In response to Jim West’s “narrowly concerned” spittle

A Haredi man spits at a passerby.

In response to Jim West’s continued, passive-aggressive attempts to defend his oppression of the civil rights and privileges of same-sex couples by taking every chance possible to turn any news story into a shot against those who support marriage equality, here’s my response to his latest rhetorical spit-curse in the direction of those whose blogs he feels ‘to narrowly’ focus on the defense of the rights of same-sex couples. (And it is a spit-curse: an unprovoked shot at those with whom he disagrees on a certain issue while routinely passing by a completely unrelated topic. Some Haredim do it to tourists in Jerusalem; Jim does it to other bloggers online.)

Jim wrote:

Today’s term:  ’Narrowly concerned‘.

Narrowly concerned: n. a person who is terribly concerned for ‘marriage equality’ but totally silent about the deaths of 1000 Bangladeshis.

My response:

I’m guessing it’s because no one rallies to the defense of the Bangladeshi sweat shop owners, advocating to suppress the rights of the sweat shop workers. No one calls the near slave-like conditions the “natural order” of business in a capitalistic society, and no one argues that calling for workers’ rights is “angry advocacy” by quoting passages instructing slaves to obey their masters, parables teaching workers to work for their agreed upon wages (Matt 20), and instructions for women to remain silent.

EVERYONE realizes that this is a tragic situation and EVERYONE is calling for reform and punitive action to be taken against those who oppress these women, UNLIKE those who oppose marriage equality, who grasp for reasons to continue to deny gay couples the civil rights and privileges their oppressors enjoy.

The reason you don’t see a fight over this is that people are smart enough in THIS scenario to realize that one group is suffering under oppression/lack of civil justice, unlike same-sex marriage, where there are still people (believe it or not) who think that it’s OK to oppress another group because either their religion or their tradition (usually as the result of religion) tells them to do so.

CAN YOU IMAGINE someone rallying to the defense of the Bangladeshi sweatshop owner? CAN YOU IMAGINE a scholar arguing that these women “had it coming” because “they knew what they were getting into”, while quoting Matthew 20:13 over and over and over again, claiming it’s the “revealed” word of God. Because THAT’S what those who oppose same-sex marriage look like to the now majority of Americans who support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

That’s probably why. It’s easy to condemn the universally condemnable. It’s much more difficult to stand up for the oppressed minority and condemn the establishment. If I’m going to be “narrowly focused” on a blog (as if I have the free time to “report” redundantly on and condemn everything in the news as some do), may it ever be in defense of those who must fight against a bigoted populace AND the religious authorities who empower and perpetuate their oppression.

NonStampCollector’s latest: Yahweh’s Perfect Justice – Death for picking up sticks

NonStampCollector (@nonstampNSC; YouTube) has published his latest movie on YouTube, which is actually a remake of “Yahweh’s Perfect Justice”, a film he published in 2009 based on Numbers 15:32-36, but which was banned because it depicted the biblical act of stoning a person to death.

NonStamp asked viewers to contribute images of people stoning a person to death, and many did.

Numbers 15:32-36 reads (NRSV):

Num. 15:32 When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the sabbath day.
Num. 15:33 Those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses, Aaron, and to the whole congregation.
Num. 15:34 They put him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.
Num. 15:35 Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.”
Num. 15:36 The whole congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

I encourage you to go and watch the video, and then ask yourself these two questions:

1) Should ‘working’ on the Sabbath have EVER been punishable by death?

2) Should we use the divine commands given by God in the Bible to legislate our modern secular ethics?

Go watch. This is how some still punish many crimes in barbaric parts of the world, simply because a holy book says so. So I ask: should a holy book that prescribed death for working on a particular day of the week be used to legislate other aspects of our modern lives? Should the judgements of a God that commanded death for gathering sticks on Saturday be consulted for issues like same sex marriage?

Go watch. Then try and justify the actions taken the Bible. And then try and apply those ethics to our modern world. If you can justify the actions taken in the Bible, and can reconcile them with a modern ethic, and offer a prescription for our modern legislation, then congratulations – you’re a fundamentalist.

Sad News: The Passing of Dr. Hossein Ziai

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Dr. Hossein Ziai, Professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies, and Director of Iranian Studies at UCLA

Sad news from the UCLA Iranian Student Group:

We regret to inform the friends, family, students and colleagues of Dr. Hossein Ziai of his passing on August 24, 2011.

Dr. Ziai was professor of Islamic and Iranian Studies, Inaugural holder of the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Chair in Iranian Studies and the director of Iranian Studies at UCLA, where he had taught since 1988.

He received his Ph.D. in Islamic Philosophy from Harvard University in 1976.

Prior to his position at UCLA, Dr. Ziai taught at Tehran University, Sharif University, Harvard University, Brown University, and Oberlin College.

Dr. Ziai’s numerous publications cover Islamic philosophy, the Iranian Illuminationist School of philosophy and “Persian Poetic Wisdom” defined in relation to the epistemology of knowledge by presence.

Dr. Ziai is survived by his wife Mahasti, his son Dadali, his daughter-in-law Stephanie and his grand-daughters Malia and Acacia.

An important member of the Iranian community has passed away, and ISG extends our condolences to anyone who has been touched by him and his wisdom.


UCLA Iranian Student Group

You can read more about Professor Ziai at his website.

You will be missed, Professor Ziai.

is there digital life after death?

my friend randy coppinger posed this interesting question:

Scott Brown on Managing Your Digital Remainssure, people of many faiths have made arrangements for their soul after the death of their earthly body. likewise, many folks create a last will or trust to look after their physical remains. but what preparations have we made for the afterlife of our cyber-presence? is there digital life after death, and if so, who controls it?

thankfully, scott brown addressed this very question in a recent article in wired magazine.

Our local, carbon-based “hard drives” may fail, but vestiges of our inimitable selves will remain ambient and accessible long after we log off this mortal coil.

This distributed deathlessness means we’ll all need a little cleanup on Aisle Me. The aspects of life we archive online, be they valuable, heritable, or simply embarrassing, require posthumous management (and, in some cases, eradication) lest our friends and loved ones and executors be embarrassed or inconvenienced by our lingering digital detritus, a trash-strewn wake of left-behind liabilities.

apparently, there are companies who will look after your digital remains after your physical body ceases to be.

it’s the online equivalent of the old mob/spy trick: ‘if you kill me, and i don’t input the secret code every 12 hours, [whatever you’re looking for] gets sent to the cia, etc.’ basically, after you kick the bucket, your failure to respond to email alerts triggers a series of bots, which go to your online accounts, insert your passwords, and process the transfers or deletions of all your online assets and accounts.

At least three companies —, Legacy Locker, and the charmingly named — have arisen to keep customers’ passwords, usernames, final messages, and so on in a virtual safe-deposit box. After you’re gone, these companies carry out last wishes, alert friends, give account access to various designated beneficiaries, and generally parse out and pass on your online assets.

clever. why didn’t i think of this?

now, what would be more clever than a service that deletes your online accounts? i’ll tell you: a process that makes one’s online presence the primary, permanent presence, somewhat like the end of avatar.

here’s how it would work: when you’re about to die, you trigger the transfer. your thoughts and memories in real life get scanned and transferred to your online life (much like second life), and you live eternally in there. who knows, maybe we’ll have that ability someday and we can combat the ‘rise of the machines’ by becoming the machines.

fantasy, i know. perhaps i’ll stick to the less fantastic vision of living forever in a paradise with other, like-minded, disembodied, immortal souls.

dear fatah: stop blaming, start leading

Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

what do you do when you cannot lead? you blame. that is what palestinian political party fatah has decided to do in the case of the death of former palestinian leader yasser arafat according to a jerusalem post report entitled, fatah adopts resolution blaming israel for arafat’s death, by khaled abu toameh. according to the article:

The sixth General Assembly of Fatah unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the establishment of a committee which would investigate the death of former Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat while abiding by the following guidelines: that Israel bears full responsibility for his death, that the issue continues to remain open, and that the investigation enlists international support.

this is nothing more than a political tactic to pander to the conservative palestinian base before the coming january 2010 presidential and parliamentary elections. it just pains me to see a people that could be so close to normalization of relations with israel and the rest of the world play this silly game. the palestinian people are good people, and are deserving of a leadership that actually leads and does not simply play the victim and blame israel for everything under the sun – real and imagined.

nevermind that arafat was old. never mind that he lived a hard life. never mind that he showed the visible effects of parkinson’s disease. never mind that he was 75. he died, so it must be israel’s fault. and it must be a conspiracy.

this kind of conspiracy blame game betrays the lack of leadership in the palestinian state. remember, fatah is the sane party; the other major party is hamas, the militants who run the gaza strip. how are they doing?

rather than pass resolutions blaming israel for arafat’s death, why doesn’t fatah continue to root out corruption and attempt to recoup reportedly embezzled money as they did shortly after arafat’s death? why not work to build business partnerships with international companies and bring jobs to the west bank? this is the best way to put pressure on israel to finally sign a lasting and viable peace. why not spend the time debating how to get children back into schools instead of fueling their minds with hateful conspiracies that ultimately lead them to throw rocks?

the palestinian people deserve better than a leadership that blames others. it’s time to stop playing the victim. palestine needs a leader who will stand up, put the past behind them, and lead. so who’s it going to be?

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