URLs du Jour


  • David Boaz was appalled by the views of Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr as heard on NPR's "Diane Rehm Show." So much so that he did some research to make sure Nasr wasn't some kind of fringe extremist wacko:
    [Nasr is] a distinguished professor at a leading American university. He holds a Ph.D. in the history of science and philosophy from Harvard and is the author of more than 20 books, from publishers including Oxford University Press. His university held a conference honoring him, titled Beacon of Knowledge. The website of the Seyyed Hossein Nasr Foundation declares him "one of the most important and foremost scholars of Islamic, religious and comparative studies in the world today." So it seems fair to say that Nasr is not an oddity; he's a recognized Islamic scholar.

    Nevertheless, Nasr also firmly believes that the Pope's statements about Islam from a few days back are appropriately viewed as "acts of violence" which are appropriately answered by (actual) violence and coercion. After Rehm described attacks on "churches, embassies and elderly nuns":

    Asked for his reaction, Nasr said that such violence was "not unprovoked—it is provoked." "Because words are violence?" asked Rehm. "Of course," replied Nasr, "of course."
    Great. There's a recipe for peace and tolerance!

    I wonder how much of Nasr's illiberal worldview springs from his Muslim background, and how much comes from the modern American academic environment? Tough to say, since both are hotbeds of suppression of "offensive" speech.

  • Continuing in roughly the same topic, you might remember how, back in September of 2001, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer was raked over the coals for allegedly suppressing dissent and free speech. A typical response came, for example, from Paul Krugman (as quoted here):
    After 9/11, the administration's secretiveness knew no limits—Americans, Ari Fleischer ominously warned, "need to watch what they say, watch what they do." Patriotic citizens were supposed to accept the administration's version of events, not ask awkward questions.
    Or Frank Rich:
    Fear itself—the fear that "paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance," as FDR had it—was already being wielded as a weapon against Americans by their own government.
    Other examples are easily obtained via the Google. Now, in fact, such allegations were tendentious and lazy misreadings of what Fleischer actually said. For a good knock-down, see Christopher Hitchens' recent article in Slate (from which the Rich quote comes).

    Now I said all that to say this: Ex-president Bill Clinton appeared on Larry King Live last night, and said—guess what?—about the Pope's statement.

    I think it was unfortunate … And we -- every time one of us, particularly someone as august as the pope says something like that, we make the task of the moderates in the Muslim world more difficult.
    May I summarize? Bill Clinton thinks that we should "watch what we say." Anyone want to hold their breath waiting for Krugman, Rich, and the rest of that crowd to get as outraged with Clinton as they did with Fleischer? Me neither.

  • But that's enough about double standards and craven attempts at free expression suppression. For now anyway. What I'm really interested in is: can Ken Jennings promote the neologism celebrinerd into everyday use?

  • And continuing in the game show theme, Wikipedia has an impressive amount of information on the Monty Hall Problem. The entry gives support to the intriguing theory that Monty Hall is a celebrinerd! (Via Achenblog.)

  • And, finally, continuing in no theme whatsoever: the Human Resources Department at Los Alamos National Laboratory is woefully overstaffed. A LANL employee comments at Dave's blog.