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The Pakistan killings are not about blasphemy - Comments

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 1 by BowDownToGizmo

Even the supposedly militant "new atheists," whom genteel commentators damn for their vulgarity, steer clear of religions that might kill them. Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers

Kind of makes sense for Richard to stick to examples in Christian society, since most of his readership lives in Christian/semi-Christian societies. However, he has always maintained that Christianity is the second most evil religion. The subtle accusation of cowardice here thus seems a little unfair.

Anyway, there's two high profile examples to use more often Rich, that of Salmaan Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti, may they rest in peace now...

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 15:06:29 UTC | #599375

AlexP's Avatar Comment 2 by AlexP

Even the supposedly militant "new atheists," whom genteel commentators damn for their vulgarity, steer clear of religions that might kill them. Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers.

Indeed. Professor Dawkins even goes so far as to call catholicism "the second most evil religion". Wait a minute. I wonder which religion beat it to the first place?

While I agree that there is a tendency to drown cricism of islam with political correctness and accusations of islamophobia and racism ( regardless of the critic or critique ), I don't quite agree that criticism of christianity is much more present and vocal solely because of either terrorism or cultural relativism.

Christianity is still the dominant religion in the west. And while islam has gained influence, it'll take some time to compensate for christianity 's head-start. In the mean time, I don't think "new atheists" ( or regular atheists. Or anyone else, for that matter ) can be blamed to concentrate on the most influential religion in their immediate vicinity. And its not that islam is spared from cricism. "Even" from Professor Dawkins.

Another thing is: I don't think we can simply criticise islam and try to limit its influence where it is considered harmful, without questioning our general stance towards religion itself - and in the west, this means christianity for the most part. We need to dismantle the idea that religion is "special", that it deserves additional respect, that opinions gain any amount of weight simply by being based on religious belief.

As long as we hold christianity in undeserved - and unquestioned - esteem, we can hardly blame muslims if they demand the same kind of respect for islam. Either we elevate islam to the same level of respect in our society - good luck with that, especially where it disagrees with christianity - or we bring all religions down to the same level. And the latter means concentrating on christianity - without ignoring islam.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 15:28:18 UTC | #599379

Linda Ward's Avatar Comment 3 by Linda Ward

Why are mosques (& other places) in the UK left to stir a brew of anti-Western culture?

"A prominent British imam has been forced to retract his claims that Islam is compatible with Darwin's theory of evolution after receiving death threats from fundamentalists." http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/scientist-imam-threatened-over-darwinist-views-2232952.html

Why are men with dangerous hate speech still doing it in Northern Ireland?

If you have a few minutes and want to listen to something to make blood pressure boil then may I recommend: Intervention by a Good Samaritan? 27 Feb 11

http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ethics

Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson says he would attend Mass if a Catholic friend died. Not everyone in the Protestant family agrees with the First Minister.

The podcast host Will Crawley lets priests of protestantism make some rather vile comments about Roman Catholicism. I am not fan of religion but was quite shocked to hear the words on BBC, R4.

Crawley then makes room for an Irish cleric who was in the Christchurch earthquake say that there is no 'simple explanation' why the earthquake happened. WTF is up with that and coddling the delusional. Shifting tectonic plate movement caused the eruption, a really simple, scientific explanation is all that is needed and yet ...

Religion is not a racial problem but an intellectual one obviously and that is where the battle lines must be drawn. Politician deviously continue to manipulate the gullible and oh yes in the West in the 21st Century.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 15:31:08 UTC | #599380

Bravenewworld's Avatar Comment 4 by Bravenewworld

I'm not sure the word even exists but if it does than I [and everyone I've spoken too but won't say without glancing over their shoulder] am 'islamophobic', it scares the 'hell' out of me. Anything that would seek to remove my head just for pointing out that it probably isn't true I find frightening. Anything that seeks to oppress women,homosexuals,free thought etc etc needs removing from democratic society. At some point in the future western democracy is going to have to face this problem head on. A free society only works if everyone values freedom. I've heard it said that real islam is a peaceful religion, in the same way that fascism is the politics of peace if you do exactly as you're told. Atheism,civilisations last hope...

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:01:55 UTC | #599384

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 5 by the great teapot

What is this Islam? As a regular visitor to this website and reader of Richard's books the concept is alien to me. I'll check it out on wikipedia maybe they have heard of it.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:08:36 UTC | #599387

Beethoven's Avatar Comment 6 by Beethoven

Even if prof Dawkins were to avoid direct attacks on Islam , because he is afraid of any attempts on his life, how is this 'cowardice' ?

Please get some perspective and be reasonable. Is putting your life at risk in a reckless way, with little to gain, 'cowardice' ? Of course not. Dawkins' strategy is perfectly rational and reasonable, because:

  1. We first have to win the argument in the West and convince our liberal societies about the dangers of religious idiocy. Only then we can act in concert and be effective in battling Islam.

  2. Dealing with Islam is like talking to barbarians and does not achieve much. However little it achieves, it is not worth one's life.

  3. Would you have the good professor be ' brave' and be killed for attacking Islam , or would you rather have him live to write many other interesting and enlightening books and contribute to our society in ways that do not put his life in danger and that he knows best?

It is all very well to criticize him, when your own life is not threatened.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:11:19 UTC | #599388

JumpinJackFlash's Avatar Comment 7 by JumpinJackFlash

Dawkins has attacked many Islamists and denounced Islam as the most evil religion in the world. Nick Cohen is either ignorant or a profoundly stupid man.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:28:23 UTC | #599392

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 8 by God fearing Atheist

Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers.

That statement is total and utter crap.

Link to links to some YouTube evidence

Or spend a few hours reading RD's posts on this website

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:35:22 UTC | #599396

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 9 by Jos Gibbons

The Pakistan killings are not about blasphemy

Those denouncing blasphemy laws get repeatedly killed. I wonder what it’s about?

Western liberals are happy to denounce white extremists, while covering up militant Islam with a blanket of political correctness

Not this Western liberal!

However brutal they were, they respected their version of due process.

Is that the limit of their due process, that they only massacre the innocents of their own nation?

They did not say Taseer and Bhatti must die because they were apostates, nor claim their targets had committed blasphemy. Taseer and Bhatti had not said the Koran was the work of men not god. They did not denounce Muhammad's morality or offer any criticism of his life and teaching. They confined themselves to the point that Pakistan’s death penalty for blasphemy was excessive and barbaric. Their killers blew them away for blaspheming against blasphemy.

The basic gist of Islam is that everything it ever says, including its rules about how to behave and how to treat those breaking said rules (and even sometimes how to treat those who do not enforce the latter), is 100 % correct in the literal words on the page. Therefore, to question any of its policies, including policies on how to punish blasphemers, amounts to a form of, as the religious call it, blasphemy.

Once the global wave of terror had passed, no one wanted to put themselves through what Rushdie and Penguin had been through, and a silence descended. Even the supposedly militant "new atheists," whom genteel commentators damn for their vulgarity, steer clear of religions that might kill them. Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers.

Did the UK’s legislation governing the freedom of the press recently pass an amendment to the law requiring all articles about anything wrong with any religion or its adherents to bring up the new atheists at some point? Because I literally never see articles by British journalists fail to adhere to such a law, as if execution awaited such miscreants. I’d love to know why the critics of new atheists qualify as genteel, but it’s much more important for now to focus on the charge that new atheists avoid Islam for fear of death. Firstly, it isn’t true; besides Sam Harris doing so at great length (including an entire chapter, The Problem with Islam), notice Cohen concedes “almost” all examples concern Christians. Dawkins has, in fact, repeatedly mentioned Islam sucks for having the death penalty for apostasy. Secondly, insofar as there is a bias towards critiquing Christianity, Cohen has misattributed it. Survey atheist critics of the world’s religions en masse, and you will find they almost always focus on whichever religion is dominant in their own cultural background, as this is the one on which they’re most expert. As Dara O’Briain clarified in his latest stand–up, he avoids jokes about Muslims not out of a fear of the repercussions, but because neither he nor his audience knows the relevant facts.

The difference between Islamism and the rest is that liberals are happy to denounce white extremists, while covering up militant Islam with the wet blanket of political correctness. They maintain it is illicit to criticise religious ideas.

Please don’t generalise about us. You know the people who condemn such behaviour? They are also often liberals.

Arab liberals will search the net for guidance. They will discover that far from offering strategies that might help, timorous western liberals have convinced themselves that it is "racist" to criticise raging fanatics who no longer even bother to pretend that they are anything other than liberalism's mortal enemies.

Unless they read anything by Sam Harris, who classifies himself as a liberal, and who correctly identifies the religion–is–above–criticism as neither liberal nor conservative, but in fact a rare part of their consensus.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 16:42:02 UTC | #599398

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 10 by the great teapot

Mohammed was a paeddophile . You forgot to mention that Cohen,

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 17:51:59 UTC | #599415

The Plc's Avatar Comment 11 by The Plc

Readers of Richard Dawkins, contrary to Cohen's claims here, are aware of Dawkins' hostility and vehement criticism of the Islamic religion. He's repeatedly given it the most damning description you could give to it, 'the greatest force for evil in the world today'.

But this touches on a deeper point, a point that critical readers of Nick Cohen might have thought of before. People should be concerned primarily with the issues that only affect them and the issues that they can realistically effect. Christianity still is the most dominant and influential religion in the society that Richard Dawkins lives, and by far most attacks on science and evolution come from the well financed Christian lobbies mentioned in the introduction to The Greatest Show on Earth. There's just very little value in spending time attacking imams and mullahs in the Middle East and congratulating yourself for it, because those imams and their followers are not going to listen to you, largely because they can't listen to you. It's of far more value to spend your time engaging with issues with which you have any hope of influencing. That's what's meant by responsibility.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:06:33 UTC | #599422

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 12 by Neodarwinian

Dawkins steers clear of attacks on islam? He must not be a habitue of this site.

I guess I am a " orientilist " and an islamaphobe because these types disgust me and need opposing.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:17:48 UTC | #599426

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 13 by aquilacane

Perhaps it is time for the elite liberals to become barbarians. Perhaps self defense of the mind must be as vital and acceptable an act as self defense of the body. Perhaps religion needs a taste of its own medicine. Perhaps.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:24:14 UTC | #599428

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 14 by Marc Country

"Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers."

Mr. Cohen owes Dr. Dawkins an apology, and an admission that he was writing out his ass when he wrote that, and a promise to ACTUALLY READ some of the many examples of Richard's criticism of Islam...

Or, do I just chalk it up to the usual trolling that passes for journalism at the Guardian, and ignore?

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:41:52 UTC | #599432

JuJu's Avatar Comment 15 by JuJu

In the US if you criticize Christianity for influencing someone who killed an abortion doctor, most liberals generally think it it justifiable criticism.

In the US if you criticize Christianity for influencing someone who attacks homosexuality, either verbally or physically, most liberals find that justifiable.

In the US if you criticize legislation, such as defunding Plan Parenthood, that is based on Christian ideology, most liberals find this justifiable.

As a liberal thinker I agree with all the above criticism. I can have an intelligent conversation with almost all liberals about how fucked up it is that Christianity has such a strong foothold in our society. At no time do they say, oh, its just their christian culture and we should respect that, or, your a racist and a bigot for criticizing the christian cultural beliefs. Nor do they say, your ignorant for thinking that 'all christians' think that way.

But then this type of thing happens.

In the US if you criticize Islam for their blasphemy laws, a larger then expected subset of liberals think you are a racist and a bigot.

In the US if you criticize FGM as a barbaric act of female oppression and control, a larger then expected group of liberals think your wrong, and that you shouldn't criticize the Islamic culture. To them, for some reason, the culture overrides what we would consider human rights violations. The counter arguments I've heard range from, "look at what Americans do when we pierce our daughters ears" to "Our interpretation of human rights is different than their interpretation" or "why don't you look at what the christians are doing" or " look at Timothy McVeigh"

In the US if you criticize radical Islam, a larger then expected group of liberals thinks for some reason that you think that 'all Muslims' are guilty of radical Islamic practices and therefore you are a racist and a bigot.

I've actually had debates with liberals you said that Islam "is" a religion of peace. And that since the US attacked them it somehow justifies their actions.

Of course to me their arguments are full of ignorance and logical fallacies. When I try to show them, through the power of the internet, how I came to my conclusions, they refuse to look, stating that they have already saw it all.

It looks to me like they have shielded themselves from the evidence. They made up their mind and decided that they were right no matter what. Its almost like they don't realize we are criticizing Islam the same way they criticize the above christian ideologies that they don't agree with.

When I post a comment about Islam on the Science Blogs site I get hammered the same way I would if I was a creationist or an anti-vaccination proponent. I feel like I entered the fucking 'twilight zone'.

PS its like everyone over there is HughCadwell, or whatever his name was.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:47:52 UTC | #599434

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 16 by AtheistEgbert

Even the supposedly militant "new atheists," whom genteel commentators damn for their vulgarity, steer clear of religions that might kill them. Close readers of Richard Dawkins will notice that almost all his examples of clerical folly are drawn from the Catholic and American evangelical churches, whose congregations are unlikely to firebomb his publishers.

Nick, I have great respect for your articles but this is simply not the case. You really need to read the gnu atheist blogs more often, there is plenty of criticism of Islam.

Also, what does 'liberal' mean nowadays? Liberalism as become so incoherent and meaningless. You need a better and more coherent scapegoat to blame for the growing tide of irrationalism, stupidity and corruption that is sweeping western politics and the media.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 18:57:30 UTC | #599439

Dirty Kuffar's Avatar Comment 17 by Dirty Kuffar

Whilst we're on the subject of censorship - here is a link to an article by the brave Andrew Gilligan on the attempted censorship via shouting down of gay members of Tower Hamlets Council by islamists ; http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/andrewgilligan/100078534/lutfur-rahman-council-homophobic-hatred-grows/

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 19:13:11 UTC | #599443

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 18 by Vorlund

Ricahrd Dawkins has been sufficiently outspoken about islam, though it must correct that if he is to be understood regarding his objections to religion then he has to couch arguments that adsress the experience of his largetst target readership which is Xtians.

Otherwise Cohen makes a good point, no blasphemy was commited, though it shouldn't matter in a civilised and rational world what they said. Blasphemy laws and the actions of the thugs responsible for the murders have a common theme and that is silencing criticism.

Theocracy and totalitarianism are versions of the same thing and their tools are violent oppression.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 19:18:14 UTC | #599445

smegely's Avatar Comment 19 by smegely

I may be misreading Cohen's article, but it seems to me that the thrust of it is that the Pakistan killings are the fault of liberals outside Pakistan who are not condemning religious ideologies for fear of offending ethnic groups. Aren't the Pakistan killings the fault of illiberals inside Pakistan who are condemning freethinking in order to cement their own religious power-base?

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 19:47:56 UTC | #599451

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 20 by BowDownToGizmo

Comment 19 by smegely :

I may be misreading Cohen's article, but it seems to me that the thrust of it is that the Pakistan killings are the fault of liberals outside Pakistan who are not condemning religious ideologies for fear of offending ethnic groups. Aren't the Pakistan killings the fault of illiberals inside Pakistan who are condemning freethinking in order to cement their own religious power-base?

It has been said "all it takes for evil to take place is for good men to do nothing" so I think he's arguing we need to try harder to prevent political correctness from silencing valid criticisms of Islam. It would be quite a bizarre interpretation to suggest that he means it's the liberals in the west's fault that Islamic people in pakistan killed some good men.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:07:53 UTC | #599456

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 21 by Hellboy2

The Pakistan killings are not about blasphemy - correct, that's just the excuse. It's simply an ignorant and savage religion whose followers are brainwashed to believe that anyone who 'dares' think for themselves, are automatically asking for death.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:16:15 UTC | #599458

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 22 by Stevehill

Never quite sure what to make of Cohen - sometimes he's sensible, sometimes he's off the wall. And especially so on the subject of Islam (he was a cheerleader for the Iraq war for example... very un-Guardian!).

It would be churlish to mention that his surname might be a giveaway... let's just say he's got his own agenda. And knowing that, I tend largely to ignore him these days.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:25:13 UTC | #599461

DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL's Avatar Comment 23 by DELETED_ACCOUNT_1ST_AMENDEMENT_TRUMPS_ALL

It's funny when, reading an article you agree with for the most part, you hit the one or two unfortunate sentences that make you do a facepalm--and that you know will set off contributors to at least one Web site in particular. :)

read, read, read, cringe

Linking Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, et al, even tenuously, with people who tiptoe around Islam is just not doing your homework. Does this Cohen guy not have any editors/fact checkers?

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:35:15 UTC | #599467

lackofgravitas's Avatar Comment 24 by lackofgravitas

Regardless of Cohen's narrow view of the NA's, there is a deeper message here, one that shouldn't be ignored, it's not really about blasphemy (as he says) it's about fear. It's the fear within muslim men. Their insecurities are written in immutable words from their prophet. They cannot be changed, they cannot adapt, they are not flexible.

A woman can have a child, the father may not really be the father. But she knows. He's never sure. A man cannot have a child, he has to commit time and energy (invest) into this potential cuckoo. A man cannot ever be 100% that his child is his. A woman can always be 100% certain. A man cannot trust a woman. He has to be around her until she is pregnant to assure the child is his.

This is why all (but specifically islam) exist. Control of people, but mostly women.

This whole thing is about islam, and some of its followers drawing a line in the sand. 'You can change this a little, there is some wiggle room here, but this; it will never change'.

Amongst the things that will probably never change are the punishments (not that they are used very much apparently) for homosexuality, infidelity, apostasy, being born a woman or being born in a country that doesn't practice islam; death or subjugation. Even if the punishments change, the whole point is that these things are still against the 'law'.

It's my opinion that the current wave of democratic urgency in the middle-east is in part a response to islam and its immutability. Looking at the demographics of these countries, unemployment is 10% or above, mean age is 24. Even if increasing food prices are included, I'd say the biggest problem here is 'future shock' for the religious leaders, and the willingness of the young to embrace the modern world. They imams really can't understand that 'the youth' can speak/read other languages, have interests outside allah/family/tribe/nation.

I also suspect that this whole movement will have as revolutionary impact upon the islamic states as printing had upon the catholic church. Information is everything in these connected times. Ask Saif Qadaffi how his PhD is doing now. http://saifalislamgaddafithesis.wikia.com/wiki/Plagiarism

The wise, old imams, who in older times may actually have been wise, benevolent and understanding, but who are now attempting to cling to the last vestiges of power as any dictator, lose power and influence at a startling rate. They never learnt the oldest lesson in the book; the longer and harder you repress a population, the longer and harder the retribution delivered by the people upon the oppressors.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:35:25 UTC | #599468

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 25 by BowDownToGizmo

lackofgravitas,

Are you sure you're not overstating the important of religion in these matters? What are you basing this opinion on? Everything I've seen on the middle east crisis so far has suggested that people are putting aside religion to deal with government corruption. Gaddafi isn't a religious leader, he's a military dictator. Can you expand on how you concluded this please?

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:49:38 UTC | #599471

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 26 by Rich Wiltshir

A 'phobia' is an irriational fear; ergo there is no such thing as islamophobia because it's hugely injurous to us all, including the severely deluded victims within. We are wise to fear it! Wiser still to do something about that fear; stand up to the thugs of ALL religoons... not just islam.

One strategy, that of challenging every seedling, root, branch and trunk of religoon assertions, seems like the most consistent, honest and honourable approach. It's often expressed in these pages.

In respect of the veiled acusation that Richard is nimble-footed with islam; hogwash! I see no evidence for that other than a misinterpretation of the man's sensibility for individuals; think of the well-loved clip where a middle-aged christian says '...I couldn't live with that...' Richard's discomfort is obvious, but his integrity's robust when he announces his perception that the guy's deluded. Consider Richard's confrontation with the leader of a muslim school in Leicester (UK). Under the chairmanship of Jonathan Dimbleby (well respected and disciplined in that role) Richard returns time-and-again with 'what is the punishment for apostacy?' Relentless to the thug of islam, yet he's quite deferential and polite to the kids in the audience who strive to defend islam. Dawkins goes out of his way to avoid attacking the victim of religoon a second time; remember the girl who says fresh water and sea water can't mix - it's in the koran. He does not belittle the victim; a lesson religoons would be wise to follow.

Correct me if I'm in error, but Richard is deferential to individuals (even those defending thier own delusion) but relentless like gravity when facing the perpetrators who would dupe us all in the name of their paymasters (for without employment by sich institutions, what would they do for a living wage?)

A humourous off-topic reaction to my "...probably no god..." badge today; "I'd rather have god than an alien." I believe appropriate slang is 'wtf?'

Stay happy everyone!

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 20:51:29 UTC | #599472

superbeanson's Avatar Comment 27 by superbeanson

The world may pay a price for the monumental blunder of treating religious ideologies – which are beliefs that men and women ought to be free to accept or reject – as if they were ethnicities, which no man or woman can change.

That's right

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:07:26 UTC | #599478

Mrkimbo's Avatar Comment 28 by Mrkimbo

We all agree that the snide aside about Dawkins is not justified. However the rest of the article seems dead on the money. Pleas, people stop taking such umbrage on Dawkins' behalf - he's more than capable of defending himself - and reply to the main thrust of the article. JuJu's remarks are true to my own experiences here in Australia. The feeling among so many on the left seems to be that since most Muslims have brown skins and we're all crippled with post Imperial guilt, Islam cannot be touched - Cohen answers this brilliantly.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:08:05 UTC | #599479

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Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:36:36 UTC | #599490

BowDownToGizmo's Avatar Comment 30 by BowDownToGizmo

Comment 28 by Mrkimbo :

We all agree that the snide aside about Dawkins is not justified. However the rest of the article seems dead on the money. Pleas, people stop taking such umbrage on Dawkins' behalf - he's more than capable of defending himself - and reply to the main thrust of the article. JuJu's remarks are true to my own experiences here in Australia. The feeling among so many on the left seems to be that since most Muslims have brown skins and we're all crippled with post Imperial guilt, Islam cannot be touched - Cohen answers this brilliantly.

I don't think we have too much to add to it, it seems like a good post overall with little that needs to be expanded on or warrants further discussion here. However, this is an article in a national newspaper and it should get the facts right. What's the comments section for if not for discussing corrections? That we've only got one thing to correct is actually quite the compliment to Mr Cohen.

Sun, 06 Mar 2011 21:56:03 UTC | #599493