Saturday, March 30, 2013

This is one of those stories buried away in the back of the newspaper which really should have been one page 1.

From the Guardian:
MI6 and CIA were told before invasion that Iraq had no active WMD let the significance of that sink in for a second.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

From BBC News:
The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon's 'treason'

This is not new information.  As the article states it was known by journalists since 1994, and I've read it in a few different places now.  (Christopher Hitchens mentions it in The Trial of Henry Kissinger.)  But it appears the tapes were officially declassified  in 2008, and the BBC 4 is doing a program on it.  So apparently it is not in dispute anymore that Nixon sabotaged the 1968 peace process to win the elections.

The amount of blood on Nixon's hands just to win the election is staggering to contemplate.  This means that every American soldier killed since 1968 died unnecessarily (22,000, according to the BBC).  Not to mention all the millions of Cambodians, Laos, and Vietnamese killed.  (And yes, the number is in the millions.)
Plus the massive bombing of Cambodia under Nixon and Kissinger which lead to the destabilization of the country and the Khmer Rouge could also have been avoided.

All just to win an election...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This was in the news over a year ago.  I had a good laugh about it at the time, but never bothered linking to it.  It came up again in conversation the other day with some of the boys though, and we had a good laugh about it all over again.  So, just in case someone didn't see this the first time around, I thought it was worth a link.  (Better late than never, right?)

Allowing women drivers in Saudi Arabia will be 'end of virginity'
Allowing women drivers in Saudi Arabia will tempt them into sex, promote pornography and create more homosexuals, according to some conservative Muslim scholars.
Academics at the Majlis al-Ifta' al-A'ala, which is Saudi Arabia's highest religious council, said the relaxation of the rules would inevitably lead to “no more virgins”.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving.
The academics, working in conjunction with Kamal Subhi, a former professor at the conservative King Fahd University, produced the conclusions in a report for the country's legislative assembly, the Shura Council.
It warned that allowing women to drive would "provoke a surge in prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce". 

Now, I know you and your liberal friends would probably argue that women from stable economic backgrounds would not immediately run out to prostitute themselves if they were allowed to drive.  But that's just your opinion against the University's, and these are well respected scholars who have completed a whole study on this. 

..The link to homosexuality is a bit harder to puzzle out though.  I myself have seen several woman driving in my lifetime, and I can't say it's caused me to have any homosexual urges.  But then that's just my personal anecdotal evidence, and it's not statistically significant.  (And they have done a whole study on this after all.)  So I'll just throw this out to the blogosphere: have any of you guys ever been tempted into homosexuality because women are driving?

Imagine all the women in Saudi Arabia who are being told right now: "I'm sorry honey, you can't drive.  It would cause homosexuality."

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

11 heinous lies conservatives are teaching America’s schoolchildren 
See also the Mother Jones article they reference: 14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools 

If you read both articles, you'll see they reference history textbooks published by Bob Jones University.
I actually taught out of one of these textbooks.
In 2000, I was doing my student teaching at a very conservative Christian high school which had Bob Jones University history textbooks as their set texts.
I remember at the time being absolutely appalled by what was in these textbooks.  Of course this was in the days before blogging, so I didn't really have much of an outlet to complain.  I just satisfied myself by complaining to whichever of my friends was around.
13 years later, the memory grows a bit hazy and I don't really remember the offending passages of the verbatim anymore.  I do remember the textbooks made a big deal about saying the Northern abolitionists actually made the problem of slavery worse, because the abolitionists used such strong language that it caused the Southerners to dig in their heels on slavery instead of compromise on it.  (I suppose you could make this historical argument, but if you only had a few sentences to some up the legacy of the abolitionists this is not what I would focus on.)
Also I remember the book had some very negative things to say about Black radicalism in the 1960s.
...And that's about all I can remember about it now.  But at the time there were all sorts of things in the book which used to set me off.

This is also a good place to bring up one of my favorite books: Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James Loewen (A)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thoughts on the Death of Mass Murderer Ieng Sary:Cambodian Political Culture and North Korea by Nate Thayer

I'm not sure I agree with everything in this article, but as always Nate Thayer is provocative and gives food for thought.  I'm not sure the Khmer Rouge trials should be abandoned altogether, but Nate Thayer does do a good job of pointing out the hypocrisy of them.

And also an interesting take on the Khmer Rouge phenomenon itself.  From his article:
The dirty little secret is that Khmer Rouge weren’t communists. They were Cambodian. In the heart of  far to many Cambodian’s, there lurks a Khmer Rouge in varying degrees of dormancy. And while the Khmer Rouge philosophy was on the extreme end of mainstream Cambodian political culture, it fit then and fits now quite comfortably into today’s Cambodian political culture, which  is being rehabilitated by the UN court to give it legitimacy and released back to run the Cambodian society.

Is it just me, or does this type of phrasing lend itself to racist interpretations?
But I do agree to some extent with his next point:
Of the 18 members of the central committee of the communist party that took power in 1975, only four spoke a foreign language. Since neither Mao, Lenin, Stalin, Marx, or Engels were ever translated into the Khmer language, it is hard to argue that the unspeakable failure and suffering that occurred under the Khmer Rouge was a result of communist—or, for that matter, any outside–ideology. 

Conservatives are fond of portraying Communism as a sort of bogey man, in which otherwise rational people will turn into psychotic mass murderers as soon as they become converted to a doctrine of collectivism.  But although these atrocities were committed in the name of communism, might there not have been other historical factors at play which caused the bloodshed to get out of control?

Friday, March 22, 2013

From The Washington Post:
It’s time to overturn the Defense Of Marriage Act by Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton is following in the fine Democratic tradition of only growing a spine once he's out of power.  (Does anyone buy his excuse for signing the Defense of Marriage Act?  Were we really in danger of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage?)

Still, a well argued article nevertheless on the harm that the Defense of Marriage Act is causing.

I'd like for this to become a series--a regular feature where former Presidents write articles about why the Supreme Court should overturn laws that they themselves signed into law.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From the Phnom Penh Post:
Unholy War of Words

Internet flame wars among the expat community in Cambodia will occasionally get reported in the Phnom Penh Post as if they were actually newsworthy.  This article is a typical example.
It does however highlight what really is an ongoing source of tension in the expat community. There are lots of missionary groups in Cambodia, but there are also lots of other expats who don't approve of proselytizing.
The tension can manifest itself in various ways. For example, “No Christian Missionaries Allowed” is on a sign prominently displayed at one of the most popular bar/restaurants in Kampot.
as some of my missionary friends in Cambodia are fond of complaining about.

(To see one of the internet message boards on which the Phnom Penh Post is reporting, visit the folks on at New "God Squad" corrupting Siem Reap.  As always with Khmer440, or any Internet message board, read with caution.  A lot of flaming going on.)

Monday, March 11, 2013

I've been learning a lot of Mennonite history recently by reading Whisky Prajer's blog.  His 3 part series on Mennonite Martyrs is well worth checking out--
See Shared Texts, and Mennonites,   Anneken Haunts Me  and  "Fools In Old-Style Hats & Coats": A 21st Century Blasphemer Reads Anneken Heyndriks

Sunday, March 10, 2013

An interesting article in the New York Times about Rabbit Redux
it remains the most illuminating and prophetic of modern political novels

My own take on the novel was quite different, but after reading the New York Times article, I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps I missed something.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Bible Trivia

(In a later post I’ll give out the correct answers, and explain what this is all about.  But for now just see how many of these you know the answer to.  All quotations are from the Today’s English Version.)

1. Besides David, who else killed Goliath?

2. In Deuteronomy 25, God commands the Israelites to “be sure to kill all the Amalekites, so that no one will remember them anymore. Do not forget!” Who finally fulfilled God’s command to kill all the Amalekites? For a bonus point how are the Israelites related to the Amalekites?

3. In order to deflect attention from himself, Paul exploits a secretarian division among his Jewish persecutors to get them fighting among themselves instead. What two Jewish groups did Paul manage to pit against each other, and what doctrines did they disagree on?

4. In military confrontations with the Israelites, the Philistines enjoyed an advantage because they had a technology that the Israelites did not. What technological advance did the Philistines have?

5. Jephthah made a deal with God to sacrifice something in return for victory over the Ammonites. God accepts the bargain and gave him victory. What did Jephthah have to sacrifice in return?

6. When was Jesus crucified in relation to the Passover meal?

7. In Deuteronomy 23, Moses says: “No Ammonite or Moabite—or any of their descendants, even in the tenth generation—may be included among the Lord’s people.” In Nehemiah 13, the same prohibition against Moabites and Ammonites is repeated. When meeting Jewish men who had married women from Moab or Ammon and had children with them, Nehemiah called down curses on them, beat them, and pulled out their hair. And yet there is at least one Bible story which contradicts this prohibition against mixing with Moabites. Which story is it?

8. Laban agrees to give Jacob only the goats that are speckled or spotted for Jacob’s wages. How does Jacob then manage to breed streaked, speckled, and spotted goats? For a bonus point, how might this contradict current scientific gene theory?

9. Before Saul, who was the first person to be declared King of Israel?

10.  God commands Moses to go back to Egypt from Midian and talk to Pharaoh. Moses agrees. At a camping place on the way to Egypt Moses meets someone who tries (unsuccessfully) to kill him.  Who tried to kill Moses at the camping place?

11.  When Jesus was near the city of Tyre, a woman asked him to cure her daughter from demon possession.  Jesus refused to help the woman or even talk to her until his disciples intervened because she was making too much noise.  Why did Jesus initially refuse to help the woman? For a bonus point, what animal did he compare her to?

12.  Smiting. The Old Testament God is famous for smiting people, while the New Testament God is generally seen as kinder and gentler. However some people were still killed by New Testament God. How many people did God kill in the New Testament, and who were they?

13. The prophet Samuel tells King Saul, “Because you rejected the Lord’s command, he has rejected you as king.” Some centuries later, an unnamed prophet tells King Ahab, because you did this, “you will pay for it with your life.” Both Saul and Ahab committed the same sin. What was it?

14. God ordered the Israelites to attack the Midianites. All the Midianite men were killed, but the women and children were taken prisoners. Moses was furious when he found out that his commanders had spared the woman and children. What was done with the captured Midianite women and children?

15. The chief angel Michael and the Devil quarreled with each other for possession of whose dead body? For a bonus point, where is this in the Bible and why does it cause canonical problems Christians?

16.  In the creation story, in what order were animals, man, and woman created in relation to each other?

17. Which book of the Bible never mentions God once, nor makes any references to worshipping God?

18.  Who were swallowed up by the earth and went down to the land of the dead while they were still living? For a bonus point, how might the location of the land of the dead as described by the Bible contradict modern geology?

19. It has been Christian tradition to portray angels as asexual, but what Bible verse indicates that the heavenly beings had a sexual interest in human women?

20. After Jesus rose from the dead, where did he first meet his disciples?

21. Who was the world’s first conqueror whose kingdom included Babylon, Erech and Accad and who built the cities of Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen?

22. According to Paul, what is a disgraceful thing for a woman to do in a church meeting?

23. Paul writes, “when Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him in public, because he was clearly wrong.” Paul also writes, “The other Jewish brothers also started acting like cowards along with Peter; and even Barnabas was swept along by their cowardly action.” Why was Paul so upset with Peter? For a bonus point, how does Paul’s account of this argument contradict the story in the book of Acts?

(That’s all for now.  Although if you have any interesting questions of your own, leave them in the comments section and I’ll have a go at them.)

Link of the Day

‘Assad Is Facing Assassination No Matter What Happens’

Thursday, March 07, 2013

From the Guardian
DC Comics to Kill off Robin

....sigh, again?
As I wrote in this post here, I remember what a big deal it was in my elementary school when DC comic books killed off Robin the first time.  The fact that they're resorting to the same gimmick again shows that they truly have now just plain run out of ideas.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

from the Cambodia Daily:
Spirits, Possessions Mark End to Chinese New Year 
An interesting little article talking about all the spirit possessions that happen during Chinese New Year in Cambodia. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Not my area of expertise, so I'm not qualified to say how reliable this is, but an interesting article/video nonetheless.
Is sugar the next tobacco?

Monday, March 04, 2013

5 Miracles Deleted From the Bible For Being Too Awesome

The usual cracked irreverence on this one, but it also does tie in nicely with the Bart Erhman book I recently reviewed, since Erhman mentions all these apocryphal books forged in the name of the apostles.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Learning Teaching by Jim Scrivener [Second Edition]

Subtitle: A Guidebook for English Language Teachers

Why I Read This Book
            I bought this book because it was the required reading for the CELTA (W) course I did 2 years ago.

            We were expected to read the entire book for the course, but, as most people do with textbooks, I did not read it cover to cover.  I read the parts of the book I needed to read for specific assignments, and the rest I just skimmed over.  (In my defense, I was very busy that year because I was also working on my Master’s degree.)

            However, the parts of the book I did read impressed me.  It seemed to be very practical, useful advice, written in a clear and understandable way.  And so I hung onto the book, and decided at some point in the future I probably should read it in more detail.

            Textbooks, even well written textbooks, don’t usually make for exciting reading, but eventually I decided that for my own professional development I was going to set aside a little bit of time at work everyday to read about 10 pages or so of this book until I worked my way through it. 
            Now that I’ve finished the whole book cover-to-cover, I’ll write a brief review of it here.

The Review
          Obviously this is not pleasure reading, and obviously this book is only intended for a select audience—those of us who make our living teaching English.
            If you fall within that select audience, however, this is a great book to read.

            For me much of the appeal of this book is that the author never talks down to his audience.  He states repeatedly that he is not going to tell you the “correct” way to teach or not to teach, he is just going to give you a number of tools that you can use or not use as you see fit.
            This friendly, non-judgmental tone makes the book very accessible.

            I also found the book full of very useful information.
            The book is designed for beginning teachers, and so some of the more classic TESOL activities he recommends I was already familiar with.
            But for every familiar activity I encountered in this book, there were at least two activities that were completely new.  So I came out of this book with a ton of new ideas for my classes.

            (It’s a pity human memory is so limited, because I read many more great activities than I can possibly store in my brain.  Which just means I’m going to have to re-read this book at some point, I guess.)
            In the second edition, the appendix of photocopiable classroom resources are also great.