Sunday, August 29, 2010

The occasional pearl

While slogging through the muckroom email the other day, I happened onto a column written by Diana West.  Ms West has on occasion written some columns with which I totally agree, and some which are not so compelling.

This week’s column, available at her website here, caught my eye because of its underlying subject, the so called, and mis-named, Ground Zero Mosque.  (The project has been re-named by its proponents as Park 51.)  What follows is a lesson in the advantages of close reading and accuracy in citation.

At one point West writes,

The crucial fact is, whether we are brutalized by acts of jihad or confused by acts of dawa (proselytizing), their goal is identical: more Islamic law. And this end will always justify the means as seen, for example, back in 2005 when hundreds of acclaimed Islamic clerics and heads of state gathered in Amman, Jordan. There, quite anti-climactically, they issued the "Amman Message" that declares that no Muslim who adheres to a recognized school of Islam may be labeled an apostate. Subtext: Not even Osama bin Laden could be, in effect, ex-communicated or otherwise blackballed or removed from good standing by these Islamic authorities. One of the 552 signatories was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  [Rauf is the imam of the Park 51 project.]

The problem with the quote is that a reading of the Amman Message doesn’t support West’s claim.

An inquiring email to West produced a prompt response:

Here you go:

(1) Whosoever is an adherent to one of the four Sunni schools (Mathahib) of Islamic jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i and Hanbali), the two Shi’i schools of Islamic jurisprudence (Ja`fari and Zaydi), the Ibadi school of Islamic jurisprudence and the Thahiri school of Islamic jurisprudence, is a Muslim. Declaring that person an apostate is impossible and impermissible. Verily his (or her) blood, honour, and property are inviolable. Moreover, in accordance with the Shaykh Al-Azhar’s fatwa, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to the Ash`ari creed or whoever practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate. Likewise, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.
            Equally, it is neither possible nor permissible to declare as apostates any group of Muslims who believes in God, Glorified and Exalted be He, and His Messenger (may peace and blessings be upon him) and the pillars of faith, and acknowledges the five pillars of Islam, and does not deny any necessarily self-evident tenet of religion.

West’s opening link brings up a discussion section of the Amman Message, which, indeed, does support her claim.  There’s a problem.  The supporting material does not appear in the Amman Message itself.  On the site’s home page is a link to “”Three Points of the Amman Message,” where you will find her source.

The Message itself does, however, contain this: 

…the origin of divine religions is one, and Muslims believe in all Messengers of God and do not differentiate between any of them. Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam. That is because the origin of divine religions is one, and Muslims believe in all Messengers of God and do not differentiate between any of them. Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam" which is in the original document.  [emphasis added]

  Maybe the sentence “Denying the message of any one of them is a deviation from Islam” could be interpreted as the basis for the Point West quoted. 

Religious writing is often ambiguous.  Personal essays should be less so. 

There’s a lot to be learned.  While West is correct in that there are questions to be asked about claims for tolerance, there are also questions to be asked about where the answers might be found.

There are many references in the Amman Message to the evils of extremism, but “Denying the message of any one of…” could very well negate the effect of those references.

I owe Ms West a debt.  Had she been more precise in her column, I wouldn’t have gone to such lengths to check her facts; and I wouldn’t have read, albeit cursorily, the Amman Message, some parts of which are disturbing to my Western mind.

Trust, but verify.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Sometimes, it’s just tooooo easy…

Every once in a while, the right wingers say things which make everyone else stop in amazement.  We blink, we shake our heads in amazement, we smile in amusement.

The Huffington Post blog presents us with one such moment.  In case you’re not on Huff Post’s email list, I offer you:  Bill O’Reilly Blasts Kim Kardashian for Justin Bieber Pics.

Delightful quotes:

"I think it's gross," Margaret Hoover said on "The O'Reilly Factor" Friday night. "It's like a pre-pubescent 16-year-old having an affair with a celebutante!"

When Fox Business contributor Rebecca Diamond said the photo shoot was "every 16-year-old male's dream," O'Reilly took exception.

"I wanted to be a baseball player [when I was 16]. I didn't want to hang around with Kim Kardashian," he said. "I had a baseball bat and a glove and ice skates! That's what I was doing.

Who’s Margaret Hoover?  What world did she inhabit as a 16-year-old?  Did she consider herself “pre-pubescent”?  Honestly.

Oh, maybe Bill-o remembers himself as pre-pubescent; you know, a 10-year-old who’d rather play with a bat than with icky girls.  Though, there is the phallic element to a bat; a confused 16-year-old?

You know, I don’t believe a word of it.  I think they’re just trying to stir some…stuff.  Surely given the opportunity, especially with his harassment history, 16-year-old Bill-o might’ve behaved differently than the 60 plus year-old nascent senior citizen remembers.

Bill-o just needed to fill air time.

Trust, but verify.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Debit Cards and Big Bank Profits

They want your money, but you already knew that, didn’t you, Dear Gentle Reader(s)?

David Lazarus, in today’s Los Angeles Times, limns the latest in the on-going struggle between banks and their customers, between getting and keeping, so to speak.

It seems Wells Fargo and Bank of America, Citibank, and Chase debit your checking account in the order of high-to-low amounts rather than chronological entries.  This means you’d better keep a very close eye on your checking account, or you could face stiff penalties if you keep most of your money in savings rather than savings.

Wells Fargo just got fined for doing that in a questionable way.  W-F plans to appeal.  According to Lazarus, the others don’t have any plans to change the practice.

Why people use debit cards is beyond me, but if you like it, make sure you’re keeping close track of balances.  And remember, that big mortgage payment will hit the balance before the $5 for cleaning.  And the cleaning could end up costing $40.

Lazarus points out that this practice is not yet included in the new banking rules.  He suggests lawmakers look into it now.  If you agree, get out out the pen and paper and send in those cards and letters, boys and girls. 

Trust, but verify.  And write your Congressperson.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Zero Tolerance

At last!  Someone’s said it:  “…zero tolerance is a dodge. It's a way of shedding the responsibility to weigh all dimensions of a decision in the real world, not according to some rigid rule.”

Thanks to Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times for finally putting that out for all to see.

Zero tolerance is a foolishness from which we should be liberated.  Assess facts; make an informed decision; and the rest of us should trust the decision-makers, after, of course verifying.

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Saturday, August 7, 2010

There’s a price to be paid…

When one encounters “error 80072efe,” and it isn’t pretty.

It first showed up, Dear Gentle Reader(s), sometime after June 22, 2010.  That’s the last time Windows Update was able to access the machine.  And the last time I had true peace of mind.  (By this morning it was pieces of mind—scattered hither and yon.)

For more than a month I ignored it.  But it didn’t go away on its own.  Then I contacted a local fix-it, but he didn’t seem eager to get into detail, not, especially for $25.00 an hour. 

Then I went online and bought a program which would solve the 80072efe problem “in two minutes.”  $58.00 later the little snip was still hanging around, gloating behind his blue error 80072efe.  #@!^&!

Another local fix-it, at $95.00 an hour was engaged.  He left, a little defeated, telling me the best solution might be to wipe the hard drive clean and start over.  He was here for 2 hours but only charged me $50.00 “for diagnosis.”  (The first note of some small success!)

Ensued were two weeks with e-mail exchanges between myself and two technicians working for Microsoft.  They were very pleasant.  Good English.  Seemed knowledgeable.  No luck with their suggestions.

Question:  If one Googles (or Bings?) “error 80072efe,” one gets “About 24,900 results (0.25 seconds)” dating back to “ Last post: Jan 26, 2008;”  wouldn’t one think that Microsoft would have come up with a solution for this “error?” 

Well, they haven’t.

On to the local Office Max with a little consulting with some quite young and knowledgeable computer-types to buy an update.  The end is in sight!


Not content with merely wiping the hard drive clean, since one is going to all that trouble, one might as well upgrade from Vista to Windows 7.  “Hurry!  Hurry! Hurry!  Step Right Up, Folks!  Getcher easy-to-install programs Right Here!  Hurry!  Hurry!  That’s it, Ol’ Geezer!  Step Right Up!”

24 hours later, the deed is done.  Not without mishaps.

It seems not only must the hard drive be wiped clean, it must also be re-installed before Windows 7 can be overlaid.  That means hours of downloads to bring Vista up to speed.  Over and over the Windows 7 installation failed because of the lack of “Vista Service Pack 1.” 

You can’t find a download of Vista Service Pack 1.  Well, not true, entirely.  There is a download of Vista Service Pack 1 available, but “Do not download this for one machine only.”

Wouldn’t you think (note how frustrating this is—not using “one” anymore) that Microsoft would have thought all this out prior to shipping out copies of Windows 7?  They knew Vista Service Pack 1 is essential to a Vista upgrade to Windows 7.  They had to know it; they told me on the disk it had to be in the machine. 

Why didn’t they put it in the program in the first place?  Or at least have the program send out one of their little virtual messengers to get it during the process?

But they didn’t.  And SP1 (it somewhere lost Vista) finally showed up.  And the download/installation of Windows went on apace. 

So far so good.

Peace of mind is restored.

I hope.

Trust, DGR(s), but Verify.

--especially anything Microsoft tells you.

P.S. If you see “error 80072efe,” immediately buy a new machine. 


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