RIP John Updike

Oh my.

NEW YORK (AP) — John Updike, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, prolific man of letters and erudite chronicler of sex, divorce and other adventures in the postwar prime of the American empire, died Tuesday at age 76.

Updike, a resident of Beverly Farms, Mass., died of lung cancer, according to a statement from his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf.

A literary writer who frequently appeared on best-seller lists, the tall, hawk-nosed Updike wrote novels, short stories, poems, criticism, the memoir ”Self-Consciousness” and even a famous essay about baseball great Ted Williams. He was prolific, even compulsive, releasing more than 50 books in a career that started in the 1950s. Updike won virtually every literary prize, including two Pulitzers, for ”Rabbit Is Rich” and ”Rabbit at Rest,” and two National Book Awards.

Holland Puts Offensiveness On Trial

From Forbes:

A court on Jan. 21 ordered the prosecution of Geert Wilders, the controversial member of Parliament in the Hague. Wilders, who leads the Freedom Party, has been outspoken in his views on immigration, which he opposes, and Islam, which he regards as backwards and dangerous. The world’s second religion has been on the rise in the Netherlands for years. The demographic shift in the West that the writer Mark Steyn has described–in which unbelieving natives have few babies, and faithful immigrants have many–is especially visible in Holland.

Last year, Wilders made headlines around the world with his short film Fitna, essentially a 15-minute indictment of all things Islamic. The Dutch government and its embassies around the globe worked feverishly to prevent Danish-cartoon-style riots, a strategy that seems to have succeeded.

The prosecutor decided in June of last year to drop all charges against Wilders, but the court has now disagreed, after an appeal by offended Muslim groups. The court said he must be prosecuted for “inciting hatred and discrimination” and for insulting Muslims. Wilders, a supporter of Israel, has compared Islam to Nazism, which, naturally, many believers in Allah did not like very much.

If convicted, the member of parliament might get 16 months of jail time and a fine of 9866.67 euros (about $12,800). Thus calculated the national daily Volkskrant (for which I work).

And so it may turn out that Wilders’ constitutional freedom of speech is only guaranteed when he makes sure not to hurt the feelings of certain minorities. The right not to be offended may well overrule the right to speak.

To be sure, it is problematic that he has called for a ban of the Quran. But his stupid idea does not condone the equally bad plan to silence him by law. The question is not, and should not be, whether Wilders is right. It does not matter whether his ideas are crude, offensive, ridiculous or brilliant (Wilders has a huge base of support in Holland).

TheWall Street Journal put it well, the day after the court order. “Limiting the Dutch debate of Islam to standards acceptable in, say, Saudi Arabia, will only shore up support for Mr. Wilders’s argument that Muslim immigration is eroding traditional Dutch liberties.”

The ruling was, to some, stunning in its admission of obedience to the professed offendedness of the few. But it fits into a trend. The big-mouthed politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated in 2002. The boisterous film maker Theo van Gogh was slaughtered by a Dutch-born Islamist on an Amsterdam street in 2004. The soft-spoken but clear-eyed member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali was endlessly threatened, lived behind bulletproof glass and was essentially driven out of the country in 2006; she ended up in the United States. Now Wilders will be prosecuted for speaking his mind.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali & Islamophobia

I want us not to confuse a set of beliefs such as Islam with ethnicity such as the hatred against Jews just because they are Jews or against Blacks just because they are black or against gays… Islam is simply a set of beliefs and it is not Islamophobic to say that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy. It’s not Islamophobic to point to those who use the Qur’an to conduct war and to say that this is being done in the name of your religion. That is not Islamophobic, that is fair.

Attenborough reveals creationist hate mail for not crediting God

From The Guardian:

Sir David Attenborough has revealed that he receives hate mail from viewers for failing to credit God in his documentaries. In an interview with this week’s Radio Times about his latest documentary, on Charles Darwin and natural selection, the broadcaster said: “They tell me to burn in hell and good riddance.”

Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give “credit” to God, Attenborough added: “They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator.”

Attenborough went further in his opposition to creationism, saying it was “terrible” when it was taught alongside evolution as an alternative perspective. “It’s like saying that two and two equals four, but if you wish to believe it, it could also be five … Evolution is not a theory; it is a fact, every bit as much as the historical fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066.”