15 July 2010

The Link Sausages Between

It's raining hamsters outside today, and there's a forecast for chihauhuas and kittens in the next couple of hours. Thus, I'm trying to get this posted between — between necessary errands (like getting remora chow) and between 'net outages.

  • Sigh. Yet another "plagiarism"/"copyright infringement" suit involving Harry Potter has been filed, this time in the UK. Leaving aside statute of limitations problems — the allegedly infringing book was published a decade ago — this reflects yet again the difference between "idea" and "expression." This is one of those times that I suspect that Bloomsbury UK wishes that Feist was the law in the UK...
  • Here at the U of I, there's a roiling controversy over the "firing" (technically, nonrenewal of an adjunct professor) for alleged "hate speech" stated in the course of a class on Catholic religious doctrine. Leaving aside academic freedom issues for a moment, just what kind of speech do you expect to find in a class on religious doctrine? Anybody with two brain cells to rub together — a purported requirement for entry at the U of I, even in ACES and the B-school — has to know that the one thing that all religious doctrine has in common is that it's flawed, idiosyncratic, cranky, and hostile to the Other. Even purported "religions of peace" have disturbingly bigoted aspects of their doctrine. In short, it goes with the territory; and studying religious doctrine fairly means being exposed to some pretty despicable source materials, too. Try actually reading Leviticus 25:44 and not finding hate speech in it. And since Leviticus is part of the sacred text of all Abrahamic religions, there's hate speech in all of them. Inherently. You can't avoid it.

    Then there's dogma itself. Bluntly, all religious dogma serves a critical secular purpose: Ensuring the continued power of the priestly caste. Historically, the most common means of doing so is the condemnation of non-adherents of the dogma... which usually constitutes hate speech. That is not to say that studying religious dogma and doctrine is useless; indeed, it's a critical step toward understanding the way others think. One of the classic examples of how this can lead to bloodshed is not Hiroshima, but Nagasaki — which occurred because those who received the Japanese surrender offer after Hiroshima did not understand that the Emperor's person was sacred in Japanese religious doctrine, and therefore did not understand that the Japanese were — within the bounds possible for Japanese negotiating in English at the time — offering their unconditional surrender.

    So the U of I screwed up. The instructor probably screwed up, too, because he probably should have learned to preface every damned remark — even in e-mails — with "Catholic doctrine/dogma holds that" instead of ever leaving a statement from dogma unadorned as if it was true. And the oversensitive student(s) screwed up; if dogma is hate speech, don't take it out, out of context, on the individual trying to explain dogma, but on the origin. That's right, Ratzy: You propound hatred. Just like every other theocrat and would-be theocrat.

  • I find myself agreeing with a Frenchman about French when he proclaims, "French is a 'fossilised language,' which is uncool, associated in the global mind with an aristocratic elite and defended by ageing bureaucrats terrified of linguistic evolution." He neglected to note that it's associated with losing to the speakers of my native tongue, but I guess that's OK this close to the seventieth anniversary of the fall of Paris and this year's World Cup debacle. Schade.
  • This headline says it all:

    Emergency Motion: Lawyer's Wife Unwilling to Accommodate Request to Give Birth After Deposition

    I particularly like the judge's order, playing along with the straight presentation.