More political sniping

Do you remember last year when the erstwhile Mark Latham (shamed former Opposition leader) released a book called A Conga Line Of Suckholes? The book was a collection of quotations by himself and others. The title itself came from one of his own particularly vitriolic outbursts.

Well, another beautifully eloquent description has emerged in recent days. Dean Mighell, boss of the Electrical Trades Union, was reported as delivering a speech full of profanity and insults recently. He compared the then workplace relations minister Kevin Andrews to Saddam Hussein and said he should hang himself, among other things. Anyway, the upshot of all this is that he’s since resigned from the Labor Party and the party has said it will refund donations from his Union.

Dean Mighell
Dean Mighell

But, the best part of it all is the resurgence in the reporting of a phrase uttered by Mighell during a speech to the ALP national conference. He called our Prime Minister, John Howard, a “skidmark on the bedsheet of Australian politics”. Priceless.

John Howard
The “skidmark” in question

Now, if Latham won last years classic political quote competition with “a conga line of suckholes” (he didn’t, as there was no such competition, but he should have, if there was), then certainly Dean Mighell will win this year for a “skidmark on the bedsheet of Australian politics”. And, to be fair, I think it’s a pretty accurate description.

It’s OK to lightly beat your wife

The (alleged) absolute word of Allah, (allegedly) spoken by the archangel Gabriel directly to the prophet Muhammad, has been updated. Well, more accurately it’s been “reinterpreted”. Keysar Trad, vociferous Sydney Muslim, has “tweaked” the meaning of 799 words and phrases in a revised edition of the Holy Koran.

Keysar Trad
Keysar Trad

It is not allowed to actually change the Koran in any way, but the original Arabic has words that can be translated in different ways. For example, Trad has “reinterpreted” verse 51 of chapter 5. This verse prohibits Muslims from making friends with Jews and Christians. However, the meaning of “awliya” has been revised from “friends” to “protecting patrons”, so that the ban only affects a dominating relationship. It was, Mr Trad said, the worst mistranslation in the Koran he found. So it’s ok to be friends with Jews and Christians now, but not if they have any authority over you.

However, friendships with members of other religions is not particularly relevant in comparison to other instructions in the Koran. The most surprising was Trad’s “reinterpretation” of chapter 4, verse 34. I looked up that particular verse in my copy of the Koran. (What, you think I rant about these things without even reading them?) The relevant part reads:

If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teachings of god], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them.

Yes, that’s what it says. You can hit your wives.

Trad’s “reinterpreted” version, you would think, should go some way to redressing this obvious mis-translation. After all, what religion of peace would condone the hitting of women? The word in question is darb, which has been translated as beat, hit, strike, scourge, chastise and even seduce. What did Keysar Trad choose? He was happy to keep “lightly beaten”, as in “remind them [of the teachings of god], then ignore them when you go to bed, then lightly beat them.

What kind of oxymoronic term is that? How can you lightly beat someone?

But it gets better (or worse). This is what Trad had to say about it:

“My revision reflects what the Arabic means. It does not seek to rewrite the Arabic, which is a historic document and must be translated faithfully.

“Like most translators, I agonised over the translation of the verse. In the end, I had to toss up between putting a one-page footnote or leaving it for the next time when I plan to do a full retranslation if God permits me. This verse cannot be read at face value, because a casual reading can lead to the mistaken impression that it sanctions violence. This is quite wrong, because the prophet Muhammad strongly discouraged violence against women. What the verse seeks to do is to actually put controls on men to stop domestic violence.”

Well, that’s quite blatant bullshit. It says clearly that you can beat your wife if you consider her “high-handed” (after you’ve reminded her of god and then ignored her in bed).

Interestingly, my copy of the book does have a footnote. It explains that the word signifies only a single blow. Well, that’s all right then.

Bible in a plain wrapper

I’m going to be away for a week or so, on a well deserved little holiday, so don’t be surprised if things are a bit quiet around here. However, before I go, I thought I’d leave you with this bit of entertaining news via Reuters in Hong Kong:

More than 800 Hong Kong residents have called on authorities to reclassify the Bible as “indecent” due to its sexual and violent content, following an uproar over a sex column in a university student journal.

If this was to go through, the Bible would only be available to over-eighteens in a sealed wrapper. Not a bad idea when you think about it. It helps to avoid the unconsented indoctrination of the young. I vote for all religious texts to be put in a brown paper bag and kept away from kids. Perhaps they should only be allowed to be read by people of high school age or older and only if they take religious education classes.

And religious education is not Christian studies or Muslim studies or anything like that. It means study of religions, plural. All of them. Let the kids learn about all the religions in the world and make up their own mind about what they think. How progressive.

The Hong Kong complaints follow the launch of an anonymous Web site called which claims that the Bible “made one tremble” given its sexual and violent content, including rape and incest. The website bears this banner along the top:


The English translations reads:


OK, no under-eighteens, we get it.

Interestingly, local protestant minister, Reverend Wu Chi-Wai, said, “If there is rape mentioned in the Bible, it doesn’t mean it encourages those activities.”

Yeah, right. Just like it doesn’t encourage belief in a magic Jew that was his own father and died for our sins. And it doesn’t encourage people to “bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” (Deuteronomy 17). Just like the Koran doesn’t encourage the conversion or extermination of all infidels as in IX. 5-6: “Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find them.”

I think those folks in Hong Kong are onto something. We should give all holy texts an MA rating.

Children’s books and charities

Maggie Pragratis is an author with a vision. She writes children’s books (Go Away Booboo! is already available in a number of languages), but that’s not enough. She wants to make the whole world a better place, not just the lives of the kids that read her books.

Go Away Booboo! by Maggie Pragratis
Go Away Booboo! by Maggie Pragratis

She is the founder of Athse Publishing, which produces and promotes kid’s books along with poetry and images, with large chunks of the proceeds going to charities like the Canadian Red Cross, Midway Stop, Krishnamurti Foundation of America and so on. A diverse range of products and supported charities.

It’s a pretty noble concept. In Maggie’s own words “we are an online publishing house with a philanthropic philosopy”. The mission statement on the Athse Publishing website says:

“While books are being enjoyed, the charities benefitting from their earnings will build shelters, provide education, health care, food, and opportunities for those in need. This small contribution of ours, we hope, will go a long way…

I believe that with each of us doing our best, contributing what we have to offer, we can make this world wonderful, for everyone, today. Books represent beauty, magic, hope, learning, longevity, and this is what Athse Publishing would like to give the world.”

You can’t really argue with that. Check out their website here.