29 November 2009

Swiss Pissing Contests

Surprising in CGJ's own country - photo left: typical Swiss alpine 'Christian' steeple. Photo right - captioned by Reuters (Italics mine): "Walter Wobmann, president of the committee 'Yes for a Ban on Minarets,' gave a thumbs-up in Egerkingen, Switzerland, on Sunday." Not entirely missed by SVP parliamentarian Oskar Freysinger, who is reported as saying, "The minaret is the power symbol of political Islam." Yes, and your thumb, er, steeple, sir?

November 29, 2009
Swiss Voters Projected to Back Minaret Ban
By REUTERS Filed at 9:09 a.m. ET

GENEVA (Reuters) - Swiss voters have approved a right-wing-backed proposal to ban construction of new minarets, initial projections showed on Sunday, a surprise result that could damage Switzerland's economic ties with Muslim states.
If confirmed, the result would be a huge embarrassment for the neutral Swiss government, which had warned that amending the constitution to ban construction of minarets could serve could "serve the interests of extremist circles."
"The initiative would appear to be accepted, there is a positive trend. It's a huge surprise," French-language Swiss television said, 30 minutes after polls closed at midday.
A majority of voters as well as cantons appeared to have approved the initiative, it said, citing exit polls carried out by the Berne-based Institute Gfs.
Both the Swiss government and parliament had rejected the initiative as violating the Swiss constitution, freedom of religion and the nation's cherished tradition of tolerance. The United Nations human rights watchdog had also voiced concerns.
A group of politicians from the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP), the country's biggest party, and Federal Democratic Union gathered enough signatures to force the vote on the initiative which opposes the "Islamisation of Switzerland."
Its campaign poster showed the Swiss flag covered in missile-like minarets and the portrait of a woman covered with a black chador and veil associated with strict Islam.
"We just want to stop further Islamisation in Switzerland, I mean political Islam. People may practice their religion, that is no problem," Walter Wobmann, who is president of a committee of initiative backers, told Reuters on Sunday.
"We want to stop the further developments -- minarets, (the call to prayer), Sharia law," SVP parliamentarian said at a rally of supporters in the town of Egerkingen near Berne.
"The minarets is the power symbol of political Islam and Sharia law."
The Alpine country of nearly 7 million is home to more than 300,000 Muslims, mainly from Bosnia, Kosovo and Turkey.
Four mosques have minarets including those in Geneva and Zurich. The call to prayer is banned in the country.
An opinion poll carried out Nov 9-14 had showed a steady 53 percent opposed the initiative. Some 37 percent were in favor, against 34 percent a month earlier, with 10 percent undecided.
SVP parliamentarian Oskar Freysinger, a driving force in the campaign, says minarets bring the Muslim faith out into the public domain and reflect a demand for political power.
"If it's really just something decorative and secondary to them, why are they clinging so tightly to that symbol? It's a strong symbol for them, it's to show their territorial hold and I think for now, we'd rather not have that in our country," Freysinger told Reuters in Berne earlier this week.
In Geneva, home to U.N. humanitarian agencies, voters appeared overwhelmingly to have rejected the initiative by nearly 60 percent, according to Swiss television.
"I rejected the initiative, it's against Swiss law and against what I believe in. It's against the freedom of religion we have, so I voted against the initiative," one man in Geneva told Reuters Television as he left the polls.
Another Geneva voter, Antonio Spagnolo, said: "I'm shocked by this initiative, by this answer I've given you my position, I'm against this initiative because I think it's intolerance."
Tensions ran high ahead of the referendum as voters grappled with sensitive issues linked to immigration being aired across much of Western Europe.
Geneva's mosque was defaced with spray paint on Thursday, the latest incident after rocks had been thrown at the door.
"Islam in Switzerland and in the Western world brings various questions. But it doesn't call for aggression and that islamophobic propaganda," Youssef Ibram, imam of Geneva's mosque, told Reuters Television last week.
(With additional reporting by Catherine Bosley in Egerkingen and Anne Richardson in Geneva)

23 November 2009

Margaret Magnus "Gods of the Word"

Revolutionary idea, this book published in 1999 is presently out of print. With Margaret's permission I am slowly PDFing the entire 140 pages from my closest library copy borrowed from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (who knew). Here, the first thirty pages (above), Margaret Magnus' website link and her description of "Gods of the Word"-

In 1993, as part of a computer project I was working on, I found myself reading an English dictionary and dividing all the words into prefixes, suffixes and roots. I had read studies in linguists which suggested that the initial consonants of a word had a set of meanings, and the remaining rhyming part also had a set of meanings. One 'sense' of 'str-' is linearity: string, strip, stripe, street, etc. And one sense of '-ap' is flat: cap, flap, lap, map, etc. If you put them together, you get a flat line: 'strap'. The idea fascinated me, and since I was marking all these words anyway, I decided to keep an eye out for these classes which have similar meaning and pronunciation both. It turns out that it is possible by means of a series of repeatable experiments to show that certain meanings hang out with certain phonemes and others do not. I have been working on a dictionary which outlines this data for English in much more detail rather formally and scientifically. But I also have many thoughts which I seem to express more openly and cheerfully when I voice them in a separate book. My purpose here is therefore not to prove anything, but to summarise my most important findings in plain English and to philosophise freely and naively on their significance.

Update March 2011:   Margaret has self published through Amazon (link above) at a very nice price - enjoy the "preview" above.


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