Sunday, December 24, 2006

Going on Tournament

Yes, I'm quite well aware than the blog has been rather scantily updated recently. I think it helps not to have to read the local (read: Singapore) press and in particular the forum pages.

Anyway, I'll be going on tournament soon and will be back only after New Year's, by which time I will be thrown right smack into a new quarter. So go bug CL if you want to read something on the blog.

Regardless, Happy Holidays e.g. Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Decemberween, Solstice, New Year etc.



Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Reality check: 95 percent of Americans had premarital sex -

And the rate has been fairly stable all the way back to the 1940s. So there really wasn't a golden age of chaste youngsters. Which makes perfect sense given that there is an evolutionary reason why puberty starts as a fairly young age i.e. much younger than what we would common accept as a statutory age of consent.

Nevertheless I read it with a raised eyebrow as the numbers are pretty high. And as a skeptic, anytime I see something that agrees with me so completely, I tend to be cautious in affirming it until more facts come to light.

So here's the report from the Guttmacher Institute.

But first a disclaimer. I am not a statistician nor do I have much training in them outside of my A Level C Math classes. Furthermore, I don't really have a good ground in such research methodology, or at least nothing formally learned.

The first thing that struck me was their narrow definition of pre-martital sex which they defined as "either having had vaginal intercourse before first marrying or ever having had intercourse and never having married". The reason I say this is that there have been a couple of studies showing that teens (and adults) who while proclaiming never to have had sex, have engaged in what is called "anything-but" behavior i.e. having had engaged in what would be considered sexual activities such as mutual masturbation, oral and anal sexual intercourse. So either the figures would be way higher if such activities were included or possibly that sexual activity comes in a complete package.

Here are the results they drew:
Data from the 2002 survey indicate that by age 20, 77% of respondents had had sex, 75% had had premarital sex, and 12% had married; by age 44, 95% of respondents (94% of women, 96% of men, and 97% of those who had ever had sex) had had premarital sex. Even among those who abstained until at least age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44. Among cohorts of women turning 15 between 1964 and 1993, at least 91% had had premarital sex by age 30. Among those turning 15 between 1954 and 1963, 82% had had premarital sex by age 30, and 88% had done so by age 44.

Well, so much for "expected standard" of behavior among society at large.

Note the last sentence because I want to point out a recent absurdity by the Bush "faith based" Administration which is now advocating abstinence until 30. That's right people, you can by now drink, drive, smoke, get killed and kill and you can't have sex. This is the question I've always wanted to ask one of those abstinence only people during those talks i.e. even if we were to take at face value everything you said thus far, would you include adults under the category of not having pre-marital sex and on what basis would you justify it.

Anyway, the rest of the research paper reads well and basically just repeatedly kicks the "conventional" wisdom in the face and then some more.

Some points to note. Median age of first premarital sex has been dropping since 1954 to 1993 (20.4 to 17.3) before creeping up for the period of 1994-2003 (17.6). Percentage who had had premarital sex by 15 has indeed shot up from 4% in the period of 1954-63 to 14 percent in 1984-93. Although the biggest percentage rise (50%) was between the periods of 1954-63 and 1964-73. While the percentage rise between 1984-93 and 1994-2003 was 7.69% (to 2 sf). Same goes for fall in median age.

Otherwise, the figures across the board since 1964 have been really really stable i.e. definitely not outside of the bounds of statistical significant i.e. noise.

So what would be the "moral" choice now? To basically ignore reality and the wider stable historical and future trends it presents, or continue with what is really a screwed up policy and in turn screwing up the lives of countless teenagers along the way? Sorry, irrational religious beliefs can no respect from me, particularly in this circumstance.


Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Local incoherent homophobe

Just read it and the comments. At last he's thrown off the pretense that he's not a homophobe and gone into full blown rightwing, bigoted lying that homosexuality promotes pedophilia.

Read the post and in particular the comments. His arguments have been shredded repeatedly, but like a boxing trainer, he just keeps coming back by ignoring the points asserting he's right and generally going "la-la-la I can't hear you".

As CL says, his argument is more against casual sex than homosexuality per se. Or as I put it, his arguments (and I use the term loosely) apply equally against heterosexuals.

So I suggested that he change the name of his blog to "Why Be Sexual?".

Well, let's see what he comes up with next.

Update: Well boo hoo. For the third time, he has called me stupid and refused to engage in debate.

Labels: ,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Suggestions on getting into NUS Law

It appears that the recent hits on my blog has mostly or almost entirely to do with searches on NUS Law, by deductive reasoning, it would appear that this is the result of “kiasu” or at least well prepared Singaporean students attempting to get a heads up on what to expect at a) the law entrance exam and b) the law interview.

I’m going to presume that you meet the minimum criteria for entering law school, otherwise you really don’t have much of a hope even being shortlisted. The reason I know this is because my GP grade was screwed up such that despite otherwise excellent A levels grade (and being a humanities student to boot, I mean seriously, does not an A in literature prove that I can read, write, comprehend and analyze in English at the very minimum?), I was not shortlisted for the entrance examinations.

Ironically, I was saved by National Service, which allowed me to reapply the next year on the basis of my SAT scores (I also submitted my retaken GP scores, which I had retaken for vindication).

Gripping aside, here’s what you generally ought to know.

1. The odds are against you.

Assuming you get past the short-listing stage, you’ll be amongst the 1000 plus students vying for a position for the 200 odd that will eventually be selected. The odds are not as bad as trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge, much less the International Relations course at LSE but it’s still fairly tough I would think because of the general caliber of the persons you will be up against. As the saying goes, everyone there at one point of their lives was first in class or the like.

2. Be able to handle surprises and make do

Now with regards to the written exams, it could take a number of forms. The year before mine was something akin to a comprehension test. I was hoping for that, I was expecting that. Instead I got a one paragraph essay requiring me to explain whether I supported a marital rape exemption, and why or why not. You could hear the collective intake of breadth when we were told to turn over the paper. It came after the stunned silence to be fair.

3. Read widely, read critically and then read some more

But because of the wide possibilities of what could turn up, my recommendation is simply to read and keep abreast of current affairs and general contentious issues. Remember even if you don’t have a particular opinion on any single issue, what you can do is to develop one if you understand the basic issues and principles to be applied.

4. Analyze, organize and kick ass

What the examiners are looking for I am told is the capability of seeing all the issues, and the capability of expressing them, taking a stance and defending it. What this will consist of is an acknowledgement of the strongest arguments on the other side and then demonstrating why it is wrong.

5. Think smarter not harder.

As an illustration, allow me to use the marital rape exemption essay that I had to write. Simply put, I had never considered that something of this sort actually existed and it struck me as wrong given what I knew about rape laws in general (very limited at that time admittedly but what I learnt from Ally McBeal and The Practice was sufficient for this context). Therefore, what I tried to do was to explore why I though the proposition was wrong and attempt to come up with arguments for the other side. The biggest problem I had was that I though it was such a clear erroneous position that I had difficulty coming up with arguments in support of it.

I don’t think I’m able to reproduce the essay from memory but here’s what I remember. Firstly, a general introduction about how the non consummation of marriage is grounds for a divorce even under the Roman Catholic Church. Next was, honestly, a rather confused analysis of whether it mattered because of other laws on the books that would permit prosecution anyway. Fortunately, I knew just about enough to throw out the argument that sentencing under these alternative charges would not be as harsh as rape. Then came a general analysis of possible negative consequences of overturning the marital rape exemption which I dismiss on grounds of due process and evidentiary burden protecting false accusations. Followed by a rhetorical argument about the absolute lack of rationality or logic in being protected better when one is in fact not married.

There was a quick and dirty mention of s. 377 and the ludicrous law that enables one to be prosecuted for being naked in one’s house (there are some good reasons for it but this is not the time and place to go into them). I raised the argument in a terribly roundabout fashion as the point I wanted to make was that the marital rape exemption was a way of keeping out the government from the bedroom. But I then shredded the position which made me wonder if I just wasted a load of time that could have better spent elsewhere.

5. The interview is important

According to law lore (and take what you will about the authenticity of that), the written paper is not as important as the interview. Some say that the interview is all and the written test at best is a tie-breaker. I really have no idea.

But the interview is at the very minimum one of the two components of the entire process and it’s very revealing about you. So I think it is very important, just how important on the other hand I have no idea.

6. Dress like a law student

This is a personal thing. I strongly advocate NOT dressing like a lawyer. You’re a law student wannabe not a lawyer yet. So no suit, no black and white. Ties are a questionable. I don’t think you need them at this stage but bring one along anyway and look at how people are dressed on that day.

And please please please dress up. This is an interview for a professional degree. Casual is a no no. Jeans are nearly automatically out (black jeans with a proper shirt might be fine). Casual formal is skirting the edge in my opinion.

7. Think before you speak.

It isn’t a debate, quick responses are not needed and may actually be detrimental. You want to seem thoughtful, and you want to make sure you’ve got your answer properly organized and thinking does that, buys you time and more.

8. Strike early and strike hard

Make your answers count. If they cut you off after the first line (very unlikely) or even after the third, make sure you’ve said what you needed to have said. Don’t ramble. I speak from personal experience here. Don’t feel that you necessarily have to fill up the time or silences.

9. Demonstrate your ability to see the issue and not just argue your side

Do a quick search on this blog, I have a short account of my interview by the by in a post or three before this. It involved strings being attached to state scholarships and I was made to express an argument for the other side. My interviewer said that he was worried I was unable to take on any position or issue.

10. Prepare.

There will be some standard questions e.g. why did you choose law, why should we select you, I see you’ve also applied for medicine/dentistry/scholarship/have a position in a foreign university. Be honest, interviewers can sense when you’re lying. Which is not to say you should not have a spin on why they should select you nonetheless.

Well good luck to all you future law students. Make you sure really want to do this. Peace.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 15, 2006

Confronting Holocaust denial - Opinion - International Herald Tribune

Go read the article, I promise you it's short and it's personal. It's by Ayaan Hirsi Ali which should tell you something about it. Here's IHT's description: "A Somali immigrant, she was a member of the Dutch Parliament and on a hit list of Muslim radicals for writing the screenplay for the film "Submission.""

I simply want to use the news around this conference to segue into what Free Speech and Free Expression actually means, because all too often I find that critics of Free Speech have some basic misconceptions of what it entails or worse, what Liberty actually stands for. In other areas, people have used the notion of free speech in an effort to detract attention or criticism of what they have said. And in the last area, we have those who are ignorant about the history of Free Speech (as I was till last year) and what they history means in light of how extensive this notion of Freedom of Speech is today.

Firstly, let's kick off with a definition of speech. Often today, the freedom of speech is used interchangeably with the freedom of expression and for good reason. In most countries, speech is not merely verbal or written but also includes expressive conduct or symbolic conduct. This includes draft card burning, flag burning, waving a foreign flag, appending the peace sign or using the crooked swastika to make a point. This is a more expansive notion of speech and personally I think speech ought to be expansive as it is merely a means to convey a particularized message which the general objective observer or public will reasonably understand what to take from it.

Next, what does the freedom to do something mean? Simply, it means you can do, not that you have to do it or you should do it. And often there is a conflation of all three in various criticisms and arguments for or against free speech which needs to be sorted out. The important thing about a recognized right is that it gives you a cause of action when your right is being abridged, in short, if your right is being violated, you can sue to restore it.

One of the oddities of the Singapore system (and one I think very few people know) is that we have very broad concept of standing, in contrast to, say the United States. Standing is legal doctrine which determines if you have the legal capacity to bring up the suit such that the court will hear it. In the US, standing requires you to have your right abridged before you can sue on it (subject to the doctrine of vagueness and overbreadth). In Singapore, however, any citizen can sue on the basis of a violation of Article 14 (Freedom of Speech and Assembly), even if the citizen whose right is being violated is a third party.

Anyway, one of the things I blame post-modernist for (fine it's not really their fault, its those who don't understand what it is and start misapplying their theories) is this idea of how "everyone is entitled to their opinion". No, they are not. It's stupid to think that some is entitled to an erroneous opinion. An opinion is entitled only by reference to a factual basis or logical reasoning.

Instead, all a person is really entitled to is to express his opinion without getting sanctioned by the government. In turn, it's not a defense when we pile on your opinion and explain why you are utterly, miserably and totally wrong! So you want to be a homophobe? Fine you have the right to express that opinion and possibly even to think that way (Freedom of Conscience cuts both ways), but I'll shred your arguments and probably point out why you're an idiot if in the face of evidence and reason, you don't change your mind.

Why this entire freedom is remarkable is that it did not exist until the Americans came along, and even then, their concept of Free Speech is markedly different from what they and we have now. Firstly, there was no concept of free speech, all you had in England was residual speech i.e. you can speak on anything that was not sanctioned by the government. This is arguably what we have in Singapore. We don't really have the notion of Constitutional Free Speech but really that of residual speech because parliament can always pass a law restricting speech and you would be tremendously hard pressed to get the court to strike it down because of the manner in which our Constitution is drafted and how our Court has interpreted Article 14 to give tremendous deference to the government in determining what is "necessary or expedient" such that it passes Constitutional muster.

And even where there was a push towards Free Speech, it was very limited and rather alien to how we understand it today. Blackstone in his very highly influence treaties Commentary on the Laws of England viewed the only evil to be restrained was that of prior restraint i.e. licensing regime on the printing presses. All speech could be punished ex post but not prior to it. I'm no student of American Constitutional History but this was arguably the grounds on which the Framers understood Free Speech to mean and which explains how the Sedition Act (yes they too had a Sedition Act) came to be.

And it's absolutely fascinating to see how the doctrine develops from the 18th Century onwards (and arguably didn't change all that much until the 19th century and eventually in the 1950s) till the doctrine that they have today, expansive, extensive and really rather awesome.

I value speech intrinsically because I value the individual. And it is only through expression that one may remain true to their conscience. To stifle speech is to stifle the person which makes it even the more insidious.

Speech is not simply a means to the end but an end in and of itself.


Labels: ,

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Exams Over Yay

Back to your eventual regular blogging sometime soon.


Labels: ,

Friday, December 08, 2006

TODAYonline: Penal Code Public Feedback

When the Going gets Tough, I get to Blogging

I suppose I could say that I don't have much reason to doubt the veracity of this article. But what's omitted is as important as what is expressly said.

I belong to the Young Republic, a non partisan mailing list which discusses a whole bunch of issues ranging from social to political to economic to science and even literature (rare but it happens). Admittedly we've lost a couple of conservative voices over the past 2 years but quite a number of us, even if considered extreme liberals or libertarians or whatever jargon that's being mentioned, hold sufficient centralist views and even conservative ones (on economics, I would be considered rightist and there's always the libertarians to count on).

So even if we account for the general social liberal bent that the vocal posters on the mailing list (and the blog(s) that we sometimes refer to), it doesn't explain the one paragraph mention of s. 377 and s. 377A (which currently are just sexually regressive but if the recommendations pass, it would just be anti-homosexual and for no good reason). According to 3 different persons who were at the Women's Forum, they was unanimous support for getting rid of the provisions outright, yes even among the presumably straight older section of the forum participants.

As such, making a one paragraph reference to it and giving Alex Au a one line quote is simply not doing the issue any justice. I would venture as far as to say, it's akin to giving the NAACP a one liner when deciding whether to decriminalise inter racial marriages during the Civil Rights Era. It's simply ludicrous in the face of the disproportionate length the other issues get.

Anyway, at the very least that was mentioned. The part about criminalising the act of hurting a person's racial feelings on top of the already criminal act of hurting a person's religious feelings was not even mentioned.

But the more entertaining debate occurred on YR when I shifted my stance on free speech and expression and argued for the extension of such laws to stamp put "hate" speech on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and medical condition in circumstances that we're seeing now i.e. the extension of speech protection to groups who arguably need it least given all the socialization that we've had from NE and the multitude of Racial and Religious Harmony Day.

Of course I got called out on it but it became an issue of whether it was sensible/rational/right/proper for someone who takes the intellectual position that all speech should be free regardless of their viewpoint (not incitement to violence mind you) to nevertheless argue for an even more encompassing anti-speech protection. It was a good debate as these things go, given the constraints of having our respective exams on at the same time but it is revealing insofar as how for me now political expediency trumps intellectual positions in certain situations.

And I think the reason for my shift in thinking is I'm seen the extremes to which intellectual positions can be taken, particularly in the legal field. I will not deny the attractive of the proposition especially in Constitutional law that Judges ought not to make law but merely declare it and as far as possible give effect to the original intent of the drafters/legislators (if alive) who at least are accountable to the people through elections. Of course, I think this disregards the fact that the original drafters of the Constitution (any constitution for that matter) were made by people from a different era (*insert joke here of how EU Parliament legislators are seen to be from the Country of EU Parliament), and it would behoove us as the living to be controlling by the dead hand of law givers long past.

I don't want to make this a post on Originalism and why I think it is simply currently used as a facade to advance certain socially conservative positions but I want to explain how an intellectual position can be taken too far if divorced from reality. [I want to emphasis here that this point and from here onwards now has no bearing on the issue I mentioned above except very and I do stress very tangentially.]

I generally do not think that the government is necessarily bad. That whether big or small, governments can do harm or ill. But, it is true that the larger the government, the more power it has and the more it can generally impinge on our lives if it chooses to do so. Anyway, the discussion was on First Amendment constrains on the government when it chooses to subsidize speech or penalize speech. One of the more controversial areas was whether the government could in effect force a particular decision on you in return for giving a benefit.

To take an example (and this was an actual exchange between me and the interviewer for my law interview), should the government be allowed to require you to take a specific subject in return for a scholarship? At that time, I couched my answer in terms of a benefit that the government does not have to give and hence, could put restrictions or make it a criterion for acceptance i.e. if they give you money, they sure can put strings on it. But when pressed for an opposite viewpoint (why oh why couldn't they ask about something else instead), I couched my argument in terms of the negative consequences of people doing something they did not enjoy. Note that my argument was based on a cost-benefit analysis i.e. it does not answer the basic principle that I was originally advocating.

And for all intent and purposes, I still adhere to that particular principle. But the problem comes when the government gets so large that it can through these problems effective buy your speech or to dry up speech. So for example, a particularly odious program effectively forces doctors to say that abortion is not a form of family planning and they could not speak about it when women come to a federally funded family planning clinic. Or to take another example, the government could simply pay every single journalist to write glowing reports about it and it would be perfectly constitutional.

There is of course, a strong principle behind this i.e. the government should not have to fund competing speech e.g. if it funds anti-smoking campaigns, we do not expect it to fund pro-smoking campaigns. What the government is entitled as the representative of the people to represent their speech i.e. governmental speech. In the earlier examples, the government is simply purchasing speech from those who would speak on its behalf.

But the most important distinction is that in one case there is no worry about the eradication of a particular viewpoint, so Philip Morris and gang, having sufficient money, will still be able to continue to buy their own speech. But even then, it is not inconceivable that the government will be able to outspend them and basically flood the advertising world with so much money that no one will work for the tobacco companies. What more when we are talking about individuals or smaller organisations? That's the problem, that big government can silence speech more easily than small government can.

So it's one thing to adhere to a principle when it is premised on a particular groundwork but it's foolhardy to adhere to it when the premise of that principle has been reversed.

I still think that speech should be as free as possible and it's ridiculous for any worldview (I don't think race or even verifiable history is a worldview but I think hate speech is better combated by showing how inane it is rather than trying to criminalise them) granted immunity from being criticized or offended but when it's a done deal that religion is going to be protected through anti-speech provisions, I figure it's the lesser of two evils.

I don't like it and I sure as hell could be wrong and it could set off a wave of vindictive reporting (I'm just less sad that homophobes will be targeted now). Or even entrench anti-speech provisions so tightly that they will never be eradicate (that's what a constitutional amendment is for). Furthermore, between this and a choice to eradicate all anti-speech provisions altogether, I'll go for the latter.

Anyway, it's a fairly academic debate seeing as how "teh gheys" still have to deal with their expression of sexuality being criminal. I think anti-speech protection is less of an issue for now.


Labels: , , ,

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Reflections on First Quarter in UW Law School

It's the exam period and I'm blowing off steam after a day of way too much coffee, a really long, intensive and exhausting First Amendment review class and then some more on Sale of Goods.

All things start as they must at the beginning. Despite the name of this blog, future events cannot affect past events, not even as a correlative factor. And it starts with a simple desire to study abroad as an exchange student for a year, as a sort of consolation prize for not being able to get an overseas scholarship in a year which broke all records for the largest number of people with 4As. And this despite being in the "Arts" stream with having done two S-Papers (and maybe because of that C5 I got for GP, officially the lowest grade ever to come from Hwa Chong Humanz).

And so I went through the grind of the application process, chose as my first three choices US Law Schools (followed in no particular order Canada, Australia and I think UK). Panicked over not getting called for an interview, got the call and then started to panic over the thought of the interview. And then finally panicked prior to entering the room for the interview (mind you this was spread over a couple of weeks, possible more than a month or two as I recall).

And it was over in 2 minutes literally.

It was in reality a simply matter of getting told I sucked and I didn't rank highly enough to go to NYU or Columbia (not a big surprise considering the people picked to go there i.e. Shou Min and Louis, both I have absolutely no hesitation in saying are better overall law students than I am) but whether I would like to go to this other US law school. I mean, hey, it's not the list so you haven't quite checked it out, you'll be the first NUS law student there so now real pressure, really, and oh take your time, yeah, let us know by this afternoon.

Um....right. After stuttering out a few confused statements, I was shown the door.

Alright, here's the serious part. I came to the US for the academic challenge. It's a post-graduate degree here. Many of them have multiple degrees. And in one class that I'm taking, 80% of them have at least a basic law degree if not a Master of Laws (yes that's what the LL in LL.M or LL.B stand for). And the people here have taken on significant debt through student loans and know what they are getting into.

As such, being in the midst of highly driven and intelligent, vocal and articulate people (admittedly the last two is a relative point compared to Singapore) has been fairly strenuous to say the least. I have held my own (although it took two weeks to get understood with my accent) thus far and it would be a coup for me to do well enough to break into the top half of the class/cohort. It's always a nice ego boost when your peers and Professors think that you're doing your LL.M and then realize that you're actually an undergraduate.

What kicks it up a notch is the fact that this is a quarter system and classes are generally confined to 50 minutes or an hour 20 minutes. And this is every single day unlike our system back home where you could have one massive 3 hour lecture and a 2 hour tutorial per week. In the latter case, you don't really feel the grind. Here, it hits you by the 3rd week. And furthermore, quarter system means no one month long study break, much less a mid-term break.

So being single here, with absolutely no other call on my time (I gave up debate here in the UW after a couple of weeks because there simply wasn't enough time), what is absolutely remarkable is how the students, despite being married or actually having kids, can still juggle everything. The maturity shows I think, and it's been cognitively odd to switch from being one of the older people in the cohort (by simply virtue of having gone through National Service) to being one of the youngest (there's another exchange student who's possibly younger).

And of course, there's the whole adapting to a new culture, a new place, living alone and independently for the first time (I got upgraded to a 4 person bunk after I became an instructor but that was that). It helps I think to be a fairly solitary creature. I think it's probably me but it's fairly hard to make new friends in law school here. Unlike an undergraduate program and not taking the same classes as the 1L (first year in law) means breaking into cliques. Not to mention being the only Singaporean on exchange here.

But as Alex and Mark can testify, I do get into misanthropic moods (it got pretty bad during the Australs admittedly) and hey, after my first year in NUS Law, I know it took some time for the rest of the cohort to *ahem* warm up to me.

But if any future law student from NUS is thinking of doing an exchange in the US, all I have got to say is that you really need to be mentally prepared for it or have strong adaptive and coping capabilities. Two years in NUS Law will set you up fro certain expectations that you simply cannot carry over here. But unless I screw up my exams, what I will say is that it will be a rewarding and enriching experience.


Labels: ,

Monday, December 04, 2006

Effect of sleep deprivation on Cognitive Function

First class of the day was International Law and we were dealing with the Geneva Convention and how it may or may not apply depending on the political classification of a) whether the hostilities amount to a conflict, b) whether it is of an international character and c) who decides the "competent authority" that determines the status of prisoners where there are "doubts".

So it kicks off with a discussion of article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention where as long as certain criteria are met, a person belong to that regular force is granted the protections as a POW under the said Convention (otherwise, the person gets protection under the 4th Convention which governs civilians).

So I get suddenly called on to respond to the question of whether this undermines the sovereignty of the state by legitimizing to a certain extent insurgent forces.

S: *desperately trying to clear mind of cobwebs* Um *beat* well *beat* could you repeat the question?

(Question is repeated)

S: *stalling for time while trying to come up with a coherent response* I think that *beat* that it is a gross um overstatement of the sentiment because because the object of the Geneva Convention is to um civilize law and um put a civilizing gloss on the um *some literal hand waving* atrocities of war. And and as such it cannot be truly said to be legitimizing these forces.

*Gathering steam* An alternative way of looking at it as per the text um textbook is that the Geneva Convention is a series of unilateral declarations by Contracting Parties um High Contracting States to um obey the convention.

*Valiantly attempting to summarize* So it cannot be said to be legitimizing these forces insofar as the Convention insofar *realizes he used insofar again* tries to civilize war. *Buries face in hand*

And I spaced out during International Commercial Arbitration and again during First Amendment. Gah.


Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 03, 2006

(more linkies!)

just one, actually.

but anyway, this is the sort of *ahem* science we could live with....

(Shaun thinks it's still woo but acknowledges that it's probably one of the better types of woo)

(because shaun doesn't usually post things like that)

watch the volume!

complete food, etc, but i am always disturbed by ads that have foods wanting people to consume them...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Mail & Guardian Online: Female Circumcision/Genital Mutilation a Cultural and not Islamic Practice

I guess this settles it then?

Some of the choicer quotes:

Eliminating the Violation of Women's Bodies, as the conference was publicised in Arabic, was attended by some of Islam's most senior and influential scholars. Most of them spoke against the common practice. The main message was that "female genital mutilation was never mandated in Islam ".

Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious university, said at the conference that "circumcising girls is just a cultural tradition in some countries that has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam".

"During my studies and research in Islam, I didn't find anything that I can trust as beseeching female circumcision," said the scholar, whose fatwas, religious edicts and words are followed by millions of Muslims around the world for direction in their lives.

The conference was attended by other heavyweights, whose endorsement of the public denunciation of the practice was seen as a landmark. Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Goma'a, considered the most senior judge of Islamic law, was a patron of the conference. Others included Hamdi Mahmoud Zakzouk, Minister of Religious Affairs in Egypt; Sultan Abdelkader Mohamed Humad of Djibouti; and Sultan Ali Mirah Hanfary of Ethiopia.

But while the clerics' call carries much weight, it is not clear if it will be sufficient to discourage parents from the practice. An official ban on circumcision enacted in 1996 remains ineffective in stopping it in this country.

"What will produce change is not just a fatwa or an opinion from clerics. What will change things is an alteration of the economic and social conditions that lead people to believe in the importance of circumcision," said Ahmed Abdallah, a professor of psychology at Zagazig University.

Abdallah appeared to fault the approach by the German human rights group that organised the conference because it assumed that religion was behind the practice.

"Fatwas will help but they will not do the whole thing," he added. "In this case, parents practising circumcision didn't do it because they received a religious edict asking them to do it in the first place. When they stop it they will not do so because of a religious edict either."

Really? One of the most troubling things about religion or religiosity is the apparent willingness to accept that good things flow from religion but not necessarily the bad. For example, to claim that religion plays no role in for example contemporary suicide bombings but it has everything to do with religion making people good through the provision of a moral guide cannot stand as a logically consistent premise.

Either religion is a contingent factor in both or it is not. Thus, either religion works as an excuse for the adoption of behavior, in which case we don't necessarily need religion to form the basis of a moral code or it isn't, in which case, we can lay atrocities at the feet of religion.


Labels: , ,