens when she remembers that years back they could have chosen to immigrate to Sweden, yet they preferred Canada because of faster processing times.

“Canada is fed up with passport-holding citizens whose relation with the country is nothing but a piece of paper,” says Sabawy.

My heart bleeds…

Because this always works so well–Hello Kudzu…

Unleashing An Epidemic To Kill The Tumbleweeds

Two fungi species that hail from the Eurasian steppes to which tumbleweed is native. He and his colleagues have submitted applications to release these exotic fungi on willing U.S. farmers’ lands. Now they’re just waiting for an answer.

“I’m very optimistic on its ability to control tumbleweed. We just need to get it released,” Berner tells Popular Science. “We have lots of evidence on it that it’s safe and effective.”

What’s Berner’s problem with this quirky Western icon? As American as they may seem, tumbleweeds aren’t native to the U.S. They were introduced here, accidentally, in a shipment of flaxseeds, in the 1870s. Without the predators and diseases that normally munch at them in places like Russia and Hungary, they can grow in incredible numbers.

Tumbleweeds can take over farmland, crowding out crops or forage that cattle are able to eat. (Cattle don’t eat tumbleweed.) They can pile up against houses, creating a fire hazard. (“I had a call from another fellow in California, just recently, who’s just terrified of the fire risk,” Berner says.) In 1989, a North Dakotan town of 4,000 spent $8,500 to dig itself out from a pileup that blocked streets and houses; similar scenarios have happened this year across the west. That’s not to say tumbleweeds aren’t beloved by some… but others could do with fewer of them. Yet farmers and ranchers don’t often want to plunk down the money to kill them off with chemical herbicides. The type of land tumbleweeds grow on tends not to be very valuable, agriculturally. So they persist, with each tumbling ball scattering up to a quarter million seeds as it rolls.

Obama Administration Learns: If You Redefine Every Word In The Dictionary, You Can Get Away With Just About Anything


We’ve written before about how the NSA uses its own definitions of some fairly basic English words, in order to pretend to have the authority to do things it probably… doesn’t really have authority to do. It’s become clear that this powergrab-by-redefinition is not unique to the NSA when it comes to the executive branch of the government. Earlier this year, we also wrote about the stunning steady redefinition of words within the infamous “Authorization to Use Military Force” (AUMF) that was passed by Congress immediately after September 11, 2001. It officially let the President use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” But, over time, the AUMF was being used to justify efforts against folks who had nothing to do with September 11th, leading to this neat sleight of hand in which the military started pretending that the AUMF also applied to “associated forces.” That phrase appears nowhere in the AUMF, but it’s a phrase that is regularly repeated and claimed by the administration and the military.

But, it goes beyond that. As Trevor Timm highlights over at The Guardian, pretty much the entire drone bombing (drones, by the way, are also apparently “authorized” by the AUMF) of Syria involves the administration conveniently redefining basic English to suit its purposes. Let’s start with the authorization for the bombing itself:

For instance, in his Tuesday statement that US airstrikes that have expanded into Syria, Obama studiously avoided any discussion about his domestic legal authority to conduct these strikes. That dirty work was apparently left up to anonymous White House officials, who told the New York Times’s Charlie Savage that both the Authorization of Use of Military Force (AUMF) from 2001 (meant for al-Qaida) and the 2002 war resolution (meant for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq) gave the government the authority to strike Isis in Syria.

In other words: the legal authority provided to the White House to strike al-Qaida and invade Iraq more than a dozen years ago now means that the US can wage war against a terrorist organization that’s decidedly not al-Qaida, in a country that is definitely not Iraq.

Continue reading

The fight over ‘Under God’ in pledge of allegiance is about to pick up


The continuing back-and-forth over the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance is getting a new group of participants: three New Jersey public school students and their parents, all of whom want a court to reject efforts to strike the words “under God” added 60 years ago

On Sept. 18, a New Jersey court granted Samantha Jones, a 17-year-old senior at Highlands Regional High School, and her siblings, the right to intervene in a case brought by the American Humanist Association against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District on behalf of an anonymous family. Jones lives in another school district.

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, AHA legal director David Niose said the words “under God” put nonbelievers in a bind. “Having the pledge recited en masse with the under God phrase, (Niose) said, promotes anti-atheist bias and sends the message that ‘true patriots are believers, and atheists are second-class citizens.’ ”

But Jones said she has a right to recite the pledge, regardless of how it makes others feel.

“When I stand up, put my hand over my heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am recognizing that my rights come from God, not from the government,” Jones said in a statement issued by the family’s law firm, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. “If anyone wants to remain silent, that is their right. But it is not their right to silence me.”

The Becket Fund is also representing the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal group which also gained the right to participate in the case.

“The Pledge is not a religious creed or a prayer. It is a statement of our nation’s political philosophy that rights come not from the state but from something higher — as our Declaration of Independence puts it, ‘Nature’s God.’ We are confident that the court will uphold the right to say the Pledge in its entirety,” said Kristina Arriaga, Becket Fund executive director.

In addition to filing lawsuits, the AHA has stepped up secular efforts to ban recitation of the pledge in public schools with a campaign encouraging students to sit out the pledge until it is banned. The website Don’ provides resources for parents to discuss the pledge with their children and how students can report harassment or bullying if they decide to remain seated during recitation of the pledge.

But pledge opponents, such as atheist physician Dr. Michael Newdow, have not fared well in court. In May, a unanimous Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts rejected an AHA lawsuit against the pledge.

According to a Becket Fund summary of the case, “the court ruled that no child must be silenced from reaffirming timeless American ideals because others disagree. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, writing for the unanimous court, stated, ‘Here there is no discriminatory classification for purposes of (Massachusetts) article 106 — no differing treatment of any class or classes of students based on their sex, race, color, creed or national origin.

More schools mull dropping Michelle O’s lunch rules

Who died and made her queen of the food court?

The Green Lake School District is the latest the join a number of schools reevaluating their participation in the National School Lunch Program.

The Ripon Press reports the district is dissatisfied with the new school lunch and snack rules championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“When I walk through the school cafeteria, I see multi-colored fruits and vegetables and whole-grain pasta or wraps on the trays of our students. The food looks really good, but the students aren’t eating it,” principal Mary Allen says, according to the paper.

“… The limited salt, whole-grains, vegetable substitutes for meat, and unfamiliar foods such as ‘quinoa’ and ‘jicama’ are not being embraced. Although the food looks good and is undeniably healthy, it is unflavored and tasteless.”

Students reportedly gave the school board a 31-page report produced in math class, which studied the question: “Will the Green Lake School District better serve its students without the National School Lunch Program?”

Say what??

Muslims In Minnesota Are Demanding Their Food Be Halal, From A FREE FOOD BANK

It’s not enough that the food is free.

It’s got to be pork-free, too?

Muslim activists in Minnesota – that’s the heartland state that’s sent at least two men to fight on the side of Islamic fascists in Iraq – are demanding their own section in the local food bank so illiterate families can pick up free food that lives up to their expectations.

According to WCCO, the CBS affiliate in the Twin Cities, a group of first-generation Somali-Americans marched into Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin’s office last week to demand he do something about the pork and beans and other free foodstuffs that are contaminating the provender.

Because some people think free food is some kind of charity.

“It’s about human rights also, basic human rights to get the proper food and also healthy food,” said Hassan Mohamud, the protesters’ imam.

Sure it is. It’s also about $150,000 or so, the amount of money WCCO reports would be needed to establish a free food bank that catered – literally – to the recipients’ religious tastes. And that’s just to get started. How much it would cost to keep it going hasn’t been determined yet.

“Some food shelves are trying to meet the need, but some of them already got canned beans that have already been mixed with pork — and there is a literacy issue here,” said community activist Fartun Weli.

Actually, there are a couple more issues here.

One might be literacy — though the word “pork” should be fairly straightforward for the offspring of immigrants who grew up with access to American public schools. It’s only got four letters and appears to be something they’re pretty touchy about.

Another one is gratitude and common courtesy. If religious dietary restrictions are really that big of a deal, there should be a way to address the issue quietly — or maybe even just having volunteers or “community activists” on hand to make sure everyone knows what “p-o-r-k” means on a can of free food.

Frankly, the idea of a bunch of public aid recipients marching into a public office to demand changes in food they’re being given for free is a little unseemly. Making sure the local television cameras are there to make a public spectacle of the whole occasion is even worse.

How long before the gov’t roles over and gives it to them?

Here it comes…

Incest a ‘fundamental right’, German committee says

Laws banning incest between brothers and sisters in Germany could be scrapped after a government ethics committee said the they were an unacceptable intrusion into the right to sexual self-determination.

“Criminal law is not the appropriate means to preserve a social taboo,” the German Ethics Council said in a statement. “The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”

Their intervention follows a notorious case in which a brother and sister living as partners in Saxony had four children together. The couple had been raised separately and only met when the brother, identified only as Patrick S, was an adult, and his sister Susan K was 16.

Patrick S was sentenced to more than three years in prison for incest and the couple have since failed in their bid to have the guilty verdict overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

The family was forced to live apart after the courts ruled that there was a duty to protect their children from the consequences of their relationship.

Two of the couple’s children are disabled, and it is believed that incest carries a higher risk of resulting in children with genetic abnormalities.

But the Ethics Council dismissed that argument, on the basis that other genetically affected couples are not banned from having children.

Poll of NFL Fans: ‘Redskins’ Not Offensive, Keep the Name

No, it’s not. Keep it…

NFL fans don’t agree with Eric Holder, Keith Olbermann, and Hillary Clinton on the Washington Redskins.

A Sports Illustrated/Marketing & Research Resources poll of 500 NFL fans found that 79 percent of them do not consider the nickname of Washington’s NFL team offensive. Just 25 percent of NFL fans want the Redskins to change their name. One in ten respondents dub the name “very offensive.”

The survey of NFL fans meshes with broader polls of the American people. In a poll conducted in the spring of 2013, the Associated Press found that 79 percent of the American people want the Redskins to retain their name. Public Policy Polling’s survey released earlier this year reported that just 18 percent of respondents support the team changing the name. A Langer Research poll taken in August for ESPN’s Outside the Lines found that more than seven in ten respondents back keeping “Redskins.”

“We’ll never change the name,” Dan Snyder told USA Today last year. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”


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