Saturday, October 15, 2005

It's a Boy 

Mary gave birth to a boy in the wee hours of this morning.

Denmark has its next heir to the throne: "experts" anticipate the name Christian, who as king would be the 11th of that name. (Quick! Someone buy the domains ChristianXI.com and ChristianXI.dk and make the royal family pay up the butt for them later!)

The first official press release read "Hendes Kongelige Højhed Kronprinsesse Mary har lørdag den 15. oktober 2005 kl. 01.57 på Rigshospitalet født en velskabt søn."

("Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary has on Saturday, October 15, 2005, at 1:57 am, given birth to a well-made son at Rigshospitalet.")

The boy is 51cm long and weighs 3500 grams.

Denmark will now embark on a national orgy of celebration.

I'm not going to bother posting all the links. It would be more of a challenge to find Danish media links to stories about anything but this birth. So just take the Danish media link of choice from the list to the right and see all the coverage you want. Drown in it. If you want English-language coverage, just chart a course toward the Australian media.


Try to read the preceding post, then this article, and ask yourself why the Social Democrats are more worried about sexist attitudes in television commercials than... oh, hell, it's that damn elephant in the living room again. Excuse me while I pour him a drink...

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Growing Bonfire 

Apparently 3500 Muslims demonstrated against Jyllands Posten today, for reasons obvious to anyone who's been following this blog for the last week or two. Meanwhile, two of the artists from that infamous series of cartoons have been advised by the police to go into hiding due to the death threats against them.

The spokesman for the three organizations behind the demonstration distanced the demonstration from the death threats.

»Det er meget forkert, at man truer folk på den måde. Vi må i stedet tale med dem. Vi skal i dialog. Og give tegnerne tid til at tænke over det, de har gjort«, siger Adil Hassan.

"It's very wrong to threaten people in that way. We must instead talk to them. We should enter into dialog. And give the artists time to think about what they've done," says Adil Hassan.

What they've done is drawn pictures that hurt your feelings, Mr. Hassan. And I know that's a drag, but they're allowed to do that. (Maybe we could compare notes... you should see some of the caricatures I've seen of my president!) Of course you're allowed to object, and to raise a big stink, and speak truth to power, and all that, but if you really want to generate sympathy for your cause, you might want to avoid segregated demonstrations in the future.

(Seriously. See the photos from the demonstration. Look at photo number six. It's the women from the demonstration, draped from head to toe, picking up the rear. You'll notice the pictures of the main demonstration are exclusively of men.)

As an interesting sidebar, I present the following additional excerpt without comment:

Flere kilder bekræfter, at politiet eftersøger en »sindsforvirret« mand af anden etnisk oprindelse end dansk, der menes at have fremsat dødstruslerne.

Several sources confirm that the police are seeking a "mentally confused" man of an ethnic origin other than Danish who is thought to have made the death threats.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oh: God. 

More than half of all Americans "believe that God created human beings in their present form exactly as described in the Bible. Man, from the dust of the earth. Woman, from man's rib."

At least, that's columnist Jane Eisner's interpretation of a new poll.

I just stumbled across Ms. Eisner's column while looking for something else, and it made so apoplectic I couldn't continue what I was doing. I've seen enough columnists spin enough polls to say stupid enough things over the years that I like to see the raw data myself. So I did a little extra digging and found this additional polling data on the subject.

And I'm just... lost. Here's a representative question: "Which of the following do you believe about how human beings came to be? Human beings evolved from earlier species. Human beings were created directly by God. Human beings are so complex that they required a powerful force or intelligent being to help create them."

Sixty-four percent responded, "Human beings were created directly by God."

Nearly two-thirds! And if you happen to be a smug, big-city liberal who wants to lay all this at the feet of the religious right, get over it: it isn't just the 66% of self-identified Republicans who believe this... it's also 51% of self-identified Democrats. (And 51% of self-identified Independents.)

I'm as shocked by my own reaction as I am by the data. I like to think of myself as agnostic rather than atheistic, but I also like to think of myself as living among men and women capable of a little skepticism at the notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful God creating men and women exactly as they exist today.

This is a serious intellectual crisis for me, so I'm going to do what I always do in such circumstances. I'm going to rationalize my way out of it. I'm willing to accept that an all-knowing, all-powerful God created man and woman exactly as we exist today, but only with one proviso: we have to be allowed to assume that He meant it as a joke.

I guess I've led a much more insular life than I thought. I grew up in the New York and Boston suburbs and have subsequently lived in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, rural Connecticut, New York City, and Copenhagen. I've spent at least a month each in the cities of Seattle, Oakland, and San Diego. Now, you might say, "There you have it, Moron! You've spent your whole life in the big cities! You haven't spent a day in flyover country! You don't know diddly about the heartland! And you've been out of the country for two-and-a-half years!"

Fair enough.

But given the demographics of the United States, these statistics require that a large segment of our metropolitan populations be just as religiously conservative as our rural populations. After all, 78.1% of American housing is in metropolitan areas, and "housing" is where most of us tend to live. So even if 100% of rural America is religious, that's just 21.9% of all Americans. That means for every rural American who thinks God waved his magic wand to create humanity, there are two metropolitan Americans who believe it—which is more than half of the urban population!

So I'd like to commission a poll to find out what percentage of Americans lie to pollsters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

People Unclear on the Concept of the Freedom of the Press 

The inevitable death threats made their way to Jyllands Posten, so they've had to hire security personnel.

An interesting philosophical point:

[Århus imam Raed] Hlayhel told al-Jazeera's reporter that he considered the cartoons derisive of Islam, and described one of the drawings as showing Mohammed wearing a turban-like bomb, and another as brandishing a sabre, with two burka-clad women behind him.

Hlayhel said he did not understand how such illustrations could be printed with reference to freedom of expression, when Denmark did not tolerate the slightest sign of anti-Semitism.

This is a fair point. I think there would be enormous public backlash against newspapers mocking Abraham (for example) just for the sake of seeing whether or not Denmark's cartoonists had the nosser to incur the wrath of the Jewish community. Since no one in Europe makes fun of Jews, though, I guess we'll never know.

On the other hand, I don't know how many death threats such a stunt would generate. Much more likely the Zionist-controlled secret police of the U.S. Treasury and the Trilateral Commission would send their black helicopters out to... oh, man, I can never keep these things straight...

But who cares about all this nonsense? There's soccer happening...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blasphemy, Bad Taste, Indifference 

Here are the cartoons of Mohammed that are causing such a stir. (Maybe not a full-blown stir... let's just call it a tiff for now.)

I can see how a Muslim would be offended by the very idea of the series, as well as by all but one of the illustrations. I was sympathetic to Christians disgusted by "Piss Christ" and I'm sympathetic to Muslims distressed by these cartoons.

Sympathetic, but I'm not empathetic. Freedom of expression isn't just a luxurious and decadent development of the west: it's one of the pillars of our civilization. Without it we've got nothing. (It may sound like an overstatement, but imagine the shape any western country would assume if its government assumed control of the press, the publishing industry, all broadcast media, the internet, etc.)

Freedom of religion is also important. I respect everyone's right to worship whatever god they want and observe whatever religious rituals they like. This liberty is another essential pillar of the west. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Scientologists, and Red Sox fans can worship however they like—but they all have to respect the same civic laws.

I don't have a problem with Muslim leaders asking Jyllands Posten for an apology in this case. Nor do I have a problem with Jyllands Posten refusing to give one. And as long as the government stays the hell out of the whole thing, it seems to me this is just how things ought to be working in a free society. In fact, I'm sure things are working correctly, because pretty much everyone comes out of this looking stupid, including myself, and that's as good a sign as any that freedom marches on.

Truly, we are living in the best of all possible worlds!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Theology Island 

Denmark beat Greece 1-0. Now Albania has to beat or tie Turkey and Denmark has to win on Wednesday. Those are both possible because Denmark beat Greece, which was the hardest of the three hurdles.

In doing some lazy Sunday browsing of English-language news, I stumbled across yet another story I'd somehow missed:

The newspaper [Jyllands Posten] urged cartoonists to send in drawings of the prophet [Mohammed], after an author complained that nobody dared to illustrate his book on Mohammed. The author claimed that illustrators feared that extremist Muslims would find it sacrilegious to break the Islamic ban on depicting Mohammed.

Twelve illustrators heeded the newspaper's call, and sent in cartoons of the prophet, which were published in the newspaper one week ago.


"This type of democracy is worthless for Muslims," Imam Raed Hlayhel wrote in a statement. "Muslims will never accept this kind of humiliation. The article has insulted every Muslim in the world. We demand an apology!"

(The article's in English, so you can go ahead and click on the link even if you don't read Danish. I was too lazy to find the cartoons themselves, but if I stumble across them later in the day I'll update this post with a link.)

I was happy to see that Danish illustrators rose to the occassion, and even happier to see that one even used the opportunity to stick his thumb in the eye of the paper itself. The whole exercise was kind of ridiculously provocative... but that's journalism, baby.

I still haven't decided whether or not I'm surprised that an Imam stepped into the stupid trap. Were his remarks sincere, or was that an attempt at self-parody? Bah, who cares... one fruitcake imam does not a movement make.

Conclusion: free speech is alive and well in Denmark, and not all Danish artists are afraid of the Islamofascists.

And Imam Raed Hlayhel needs to lighten the hell up.

Maybe we could find an island somewhere for all the religious extremists of the world (even atheist zealots), and we could say: nobody leaves this island until you've figured out which religion is actually right and you're all excommunicated from the rest of us until you've agreed on an answer.

There's a reality show for you: Theology Island!

(As if human civilization hasn't been one long, bloody episode of Theology Island already...)

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