March 30, 2006

I Can't Dance

More videos to share, this one being the first of five. As Milady has learned all too well, my taste in videos frequently runs toward the absurd. One of my guilty pleasures is watching programs like MaxEx, where the global village idiots (mostly white Americans) do very stupid things on video and get their comeuppance (like in the second picture on my "American Chopper?" post. This video and the next two are variations on that theme, although the pain these people undergo isn't as intense as in some other videos I could show you. Anyhoo... what makes this particular video fun for me is that it's mostly about people trying to dance who can't. (I frequently "dance" for Milady and, while I've never gotten hurt from doing so, I generally elicit howls of laughter for my efforts. ;) ) Run time: 1:23.

Slide

Another cute AFV compilation. Run time: 1:25.

Watersports

I'm not sure if this is an AFV compilation, although it has the look and feel of one. Regardless, I play this one fairly often on the home PC. Run time: 1:34.

Halloween Surprise

This one is rather short, only fifteen seconds, but it's one that made me LMAO.

Baby Fart

Last but not least, where a freshly powdered butt "does it." :) Run time: 10 seconds.

March 28, 2006

What will they call Glacier National Park...

...when there are no glaciers left?

Upsala Glacier, in Argentina, in 1928 and 2004

This is an interesting set of photos from Time Magazine's article on global warming. As you can see, the Upsala Glacier, located in Argentina, has retreated dramatically over the decades. The top photo was taken in 1928, the bottom photo in 2004. All that is left now are a few stubs of glaciers off in the distance and a lake.

One of my sisters (who is intelligent enough to know better) is in complete denial over global warming. She, the red state conservative, blithely dismisses global warming as "a liberal conspiracy." One wonders what would convince her? When the Maldives disappear beneath the waves? Tuvalu? Kiribati? Tokelau? The Marshall Islands? Bangladesh? (One suspects Washington D.C.)

In the late '70s, the National Park Service had a series of t-shirts available that started with the word "Go." "Go hike the canyon" was the t-shirt I owned, after visiting the Grand Canyon. A colleague, who had visited Glacier National Park, would wear a t-shirt that read, "Go climb a glacier." If you have any desire to climb (or even see) a glacier, now would be the time. Or, to modify a New York Times headline slightly, "Race to Alaska Before It Melts."

March 27, 2006

Differences between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq

There's an interesting article in the New York Times about the differences between the Shia and Sunnis in Iraq. Following is an excerpt of Ancient Rift Brings Fear on Streets of Baghdad:

Shiites split off from Sunnis after the Prophet Muhammad died in the seventh century. That created a crisis over who would succeed him as leader of the Muslim community. One group of Muslims chose Muhammad's friend, Abu Bakr. They would become the Sunnis, a vast majority of the world's Muslims.

A smaller group believed the rightful successor was Ali, the prophet's son-in-law and cousin. They would become the Shiites, who today are concentrated in India, Pakistan and Persian Gulf countries. Abu Bakr won out, though after he died Ali eventually became caliph. He was assassinated, and the Muslim community began to splinter. Ali's son Hussein led a rebellion but he, too, was cut down, in a battle in Karbala, Iraq. Hussein's death was the beginning of Shiism and it started a culture of martyrdom, evident each year during a festival in Karbala when Shiites whip and cut themselves to symbolize Hussein's pain.

Over the years, the rivalry between the partisans of Ali and those who supported Abu Bakr evolved into two schools of theology. For example, when it comes time to pray, Shiites believe a person's arms should be straight; most Sunnis say they should be bent. Shiites allow temporary marriage; Sunnis say it is forbidden. In some cases, Shiite inheritance law is more generous to women than is Sunni inheritance law.

Shiites follow ayatollahs, or supreme jurists, who some believe have divine powers. Sunni Islam is more decentralized among local imams.

Southern Iraq is essentially the center of Shiite Islam, with holy shrines in Karbala, Kufa and Najaf. The Sunni Arabs are concentrated in the west, especially in Anbar Province, the heartland of Iraqi tribal culture. In Baghdad and eastern cities like Baquba, the populations are mixed, while in the north, Sunni Kurds predominate.

In Iraq, tribal identity is also important, and many people use tribal names as last names. Because certain tribes are rooted in certain areas, a last name like Saidi, Maliki or Kinani may be typically Shiite, while names like Zobi, Tikriti and Hamdani are typically Sunni.

Certain first names may also reveal sect: Omar and Othman are Sunni names; Haidar and Karrar are Shiite ones.

Dress, too, can be a sign, but again not because it has religious significance. In western Iraq, the favored headdress is white and red; in the south it is white and black.


Note: The part on "last names" is a bit misleading. Muslims don't use "last names" or surnames as Westerners do. We use a type of patronymic, similar to that used by Hindus and Russians. The word "bin" means "son of" and "bint" or "binte" means "daughter of." So, with the American expat blogger Bin Gregory, his name is not "Bin" or "Greg." He's saying that he is the son of his father, Gregory. (I do know his Muslim name, but I'm not revealing it here.)

Some of the "last names" mentioned in the article indicate the city or area where the person is from. For example, "Tikriti" is mentioned above. Saddam Hussein's formal name is "Saddam bin Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti." He is Saddam, son of (his father) Hussein Abd Al-Majid, the Tikriti (or person from the Iraqi town of Tikrit). It is a similar practice to that mentioned in the Bible; e.g., Joseph of Arimathea.

March 25, 2006

American Chopper?

I found an interesting blog about motorcycles here, and was amused by two pictures. The first is of a wheelie that seemed to end on a safe but precarious note; the second of someone who, no doubt, was about to experience a lot of pain.

Big Guy's Wheelie

Whoops!

"I believe I can fly..." ;)

March 24, 2006

Sneak Peak

Red Tudung

Milady and I are starting a business, and we thought we'd give everyone a sneak peak at one of our first products for sale. The red tudung above, which I call the "twirling trifoil" design, is one of a number of very beautiful, hand-sewn tudungs that I have nicknamed "sparklies." (When Milady wears one of her sparklies outdoors, she will literally sparkle with all the sunlight reflecting off the sequins, rhinestones, and colored beads.)

Each sparkly is about 40 inches (101 cm) square, plus or minus up to 2 inches (5 cm). Designs on the sparklies are limited in number. Our supplier who, with her husband, designs all of the sparklies has only a limited number of tudungs created in each design; once all of the tudungs in that pattern are sold, the design is permanently retired. Of the sparklies that we have purchased, there are three that are "singles," meaning that these are the very last tudungs available in their respective patterns.

The cloth used for the sparklies is satin, with a fairly wide range of colors available depending on the design. For example, the "twirling trifoil" design is available in red (as shown above), white, cream, and yellow. Colors available for other designs include black, grey, royal and navy blue, blue black, green, orange, and light purple.

Now, if you're interested in the above sparkly or any of the other designs, please feel free to email me at sales@firaushah.com and I'll be happy to answer any of your questions. Insha'allah, our website will be up shortly at firaushah.com.

March 22, 2006

Enya

OK, I've got to add these two music videos, Enya's "Orinoco Flow" (top) and "Caribbean Blue" (below). I've long loved both songs. OF run time: 3:49; CB run time: 3:41.




Cats

This is one of my favorite videos currently floating around on the web. I love cats, having had one who lived with me for about six years and occasionally taking care of my aunt's two. Unfortunately, Singaporean law prohibits those of us who live in the HDB flats from owning cats, otherwise I would have tried to have gotten one when Milady and I moved into our current flat. Run time: 1:38.

Update: LaFave Charges Dropped

For the latest on Debra LaFave, see Update: NBC Interviews Debra LaFave.

Profile picture of Debra LaFaveIn an update to my series of "Desperate Women" posts, Debra Jean Beasley LaFave, the 25-year-old middle school teacher from Tampa, Florida, has had all charges dropped against her. LaFave, as you may recall, had had a sexual affair two years ago with a then 14-year-old boy. The boy's mother, who wished to avoid going to trial at all costs, apparently killed the last chance for convicting LaFave. [See my Desperate American Women? post for my original thoughts on this case.]

In Marion County, LaFave had originally agreed to plead guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery for having sex with the boy. It was part of a plea deal her lawyers struck with prosecutors so she could avoid serving time in prison. However, Marion County Circuit Judge Hale Stancil rejected the plea agreement. According to Stancil, honoring the plea agreement would undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system and "erode public confidence in our schools. Accepting the proposed plea agreement would likewise send the message that if enough publicity is generated, and the media's interest continues long enough, and because of that interest the victim does not wish to testify, a defendant can avoid an appropriate sentence. Quite frankly, if the allegations against the defendant are true, the agreed-upon sentence shocks the conscience of this court."

As a result of Stancil's ruling and the mother's intransigence, Assistant State Attorney Richard Ridgway dropped the charges against LaFave, saying, "The court may be willing to risk the well-being of the victims in this case in order to force it to trial. I am not."

However, Lafave still faces three years of house arrest and seven years probation in Hillsborough County, where she was charged with having sex with the same boy in a classroom and her home. [The Marion County case above stems from LaFave having had sex with the boy in an SUV there.]

LaFave claims that she is suffering from a bipolar disorder; however, one author, while agreeing that LaFave may very well have the disorder, says that this is no excuse for her behavior. "It seems to me that Debra didn’t have sex with a 14 year old because she didn’t know what she was doing, or she had bipolar syndrome, but that she had a chance to break a taboo [of having sex with a teenage boy] and she went for it."

In the meantime, LaFave has become engaged, reportedly to high school sweetheart Andrew Beck. [You gotta wonder what this guy is thinking.] No wedding date has been set.

For more information, see:
Charges Dropped in Student Sex Case
Double Standard in Lafave Case?
To the end, a mother protects her son
Debra Lafave: a little girl dying for attention
Debra LaFave engaged: See the ring that proves it


Debra LaFaveTimeline:

May 2004: Greco Middle School (Temple Terrace, FL) teacher Debra Lafave meets the 14-year-old boy whom she will have ultimately have sex with while chaperoning a school field trip to SeaWorld Orlando. She invites him to her class while he is in detention, and ends up taking him to his basketball practices at a recreation center, to get his hair cut, and to his house.

3 June 2004: Lafave begins having sex with the boy starting on June 3rd for a total of five times, encounters that occurred in her Riverview townhouse, her classroom, and in the back of her Isuzu during rides through Ocala, Florida (Marion County). The Isuzu was driven by the boy's 15-year-old cousin. [The cousin will ultimately tell police about LaFave's sexual encounters.] Lafave tells the boy that her marriage was in trouble and that she was aroused by the fact that having sex with him was not allowed.

21 June 2004: Lafave is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy. She is arrested in Hillsborough County, and charged with two felony counts of lewd and lascivious battery on a person under the age of 16, each of which carry a maximum 15-year prison term.

25 June 2004: Marion County sheriff's investigators issue a warrant for Lafave's arrest on two additional counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition, each of which have a maximum 15-year prison term. She turns herself in three days later.

June 2004: Six pictures of LaFave's pelvic area are taken by Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies after she is arrested. The photos were taken to compare descriptions the boy had given of her tan lines, tattoos and pubic hair. [Date uncertain.]

30 November 2004: LaFave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, says in court that he will file notice of an insanity defense "in the near future." The defense is expected to point to the April 2001 death of Lafave's older sister, Angela Beasley, who was 24 years old and five months pregnant when an intoxicated Army captain, Joseph Piotrowski, plowed his Jeep into her car. Piotrowski is now serving a 30-year prison term for the crime. During Piotrowski's court-martial in August 2001, Lafave testified that she had been depressed, angry and ill since her sister's death. "It's hard to concentrate on anything but that," she said. Her mother, Joyce Beasley, described her as "pretty much a basket case" as a result of her sister's death. Also, LaFave's trial is postponed, with the case going before Judge Wayne Timmerman again on March 22 for a pretrial hearing and the trial beginning April 25.

25 January 2005: Owen LaFave, former husband of Debra LaFave, is interviewed by Larry King. The transcript can be read here.

22 March 2005: At LaFave's pretrial hearing, Judge Timmerman moves the trial back to July 18 as Fitzgibbon requests additional time to interview witnesses and review doctors' reports. He also tells the judge that he will be entering into plea negotiations with the state to prevent the case from going to trial.

18 July 2005: LaFave's trial is pushed back to December 5. The plea deal with Hillsborough County prosecutors falters, according to Fitzgibbon, because prosecutors wanted too much prison time for LaFave. Said Fitzgibbons, "To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hell hole is like putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions. I'm not sure she would survive." Judge Wayne Timmerman agrees to appoint two mental health professionals to evaluate LaFave as Fitzgibbons says he will claim she is not guilty by reason of insanity. "What teacher in her right mind would do something like this?" he said. Prosecutors have said that a state psychologist already determined Lafave was not insane at the time, while one hired by the defense concluded that she was mentally ill.

April 2005: Debra Lafave is divorced from her husband, Owen.

20 September 2005: Hillsborough County Judge Wayne Timmerman seals the photos taken of LaFave's pelvic area after two Tampa TV stations requested that the photos be made public.

3 November 2005: Lisa C. York, 33, files for a protective order against LaFave on behalf of her children. York has two daughters, 12- and two-years-old. The father of the two-year-old girl is Andrew Beck [who is now Debra LaFave's fiance]. Beck also helped to raise the 12-year-old girl.

17 November 2005: York's petition for a protective order is denied. The court said that a protective order would be issued only if there were allegations that LaFave was potentially violent toward the children.

18 November 2005: At the request of prosecutors, state Circuit Judge Wayne Timmerman issues a gag order, telling attorneys not to talk publicly about the pending prosecution. Timmerman says he is worried that comments published in the media could prejudice potential jurors and make it difficult to select a panel from the 100-member jury pool that will be called for the December 5th trial. "I don't see what the harm is in telling these guys from this point on, in order to get a fair and impartial jury you guys keep your mouths shut," the judge said. Attorneys for local media outlets opposed the order. A hearing is scheduled for November 22 to discuss the gag order.

22 November 2005: Lafave pleads guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in Hillsborough and Marion County. She is sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years' probation. She is now classified as a sex offender.

8 December 2005: Marion County Circuit Judge Hale R. Stancil rejects Lafave's plea deal in Marion County and sets a trial for April 10.

16 March 2006: According to the USA Today, "'Lafave's ex-husband, Owen Lafave ... has a new wife, a new house and a new job. And a huge smile.' According to Owen, his Larry King Live appearance to discuss his ex-wife's sex allegations helped his chances with his new wife."

18 March 2006: The boy's mother speaks out, telling WTVT in Tampa that she does not see that LaFave's alleged bipolar disorder should be used as an excuse. "Do I believe she has bipolar? Absolutely. Am I glad she's getting treatment for it? Yes. But is that an excuse to say, 'I had no idea what I was doing on five different occasions,' when she molested my child, that's a stretch."

21 March 2006: After hearing more testimony, Stancil again rejects Lafave's plea deal. Prosecutors in Marion County respond by dropping all charges against Lafave, allowing her Hillsborough plea deal to stand.


The Deal (Hillsborough County):

Debra Lafave pleaded guilty last November 22 to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in exchange for this deal:

Three years of house arrest and seven years of probation.

Classification as a sex offender. She can no longer work with or near children and can't live within 1,000 feet of a school, church or playground.

She must wear an ankle monitor and adhere to a 10 p.m. curfew. She must undergo psychological therapy for four years and a polygraph test once a year.

Upon successful completion of the first two years of house arrest, she can ask a judge to waive the last year of home confinement.


Key Players:

Debra LaFave, 25, a former reading teacher at Greco Middle School. She was accused of having sex in 2004 with a 14-year-old student in Hillsborough County and in an SUV in Marion County. She pleaded guilty in Hillsborough in November in exchange for a plea deal with no prison time. She was married at the time, divorced, and is now engaged to be married to high school sweetheart, Andrew Beck. She is currently working as a waitress in a Sun City Center diner, and is thinking of becoming a journalist. "I would hope that I could reach people through my writing."

Anonymous Male Victim, now 16, was a student at Greco, though not in Lafave's class. His mother asked for a plea deal, saying that the worldwide media attention was too much for her son, and that he shouldn't have to testify at trial. The boy is now in high school, likes to play basketball and has said that he wants to go to the University of Florida.

Judge Hale R. Stancil, 60, a judge in the 5th Judicial Circuit, which serves Citrus, Hernando, Lake, Marion and Sumter counties. In December he rejected the plea deal agreed to by Hillsborough and Marion prosecutors and reaffirmed that decision Tuesday. He was a county judge in Marion for many years and took a seat on the circuit bench in 1994.

John Fitzgibbons, 55, the attorney for Lafave. He is a longtime defense attorney and a former federal prosecutor. He drew controversy with his comments last summer about Lafave and prison: "To place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole is like placing a piece of raw meat in with the lions. I don't think Debbie could survive it."

Michael Sinacore, 41, the Hillsborough prosecutor who agreed to the plea deal. He has worked for the State Attorney's Office for almost nine years and for the public defender six years before that. He was chief of the state attorney's sex crimes unit for six years and now is felony bureau chief.

Sources:
CNN Larry King Live: Interview with Owen LaFave
Judge Issues Gag Order in LaFave Teacher Sex Case
Judge Seals Sex Teach Debra LaFave Nude Photos
Lafave case "over for good"
LaFave Case: Timeline
LaFave Case: Key Players
LaFave Photos Sealed
Prosecutors Order Plea Deal for Teacher Debra LaFave
Teacher Accused of Sex with Students Rejects Plea Deal
Teacher in Sex Scandal Engaged to be Married
Teacher Says She was Insane During Sex with Student
Teen's Mother: LaFave Blaming Bipolar Disorder is "A Stretch"
Trial Delayed in Teacher Sex Case
Women Sought to Keep LaFave Away From Her Children

Meditation of the Prophet (pbuh)

Masjid al Nabawi, by Google EarthWhen becoming humiliated, remember the Prophet in Ta’if.

When being starved, remember the Prophet tying two stones to his stomach in the battle of Khandaq.

When becoming angry, remember the Prophet’s control of anger on the martyrdom of his beloved Uncle Hamza.

When losing a tooth, remember the Prophet’s tooth in the battle of Uhud.

When bleeding from any part of the body, remember the Prophet’s body covered in blood on his return from Ta’if.

When feeling lonely, remember the Prophet’s seclusion in Mount Hira.

When feeling tired in Salaat, remember the Prophet’s blessed feet in Tahajjud.

When being prickled with thorns, remember the Prophet’s pain from Abu Lahab’s wife.

When being troubled by neighbours, remember the old woman who would empty rubbish on the Prophet.

When losing a child, remember the Prophet’s son, Ibrahim.

When beginning a long journey, remember the Prophet’s long journey to Madinah.

When going against a Sunnah, remember the Prophet’s intercession, (Ummati, Ummati, Ummati) (My Ummah).

When sacrificing an animal, remember the Prophet’s sacrifice of 63 animals for his Ummah.

Before shaving your beard, remember the Prophet’s face rejecting the two beardless Iranians.

When falling into an argument with your wife, remember the Prophet’s encounter with Aisha and Hafsa.

When experiencing less food in the house, remember the Prophet’s days of poverty.

When experiencing poverty, remember the Prophet’s advice to Ashaab-e-Suffa (People of Suffa).

When losing a family member, remember the Prophet’s departure from this world.

When becoming an orphan, remember the Prophet’s age at six.

When sponsoring an orphan, remember the Prophet’s sponsor for Zaid ibn Haritha.

When fearing an enemy, remember the Prophet’s saying to Abu Bakr in Mount Thour.

Whatever situation you may find yourself in, remember your role model, the best of creation: Prophet Muhammad.

Whatever you may do, remember that your deeds are presented before our Prophet. Are we pleasing him or displeasing him?

March 21, 2006

Explain America to Chinese University Students

The following appeared on Daily Kos. As a lecturer here in Asia, I've been asked very similar questions to the ones posted below. If you have an account with Daily Kos, please go ahead and answer any of the questions there. If you don't have an account (and DKos has a 24 hour waiting period on new accounts before that person can post a comment), I'd be more than happy to transfer any comments from here to there.


Hello to my American friends (or friends living in the U.S.),

I am teaching a course in American Culture (it is a survey course about the U.S.) at a university in China and I have received some questions from students. I am hoping to draw upon your first-hand experience of the U.S. to help me answer at least some of these questions. Respond to as many questions as you like, even if it's just one. Any answers I get will be useful. I have typed in the questions in the students' own wording and spelling so there is a bit of Chinglish in some of them and some questions have assumptions built right into them. Just reading the questions gives you an idea of what Chinese students want to know about the U.S. and how they think.

I appreciate your help. Thanks!

1. Why do most Americans think that the war of Iraq is right?

2. What's the biggest difference between English and Americans?

3. What is the function of the bank? Is there a most important bank who controls the whole economy of the country and what is it? If there is, how does it works? What functions does it have?

4. What kinds of crime did a person commit can sentence the person to death?

5. Who is the most influential philosopher in US history? How did he affect the US ideology?

6. Do most of the Americans like George W. Bush?

7. I wonder who it is that support Bush Administration firmly; and why? Because they have seen how badly Bush is and what indeed did Bush do to the world especially the Iraq. It's hard to understand.

8. Can Arnold Swasinger (California state master) be the next President?

9. What do the Americans usually do after work?

10. Do Americans usually go to a cinema for films?

11. Why soccer is not so popular as basketball in America? What is their general attitude toward soccer?

12. Why American government allow citizens to sell and buy guns?

13. Do most Americans have race prejudice?

14. How do most Americans think of China? Do they think China has many places to travel to visit?

15. What's the attitude of Americans towards the Chinese living in America?

16. What kind of person do most American people like?

17. I want to know something about their attitude toward the other country.

18. What's the American's attitude towards Japan?

19. American's attitudes towards their children's independence when they are 18 years old?

20. How about the attitude to the lives in America?

21. How do Americans think about fashion and individual character?

22. We have a kind of bias that American people tend to be utilitarians. Are they?

23. Heard that there is certain religion worships Satan. And their ceremonies and activities are very exclusive and crew (cruel?). Why they're not genocided?

24. How do they learn history?

25. Will most Americans get further education after they get BS or BA?

26. How to apply for a USA university and what would the application cover?

March 19, 2006

Who is Christian?

Detail from the cover of Thomas Asbridge's book, The First CrusadeI found this little gem on a Baptist website, Ethics Daily, through the political blog Crooks & Liars. It makes me wonder, who is really a Christian? Men like Parham who appear to follow the majority of Jesus' (pbuh) teachings as presented in the New Testament ... or men like Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, who appear to be "cafeteria Christians," picking and choosing what teachings they want to follow and what they want to ignore.

Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics said neither Robertson nor Graham "show much familiarity with the largest bulk of Jesus' moral teachings which are found in the Sermon on the Mount."

"If they would hear and follow Jesus' teachings, then they would halt their anti-Islamic diatribes," Parham said. "The Sermon on the Mount is crystal clear about peacemaking, loving enemies, doing good to others, striving after God’s kingdom and practicing discernment. Regrettably, fundamentalist Christians ignore the Sermon on the Mount, because it is not a manual for war-making, which is at the heart of Christian crusades."

...

The Nashville, Tennessee-based BCE [Baptist Center for Ethics], Parham said, has a clear record of "stepping up often to speak against demonizing Muslims and to speak for following the Sermon on the Mount."

Parham said the Christian community "needs to hear the deep concern and perception within the Islamic and Arab communities about American Christianity" not doing enough to counter inflammatory comments that degrade people of other faiths.

"Perhaps American Christian clergy should speak this Sunday about another way, away from Robertson and Graham toward the Sermon on the Mount," Parham suggested. "Perhaps clergy should include in their pastoral prayer a reminder of the kind of talk about which the Apostle James wrote—civil, controlled, constructive speech."

March 17, 2006

Why Use "Muslims Against Terrorism" Graphics?

American Muslims against TerrorismI got an e-mail today by a Muslim brother who asked about the "Muslims Against Terrorism" graphics that appear in the side columns of my blogs, and I felt that his letter and my response were important enough to be published. His letter appears in blue below.


"Muslims who follow Quraan and Sunnah are not in support of terror activity, period. No muslim who knows anytthing about Islam or has any fear of Allah (swt) should be involved in terror activity like we see today. The Quraan tells us clearly who we can wage war against and so does our beloved prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Do we really need to say muslims from so and so against terrorism?"

I completely agree with your first three sentences. I would like to agree with your question, but I can't. I'll explain below.


"Should it not already be clear to all muslims and the world that real muslims would never attack women and children for no reason."

I believe this is clear to all Muslims, at least those who haven't fallen into errant thinking. Unfortunately, I can't say the same regarding the rest of the world. There are far too many non-Muslims who don't understand this, who tarnish all of us with their overbroad generalizations. I view my two graphics (the American and Singaporean Muslims Against Terrorism) as one educational method I can use for those non-Muslims who visit my blogs (and I do get many non-Muslims visitors). That's one of the reasons why those two graphics are so prominently placed, as close to the very top of the side column as I can put them so that they will be one of the first things people see when they pull up my blogs. In that regard, I do believe that using these graphics is beneficial in improving relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.


"I think we are implying that SOME muslims are for terrorism and i think this hurts Islam and muslims."

Without getting into the side argument of who is and isn't a Muslim (an issue that only Allah (swt) can properly judge), can't we say that those people who actually conduct the violence are "for terrorism?" Certainly they believe they are Muslim, as does the non-Muslim world. Yes, Islam and Muslims are being hurt, but this is due to *their* actions. You and I both know that Islam is a religion of peace, and we keep telling the non-Muslim world that this is so time and time again, yet our words become meaningless every time these people - whom the rest of the world perceives as being Muslim regardless of whether they really are Muslim or not - violate the tenets of Islam with their terrorist violence.


"I agree that sometimes Muslims do things that are wrong but i don't think we should use titles that divide us. We should all be known as MUSLIMS.... NOT American muslims or Black muslims or Arab muslims but simply muslims.."

Good point. Ironically, the man who came up with these graphics (another Singaporean Muslim) has not created a "generic" Muslims Against Terrorism graphic for anyone to use. Each of his graphics lists a specific country. Insha'allah, he'll create one that everyone can use, regardless of where they are in the Ummah.

Thanks for writing!

March 16, 2006

Lisa Lynnette Clark Timeline

Lisa Lynnette Clark montageThe following is a timeline that I've been writing up for the Lisa Lynnette Clark scandal. Many people have come to my blog over the past few months looking for information on this topic, and I'm trying to provide an outline that lists all of the various events that have happened to date, based on numerous news reports found on the web. At this point, the months of February and March are best documented; insha'allah, I'll try to fill in January 2006 and earlier later. If there are any mistakes (particularly in dates), I'd like to ask my readers to help correct me.


November 2005 - Clark and a 15-year-old boy are wed in a judge's driveway in Forsyth County, Georgia. She is arrested shortly afterwards, and is released on a $10,000 bond on condition that she not contact the boy, "A.S.G." Clark has two sons from a prior relationship.

January 2006 - "A.S.G.," the 15-year-old married to Lisa Lynnette Clark, runs away from a state-run juvenile home where he was sent for violating probation, a sentence that stemmed from a burglary arrest in 2005. Authorities believe Clark had talked to the boy while he was in the group home, helping him to plan his escape. Clark also arranged his transportation to a bus station and found him a place to stay in Ashtabula, Ohio, near Cleveland, through friends, who were unaware that the boy was a runaway. Clark had sent a large amount of money and a pre-paid cellphone from a UPS store in Douglasville, Georgia so that the two could communicate. That package led authorities to find A.S.G.

Feb. 1, 2006 - Clark is arrested in Douglasville after authorities say she contacted the boy, who had fled a juvenile care center and was later caught in Astabula, Ohio. Clark was next charged with hindering the apprehension of an escaped child in Douglas County and transferred to the Hall County Detention Center. If convicted, the sentence carries a maximum of five years imprisonment.

Feb. 11, 2006 - Lisa Clark gives birth Saturday night to Sky Cobain Gonzales, a seven-pound, nine-ounce boy with sandy blonde hair at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga. Her labor did not last long. Sammons, Clark's court-appointed defense attorney, said his client hopes the baby will be turned over to the care of a friend. "Hopefully, if the paperwork can be processed, there's going to be temporary guardianship of the child delivered to a friend of hers,” he said.

Feb. 23, 2006 - A bill in response to the Lisa Lynnette Clark scandal, sponsored by Rep. Bobby Franklin (R-Marietta), passed the Georgia state House of Representatives, 142-27. The bill would require 16- and 17-year olds to get parental consent in order to marry; children under that age would require approval from the courts. The bill had strong backing from both Republicans and Democrats. The bill is in response to a 1962 law that allows children under the minimum age of 16 to get married without parental consent if a pregnancy is involved. Georgia is one of few states with such an exception. Many Georgia lawmakers didn’t know the exception even existed. It was approved to prevent out-of-wedlock births by making it easy for anyone pregnant to get married.

Feb. 24, 2006 - Clark pleads not guilty to charges of statutory rape, child molestation, and enticing a minor for indecent purposes. Clark requests, through defense attorney Dan Sammons, that the hospital bracelet for Clark's newborn be given to the teenage boy. Judge Bonnie Oliver denied the request, saying that to do so would violate a condition that prohibits Clark from having any contact with her teenage husband, and asks Sammons to keep custody of the bracelet for the time being.

Mar. 15, 2006 - Clark pleads guilty to statutory rape in exchange for all other charges against her, including child molestation, to be dropped. She will serve a total of nine months in jail, including time already served (currently about six weeks), plus she has to get counseling, register as a sex offender and have no contact with her 15-year-old husband, at least not until he is 17. After serving her jail sentence, she will be on probation through 2010. She is also banished from Hall and Dawson Counties, and is not allowed to have any contact with any other minors, beside her own children. Clark has been sentenced as a first offender; however, should she violate any of her conditions, the judge could sentence her to 20 years imprisonment, the maximum penalty for the charge. According to Defense Attorney Dan Sammons, he spoke with the 15-year-old husband on Wednesday morning, and said that according to him, there are no plans for a divorce between the couple, despite claims to the contrary by the boy’s grandmother. The groom will be allowed to visit the baby, but not with Clark present, and he must arrange it through the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS). Clark still faces felony charges in Douglas County for helping her husband escape from a state-run group home (see the Feb. 1 entry). Meanwhile, the Georgia state Senate has not yet voted on the measure passed by the state House that would bar teens under the age of 16 from getting married without juvenile court permission.

Update:
Apr. 9, 2007 - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution runs a "Whatever Happened to..." column on Lisa Lynnette Clark and the boy she molested. Clark is currently in prison serving a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to helping her teenage husband's flight out of Georgia in February 2006, and is scheduled to be released in May 2008. Her defense attorney, Daniel Sammons, said, "I don't think she's adjusting easily to prison with the isolation from her child and the stark conditions she's in." The teenage boy, who remains unnamed, is now 16-years-old, is a high school junior, and is thinking of joining the Marines after graduation from high school. His grandmother says that he is currently dating a girl near his age. Reporters were unclear whether the teen is still married to Clark. Clark's infant child, Skye Cobain Gonzalez, is now 14-months-old and is being taken care of a woman who employed Clark as a medical transcriptionist. According to the grandmother's sister, Clark's former employer is interested in having full custody of the child.

Update #2:
February 22, 2008 - News reports (see here and here) announce that Lisa Lynnette Clark is being released from prison today. She completed a two year sentence at Metro State Prison after pleading guilty to helping her husband escape from state custody.


Posts of mine on Lisa Lynnette Clark:
  • Lisa Lynnette Clark Gonzalez Speaks
  • Lisa Lynnette Clark to be Released from prison
  • What Ever Happened To... Lisa Lynnette Clark
  • Lisa Lynnette Clark Timeline
  • Lisa Lynnette Clark gives Birth
  • Desperate American Women?
  • March 14, 2006

    Raimondo on Dubai's Potential Backlash

    Justin Raimondo over at antiwar.com has another interesting article on the Dubai Ports controversy. Published March 10, Raimondo's original thesis had to do with the demagoguery of Arianna Huffington, Sen. Barbara Boxer, et al, regarding the sale of the ports management. However, what I found interesting was the potential economic backlash America might face, insha'allah, from this rejection of allowing the sale of P&O to an Arab company. For example, while I doubt that Dubai will not cease doing business with the American merchant fleet, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if Boeing loses out to Airbus as Raimondo speculates. Now, what follows is most - but not all - of Raimondo's article. So, if you want to read the entire article, click on the title link above.

    ...

    The threat of economic retaliation from Dubai hasn't hit home yet, but when it does, their threat to do business with Airbus instead of Boeing is sure to provoke howls of outrage from the same crowd. We're kicking them out of the American port business – and also out of any defense-related industries, it seems – but, heck, why do they have to go and reciprocate in kind? That's positively anti-American, and yet more proof that those emirs are terrorist-loving Ay-rab (is there any other kind?).

    America does a lot of business with Dubai – a fact that La Huffington considers evidence of "corruption." Apparently she'd much rather we just bombed them. After all, if the UAE is the hotbed of terrorism she and her allies in the War Party make it out to be, then why not invade, occupy the country, and root out the bad guys? Huffington will never address these issues, because it would expose her utter hypocrisy and spoil her fun...

    ...

    The economic consequences of severing ties with Dubai – which is what legislation now being pushed in Congress would effectively accomplish – could be substantial. The Hill reports:

    "Retaliation from the emirate could come against lucrative deals with aircraft maker Boeing and by curtailing the docking of hundreds of American ships, including U.S. Navy ships, each year at its port in the [UAE]."

    There is also Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, backed by $15 billion, which plans to buy a whole fleet of aircraft from either Boeing or Airbus in the near future. Can anybody doubt which company they'll choose in the wake of the hate campaign directed against them in the United States?

    The irony is that the Democrats and their enablers in the punditocracy, who pine for the good old days when American workers stood at the pinnacle of the world market, will be the first to whine about how "foreign" labor is "stealing" American jobs. Being economic ignoramuses, however, as well as horses' asses in general, this crowd would rather not let reality get in the way of a bout of self-righteous fear-mongering.

    ...

    "We want to protect the American people," declares House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.):

    "We've been doing it the last four and a half years. We fought a war in Iraq, fought a war in Afghanistan, stood up to the Homeland Security Department. We will continue to do that. We will maybe have our differences, but we think we're going to continue to oppose the Dubai deal."

    Hastert is right to put the nixing of the Dubai deal in there with the various wars we're fighting (or in the process of starting) in the Middle East: it's all part of the Western campaign to denigrate and subjugate the Arab-Muslim world. The disgusting spectacle of the "antiwar" Democrats – like Sen. Barbara Boxer – jumping on this war-wagon recalls H. L. Mencken's definition of a demagogue:

    "One who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots."

    The idea that Dubai represents a "security threat" to the West in any way, shape, or form has the pro-Western elements of the Arab world shaking their heads in stunned disbelief. Targeting as "terrorist" the UAE – which lets Uncle Sam use it as a lily pad to transport troops to Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and which has cooperated in efforts to root out terrorist networks, including the nuclear black market ring centered around A. Q. Khan – is just not credible. There must, insist our beleaguered allies in the region, be some other reason for this curt repudiation of all things Arabic, this open display of contempt and hostility even to America's loyal friends in the Gulf emirates.

    The sanctions against Dubai, if carried to their logical conclusion, would rule out any and all Middle Eastern companies from doing business in the U.S. After all, one of their terrorist-loving employees could possibly be an al-Qaeda "sleeper" whose clever plan to smuggle a suitcase nuke onto American shores could conceivably be pulled off under cover of a shield of corporate invisibility.

    The exclusion of an Arab company from an important sector of the U.S. economy strikes a significant victory for the War Party. Even if the Bush administration succeeds in partially defusing the issue, the brouhaha is in itself a great victory for the advocates of "World War IV." It draws a line in the sand, as it were, between the U.S. and the Arabic-speaking and Muslim world, and legitimizes the idea of a "war of civilizations" – the meme that motivates our militaristic foreign policy.

    ...

    Mark Twain Cadets

    Mark Twain Cadets

    I just stumbled upon the above photograph of the Mark Twain Cadets Junior Drum & Bugle Corps of Elmira Heights, NY. (Yes, my corps.) Now, this photo is a bit of a mystery to me because the webpage where I pulled it from says that the photo is from 1974. Now, it's possible that this photo *is* from '74, but I can't say for sure. The 1974 season was my first year with the Cadets, and I don't recall off-hand our having had our picture taken in front of the American Legion Post. If this really is a photo from '74, then it was taken very early in the summer because these are the old uniforms that the Cadets wore from the late '60s through June '74, when we switched to the newer woolen jackets (the old uniform was made of a thinner, synthetic material). So, if this photo is from '74, it was taken by June '74 at the latest.

    Zooming into the photograph doesn't help either. The photo is too blurry when zooming in to make out any details, such as people's faces. I remember the black girl kneeling in front with the rifle line, but I don't believe she was with the corps in '74 (I thought she left after '72 or '73). The drum major, to the right in the white uniform, seems a little short to be Tom (I forget his last name), who was drum major in '73. I don't remember who the Cadet's drum major was in '72 (Debbie Check?); in '74, it was Chris (I also forget her last name), but the detail is too blurry to see the DM's face.

    So, a minor mystery. The corps in the picture is definitely the Mark Twain Cadets, wearing the original uniforms, in front of American Legion Post #154, but the year is uncertain. Possibly 1974, but in my mind also maybe '72, '73 or even '71 (in that order of likelihood). If it is '74, then I'm somewhere in the picture, clutching my baritone, but it would be near impossible to point me out.

    BTW, to help with the color scheme (seeing how this is a B&W photo), the jackets were orange, the pants were navy blue with orange trim, and the shakos were blue with white trim (with orange plumes for the horn line and color guard, blue for the drums, and white for the DM). The rifle line and the rest of the color guard wore an orange dress-type uniform with blue trim; I believe the color guard captains on the sides of the rifle line wore blue dress-type uniforms with orange trim. The drum major's uniform was white with orange trim.

    Islamophobia = Sedition

    The other day, I got a survey from some students over at Nanyang Technological University's School of Communication and Information (Nanyang Tech, a good school, is located here in Singapore). The survey had to do with blogging behavior, whether I was self-censoring or erasing any of my blog posts in light of some incidents that happened last year involving the Sedition Act.

    [Here, in Singapore, seditious behavior includes the promotion of "...feelings of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population of Singapore" or "to point out, with a view to their removal, any matters producing or having a tendency to produce feelings of ill-will and enmity between different races or classes of the population of Singapore..." Last September, three Chinese men, two in their mid-20s and one teenager, were charged with making seditious and inflammatory racist comments on the Internet against the Malay/Muslim community. All three pled guilty. The punishments, IMO, were mere slaps on the wrist compared to what I felt the three should have been given; however, the Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, made it quite clear that such remarks would not be tolerated here, even if posted on the Internet.]

    The survey itself was rather basic, with questions on the types of topics I write about on my blog (personal or non-personal), my familiarity with the Sedition Act, and so on. However, there were two questions where I gave some additional comments (that were not asked for by the students). I thought I would share my answers and comments to these two questions here:


    15. I practice self-censorship on my weblog (5-point scale where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 5 = Strongly Agree). I answered 4, "Agree."

    Most of my “self-censorship” takes place during the pre-writing and writing phases. On those posts that I write myself (as opposed to copying someone else’s work), I may take up to a couple days writing the piece, which gives me time to think of what I want to say, how to prepare a better argument, cool down if I’m angry, and so on. Once the post is published, I rarely self-censor.


    19. How much has your blogging content changed since the incident of the Sedition Act? (5-point scale where 1 = No Change and 5 = Large Change). I answered 2, "Little change."

    I support the Sedition Act as it’s currently written. In fact I wish other countries (especially Western countries such as the U.S.) had Sedition Acts that were modeled after Singapore’s. As a Muslim, I’m concerned about the Islamophobia and xenophobia expressed by non-Muslims, especially in my home country. I question whether I will ever be able to bring my wife back to the U.S. to meet my family, whom she has never met (despite our having been married for several years now). Based on what I have read over the past four years since I left the U.S., I am not sure we can pass through the country without experiencing any anti-Muslim bigotry. *I* often experience bigotry against Islam (and even myself for being a Muslim) just by reading the various comments on my blogs and that of others.

    Incidents like the Danish cartoons need to force other countries to question a fundamental trade-off: whether an unregulated freedom of speech is more important as a national value, with all of the attendant consequences that may happen both nationally and internationally, or a regulated freedom of speech that minimizes potential social upset both locally and abroad. Singapore, with its earlier experiences (e.g., the race riots of the 1960s), has decided (wisely, in my opinion) to regulate free speech for the greater benefit to Singaporean society. The Prime Minister recently said that an incident like the Danish cartoons would never have happened here, and I both agree with and applaud him for making such a statement (in fact, I did so a few weeks ago in one of my blog posts). The Danish have learned, much to their chagrin, that what is published locally can have international consequences. Media sources – including bloggers – need to consider the consequences of their writings and be willing to self-censor when necessary. Incitement against any race or religion is wrong, full stop, and those who incite the hatred of others may find that their work rebounds against them to their detriment.

    Just ask Julius Streicher.

    March 9, 2006

    John Esposito: Muslims and the West

    The following essay was published by United Press International (8 March 2006). Once again, Dr. Esposito has written a very interesting, thought-provoking article. There were several points I liked: the idea that the West (Europe in particular) is developing a "secular fundamentalism," and that Western countries could improve relations with the Muslim world if they would "demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam, show less prejudice, and not denigrate what Islam stands for." Also, that Islamophobia is a "social cancer," which I think is a rather apt description.


    Newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed have set off an international row with dangerous consequences, both short and long term. The controversial caricatures, first published in Denmark and then in other European newspapers, target Muhammed and Islam and equate them with extremism and terrorism. In response to outcries and demonstrations across the Muslim world, the media has justified these cartoons as freedom of expression; France's Soir and Germany's Die Welt asserted a "right to caricature God" and a "right to blasphemy," respectively.

    One of the first questions I have been asked about this conflict by media from Europe, the U.S. and Latin America has been "Is Islam incompatible with Western values?" Are we seeing a culture war?

    Before jumping to that conclusion, we should ask: whose Western democratic and secular values are we talking about? Is it a Western secularism that privileges no religion in order to provide space for all religions and to protect belief and unbelief alike? Or is it a Western "secular fundamentalism" that is anti-religious and increasingly, post 9/11, anti-Islam?

    What we are witnessing today has little to do with Western democratic values and everything to do with a European media that reflects and plays to an increasingly xenophobic and Islamophobic society. The cartoons seek to test and provoke; they are not ridiculing Osama bin Laden or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but mocking Muslims' most sacred symbols and values as they hide behind the fa├žade of freedom of expression. The win-win for the media is that explosive headline events, reporting them or creating them, also boosts sales. The rush to reprint the Danish cartoons has been as much about profits as about the prophet of Islam. Respected European newspapers have acted more like tabloids.

    What is driving Muslim responses? At first blush, the latest Muslim outcries seem to reinforce the post 9/11 question of some pundits: "Why do they hate us?" with an answer that has become 'conventional wisdom': "They hate our success, democracy, freedoms..." - a facile and convenient as well as wrong-headed response. Such answers fail to recognize that the core issues in this 'culture war' are about faith, Muhammad's central role in Islam, and the respect and love that he enjoys as the paradigm to be emulated. They are also more broadly about identity, respect (or lack of it) and public humiliation. Would the mainstream media with impunity publish caricatures of Jews or of the holocaust? As France's Grand Rabbi Joseph Sitruk observed: "We gain nothing by lowering religions, humiliating them and making caricatures of them. It's a lack of honesty and respect", he said. He said freedom of expression "is not a right without limits".

    A recently completed Gallup World Poll that surveyed Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia enables us to find data based answers about Islam by listening to the voices of a billion Muslims. This groundbreaking Gallup study provides a context and serves as a reality check on the causes for widespread outrage.

    When asked to describe what Western societies could do to improve relations with the Arab/Muslim world, by far the most frequent reply (47 percent in Iran, 46 percent in Saudi Arabia, 43 percent in Egypt, 41 percent in Turkey, etc.) was that they should demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam, show less prejudice, and not denigrate what Islam stands for. At the same time, large numbers of Muslims cite the West's technological success and its liberty and freedom of speech as what they most admire. When asked if they would include a provision for Freedom of Speech, defined as allowing all citizens to express their opinion on political, social and economic issues of the day if they were drafting a constitution for a new country, overwhelming majorities (94 percent in Egypt, 97 percent in Bangladesh, 98 percent in Lebanon etc.) in every country surveyed responded yes, they would.

    Cartoons defaming the Prophet and Islam by equating them with terrorism are inflammatory. They reinforce Muslim grievances, humiliation and social marginalization and drive a wedge between the West and moderate Muslims, unwittingly playing directly into the hands of extremists. They also reinforce autocratic rulers who charge that democracy is anti-religious and incompatible with Islam.

    Where do we go from here?

    Core principles and values, like freedom of speech, cannot be compromised. However, freedoms do not exist in a vacuum; they do not function without limits. In many countries, hate speech (such as holocaust denial, incitement to racial hatred, advocating genocide) is a criminal offence prohibited under incitement-to-hatred legislation. Our Western secular democracies represent not only freedom of expression but also freedom of religion. Belief as well as unbelief needs to be protected. Freedom of religion in a pluralistic society ought to mean that some things are sacred and treated as such. The Islamophobia which is becoming a social cancer should be as unacceptable as anti-Semitism, a threat to the very fabric of our democratic pluralistic way of life. Thus, it is imperative for political and religious leaders, commentators and experts, and yes, the media, to lead in building and safeguarding our cherished values.

    And what about Muslim responses? Muslim leaders are hard pressed to take charge, asserting their faith and rights as citizens, affirming freedom of expression while rejecting its abuse as a cover for prejudice. A sharp line must be drawn between legitimate forms of dissent and violent demonstrations or attacks on embassies that inflame the situation and reinforce Western stereotypes. The many Muslim leaders, from America and Europe to the Muslim world, who have publicly urged restraint and strongly condemned violence, play a critical role.

    Globalization and an increasingly multi-cultural and multi-religious West test the mettle of our cherished democratic values. As the current cartoon controversy underscores, pluralism and tolerance today demand greater mutual understanding and respect from non-Muslims and Muslims alike.



    (John L. Esposito, University Professor at Georgetown University, is a Gallup Senior Scientist and co-author of the forthcoming "Can you Hear Me Now: What a Billion Muslims are Trying to Tell Us.")

    Joe Eigo

    Another video I found on the internet recently and have downloaded onto the home computer. Milady knows that I tend to be a junky for "MaxEx" type of shows, where numerous idiots videotape their asinine attempts at "glory" and, all too often, fail miserably (yeah, I like to laugh at the misfortune of other people ;) ). But I will also give credit where credit's due. This video is of Joe Eigo, who obviously has a gymnastics background, and can do some incredible moves with his body. I've never been as coordinated as this guy, but I wish I was. Eigo needs to get serious and try out for the Olympics gymnastics team. I think he could make it. Run time: 3:42.

    "Splish, splash," Indeed

    I have this video on my computer, and thought I would share it (through youtube). The quality of the video is not all that great in spots and you have to know German to understand most of what they're saying; otherwise, it's a rather funny video. Be sure to catch the two overweight women at the end. Run time: 3:40.

    What Happens in Israel, Stays in Israel

    Cover of David Brin's Someone's read Startide Rising once too often...and, yes, you are a perv.

    British tourist Sharon Tendler has finally made her dream match - by "marrying" a dolphin she has been visiting for 15 years in the Israeli resort of Eilat, the mass-circulation Yediot Ahronot daily reported today.

    Tendler, 41, has been visiting the city on the Gulf of Aqaba two or three times a year to spend time with her 35-year-old underwater sweetheart.

    "The peace and tranquility under water, and his love, would calm me down," the Israeli daily quoted her as saying.

    Last week Tendler finally plucked up the courage to ask the dolphin's trainer for the mammal's fin in marriage.

    The wedding took place Wednesday, with the bride, wearing a white dress and watched by amazed spectators, walking down the dock to where the groom was waiting in the water.

    She kissed him, to the cheers of the spectators and then, after the ceremony was sealed with some mackerels, was tossed into the water so she could swim away with her new husband.

    "I'm the happiest girl on earth," the bride was quoted as saying. "I made a dream come true. And I am not a pervert."

    March 8, 2006

    Kirby Puckett (1961-2006)

    Kirby PuckettI'm a little surprised and saddened to hear that Kirby Puckett died the other day in Phoenix. At 45, he was waaay too young to die (he was only a few months older than me). I'm not a Minnesota Twins fan, and I didn't get to see the Twins play much on TV (usually only when they were in the post-season). However, I do know what "Puck" meant to the fans of the Twins. My strongest memory of Kirby was actually when he wasn't playing, when he was in the middle of a contract dispute, and the Twins fans at the Metrodome began singing a variation on John Lennon's song: "All we are saying is give Puck the cash." Puckett did ultimately win the contract dispute, but his career ended soon thereafter due to his eye problem.

    From Allah (swt) do we come, and to Him do we return.

    Rest in peace, Kirby.

    March 7, 2006

    Planet of the Arabs

    The dehumanization of Arabs and Muslims through numerous Hollywood movies, television episodes, and cartoons.

    If

    No kidding. Wish I had one of these.

    The More Things Change... The American Fascist

    Vice President Henry A. Wallace (1941-45)Pop quiz, hotshot. Who said the following and when?

    "The really dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

    "They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."


    Admit it, this could very well apply to today's situation. In fact, it was said by then-Vice President Henry Wallace, published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944. The more things change...

    March 6, 2006

    Clay Aiken Sued for Being Gay

    Yeah, I know, I've been real busy today...but this one was just too good to pass up:


    Clay AikenAIKEN FANS MAKE GOOD ON THEIR PROMISE

    LATEST: Nine former fans of AMERICAN IDOL star CLAY AIKEN are forging ahead with threats to sue his record label bosses for false advertising.

    The one-time devotees have been shocked by recent US tabloid claims the wholesome pop singer is gay and they've filed a Federal Trade Commission complain against executives at RCA and Sony/BMG, alleging they were duped in marketing and promotional campaigns.

    The nine-strong group, listing themselves as "aggrieved consumers" SUSAN J, PATRICIA A, JACQUELYN C, KAREN G, PHYLLIS S, CAROL M, KAREN G, KIM M and LINDA F, hail from all over America.

    They allege that employees of RCA, Sony/BMG, and Aiken himself "engaged in collusion to prevent public disclosures they believed might be harmful to their product."

    The angry ladies go on to state, "This is tantamount to a manufacturer concealing information about a defective product. Therefore these actions were both unfair and deceptive to consumers."

    A spokeswoman for the group says, "As consumers, we feel ripped off. It is obvious now that the private Clay is very different from the manufactured packaged public Clay that was marketed to us."

    The group is asking the FTC to investigate the practices of the record companies, to invoke civil penalties where appropriate, and to enjoin the companies from violating the Federal Trade Commission Act.


    So Clay's gay. So what? While I'm not a fan of homosexuality (I'm glad Brokeback Mountain lost the Oscar for Best Picture), I'm not sure I see what the point of the lawsuit is. Now that these women know he's gay, they're devestated that he'll never marry any of them and allow them to bear his children? (Rolling eyes.) Grow up, little girls, and get a life!

    Visiting a Mosque

    The following is from an e-mail I received today from MAS-Arizona. The essay is written by a Christian minister who recently visited the Islamic Community Center of Tempe when they held an open house for the community. I'm putting this post up partly because of my pride in this masjid (it was where I first made shahadah), but also because I appreciated this minister's open-mindedness, which shows quite clearly in his writing.


    The Minaret of the Islamic Cultural Center of TempeVISITING A MOSQUE
    By Tom Compton

    My friend Chuck called to ask me if I'd like to go with him to an open house at a mosque in Tempe, AZ. Having never been in a mosque, I thought that it would be an interesting experience but wondered if I would need a bullet proof vest or an assault rifle to protect myself during the visit. After all, haven't we been warned by numerous government and Christian leaders that the Muslims are out to create a holy war against us infidels?

    We parked our shoes on the ground floor of the mosque and walked up to the second floor into the prayer and worship room. There were about 50 visitors in attendance plus members of the mosque who filtered in during the open house portion of the service. After the open house, their regular Friday night service would be conducted. It was easy to spot the visitors because they were sitting in chairs. It was explained that during the service and prayer time the flock was either standing, sitting or bowing down on the floor. The men are in the front and the women in the rear with a curtain that could be drawn by the women if they wanted privacy.

    The Imam, the Islamic equivalent of a pastor or priest, was giving a Power Point presentation on the fundamental beliefs of Islam. Part way through the presentation, the Imam said that they would break for a brief prayer session and we were invited to observe how this part of their worship is conducted. Muslims are required to pray 5 times a day, this one lasted about 10 minutes. A group of more than a dozen men came to the front to participate in the prayers. The chanting and prayers were in Arabic but there seemed to be a similarity to a Catholic worship service in that both services are composed of ritual elements.

    The Imam continued with a discussion on the life of Muhammad and other prophets they recognize and revere: Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Interestingly, the Imam said that they recognized that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary with no earthly father. It seems curious to me that because of Jesus' uniqueness ascribed by Muslims that He should receive a higher status in Islam than he does. The Imam said Muslims recognize Mohammad as the last prophet of Allah (God) but claim not to worship him. Judaism doesn't recognize Jesus, but the Muslims do. Does this mean that followers of Mohammad are closer to God than those of Judaism?

    Exterior of the Islamic Cultural Center of TempeNext, the Imam opened the floor for questions. The Imam and a woman who he identified as "his boss" meaning she was a layman from the mosque congregation, fielded the questions. One person asked about the apparent unequal treatment of women as exhibited by the women sitting in the back of the mosque and other examples demonstrated in the Muslim world.

    It was explained by the Imam that because of the frequent bowing down during the service that having women in the front could be a distraction to the men worshippers who are to be focusing on Allah.

    A statement by Muhammad sheds some light on the subject: "O People: It is true that you have certain rights in regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives, only under God's trust and with His permission...Do treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers..."

    Another visitor asked about the Islamic "Jihad" against Christians and if Muslims were committed to the destruction of infidels. It was explained by the Imam and the other lady that Jihad is not a word that just translates into "war". Its meaning could be better defined as "a struggle against something." Another person wanted to know about all the killing done by Muslims. The Imam said that their religion does not condone killing. In the Imam's accompanying notes to his presentation, a quotation attributed to the Prophet Muhammad's last sermon is noteworthy: "All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white - except by piety and good action..."

    Interior of the Islamic Cultural Center of TempeAnother visitor in the audience recounted that when her family was based in Turkey they were treated beautifully by the Muslims in that country.

    There is no doubt that there are some Muslims who want to "get" us. But, as I pointed out in some general comments I made to the assembly: the United States was also guilty of killing millions of innocent people needlessly in the steady stream of serial wars that the U.S. fosters and perpetuates. I said that as a follower of Christ that I could see no justification for what the U.S. has done in Iraq. I pointed out that the war in Iraq was not legal because our Constitution does not give the President the power to declare war. Only Congress has been given the power to declare war. Also, I pointed out that our President claims he is a Christian. His actions are certainly at a variance to the teachings of Jesus. No wonder the world is so mixed up about what Christians say they believe and what they advocate. Applause originated from a number of the members of the mosque after making my comments.

    Upon my sitting down, another visitor jumped up to strongly disagree with me and question my patriotism. He claimed that he was a veteran and had defended our freedom. Then, a number of the visitors applauded him. It is a sad commentary to think how the American public has been brainwashed to think of Muslims as a threat to us. Any honest person when reviewing the facts will see how dangerous the United States' policy of wars for "democracy" really is. Many Americans believe that the United States is somehow morally superior to anybody else on the planet and is the universal dispensing agent of truth and justice. Applying Jesus' directive to love your neighbor as yourself still sounds valid to me.

    If you have a chance to visit a mosque, don't hesitate to do so. I felt warmly received during my visit. Compare this to downright animosity received on occasion from some of my "bloodthirsty brothers in Christ" when standing outside their churches holding a sign that simply says: "Choose Life, Not War."

    Tom Compton is a co-founder of We Hold These Truths and Strait Gate Ministries.

    Why Kayaking in the Ocean Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be

    OK, one more movie for now. Watch the kayaker in the back right. Milady believes that the background voices are speaking in Japanese.

    Whiteout

    While we're throwing movies up on the blog, this one needs to be shared. This wave is awesome.

    Drum Corps is Evil? Drum Corps is...uh...

    In my last post, I briefly mentioned that I was in drum corps as a teenager (and then got involved again from 1998 through 2001). I also occasionally write articles for Drum Corps World (gotta get some more articles written soon). Milady, who hadn't heard of drum corps until she married me, has a very skeptical view toward the activity, although I have no idea why...we're all very sane and normal people, just like everyone else...

    Renegades Baritone at Rehearsal

    No, this is *not* me :) , although I do play the same instrument that this guy has in his hand (a baritone or, as a friend calls it, a "blaritone"). (Photo courtesy of Lee Rudnicki of the San Francisco Renegades.)

    March 4, 2006

    State Meme

    Korean Passport StampI've been trying to avoid memes and writing other "personal" posts in recent months because I had hoped to make this blog more "serious" (not that I think anyone's noticed ;) ). However, the "States Meme" is being passed around, and I thought I'd do it because I have a couple questions and comments to make. So, if you don't know the "rules" of the meme, underlining represents those states I've lived in, bold indicates the states I've visited, and italics indicates the state I'm supposed to be currently living in (except, of course, I'm an expat so no state has been italicized).

    Alabama / Alaska / Arizona / Arkansas / California / Colorado / Connecticut / Delaware / Florida / Georgia / Hawaii / Idaho / Illinois / Indiana / Iowa / Kansas / Kentucky / Louisiana / Maine / Maryland / Massachusetts / Michigan / Minnesota / Mississippi / Missouri / Montana / Nebraska / Nevada / New Hampshire / New Jersey / New Mexico / New York / North Carolina / North Dakota / Ohio / Oklahoma / Oregon / Pennsylvania / Rhode Island / South Carolina / South Dakota / Tennessee / Texas / Utah / Vermont / Virginia / Washington / West Virginia / Wisconsin / Wyoming / Washington D.C.

    So, as you can see, I've lived in only two states (roughly 20 years in each), and have visited 33 states plus D.C. I've yet to visit the extreme NE (Maine and New Hampshire), parts of the deep South (Alabama, Mississippi), and most of the upper Midwest and NW, plus Alaska and Hawaii. In fact, many of these trips to the various states happened up through my college years, either from travelling with drum corps (primarily in the Mid-Atlantic states and Ohio), travelling with family (up and down the Atlantic seaboard, to visit relatives), or from a series of cross-country bus trips when I would go back and forth between Arizona and New York for the summer and winter vacations. When I lived in Arizona, I rarely went out of the state except on the occasional trip.

    But what does "visiting" a state really entail? I've listed Kansas as a state I've "visited," but the "visit" was just so I could say "I've been there." On my way to Arizona the first time, when I was going to be in my first semester of college, my dad, one of my sisters, and I had stayed one night in SW Missouri (Joplin, I think). The next morning, as we went into Oklahoma, we noticed that the Kansas state border was a very short distance away. So my dad drove off the interstate, and we headed north to Kansas. He drove maybe 500 yards past the Kansas border sign, then made a U-turn and we continued on our way back to Arizona. Thus, I've "been" to Kansas, or have I? Actually, there are several other states where my visit was similar to the Kansas "visit," and while I may have spent a day or two there, I saw very little of the state: Kentucky, Nevada, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia. Also, many of my "visits" were pass-throughs: Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North and South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia. In which case, I feel like I know only 14 states (plus D.C.) really well.

    The same "problem" also applies with some of the other countries I've visited. When I went to Switzerland, I only saw Geneva (and a tiny bit of France); the same with Mexico (visiting Nogales, Sonora, for some shopping). In Japan, I spent one day in Fukuoka, before returning to Korea. In Thailand, I went outside of the international passengers' section of the Bangkok airport just to be able to get some Thai stamps in my passport; otherwise I stayed in the airport (it was raining too hard that day to go visit the city, as I had hoped to do). Of course, I've also done some serious visiting of other countries, with numerous trips to Canada (various cities in Ontario) and Malaysia; likewise, living these past four years in Korea and S'pore.

    I will also say, given the time and opportunity, I'd rather be on the ground when I visit a new state or country than up in the air. I do love flying, and it's an absolute necessity for traveling around most of Asia, but if I really want to know what a state or country is like, I'd rather be in a car or on a train. I'd rather see the landscape and the local weather and vegetation (or the lack thereof) to get an idea of how people and their cultures and societies are shaped. Flying is of limited help that way.

    March 3, 2006

    The "Manifesto" against Islamism

    There's a diary over at Daily Kos about a "manifesto" written and signed by the usual suspects (Rushdie, Manji, Ibn Warraq, Hirsi, etc.), along with a few others whom I'm not familiar with. The "manifesto" speaks against that "...new totalitarian global threat: Islamism."

    What I found amusing in the commentary is how quite a few people were saying "Huh?" after reading the "manifesto." So much for clarity of expression by "We, writers, journalists, intellectuals..."

    I've written a few comments to this diary (as JDsg), one of which appears below:

    I agree that these people [Rushdie, Manji, Warraq, Hirsi, etc.]are not reformers of Islam. For the vast majority of Muslims, one look at the names of the signatories will cause them to ignore this "manifesto" altogether. These people do not speak for us and, in many cases, have as much credibility as a turnip.

    But many of these signatories are popular among non-Muslims because they say what non-Muslims want to hear, as in the case of this "manifesto." What, did anyone think that this was written with Muslims as the intended audience? It was written for non-Muslims, for them to say, "Oh, if only the Muslims were like them."

    So sad. Too bad.

    March 1, 2006

    Microsoft repackages the Ipod :)

    An amusing parody of how Microsoft would repackage Ipod. (I also liked the music. ;) ) Milady and I are both, like, "That is such a typical Microsoft box now." :)



    Update: OK, it's back. :) The old video had been pulled for a day or two, but there's a new copy up. The above links are for the new video. Enjoy!

    "The More Things Change..." More Comments Regarding the Danish Cartoons

    The controversy over the Danish cartoons, while it has muted somewhat over the past few weeks, has been a subject of continuing discussion at various blogs and websites. If you're not familiar with Random Platitudes, a relatively new blog, I recommend that you visit. RP is a Danish historian and lecturer who has been doing a series of posts over the history of the cartoon affair. While I don't agree with everything he's written, some of his posts provide valuable insight into Danish psychology and how the history of Denmark has shaped their thinking toward xenophobia.


    Next, I originally found the following quotation on one of the diaries at Daily Kos. Guess which newspaper originally published it?

    "You have to admit Germany its clear right to rid itself of its Jews. But one must insist that it happens in a decent manner."

    That's right, Jyllands-Posten. This is from an editorial in reaction to Nazi Germany's Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass," in which the Germans rampaged against the Jews, their businesses, synagogues, and other properties). (See also Denmark, Where Are You? A Story About Longing for another essay that refers to this quotation.)

    Yes, it seems that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Most organizations indoctrinate their employees to follow the company's customs and ways of thinking (e.g., "the HP way," "the Microsoft way," and so on), and it would surprise me not in the least that the editorial staff of Jyllands-Posten today would have the same basic conservative, xenophobic bent that their predecessors had back in November 1938.


    Finally, I came across the following brief essay, published on February 8 at Sojourners. The essay shows that many Europeans suffer from a racist superiority complex over anyone who pretty much isn't a white Western European. (The racist taunts that European soccer fans make, referred to in the essay, are a frequent occurence, and happened as recently as this weekend, when fans of Spanish League Zaragoza taunted Barcelona's Eto'o, a fantastic striker from Cameroon. Eto'o almost walked off the field in disgust.)

    Cartoons a Symptom of Deeper Prejudices in Western Europe
    by Tomek Krzyzostaniak

    Twelve cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, printed last September in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten and republished in January by major newspapers in Norway, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, have sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Protests intensified last weekend in several Middle Eastern countries, and included outbreaks of violence and the burning of Danish and Swedish Missions. Many Muslims object to the cartoons because Islam forbids the creation of any image of the prophet, and the cartoons portray Mohammed as a terrorist. Along with anger there are feelings of confusion from those who imagined Europe as a tolerant and welcoming place.

    The fictional haven was clearly shaken by the riots in France last year. If Europe is so culturally tolerant, how could so many minorities be so upset? Europeans from Slavic nations have understood the Western European superiority complex better than others. My uncle Andrzej Lewandowski, like many other Polish businessmen, faces derogatory comments and ill treatment from his French and German counterparts on a consistent basis when traveling. Even though Poland is a full member of the European Union, the Western nations have consistently placed limitations on the ability of Poles to work and study in their countries. French President Jacques Chirac called Poland and other Eastern European nations "irresponsible" and "infantile" for their positions on Iraq, hardly words one uses to address equals and allies.

    The treatment of Slavs in Western Europe is quite polite when compared to behavior toward non-Christians and non-whites. Evidence of this is most notable in soccer stadiums. In Britain, renowned for its politeness, a black player was taunted by fans making monkey noises, reported international news sources. This would have shocked some except that this kind of incident had already occurred countless times in Italy, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands.

    Though many fans are able to tolerate players as long as they perform well on the soccer field, they show their true colors when voting. In Austria, the Freedom Party, a far-right populist party that opposes immigration and "multicultural experiments," is part of the governing coalition. In France an extremist candidate won 18% of the popular vote in the 2002 presidential elections. Both Denmark and Norway, where the cartoon fiasco originated, have significant anti-immigration party participation in their parliaments (12% and 15% respectively). In Germany the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party quadrupuled its 2002 national election results and gained 1.6% of the vote. Though the numbers are still small the rise in popularity of far-right parties is alarming, and they have fared even better in local elections. In 2004 the NDP captured 9.2% of the vote in state elections and sent 12 delegates to the state parliament of Saxony.

    There are countless examples of racism and intolerance in Western Europe, from governments banning headscarves to firebombings of synagogues in Brussels and Antwerp. These expressions of discrimination in areas of perceived acceptance unfortunately remind me of my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Looked upon by the rest of the country as a bastion of liberalism, Madison is also no haven. Last month when Middleton High School (predominately white and wealthy) faced off against Madison East (predominately people of color and poor), the Middleton fans began to chant "food stamps" and "Oscar Meyer" in reference to the economic standing of their opponents. The students issued a halfhearted apology and were not disciplined by school administrators. While this is a far cry from firebombs and beatings, it does expose a sad truth about a tolerant society.

    As long as minorities - racial, ethnic, economic, or otherwise - represent a small number, it is comfortable for white citizens to speak boldly about acceptance and equality, but the moment more than one or two of "them" show up, true feelings emerge. These cartoons, stupid though they may be, are just one example of a much larger problem.