These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 2, 2010.
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Samir Khalil Samir SJ On Women In Islam
Women, equality and Islam: Rethinking the faith to meet the expectations of modern man
Samir Khalil Samir, SJ
Beirut (AsiaNews) – On February 20 last, the University of Italian Switzerland, located in Lugano, organized an international meeting on the situation of Muslim women. They had invited a certain Dr Huda Himmat as chair of the debate, who developed the following title: "Submissive ... to whom?! Muslim women speak for themselves".
Who is Huda Himmat? She is a freelance entrepreneur, has a Masters in International Law from the University of London, and until recently was the vice-president of FEMYSO (Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations) whose headquarters is in Brussels. She is the daughter of Ali Ghaleb Himmat, who was born in Damascus in 1938, a naturalized Italian since 1990 and resident in Campione d'Italia. He is co-director of Taqwa Bank, the Bank of the Muslim Brotherhood and head of Islamic Gesellschaft in Deutschland, founded by Sa'id Ramadan, the father of Tareq and Hani Ramadan. Huda Himmat grew up in Campione d'Italia, and for some months, is a spokesman of the "Islamic Community of Ticino”.
The Chairwoman has insisted that discrimination against women in Islam does not depend on the Koran or the Sunna, but how they are interpreted, and is due to ignorance of the poor and the machismo of some men. Muhammad never hit a woman, and many Koranic verses speak of the dignity of women. There are problems, but also in Europe, where domestic violence is the leading cause of death for women. However, in Islam there is the subjugation of women, as St. Paul says.
We often hear these reflections from the mouths of Muslims in Europe. Moreover we often hear that Islam has liberated the Arab woman. These apologetic speeches include elements of truth but others that are not accurate. I think it useful to take stock of the situation, to bring some clarity. What is more, my goal is to affirm the ability of Islam to evolve and to help change society, provided they agree to reconsider their faith in depth. Since this work is very difficult, we must do this together, Christians and Muslims and others, in friendship and fraternity.
The "International Women's Day," which will celebrate the March 8 and that is unfortunately becoming more and more a connotation of mere trade, is an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of equality between women and men, and too real inequalities in many countries of the world, Islamic and non Islamic.
* * *
There are verses of the Koran and sayings of the Sunna (tradition) of the prophet of Islam that sometimes do not point in the same direction. Some praise women or speak of them in neutral terms, others say they are the temptresses and that hell is populated by women. Also, some verses speak of equality between men and women, some of inequality. What is the correct attitude to adopt?
Muslim authors generally tend towards apologetics: if they want to justify a concept choose the verses that best support their argument. But this is an unacceptable method, because it is selective. We must always keep in mind the overall vision of the Koran on the issues that are raised, giving the pros and cons. If not, we risk distorting the text of the Koran.
Need to reinterpret the Koran in every age
In the Koran there is plenty of discrimination. More specifically there is no equality in principle, that men and women have equal rights. This is not surprising. In the Bible we find, perhaps even greater, inequality between men and women. It is normal, because God speaks to men according to their language and their mentality, but it is up to men to understand the intent of the revealed text.
In Islam, there is the same principle that consists of finding "the purpose of the Sharia" (maqâsid al-shari'ah). Muslims who read the Koran as if it were an immutable text literally applicable to all times and in all places, create the problem. It is their way of understanding the Koran, and of applying laws, which poses problems.
Is it possible to reinterpret the Koran? Of course! But it is easier said than done. We must establish criteria for interpretation, ie a "hermeneutics." This is what exegetes of the Koran are lacking today. The reason? For at least seven centuries, no one has done so: thinking has been blocked. The more time passes, the more difficult this task becomes. Today, some Muslims are trying to do so academically, but are immediately accused of ignorance in religious matters or indeed, of heresy. As for the learned in religious matters (the ulamâ ' or "ulema"), they only serve to repeat the comments of the ancient classical interpretations (tafsîr).
Only a cultural problem?
It is often said that the problem is not the Koran, which is perfect. The problem is the ignorance of the faithful, ancestral traditions, or the culture of the various Islamic countries. Which is also true. But the question, without resolving the problem, results in another: where does this ignorance, these traditions, this culture come from? Why do so many Muslims attribute to these traditions and this macho culture an Islamic religious value? But if the problem is the traditions and cultures in which it is interpreted, then by what right are they transformed into divine laws?
The argument that it is only a problem of some countries and some cultures is not correct: it is a very general problem in the Islamic world. Taking Tunisia and Syria as examples of equality between the sexes, is rather the anti-demonstration. Indeed, in Tunisia or Syria if there is more freedom for women and more equality between the sexes, it is not because of Islam, but for the fact that these two countries have made moderate secular choices. In the 1950’s under the influence of President Bourguiba, Tunisia adopted secular law to solve this problem, and Syria did the same with the secular ideology of the Baath.
In fact, where there is a secular, not Muslim, system there is a certain freedom. Every time a country tries to be more "Muslim", to "return to authentic Islam," it is the woman who pays the consequences! However, where Sharia law is not enforced, there is more freedom.
The theological problem, that of hermeneutics
Ms Himmat is right to argue that the problem is in interpretation, but why can you not change the interpretation of the past? Because behind it there is a rigid conception of revelation, which does not allow the uniform development of exegesis. If I say that the text of the Koran is revealed by God, that it "descended from heaven to Mohammed" and is not be touched, then the possibility of interpretation no longer exists. We must have the honesty to interpret the Koran, saying that revelation passed through men of a specific culture in a specific context of space and time.
Instead, what we do in our Arab world is say that the Koran and Sharia are perfect, but we and our societies are bad and we are not eager to apply the Law of God. Let me mention an episode: three years ago an Iranian student couple came to see me in Beirut to do a PhD with me. The husband, who spoke better Arabic, explained that his wife wanted to do her thesis on "The Role of Women in Islam and Christianity", to show that Islam had freed woman. We went to the library and I showed them some fifty books written in Arabic all of them with the single purpose: to show that Islam has liberated women and the Koran, Shariah and Islam are innocent in relation to discrimination!
Legal inequality in the name of Islam
But in fact and principle this is not the case: the legal differences are numerous. To cite some examples:
- A woman's testimony in court is worth half that of a man;
- The female (daughter, sister, etc..) inherits half the amount of the male (son, brother, etc..). But in the Shiite giafarita school, which represents about 13% of Muslims, there is no difference between male and female;
- A woman has no right to travel without the permission of the husband or father, or brother, or son, in short, of a male. In Egypt, for example, this principle also applies to Christians and I personally have refused to give permission to travel to my mother, explaining that for us Christians, the child has no authority on the mother ... and I finally obtained an exception!
- A man does not need a woman’s permission, not even his wife’s, to travel; some law schools forbid a wife to leave the house without the permission of her husband (also in the West), while reciprocity is not supported by any school;
- A male can marry up to four wives simultaneously, if he has the ability to maintain them, while the female can not marry more than one man;
- Men can buy all the concubines he desires, according to the Koran, while the woman can not have a concubine;
- The husband can divorce his wife even without a trial in court, while the wife can only ask him the favour of being repudiated;
- A Muslim man can marry a Christian or a Jew, even if they remains such, and do not convert to Islam, while Muslim women can not marry a Christian or a Jew who remains such, unless they convert to Islam;
- The children belong to the father, the mother can only care for them until the age of 7;
- Children must take the religion of the father not the mother, even if they want to.
Note that these points are not derived from traditional or liberal culture, they are all legal, considered Muslim and are derived from the Koran or the Sunna (the tradition of Muhammad), accepted by most Muslims. The male chauvinist tradition adds to customs that restrict the space for women and increase inequality between the sexes, such as the terrible “honour killings" widespread in Muslim societies.
An important legal issue is the question of impurity of women due to physiological menstruation or childbirth. When the woman has her period she is ritually impure. She can not do the five daily prayers, because her prayer is invalid. She can not touch a Koran. She can not practice the fasting of Ramadan and has to recoup for her impure days after Ramadan. For this reason a man can not touch a woman at risk of becoming impure as if she was already unclean; he can only hold her hand if she is wearing a glove or something similar to prevent direct contact that transmits impurities.
This conception of impurity of the woman belongs to the Semitic culture and is found in Judaism as well as in ancient Christianity and other religions and cultures. The characteristic of Islam is to legalize this cultural dimension to this day (in this, Islam is close to Orthodox Judaism). The psychological and sociological consequences for women are severe.
Inequalities based on the Koran and the Sunna
The inequality between man and woman has a basis in some passages of the Koran, and in many sayings attributed to Muhammad, the most frequently quoted saying: "The woman is deficient in mind and religion" (al-Mar’ah nâqisah ‘aqlan wa-dînan).
In the Koran, equality before God between a man and woman is total. The best of the two is the most devout. But the question is not "before God" or "in the eyes of God": it is in everyday life.
Three verses are often cited that report as the "official" version of the UCOII:
2 / 223 "Your wives are as a field for you [to plow]. You may enjoy this privilege however you like"( Nisâ’ukum harthun lakum, fa’tû harthakum annâ shi’tum). Three words are important: Harth = "tilth" lakum = "that belongs to you"; annâ = how, many translations explain "how and when." The verse therefore means: "Your wives are a tithe that belongs to you. Come then to plow your field how and when you want". From this we infer that the wife is often the sexual property of her husband, who is entitled to possess her how and when he wants". For the "how", the English version of Saudi Arabia states: "have sexual relations with your wives in any manner as long as it is in the vagina and not in the anus”, while others do not recognize this limitation.
2 / 228, " The divorced women shall wait three menstruations, and it is not lawful for them to conceal what Allah creates in their wombs (arhâm = lit. uterus), if they believe in Allah and the Last Day. And their husbands (bu'ûl = lit. Lords) wishes shall supersede the wife's wishes, if he wants to remarry her. The women have rights, as well as obligations, equitably. Thus, the man's wishes prevail. Allah is mighty, most wise". The phrase "but men are superior" translates wa-li-l-rigâli ‘alayhinna daragah, which literally means "men supersede them by a degree."
4/34 “The men are made responsible (qawwâmûn) for the women, Allah has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is Allah commandment. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then desert them in bed, then you may beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. Allah is most high, supreme.”.
It is the verse most often quoted. Qawwâmûn is often translated as "have authority". The reason given by the Koran for this predominance is twofold: the first is divine preference (faddala Allah), the second is of a financial nature. If the man fears the insubordination (nushûz) of the woman, he will use three means to bring her back to abeyance: exhortation, sexual deprivation (but he has other wives, as well as the slaves purchased, as the Koran specifies), and finally beatings.
Obviously, at a human level, there is no equality between man and woman, husband and wife. This is no surprise to anyone: we are in Arabia, at the beginning of the seventh century. The Koran is addressed to specific people, using their culture. Like when it speaks of sentences (hudud) to be imposed on those who steal or commit adultery, etc.. What is surprising, in reality, is the fact that Muslims have not rethought the texts revealed by God to adapt them to the situation and culture of today.
A personal reflection to conclude
Allow me a personal reflection. All religions are faced with this problem, not just Islam, like all civilizations should regularly rethink their constitutions and laws, to save the initial motivation by expressing them new concrete ways. This rethinking is not a betrayal, but faithfulness to the spirit.
In my opinion, the Muslim world is in a difficult phase, experiencing a crisis of growth. The West exerts a strong attraction-repulsion in the Muslim world. The temptation is to entirely adopt or entirely reject the West. Both solutions are wrong. We must, we Arabs and Muslims, discern: Follow the great principles of Western humanities, to restore to the Arab and Muslim dignity and freedom, and reject all that degrades and debases humans (ie women and men) and their spiritual dignity, whether it is Islam or Christianity, modernity and tradition. Above all, it is hateful to establish any inequality among human beings (based on sex or religion, on social status or race, etc..) basing it on religion, as it is odious to justify violence in the name of religion or God
We must travel this path together, believers and non-believers, Westerners and foreigners, people of the "first world" and the "third world". Beyond faith or atheism, a true and deep humanism, soaked in spirituality - being the man of body, mind and spirit - will allow us to work together to find a certain harmony which appears today in the process of disappearing. Islam is not the enemy, not even Christianity, Judaism or other religions are. Intolerance and the excommunication of the other (takfîr) are the real enemies. The task of the believer is to rethink the faith to respond with depth to the expectations of today’s world.
Posted on 03/02/2010 7:32 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Islamist radicals: Complain early, complain often…
I woz rite about the concerted defensive comments by Muslims in advance of the first showing of Dispatches last night. This is Andrew Gilligan the reporter in this morning's Telegraph.
Someone not a million miles from the IFE has kindly passed me an email sent out by Musleh Faradhi, the organisation’s president, last Tuesday, February 22nd. “We need to ensure Channel 4 receives a strong message from the community by being inundated with complaints,” says Mr Faradhi. That was nearly a week before transmission.
Then there’s the email – also leaked to me – circulated at 6.12pm yesterday (Mon) by the IFE’s chums at the Muslim Council of Britain. “Do everything you can to get articulate responses ready and distributed from as many of our affiliates as possible…In essence, we need to make a noise out there and we need everyone’s help. It is vital we do this for our collective interests,” says Tufael Ahmed of the MCB’s media committee. Still almost two hours till airtime, Tufael!
Here is some free media advice for the media committee. It would have been better not to be cross until you had actually seen the programme. Any sense that complaints are being “ensured” or that “articulate responses” are being “got ready” hours or even days beforehand might lead the rest of us to conclude that the outrage is somewhat… well, manufactured. We have amassed a great deal of material on this story, much of which has not so far emerged. Don’t rush in to any (further) denials which you may later come to regret.
in fact – but if I wanted to say it, I don’t think I’d need much better evidence than Mr Ahmed’s email, with its claim that the IFE is at the heart of “our collective interests.”
Posted on 03/02/2010 12:47 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Cryptological Interlude: Vigenère cipher
The Vigenère cipher was named after Blaise de Vigenère, although Giovan Battista Bellaso invented it earlier. It was thought to be unbreakable, but Friedrich Kasiski published a solution, unimaginatively named the Kasiski Examination, although Londoner Charles Babbage discovered it earlier.
An explanation of the Vigenère cipher can be found here.
An online Vigenère cipher cracking tool can be found here.
(The message must be concatenated into a single line in order for the cracking tool to work properly)
Posted on 03/02/2010 12:40 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
8 killed in building collapse in Yemen
That's the original headline. It brings to mind the recent disasters in Haiti and Chile, but this collapse was not an act of G*d. By Ahmed Al-Haj for AP:
SAN'A, Yemen – Security officials in southern Yemen say a three-story building collapsed when explosives stored in its basement went off, killing at least eight people.
The ubiquitous disembodied passive voice: Explosives went off. Buildings collapsed. People died.
The officials said it was unclear what set the explosives off early on Tuesday in the southern town of Taiz. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media.
The officials say the basement was used by an arms dealer to store dynamite and other explosives. They say the blast was so strong the building, which had six apartments, totally crumbled.
The officials say rescue operations are still continuing and that 15 people were injured in the blast. Two nearby buildings were damaged and have been evacuated.
Posted on 03/02/2010 2:31 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Somali food jihad
By Tom Maliti and Raphael Satter for AP:
NAIROBI, Kenya – An extremist Islamic group is blocking food deliveries to hundreds of thousands of hungry Somalis, officials said Monday, after the militants accused aid agencies of secretly supporting those who have renounced Islam.
Britain also said Monday it will ban Somalia's most dangerous extremist Islamic group, al-Shabab, an action already taken by the U.S. State Department in 2008 when it designated the group a terrorist organization. Al-Shabab is believed to have links with al-Qaida.
On Sunday, al-Shabab said it would prohibit the U.N.'s World Food Program from distributing food in areas under its control because it says the food undercuts farmers selling recently harvested crops.
It also accused the agency of handing out food unfit for human consumption and of secretly supporting "apostates," or those who have renounced Islam.
How many non-Muslims will die now in Somalia, due to al-Shabab's blockade of food aid to kuffar? How many non-Muslims will convert to Islam, given the choice between starvation or Islam?
Posted on 03/02/2010 2:50 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Anjem Choudary - Islam Not a Religion of Peace
"You can't say that Islam is a religion of peace," Choudary told CBN News. "Because Islam does not mean peace. Islam means submission. So the Muslim is one who submits. There is a place for violence in Islam. There is a place for jihad in Islam."
Choudary told CBN News his group is a "non-violent political and ideological movement" that resides in the UK under "a covenant of security." Yet he openly praises violent jihad.
"The Koran is full of, you know, jihad is the most talked about duty in the Koran other than tawhid -- belief," he said. "Nothing else is mentioned more than the topic of fighting."
Choudary refuses to condemn acts of terror including 9/11 and the July 7, 2005 London bombings, which killed 52 people.
"For the people who carried it out, it was legitimate," he replied. "If you look at the will of the 7/7 bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer, they would be justified. And there are many verses from the Koran and many statements to say that's the Islamic argument. And that is a difficult Islamic argument to refute. And there are many scholars who support that argument as well."
Mr Stakelbeck and his colleagues are concerned that while Choudary is very open and blunt about his creed other Muslim leaders are not and that political correctness has resulted in US and European leaders being unaware of the implications of the spread of Islam. In the UK thetide of opinion has turned and the population as a whole is much better informed of what Islam is about than they were three years ago. Any person in a position of influence who still insists that ‘Islam is a religion of peace hijacked by extremists’ is either wilfully blind, or part of the problem.
Posted on 03/02/2010 9:08 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
A Musical Interlude: For Instance (Bernie Cummins Orch., voc. Walter Cummins)
Posted on 03/02/2010 9:59 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Suicide bombers 'unIslamic' and going to Hell, says leading cleric
As I mentioned on Friday Dr Tahir ul-Qadri has made his anticipate fatwa condemning suicide bombing. I have no reason to doubt thathe is sincere. I know that for some Muslims he will be the wrong kind of Muslim, as bad as a non Muslim or apostate. But there will be some to whom he is a figure whose advice is worthy of consideration. This is from The Times
A prominent Muslim organisation in Britain has issued a fatwa on suicide bombings and terrorism — declaring them “un-Islamic”.
Minhaj-ul-Quran, a organisation based on Sufi principles which advises the Government on how to combat radicalisation in Muslim youth, launched its 600-page religious verdict in Central London this morning, condemning the perpetrators of terrorist explosions and suicide bombings.
The fatwa condemns suicide bombers saying that they are destined for Hell, countering extremist propaganda that Islamist terrorists will enter paradise after death.The fatwa, first launched in Pakistan in December, uses texts from the Koran and other Islamic writings to argue that attacks against innocent citizens are “absolutely against the teachings of Islam and that Islam does not permit such acts on any excuse, reason or pretext”. I believe that he was expected to continue to define 'innocent' in terms which include non-muslims and civilians, unlike some schools of Islamic thought which define all non Muslims or the wrong sort of Muslim as fair game.
The document is written by Muslim scholar Dr Muhammed Tahir ul-Qadri, a former government adviser in Pakistan and friend of the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and the founder of the increasingly influential Minhaj-ul-Quran movement.
A spokesman for the counter-extremist think tank Quilliam said: “This fatwa has the potential to be a highly significant step towards eradicating Islamist terrorism.Fatwas by Wahhabi-influenced clerics and Islamist ideologues initiated modern terrorism against civilians. Terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda continue to justify their mass killings with self-serving readings of religious scripture. Fatwas that demolish and expose such theological innovations will consign Islamist terrorism to the dustbin of history.”
Posted on 03/02/2010 10:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
To facilitate increased diversity and inclusivity, Harvard appointed "a pair of task forces".
You wait ages for a task force and then two come at once.
Task forces are usually "tasked with" something or other. So are committees and panels and focus groups. It is only a matter of time before somebody is multitasked, or tasked with multiple roles. From Gulf News:
Abu Dhabi: The UAE Cabinet on Monday approved the establishment of a higher ministerial committee tasked with boosting national and communal solidarity in the country.
The committee will be chaired by the minister of culture, youth and community development.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, chaired the Cabinet meeting, which was held in the presence of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs.
The decision to set up the committee is in line with President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan's call to improve national and communal solidarity in the UAE community.
During deliberations, Shaikh Mohammad noted the significance of the President's call, which he said "reflects integrated vision of the leadership based on realisation of sustainable development in the UAE, whose important components are community development, human resources development and solidarity".
The members of the committee include the minister of social affairs as deputy chairperson and ministers of education, health, labour apart from Minister of State Maitha Al Shamsi and the chairman of the National Media Council.
The committee will seek to coordinate and mobilise efforts at the public and private sector levels to inculcate the concept of family bonds and solidarity in the community.
The Council of Ministers' set a timeframe of 2010-12 for the committee to create a general framework of its plan, programme and communications and submit it to the Cabinet to take appropriate resolutions.
Posted on 03/02/2010 10:38 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Busy, Busy Ruth Simmons, President Of Brown University
From The New York Times:
At Brown, Spotlight on the President’s Role at a Bank
Across this quiet quadrangle, behind the wrought iron gates and beyond University Hall, lurks a bogeyman of Wall Street.
It has come to this: Goldman Sachs, whose place at the center of so many concentric circles of power has thrust it into the grassy knoll realm of conspiracy theories, is the talk of Brown University.
To be precise, it is Goldman’s ties to Ruth J. Simmons, Brown’s beloved president, that has some students and alumni buzzing, Graham Bowley writes in The New York Times.
The trouble began in December, when Ms. Simmons’s long tenure on Goldman’s board — which, until then, it seems, had gone virtually unnoticed at Brown — suddenly came to the fore. Dr. Simmons, it turned out, was among the 10 people who decided how big those Goldman bonuses would be — including the $9 million payout for the bank’s chairman and chief executive, Lloyd C. Blankfein.
The Bears — the ones at Brown, not on Wall Street — roared.
It is a remarkable reversal for Dr. Simmons, 64, and, indeed, for the stature of corporate directorships. A spot on a board, particularly at a moneymaker like Goldman, used to be considered a plum job. The demands were relatively modest compared with the rewards. Dr. Simmons, for instance, was paid $323,539 last year for her work on the board, and will soon leave her position at Goldman with stock that is currently worth about $4.3 million. That was on top of her salary at Brown, which was $576,000 this year.
An e-mail message sent among a group of alumni showed surprise that Dr. Simmons was deciding Mr. Blankfein’s bonus, saying, “Who knew Brown had this much power?”
Indeed, corporate America has a long history of stocking boards with people plucked from academia and elsewhere. Roger S. Berlind, the theatrical producer, sat on the board of Lehman Brothers. Gen. Tommy R. Franks sat on the board of Bank of America. And Beverly Sills, the operatic soprano, served on the board of American Express.
But now, in this postbailout world, would-be corporate directors are having second thoughts. Some worry they lack the business or financial savvy needed to watch over high-octane trading strategies, according to executive recruiters. Others, like Dr. Simmons, worry about the increasing demands on their time.
“There is a lot of work, and a lot of risks,” said Theodore L. Dysart, a managing partner with Heidrick & Struggles, the executive search firm. “Directors are looking in the mirror and thinking, this was a great gig a few years ago, but do I necessarily want to sign up for this again?”
Goldman, for its part, seems unbowed. While Mr. Blankfein’s payout for 2009 — a pittance next to his record $68 million in 2007 — was regarded as an unusual show of restraint on Wall Street, Goldman has refused to bend to more public demands to rein in its pay. In a filing on Monday, Goldman said it had rejected several letters from shareholders demanding that its board reform executive pay and recoup some pay awards.
For Dr. Simmons, the controversy is not going away as quietly. Even though she said last month that she had decided not to stand for re-election to the board at the annual shareholders meeting later this year, some of her critics say she never should have taken the job at Goldman to begin with — and that she certainly should not have accepted so much money.
The university newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald, has questioned why Dr. Simmons joined Goldman’s board. Others have been less generous, essentially accusing her of selling out to Wall Street.
Simon Liebling, a sophomore from Highland Park, N.J., got tongues wagging on College Hill when he criticized Dr. Simmons in The Daily Herald.
“Most people agreed with my basic point that this brought shame on the university,” Mr. Liebling, 19, said during an interview in a coffee shop at the center of campus. “It has been taken by most people to be outrageous.”
Dr. Simmons, whose ascension at Brown, part of the Ivy League, was seen as a triumph for African-Americans and women, defended her role at Goldman. In a telephone interview, she said she was used to lively debate around the university and that the public controversy surrounding Goldman had no influence on her decision to withdraw from the board. Instead, she said, she stepped down after 10 years because the job was taking up too much of her time, particularly in the wake of the financial collapse. Earlier, she stepped down from the board of Pfizer, but she remains on the board of Texas Instruments.
The role of directors, Dr. Simmons said, has been “redefined,” adding that the crisis “involved many more meetings, including telephonic meetings, and a lot of material to deal with.”
Thomas J. Tisch, the chancellor of Brown, said the university’s board saw no conflicts with Dr. Simmons’s role at Goldman.
The financial collapse that began on Wall Street hurt Brown and many other colleges and universities. As the markets fell, Brown’s endowment shrank to $2.04 billion as of mid-2009, from $2.78 billion in 2008. The university has had to scale down some of its plans but is still forging ahead with construction projects — these, shrouded in Building Brown logos, dot the streets and squares.
Dr. Simmons, a professor of French and a former president of Smith College, said history would judge Goldman and Wall Street. But she declined to comment on whether outsize pay on Wall Street contributed to the crisis, as some have suggested, by giving banks and traders the incentive to seek short-term rewards at the expense of long-term prosperity.
“There are going to be lots of books written. I think people will make their own decisions,” Dr. Simmons said. “It’s easy to look back and say, ‘Gee, that was a lot,’ but you have to look forward and see how people react.”
For all the chatter, Brown’s faculty seems to have taken the Goldman episode in stride.
In his small third-floor office of the Barus & Holley Building for physics and engineering, Barrett Hazeltine, emeritus professor of engineering, said the plunge in Brown’s endowment had dealt a blow to Dr. Simmons’s dreams for the university.
“She has a grand vision for Brown, but the drop in the stock market and therefore the endowment has curtailed some of her dream, and she wants to make it back,” Mr. Hazeltine said.
Still, many students and teachers at Brown would rather see their president on the board of a major company like Goldman than the president of, say, Harvard or Yale, Mr. Hazeltine said.
“We would rather have one of ours up there,” he said.
Posted on 03/02/2010 11:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
New England Curiosities
Recently I've run across some unusual authorial dedications.
Robert Frost dedicated an early book of poems ("North Of Boston"? "A Boy's Will"? I can't remember, and can't find the book) to "Vermont and New Hampshire."
Francis Parkman dedicated one of his histories to "the Harvard Class of 1844."
And just yesterday I discovered that Herman Melville dedicated "Pierre, or The Ambiguities" to Mt. Greylock, which he could see from his study window at his farm, Arrowhead, in the Berkshires.
It must be a New England thang.
Posted on 03/02/2010 11:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Specification [takhs?s] is clarification [bay?n], thus if a general expression is found as well as a more general expression, the matter requires consideration: if the first general word is a clarifier for the second more general word than the former specifies the latter; if not, then both remain general and in need of clarification by specification and the former is an individual case [fard] of the latter (the general is merely one case of the more general).
Of course this could be a bit of taqiyya designed to flummox the infidel.
Posted on 03/02/2010 2:03 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Shiver me timbers
Posted on 03/02/2010 3:20 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
Dalrymple: the Ripper should never be freed
From The Times:
The question now before the High Court is whether Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, should be given a finite prison sentence — and therefore a chance to win parole. This is the man who brutally killed 13 women and tried to kill at least seven others.
The average citizen is likely to feel intense frustration that this idea could be seriously entertained (at considerable public expense) for even a millisecond. What kind of law, what kind of justice, needs to think about such a question?
However, we must accept that, under the rule of law, lawyers have sometimes to take leave of the most evident common sense. It is to be hoped, then, that the judge will take no notice of the psychiatrist’s report.
Sutcliffe was said to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. If so, he refused treatment for it for his first nine years inside. This is not encouraging. He is said by his psychiatrist to have responded well to treatment and supposedly now represents little danger to the public. However, people with schizophrenia often relapse, with or without medication, and unpredictably. They are especially likely to do so if they smoke easily available cannabis or take other illicit drugs. No degree of surveillance can prevent this.
It is well known that mental health services in this country are often — not always, but often — incompetent in their follow-up of psychiatric patients. Indeed, their incompetence sometimes surpasses all human understanding. I have myself known of cases of dangerous people discharged from follow-up simply because they failed to keep their appointments, when such failure was the first and most obvious sign of relapse.
If the identity of Sutcliffe became known after his release, his own life might be in danger. It is far from inconceivable that someone might take it upon himself to avenge God’s self-appointed avenger of prostitutes. A feeling that the law and justice have parted company — a feeling that the release of Sutcliffe would surely promote — is precisely what would provoke this kind of vigilantism and lynch law in our society.
The very fact that Sutcliffe wants to apply for parole speaks powerfully against him. If he had any real feeling for the enormity of what he did, even if he was not quite himself when he did it, he would be content, indeed eager, to stay in prison for the rest of his life.
It is not intrinsically unjust to say to someone who killed 13 people over a period of years that his life as a free man in society was over for ever. Indeed, it would be grossly unjust to say anything else to him.
Posted on 03/02/2010 3:24 PM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
A Musical Interlude: We're Going To Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line (Ray Ventura)
As the notes on the right say, the Siegfried Line turned out to be nothing like the Maginot Line, and "on connait la suite."
Posted on 03/02/2010 8:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 2 March 2010
If You Are Dutch, If You Live In Almere or The Hague, You Know What To Do
Ignore that nonsense about "far-right" Geert Wilders. You know better.
Vote for the party of Geert Wilders, the Freedom Party.
Help save yourself, your country, and Europe.
Posted on 03/02/2010 9:54 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald