February 23, 2006

Hating Arabs

There's an interesting article by Justin Raimondo over at antiwar.com regarding the ports controversy. (Originally, I was going to only use parts of this article, but I ultimately felt that cutting the article up wouldn't do justice to the entire argument. Hope you don't mind, Justin. ;) )

In a repeat of the calculated insults to the Arab world coming fast and furious these days, Democratic politicians, including putative presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, are raising a ruckus over a deal in which Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, a U.K. company that manages the ports of New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia, would be acquired by Dubai Ports World, a Dubai-based international company that manages port facilities from London to Okinawa. Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Bill Frist, have been quick to jump on the Arab-bashing bandwagon; Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama was the first to raise the "security" issue, ahead of even Hillary and the clueless Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who wants all "foreign-owned" companies barred from managing U.S. ports. (This presumably includes U.K.-based companies such as Peninsular, and others, which together dominate the international shipping and maritime industry.)

This outcry is phony from beginning to end, starting with the ostensible reasons for the alleged "security risk" involved in doing business with a company based in the Arab world. Phony reason number one: Two of the hijackers were born in Dubai. This is completely bonkers: Dubai is a city of over one million, a major financial and industrial center, and an increasingly popular international tourist attraction. Because two Islamist nutballs were born there hardly makes it a terrorist hive. Culturally, Dubai is the freest country in the Arab world. That doesn't matter to the Arab-haters who are driving this campaign, however: in fact, it probably just emboldens them.

The reality is that there are U.S. troops in Dubai, over 1,000 of them, and the United Arab Emirates (of which Dubai is a part) is one of our staunchest allies in the region. Indeed, Dubai is the one city in the Middle East that is the most like America in that it is a symbol – thesymbol – of the Arab world's entry into modernity. The architecture of Dubai is a vision of futurity, and there are few urban centers in the U.S. that are cleaner or safer.

Dubai a hotbed of radical Islamist agitation? One would hardly think so, yet demagogues in both parties are now touting the factoid that the U.A.E. was one of three countries to grant diplomatic recognition to Afghanistan's Taliban government. What they don't mention is that the other two were Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, the two pillars of U.S. military and economic interests in the region. Should we stop doing business with them, too?

Phony reason number two is that the 9/11 conspirators funneled money through Dubai-based banks. But Dubai is the major financial nexus of the Arab world, and, indeed, is right up there with any city in the West in that regard: funds traveling from sources in the Middle East are more than likely to have come through the U.A.E. in some shape, form, or manner. Targeting DP World on account of this is like embargoing Wal-Mart because the 9/11 hijackers bought their box-cutters there.

An odd coalition of pro-union Democrats, who represent the interests of the International Longshore Workers Union, which fears dealing with non-unionized Dubai, and deluded Christian fundamentalists, such as Cal Thomas, have banded together in an effort to demonstrate that ignorance – of both economics and the rest of the world – reigns supreme in U.S. ruling circles.

This smear campaign against an entire country – indeed, against an entire region of the world – has nothing to do with the facts. The State Department reports: "In 2004, the UAE continued to provide staunch assistance and cooperation against terrorism" and "the UAE Central Bank continued to enforce anti-money-laundering regulations aggressively." Furthermore, the U.S. and Dubai have signed something called a Container Security Initiative Statement of Principles, the purpose of which is to do what we don't do here in the U.S., but ought to: all U.S.-bound cargo transiting Dubai ports is carefully screened. We have also signed a defense pact with Abu Dhabi, and the emirate has been used as a base from which to pre-position U.S. troops bound for Iraq. Our planes refueled at Dubai's al-Dhafra air base on their way to patrol Iraq's no-fly zone during the run-up to the invasion. Dubai has borne the costs in fuel and facilities maintenance of these U.S. military operations, and receives not a dime in "foreign aid." In addition to hosting over 1,000 U.S. troops at various air and naval facilities, the U.A.E. is contributing to the maintenance of U.S. military bases in Germany.

I've heard it said – on such Democratic Party sites as DailyKos.com – that it isn't the Arabic character of DP World that provokes security concerns, but the fact that the company is owned, in whole or in part, by the government of Dubai. This shows complete ignorance of the reality on the ground in the U.A.E.: if Uncle Sam doesn't like you in Dubai, you are history, as was discovered by the heir apparent to the throne of one of the emirates, Ras al-Khaymah, who was taken out of the line of succession in June 2003 because he was thought to be behind pre-Iraq-war demonstrations. The Gulf states are islands of U.S. influence in an Arabic-Muslim sea of Middle Eastern hostility: to insult them in so flagrant a manner would be to effectively sink the pro-U.S. governments that have so far remained our only faithful allies in the region.

Fearful of Iran, the U.A.E. has cozied up to the U.S. like no other country in the Middle East, except, perhaps, Kuwait. What's more, they have developed into precisely the model free market, modernized, relatively tolerant country, culturally if not politically, that we in the West have been urging on the region. In rejecting a Dubai-based company as unworthy, and raising the specter of terrorist-related activities or allegiances on the part of an internationally respected company with many Americans in top positions, the U.S. is saying that is doesn't matter how much the Arabs may kowtow to the West, adopt our ways, and try to enter the world of international capitalist finance and embrace globalization – we still don't want them because the whole region is poisoned by hate and therefore untouchable.

That is the message the warmongering Hillary and her allies on the Christian Right and in the Republican Party want to send to the people of the Middle East. And they have the nerve to wonder, "Why do they hate us?"

The answer is all too obvious.

The worst demagoguery over this issue is coming out of Sen. Chuck Schumer's mouth. The Democrat from New York avers:

"Just as we would not outsource military operations or law enforcement duties, we should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties."

Yet it seems as if the security-conscious senator isn't against outsourcing when Israel is the beneficiary: Israeli companies, as well as direct input from the Israeli government, practically dominate the burgeoning homeland security industry. And the newly installed congressional phone system is franchised to an Israeli company, yet no one is making much of a stink about the security concerns raised by people like Philip Giraldi, who writes:

"One of the more intriguing aspects of the federal investigation into the activities of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff is his Israeli connections. His large $2.2 million bail is reported to be due to fears that he would flee to Israel, as some of his business associates have already done, to avoid prosecution. Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew and ardent Zionist, set up a charity called Capital Athletic Foundation, which illegally provided $140,000 worth of weapons and security equipment to hard-line Israeli settlers.

"Abramoff also allegedly convinced Congressman Robert Ney, House Administrative Committee chairman, to award a contract worth $3 million to a startup Israeli telecommunications firm called
Foxcom Wireless. The contract was for the installation of antennas in House of Representatives buildings to improve cell-phone reception. Not surprisingly, such equipment can be designed to have what is known as a 'back door' to enable a third party, in this case Mossad, to listen in. That an Israeli firm should be given such a contract through a selection process that was described as 'deeply flawed and unfair' is inexplicable, particularly as there were American suppliers of the same equipment, and it suggests that the private conversations of some of our congressmen might not be so private after all."

When Schumer starts questioning this sweet deal, I'll listen to him when it comes to DP World.

I have a suspicion that the current ruckus reflects the economic interests of not only the unions, but also Eller & Company, the Miami-based business formerly a partner of Peninsular that is now suing for being forced into an quot;involuntary" partnership with those feelthy Ay-rabs. The suit raises the security canard, and one wonders what sort of economic interests the smear campaign is intended to mask. A press conference held Tuesday decrying the ports deal was held in Miami, and the Miami-based nature of the smear campaign tells me that something is afoot in the land of the hanging chad. In any controversy like this, the first rule is to follow the money, and this AP report hints at the stakes:

"The lawsuit represents the earliest skirmish over lucrative contracts among the six major U.S. ports where Peninsular and Oriental runs major commercial operations: New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia. The lawsuit was filed moments before the court closed Friday and disclosed late Saturday by people working on the case."

It wouldn't be the first time a corporate entity tried to take out the competition by raising a bogus threat to "national security." Led by a disparate coalition of mindless opportunists, anti-Arab racists, and warmongering politicians, an effort to scare the American public into making a few ruthless "entrepreneurs" obscenely rich by giving them a virtual monopoly on America's port facilities shows every sign of apparent success. The victors will be laughing all the way to the bank.

February 22, 2006

Xenophobic Hysteria

Much of the US has gotten hysterical at the thought of UAE-based Dubai Ports World (DPW) operating six American ports (New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia). Recently, DPW outbid PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) for the right to purchase London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. (P&O), which had been operating the six American ports in question (along with ports in other countries).

Much of the hysteria seems to run along the line of "DPW is owned by the Arab UAE, which is where two of the 9/11 hijackers came from and which had recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan for a time; therefore, America's national security is at stake." The following is a comment I left at TBogg concerning this issue, which I reposted as a diary entry over at Daily Kos:

Let me ask some simple questions:

If PSA (Port of Singapore Authority), which operates 19 ports in 11 countries, had been able to purchase P&O instead of DPW (Dubai Ports World), would there be such an uproar in the US over the purchase? (No? Didn't think so.)

If DPW didn't have a proven track record in operating ports (23 ports in 13 countries, including Australia, Germany, South Korea, and China), don't you think these countries and port operators might have said "no?" when DPW asked for their business?

If any of these countries had thought hiring DPW might compromise their national security, don't you think they would have said "no?"

So, tell me once again why y'all are going through such xenophobic hysteria?

February 21, 2006

Muslim Reactions Misinterpreted

A couple of good letters to the editor, both published in the Arizona Republic:

Muslim reactions misinterpreted (17 February 2006)

It sickens me that people are comparing the reaction of outrage by the Islamic community at the satirical depiction of the Prophet Mohammed to the lack thereof at the beheadings of Caucasians by Islamic extremists.

Apparently it has never occurred to these people that the vast majority of Muslims strongly decry the actions of the terrorists who profess to act in the name of Allah. People weren't rioting in the streets at the execution of kidnapped tourists because they don't consider - and correctly so - the terrorists to even be of the same religion as themselves.

On the other hand, the prohibitions on depictions of Mohammed in any medium is part of the core of Islamic doctrine, so it is equally absurd to make any comparisons, for example, to the lack of a violent reaction by the Christian community to blasphemous depictions of Christ.

Also, in addition to the depictions that incited the rioting, I wouldn't be surprised if the Islamic community were strongly offended by the seeming inability of us Westerners to distinguish between the true, pacifist believers in Islam and the raving lunatics who have been made into a racist generalization by the majority of us over recent years.
- Jesse Hannah, Tucson (The writer is 16.)

Seeing reality of Islamic protest (20 February 2006)

The letter by 16-year-old Jesse Hannah is a balanced perspective of Muslim response to the degrading caricatures of their prophet by Danish cartoonists ("Muslim reactions misinterpreted," Letters, Friday)

As such, it stands in contrast to the steady stream of syndicated columns that evidence their composers' basic inability - or unwillingness - to see the issue from the Muslim side (See Kathleen Parker column, "Re: Free speech - see A. Gore," Opinions, Friday).

I am not a Muslim nor particularly pro-Islam but, like Hannah, I have allotted enough effort to the subject to avoid the misconceptions, inherently biased or not, perpetrated by so many pundits.
- A. Wayne Senzee, Phoenix

February 20, 2006

"Follow the White Rabbit" (or "Why I Took the Red Pill")

Alice and the White RabbitThere's an article in the Arizona Republic today about Arizona State University's Memorial Union celebrating its 50th anniversary. Toward the end of the article is an amusing comment by Grady Gammage, Jr., who is the son of Grady Gammage (duh! ;) ), the President of ASU during the 1950s.

"I cannot tell you that I remember the day of the dedication because I was 3," Gammage said. "But I remember a lot about the Memorial Union early in its life."

Gammage, too, believes the union is more than a building; it is a monument to the collective memories of the campus. He recalled a year when the theme was "Alice in Wonderland."

"All of my friends and I got to dress up as the White Rabbit," Gammage said. "We wore these bunny suits with floppy ears. We were chased by coeds dressed as Alice. When you're in fourth grade, this was hot stuff."

February 15, 2006

More Torture Photos from Abu Ghraib Prison

Some new photos have been released showing more scenes of torture that had happened at Abu Ghraib prison, over at Daily Kos. Please be advised that the photos are graphic, with plenty of blood and male nudity (genitals have been blacked out).

Your American tax dollars at work.

Update: The photos can also be viewed through The Sydney Morning Herald and BoingBoing. Also, Amnesty International has a flash video that connects the dots on American torture (especially concerning the Maher Arar case).

February 14, 2006

I Can Relate...

Stone Soup

I don't comment often on cartoons, but this is one I can completely relate to. For those who don't follow "Stone Soup," the grandmother recently returned home from Uganda where she had been working for an unnamed volunteer organization (something similar to Habitat for Humanity), building homes. She had lived there for a longer-than-anticipated time, but remembered her granddaughter Alix's birthday and rushed home in time.

Anyway, the grandmother is still "homesick" for Uganda, and has a great closing line: "When you have the adventure of a lifetime, part of you wants it to last a lifetime." Ain't that the truth. I have seen this in others and have experienced it myself. When I first arrived in Korea, I had an Irish colleague who had lived for six years in Zimbabwe and only left because of increasing violence due to the forcible land redistribution. And for about half a year, he made most (if not all) of us miserable because of his pining for Africa. Many of us had voluntarily come to Korea from other countries, and were hoping to have an enjoyable experience there - we certainly didn't want to hear someone whining about how he would rather be somewhere else...

And, of course, a year later, I was in the same position. I had come to S'pore to get married, but Milady had to put up with my "homesickness" for Korea. Living in Korea had been a wonderful experience for me, and I treasure the memory of my life there. However, I would not be surprised at all if I suffered a similar "homesickness" if Milady and I were to ever leave S'pore (even temporarily). And so, what comes around goes around. :) Living in Asia has been my adventure of a lifetime and, like "Gramma," I would love for it to last a lifetime.

[Note: I have donated to Habitat for Humanity in the past, and I encourage you to do the same (or to any other charity that you feel is a worthy cause). They need your assistance.]

Happy Valentine's Day

I Love You, Milady! :)

Today is Valentine's Day, and I am both happy and sad about that. Of course I am happy to celebrate this day with my wife, Milady, whom I do love very much. However, I am also sad in that I'm not able to buy her a gift at this time. For the past two years, I have bought her some jewelry on Valentine's Day, and I would very much like to keep that tradition alive. However, the past year has been difficult for us, financially, since last September. While I do have some savings available, we both know that I can't make that type of purchase right now. Insha'allah, if our finances will improve soon, I will make it up to her later.

In the meantime, thank you for marrying me, Milady, and know that I love you. May Allah (swt) bless our marriage and grant us the children we both desire.


Update: Lisa Lynnette Clark Gives Birth

Lisa Clark, appearing on The Tyra Banks ShowLast November, I brought up the case of Lisa Lynnette Clark, 37, who was in the news last year for having gotten pregnant by and marrying her son's 15-year-old friend. On Saturday, Clark gave birth Saturday to a 7 lb, 9 oz (3.43 kg) boy. Of course, the story isn't that simple. Clark, currently in jail without bond (for talking to the boy recently in violation of her conditions of release), is trying to get a friend to take temporary custody of her baby; otherwise, the boy will be put into state custody. Clark's attorney is milking the sob story for all it's worth: "Right now, she's struggling with the trauma of having the child torn loose from her arms and possibly placed in foster care while she goes back to jail." Uh, yeah, right. Let me get out my violin here, you know, the world's tiniest violin... And then the "father," who had been in a Georgia juvenile home, had recently escaped and was found earlier this month in Ohio.

Yeah, another fine example of American family values.

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?
  • February 10, 2006

    Heroes and Hypocrites

    Two different news stories that are worth mentioning.

    Lee Hsien LoongLocally, the Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has spoken out against the publication of the controversial Danish cartoons. From Bloomberg:

    Singapore won't allow the publication of a controversial sequence of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said late Thursday, condemning the caricatures as insensitive.

    Maintaining racial harmony is a higher priority than freedom of expression, Lee said in broad-ranging comments in a meeting with community leaders.


    "It's wrong, it's provocative. We would not have allowed in Singapore,'' Lee said in the two-hour dialogue yesterday with 1,700 community leaders and students. "It was wrong for the Danish newspapers to publish the pictures, it was wrong for the other European newspapers to say, in solidarity, 'I will republish.'''


    Singapore's Lee said that, in some circumstances, the maintenance of religious harmony is more important than freedom of expression. He cited the example of the city's ban on "The Satanic Verses,'' the novel by Salman Rushdie that incensed many Muslims and led Iran's former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to sentence the author to death.

    "In 1989, when Salman Rushdie wrote a book 'Satanic Verses,' which many Muslims found very objectionable, we banned it,'' Lee said. "People say, 'where is the freedom of expression?' We say maintaining harmony, peace, that's the first requirement.''

    -- Bloomberg: Singapore Won't Allow Publication of Prophet Cartoons, Lee Says

    Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for making these comments. I do greatly appreciate them. I only wish more government leaders around the world (particularly in Europe) would have made similar comments. If they had, this controversy would have died down long ago.

    Insha'allah, I hope to finish a post soon that will mirror some of the Prime Minister's comments above.

    William J. Bennett, HypocriteThen there's William Bennett.

    Bennett appeared on CNN recently (The Situation Room) with Wolf Blitzer and Jim Zogby. Bennett, who is supposedly Roman Catholic, made numerous false accusations against Islam (in the video, you can see Zogby - who is not Muslim - shaking his head in disbelief several times at Bennett's lies). Two of Bennett's statements deserve closer attention. The first is that:

    "Here's the standard. Catholicism is as Catholicism does, Judaism is as Judaism does, and by God Islam is as Islam does and what it's doing right now I wouldn't wanted to associated with."

    As numerous people wrote in commentary at both Crooks and Liars and AmericaBlog, if "Catholicism is as Catholicism does," does that mean that Catholicism and Catholics - and, by extension, William Bennett - condones pedophilia? Of course it doesn't, which is why Bennett's argument is so laughable. The other statement that Bennett made was:

    "I wish they would speak out. I wish they would speak out and take to the streets like these people do, when we see the beheading and beating of people."

    But Bennett himself believes that in certain circumstances, beheadings are "morally plausible."

    "Bennett is a staunch supporter of the War on Drugs and has been criticized for his extreme views on the issue. On a television show, he said that a viewer's suggestion of beheading drug dealers would be 'morally plausible.'"
    -- Wikipedia: William John Bennett

    Way to go, Bill! You've just exposed yourself to be a hypocrite.

    To see the video with William Bennett and Jim Zogby, click here (QuickTime). For a Winamp version, go to Crooks and Liars: Bennett slanders Islam.

    Hijabis of the World, Unite!

    HijabiThis was an interesting comment left by a Heather Hopkins on Indigo Joe Blogs. Heather, for a college assignment, chose to wear a hijab for a week to see how people would react. The part that I really enjoyed was the second paragraph, that she confirms what many Muslim women have said for years - that wearing a hijab is a liberating experience, that she is appreciated for herself, rather than as being treated as a sex object.

    One wonders when other Western, non-Muslim women will get a clue.

    I read through all the comments written here, and would like to add a few of my own. First of all, I am a non-Muslim woman living in California. I am in the process of conducting a similar, yet not as extreme experiment of my own. What started as a project assigned in my cultural anthropology class to go and experience something from another culture and report about it has become much more than that. As a long-time Buddhist, going to visit a Mosque would be a completely new experience for me, but I wanted to learn about what Islam was about and why Muslims dressed the way they do and many other things, so this is what I chose. I contacted the mosque and told them I wanted to visit and I must say that they were so warm and welcoming and answered all my questions. I also contacted several Muslims on the internet to ask their advice on what to wear, how to act, etc. at the mosque. It was recommended that I wear modest clothing and a hijab as a sign of respect, so I went to an Islamic clothing store to purchase a hijab. The lady at the store was very nice as well, and I enjoyed shopping for the hijab. I decided on a pretty pink 2-piece hijab with an embroidered design on it. I decided to start wearing it then and there to see how people reacted to me wearing it. I put it on and drove home on the freeway, and since it was rush hour by this time, people had a lot of time to stop and look at me, though people would usually glance and then pretend not to be looking any more. My visit at the mosque was great, everybody there was so nice and helpful and I have to say that Muslims are the nicest people I have ever talked to. All of this inspired me to wear the hijab everywhere for another week in order to see what it is like to be a Muslim woman in Orange County. For the most part, people seemed to go out of their way to be nice, or they would just ignore me all together, but I did get a few negative comments, mostly from old people. I've got to say that wearing a burqa must have been quite the experience. If I think about how odd it felt and how I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb in hijab, it must have been very interesting to wear the burqa. I give her a lot of respect for doing this.

    One thing I do have to say about my own experience wearing Muslim garb: It is true what they say about it being liberating. I am not one to dress provocatively, but even so I still always get stares and whistles from people and I hate it. I never understand why, because I do nothing to provoke this and usually wear just jeans and long jackets in the winter or other fairly conservative clothing, but when I was dressed in Muslim clothes, I did not get any of this, and I felt like for the first time in my life I was not being looked at as a sex object but for who I am.

    February 8, 2006

    Dr. Cole on "The Hypocrisy of the West and Cartoongate"

    Another interesting comment from Dr. Juan Cole:

    "For those waxing holier than thou over the Muslim caricature riots, it is worth looking at the (very incomplete) Wikipedia list of riots for the late 20th century and early 21st century. The answer is obviously "yes" to the question of whether Westerners riot. Mostly over race."

    Update: I was amused by Ottnot's comment to Dr. Cole's post:

    Riots? Here? In America? Never. We are human beings, not Muslims. /sarcasm

    Kee-rist. What do you think happens in the U.S. after many pro-sports championships?

    What do you think happens every New Year's Eve in some cities, just for the hell of it.

    How would you described what happened the day after Thanksgiving at effing Walmart, for eff's sake?

    Would we riot over some cartoon? Hell no. We choose other, equally stupid, reasons for our riots.

    How often? I don't!

    Umm Zaid wrote: "How often do you feel obligated to condemn or speak out against something when no one has specifically asked you to? For example, many of us feel obligated to repeat, over and over, the fact that we don’t condone terror, etc. It’s true, but I don’t think it’s effective.

    "My feeling is that by now, people who are really interested in knowing what the regular Mozzies of the mainstream think about terror have figured it out, and only those who are interested in stoking the flames of hate still say, “Why don’t they condemn terrorism?” every time a Muslim dares to raise his or her head."

    I don't. I gave up "apologizing" for the misdeeds of others long ago. I'm not interested in abasing myself in front of others for whom an "apology" isn't owed. If they don't like it, too bad for them.

    When I was working on my recent post, The Fog of War, I read an interesting comment by director Errol Morris in an interview he had with Tom Ryan, film critic for the Australian newspaper, The Sunday Age. In the interview, Morris talked about how Robert McNamara hasn't "apologized" for his role in the Vietnam War, and he ultimately wondered why people expected McNamara to apologize. As a result of this thinking, he came up with his "theory of apologies," which I think is directly applicable to Umm Zaid's situation.

    Tom Ryan: Did your view of McNamara change, though, as you were sitting there talking to the man, watching him close to the edge of tears as he talks about the death of Kennedy, seeing him actually confess to you his sense of guilt? Or do you read that still as a kind of performance for the public?

    Errol Morris: Can't it be both? For example, people get very angry at McNamara because, they say, he hasn't apologised. “How come you didn't get him to apologise?” Sometimes they get angry at me. And I remember thinking, “At what point during the interview do I want to hear this man apologise? Is this really what I want to hear?” And I thought to myself, “No, I don't. Because there is no apology for Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand Americans dead, literally millions of Vietnamese. Why would I want to hear 'I'm sorry'?”

    And then I started to wonder: why is it so important to people that he apologise? Why is this such a big thing for many, many people? And I developed a theory of apologies – that we like apologies because they empower us. If someone you don't like apologises to you, you can just say, “I don't accept your apology. Screw you!”

    I believe that people wanted McNamara to apologise so they could reject it.

    -- Errol Morris, Robert McNamara and The Fog of War

    Likewise, I won't apologize for the burning of the various embassies, nor the flag burnings, nor some of the stupid placards. Nor do I apologize for various terrorist incidents. I didn't do them. Nor is Islam at fault, which means that I won't apologize on behalf of my religion either. Nor do I expect the Danish people in general or the Danish government to apologize either because, like me, they are not directly responsible for this controversy. However, I do expect apologies from the cartoonists, from JP's editors, and from all the other editors who have published these cartoons. I will also say that none of the "apologies" JP has issued have been, IMO, sincere. I expect these apologies to be sincere, not for my sake, but for their sake. The cartoonists and editors will be questioned about their deeds by Allah (swt), and I wonder just how far a "freedom of expression" excuse will go with Him.

    Some other Muslim bloggers have said they believe that this controversy is a test from Allah (swt), and that is something I can buy into. But it's not just a test for Muslims, as they have implied, to see how well we will react. It's also a test for the Danes and other Europeans. Indeed, all of the world. And it is with sorrow that I see that these Danes, Europeans, and others are failing the test as well, exposing themselves to the world to be racist, intolerant, hypocritical bigots.

    But I don't expect them to apologize.

    February 7, 2006

    Join the Army: Become an Imperial Stormtrooper!

    Stormtrooper-esque facial armor

    The above picture is from Boing Boing. Don't tell me the first thing going through your mind when you saw this photo wasn't the Imperial March (also known as "Darth Vader's Theme"). ;) Actually, I rather like the below picture:

    Che Trooper

    Update: This post has been rather popular over time, especially for those of you wanting to become stormtroopers. To that group, I would suggest you visit another post of mine, Wired: The Making of Star Wars. That post describes how the stormtrooper uniform was made and worn, and how uncomfortable it was to wear (at least for Mark Hamill in the original movie).

    Sometimes Ya Gotta Wonder...

    Washington's HandphoneCourtesy of Crooks and Liars:

    Alberto Gonzales (US Attorney General): "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."

    Watch the video. Have a laugh. Your tax dollars at work.

    More Reactions to the Danish Cartoons

    More reactions around the blogosphere (and elsewhere) to the Danish cartoons (and a few of my comments):

    "My opinion is pretty much the same as anybody’s… 'Cause and effect (said in the Monica Belluci Matrix Voice), my love.' Yeah, call it freedom of speech if you want, I call it freedom of speech to say something racist and then hide behind your gauche caviar/champagne liberal selves. I mean, at least Jean Marie Le Pen comes out and says it. He’s my type of racist. Don’t talk about how ignorant you are about Islam, how you hate Muslims and how politically aware your cartoon is, and then call it freedom of speech."
    -- Dictator Princess [Note: I added the links to the above post.]


    "I don’t agree with the actions of some of my Muslim brothers who resorted to burning Danish flags and pillage the Danish embassies throughout the Muslim world. We are much better than that. We shouldn’t stoop to the level of those blasphemous and ignorant pigs and [pardon my French] assholes who drew those abhorable cartoons in their portrayal of the Prophet (P) as a 'terrorist'. Of course what we object is not merely their stigmatisation of Islam as a 'terrorist' religion, but the fact that they even dared to draw a caricature of the Prophet (P) in the first place!

    "If they can stake a claim to 'free speech', then we Muslims too can do the same and through peaceful means. By all means, be outraged at this provocation. Hold demonstrations and carry placards denouncing their actions. Boycott their goods and urge others to do the same. These are within our rights and conforms to 'their' standards of freedom of speech and expression. But we must remember never, ever resort to violence such as pillaging or flag-burnings which can be interpreted as a vindication of their claim.

    "Do not stoop to their level of hatred."

    -- MENJ


    "Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.

    "The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.


    "Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: 'I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.'"

    -- The Guardian: Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons


    "It's said that the Danish newspaper has apologized, but what I saw was a sort of, 'Sorry if you got yourselves all offended, but we're not sorry that we printed the cartoons'. I saw the 'culture' Editor, Fleming (or Flemming) Rose on BBC's Hardtalk and on a fairly long interview on CNN International. He was not at all apologetic, and when asked if he was happy that other European papers were also publishing the cartoons, he said, 'I'm not dissatisfied'. When asked if he had learned anything, or whether he would make a different decision if he had the chance again, he said he couldn't answer a hypothetical question but his comments then made clear that he would do it again.

    "Also, I'd like to know more about the children's book that started all the controversy. It's been portrayed as a nice, educational book by an author who wanted Danish children to learn about Muslims. But then I saw pictures from the book, and they seemed to be sort of a checklist of the negative points used by Islam-bashers and/or Orientalists to demonize the Prophet (peace be upon him). Then I saw some blogs that said the author wrote the book after his children had been intimidated by Muslim children, and it was definitely a negative portrayal, which puts things in a different light."

    -- Ann's comment on IJB's post, "Cartoon controversy"


    "On CNN (TV, not the website), they reported that JP is unrepentant regarding the publication of the cartoons, which obviously negates any "apology" that they've made.

    "Personally, I'm hoping that all these businesses and governments that have suffered on JP's behalf will take the American approach and sue the bastards for all of their losses. Bankruptcy would be the best revenge."

    -- My comment on IJB's post, "JP wouldn't lampoon another prophet..."


    Birthe Rønn Hornbech (as translated by Svend White):

    "It goes without saying that Muslims in Denmark must also accept that they've come to a country with freedom of expression. It goes without saying that a country with freedom of religion is also a country with freedom to critique religion. But drawing Muhammad with a bomb in his turban obviously has nothing to do with serious religious critiques.

    "We didn't get freedom of expression to offend each other merely for the sake of offending others. [...]Far too often, [the invocation of] freedom of religion has has been guided by an uncivil desire to introduce personal grudges into both press articles and reader responses.

    "It is as if freedom of expression had been sancitified as some kind of fundamentalist religion whose purpose is to promote the demonization of others. Muslims are demonized in particular by the childish expection that since there are some Muslims who we think behave strangely or immorally, that all Muslims need to understand how [much better] we are.

    "[...]Demonizing isn't just primitive and stupid. Demonization increases minorities' difficulties in understanding our society and heightens their feelings of marginalization. And that is lethal.

    "It could be of momentous consequence for our country if we don't quickly grasp the risks in a situation where large groups residing in Denmark feel marginalized and seek comfort in the most extreme forms of religious fundamentalism which reject democracy."


    Also, Svend White's translation of Rune Engelbreth Larsen's blog

    "Perhaps we should also recall these days how when the artist Jens Jørgen Thorsen obtained permission to paint a Jesus with an erect member in a public mural in Birkerød, Jyllands-Posten's editor in chief at the time, Asger Nørgaard Larsen, demanded it removed. Today, he's the chairman of the newspaper's fund [Am not sure how to translate that.] and has the exact opposite view of the cartoons of Muhammad.

    "When the mural of Jesus was painted over at the order of traffic minister Arne Melchiors, Asger Nørgaard Larsen wrote in a leader in Jyllands-Posten that the traffic minister "had shown both good sense and courage in demanding the removal of the painting, even though he can expect new screams about the constitution and censorship" (Source: Politiken, 2005-10-23).

    "As the chairman of the Jyllands-Posten fund today, howevever, he writes this of the cartoons of Muhammad: 'Freedom of expression is subject to secular law and is the foundation of our democracy. The overwhelming majority of Danes understand this... Freedom of expression must be used and tested.' (Jyllands-Posten, 2006-01-30).

    "So, 'used and tested' is reserved for propaganda purposes against Muslims, but censorship has its place if it concerns a pornographic representation of Jesus..."

    -- Hypocrisy of cartoon architects revealed


    "Before I launch into this report, I want to underline that few places in the Muslim world have seen violence over the caricatures, so far mainly Damascus and Beirut (which are unexpected in this regard.) Protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere have been nonviolent. This is not to play down the seriousness of what happened in Damascus and Beirut over the weekend--acts which can only inspire horror and condemnation--only to set it in context. There are 1.5 billion Muslims. A lot of Muslim countries saw no protests at all. In some places, as in Pakistan, they were anemic. The caricature protests are resonating with local politics and anti-imperialism in ways distinctive to each Muslim country. The protests therefore are probably not mostly purely about religion.


    "Reuters reports, 'Syria's grand Mufti Badr Eddine Hassoun, told government newspaper al-Thawra that the attackers did their country harm. "We feel sorrow that these people who were driven by passion reached the stage where they have undermined our dialogue with the Norwegian and Danes," he said.'

    "The Grand Mufti is the country's chief religious authority on Islamic law.


    "Nor is it true that things were quiet after the immediate publication of the cartoons. Nor is it true that the Danish prime minister or the Jyllands-Posten expressed any sympathy for the hurt feelings of Muslims early on. Indeed, they lectured them on being uncivilized for objecting."

    -- Dr. Juan Cole on "Caricatures Roil Muslim World"

    Dr. Juan Cole on "Muslim Protests Against Anti-Muhammad Caricatures"

    The following is one of Dr. Juan Cole's posts regarding the offensive cartoons attacking the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This is a very good post, and I believe it deserves wider coverage.

    "Of course people are upset when their sacred figures are attacked! But the hurt is magnified many times when the party doing the injuring is first-world, and the injured have a long history of being ruled, oppressed and marginalized. Moreover, most Muslims live in societies with strong traditions of state censorship, so they often assume that if something appears in the press, the government allowed it to do so and is therefore culpable.

    "Westerners cannot feel the pain of Muslims in this instance. First, Westerners mostly live in secular societies where religious sentiments have themselves been marginalized. Second, the Muslims honor Moses and Jesus, so there is no symmetry between Christian attacks on Muhammad and Muslim critiques of the West. No Muslim cartoonist would ever lampoon the Jewish and Christian holy figures in sacred history, since Muslims believe in them, too, even if they see them all as human prophets. Third, Westerners have the security of being the first world, with their culture coded as "universal," and widely respected and imitated. Cultures like that of the Muslims in the global South receive far less respect. Finally, societies in the global South are less policed and have less security than in Western Europe or North America, allowing greater space to violent vigilateism, which would just be stopped if it were tried in the industrialized democracies. (Even wearing a t-shirt with the wrong message can get you arrested over here.)

    "What Muslims are saying is that depicting Muhammad with a bomb in his turban is insupportable. It is often assumed that in the West we believe in free speech, so there is nothing that is insupportable.

    "But that simply is not true. Muslims mind caricatures of Muhammad because they view him as the exemplar of all that is good in human beings. Most Western taboos are instead negative ones, not disallowal of attacks on symbols of goodness but the questioning of symbols of evil.

    "Thus, it is insupportable to say that the Nazi ideology was right and to praise Hitler. In Germany if one took that sort of thing too far one would be breaking the law. Even in France, Bernard Lewis was fined for playing down the Armenian holocaust. It is insupportable to say that slavery was right, and if you proclaimed that in the wrong urban neighborhoods, you could count on a violent response.

    "So once you admit that there are things that can be said that are insupportable, then the Muslim feelings about the caricatures become one reaction in an entire set of such reactions.

    "But you don't have to look far for other issues that would exercise Westerners just as much as attacks on Muhammad do Muslims. In secular societies, a keen concern with race often underlies ideas of social hierarchy. Thus, any act that might bring into question the superiority of so-called white people in their own territory can provoke demonstrations and even violence such as lynchings. Consider the recent Australian race riots, which were in part about keeping the world ordered with whites on top.

    "Had the Danish newspaper published antisemitic cartoons that showed, e.g., Moses as an exploitative money lender and brought into question the Holocaust, there would also have been a firestorm of protest. For the secular world, the injuries and unspoken hierarchies of race are what cannot be attacked.

    "Muslims are not, as you will be told, the only community that is touchy about attacks on its holy figures or even just ordinary heros. Thousands of Muslims were killed in the early 1990s by enraged Hindus in India over the Ayodhya Mosque, which Hindus insisted was built on the site of a shrine to a Hindu holy figure. No one accuses Hindus in general of being unusually narrowminded and aggressive as a result. Or, the Likudniks in Israel protested the withdrawal from Gaza, and there were dark mutterings about what happened to Rabin recurring in the case of Sharon. The "sacred" principle at stake there is just not one most people in the outsider world would agree with the Likudniks about.

    "Human beings are all alike. Where they are distinctive, it comes out of a special set of historical circumstances. The Muslims are protesting this incident vigorously, and consider the caricatures insupportable. We would protest other things, and consider them insupportable."

    Dr. Cole also wrote the following comment on his blog:

    "I just reiterate in response to some of the critical comments that came in that there are lots of things that if someone said them in public in the United States would cause public outcry, maybe demonstrations and even violence. The mob violence, or threat of it, would be regrettable and wrong, just as it is always wrong everywhere. But it would happen under certain circumstances here, too.

    "You should remember that Bill Maher lost his job for comments after September 11, and Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman, came out and said we all had to be very careful what we said, and that it was 'never' the time for such comments.

    "The American tradition of freedom of speech rooted in the First Amendment really only protects you from the Federal government. You can't even publicly criticize some corporations without risking a lawsuit.

    "I agree that it is better that most people in the North Atlantic world no longer are easily mobilized on grounds of religious feeling. But to pretend that Westerners have abolished all their taboos and irrationalities is just hubris. And, some of the protests among Muslims over the caricatures are about wounded nationalism, and not about religion at all."

    February 6, 2006

    "The More Things Change..." Red Jacket vs. the Christian Missionary

    Portrait of Red JacketThis is an interesting speech, given two hundred years ago by the Seneca indian chief, Sogoyewapha, better known as "Red Jacket" (c. 1758 - 1830). The speech was given in the summer of 1805 at a council of chiefs of the Six Nations (a confederation of Iroquois tribes) after a Mr. Cram, a Christian missionary from New England, had spoken of the work he proposed to do among the Senecas.

    I find two things interesting about this speech. The first is an almost-Islamic feel to Red Jacket's rhetoric, especially in the first and fourth paragraphs, regarding the Great Spirit and His creation of the land and animals for use by the Indians. Compare the fourth paragraph with the numerous ayat in the Qur'an that talk about the usage of cattle and other animals and plants for food, transportation, clothing, and other benefits. Also, there is an interesting passage in the ninth paragraph ("If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?") that mirrors the Qur'anic disapproval toward the creation of sects (30:32, 42:13-4, and 43:64-5). Likewise, the eleventh paragraph ("He has given us different complexions and different customs") sounds remarkably similar to those ayat that discuss the diversity of mankind (30:22, 35:28, and 49:13).

    The other thing that's interesting to me is the relationship between the Indians and the aggressive Christian culture that ultimately took over the land. "You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us." Doesn't this sound familiar? Our (Muslim) relationship with Christians and their missionaries? Does not the saying, "The more things change, the more they remain the same," seem appropriate after reading this speech?

    FRIEND AND BROTHER:—It was the will of the Great Spirit that we should meet together this day. He orders all things and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken His garment from before the sun and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favors we thank the Great Spirit, and Him only.

    Brother, this council fire was kindled by you. It was at your request that we came together at this time. We have listened with attention to what you have said. You requested us to speak our minds freely. This gives us great joy; for we now consider that we stand upright before you and can speak what we think. All have heard your voice and all speak to you now as one man. Our minds are agreed.

    Brother, you say you want an answer to your talk before you leave this place. It is right you should have one, as you are a great distance from home and we do not wish to detain you. But first we will look back a little and tell you what our fathers have told us and what we have heard from the white people.

    Brother, listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun. The Great Spirit had made it for the use of Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver. Their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this He had done for His red children because He loved them. If we had some disputes about our hunting-ground they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood.

    But an evil day came upon us. Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat. We took pity on them, granted their request, and they sat down among us. We gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison in return.

    The white people, brother, had now found our country. Tidings were carried back and more came among us. Yet we did not fear them. We took them to be friends. They called us brothers. We believed them and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers had greatly increased. They wanted more land; they wanted our country. Our eyes were opened and our minds became uneasy. Ware took place. Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people were destroyed. They also brought strong liquor among us. It was strong and powerful, and has slain thousands.

    Brother, our seats were once large and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us.

    Brother, continue to listen. You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind; and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a Book. If it was intended for us, as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that Book, with the means of understanding it rightly. We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

    Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the Book?

    Brother, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers and has been handed down to us, their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.

    Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between His white and His red children. He has given us different complexions and different customs. To you He has given the arts. To these He has not opened our eyes. We know these things to be true. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for His children; we are satisfied.

    Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

    Brother, you say you have not come to get our land or our money, but to enlighten our minds. I will now tell you that I have been at your meetings and saw you collect money from the meeting. I can not tell what this money was intended for, but suppose that it was for your minister; and, if we should conform to your way of thinking, perhaps you may want some from us.

    Brother, we are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

    Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand, and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey and return you safe to your friends.

    February 2, 2006

    Oil: America's Smack

    Another pop quiz, hotshot! Name the number one oil importer to the United States.

    Saudi Arabia? Guess again. It's Canada. In fact, Saudi Arabia comes in third, after Mexico. Yes, you may have thought that the Middle East provided the United States with most of its oil, but that's not true either. In 2004, Persian Gulf countries (defined by the US Department of Energy as consisting of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) only provided 2,400 thousand barrels of oil per day (tbpd) or 23.80% of the 10,084 tbpd total imported. If you expand the list to include other Middle Eastern countries not located in the Persian Gulf (e.g., Algeria, Libya, Syria, etc.), the total goes up to a mere 2,648 tbpd or 26.26% of the total. Finally, if you expand the list to include all Muslim-majority countries around the world (e.g., Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc.), the quantity is 3,793 tbpd or 37.61% of the total. In other words, only a little over 1/3 of America's oil imports come from Muslim countries.

    “America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world,” Mr Bush said in his State of the Union address. “By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” (Source: Financial Times)

    I agree that America is addicted to oil. There's no question about that. And I have no problem with the Bush administration trying to move beyond a petroleum-based economy through "talent and technology." There's nothing wrong with that either.

    But saying that the Bush administration's goal is to cut American consumption of Middle Eastern oil by 75% by 2025 is merely a smokescreen for the ignorant. There's nothing wrong with the goal per se, but the goal won't make any real dent in America's oil addiction. If the Bush administration really wanted to cut out 75% of Middle Eastern oil, they could do so now by stopping the importation of Saudi Arabian and Iraqi oil. Those two countries, in 2004, accounted for 2,150 tbpd out of the Middle East's total of 2,648 tbpd, or 85.08% of the Middle East's total. Boom! You've not only gone past the 75% mark, but cut an additional 10% beyond that.

    But like any junkie, America will move from one supplier to another. Instead of Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the US will probably move on to one of the other big producers (if they can): Canada (1,616 tbpd or 16.03%), Mexico (1,598 tbpd or 15.85%) or Nigeria (1,078 tbpd or 10.69%). (Venezuela is the only other large importer, sending 1,297 tbpd or 12.86%, but - obviously - recent relations with that country's government would nix that idea.)

    A better suggestion by the President would have been to cut overall oil imports into the country by, say, 25%. Instead of importing 10,084 tbpd, how about dropping the number by 2,521 tbpd to 7,563 tbpd? That would not only be equivalent to stopping all imports from the Middle East, but would also provide real incentives to car and oil companies to find a meaningful solution to America's oil addiction.

    - - - - - - - - - - -

    In the meantime, the President's speech ignores reality. As he said, oil is "often imported from unstable parts of the world." And, of course, we're supposed to infer that the "unstable parts" include the Middle East and Venezuela. But even if the US imported oil from "stable parts of the world," that oil in the "unstable parts" will still be sought out by other countries. All of the world is "addicted" to oil, not just the United States. If the US stopped importing Saudi Arabian and Iraqi oil, as I suggested above, other countries (e.g., China, the European Union, Japan, etc.) would gladly pick up the slack. The oil is not going to go away. Moreover, as Frank Verrastro, director and senior fellow in the Center for Strategic and International Studies energy program said, “Even if America doesn’t import a drop of Middle Eastern oil, these countries will still play an increasingly important role in determining how much we pay for oil. You pay the global price and it doesn’t matter where you buy it from.”

    - - - - - - - - - - -

    Other reactions to Bush's speech included:

    Myron Ebell, director at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank: “The president’s hackneyed and dangerous energy rhetoric that we are addicted to oil is an indication that the administration is addicted to confused thinking about energy policies. [His goals] will be hindrances to creating a bright energy future for American consumers.”

    Jim Footner of Greenpeace: “We’ll wait and see what concrete action [Mr Bush] takes before getting our hopes up. After all, there is a treaty to reduce America’s dependence on oil – it’s called Kyoto, and Bush walked away from it.”

    Bill Prindle, the deputy director of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy: "The administration has made much of its investment in energy efficient technology. However, much of this has been a reallocation of research funds. The budget requests from the White House for funding on energy efficiency has actually fallen 14 per cent in real terms since 2002."

    February 1, 2006

    Beloved Wives Day

    A Japanese couple walking in the snow.In case you missed this news story, yesterday was Beloved Wives Day. A small organization in Tsumagoi, Japan, Nihon Aisaika Kyokai (NAK) or the "Japan Doting Husbands Association," had declared January 31st to be the day when Japanese men would return home from work by 8:00 p.m.

    "On that day, a husband must prove himself by returning home before 8 p.m., sitting down to a family dinner, and telling his wife how much he appreciates her for all that she does every day for him and the family.

    "The project was dubbed Otokono kitaku daisakusen or 'The great mission for guys to get home early.'"

    According to the NAK website, "Many men can't put their feelings of gratitude toward their wives into words. Work is No. 1 for them. This attitude is putting Japanese marriages under great pressure."

    The group urges men to improve the marital mood through five "golden rules," including going home early, calling wives by their given name and looking them in the eyes when talking. Many Japanese husbands call their wives "you" rather than addressing them by name, or in some cases merely grunt.

    The group's homepage includes a column where husbands can write down either feelings they are too shy to say out loud or that they hope to say to their wives in the future, a trial run of sorts to see how the phrases look in advance.

    'Your partner is your mirror. Let us respect each other forever and ever, and together lead a life filled with happiness and gratitude.'

    'Though we fight from time to time, I feel very happy when I am with you.'

    'I'm sorry I had a car accident. I'm sorry I'm away so much on business trips. I'm sorry I end up sleeping at the office so often. Thank you for loving me just the same.'

    NAK was started by 45-year-old Kiyotaka Yamana, who runs his own business in Kawasaki. "Yamana was not always a doting husband. He used to work for an advertising company, a typical workaholic who cared little for family life. He never questioned his all-work, no-play lifestyle, until one day his wife confronted him.

    "'You never took me seriously, ever,' she said. 'We never talked.'

    "They soon divorced. When Yamana remarried three years ago, he felt he had learned his lesson. His vows with his new wife reflected his new state of mind: 'Let us grow old together, and become a great couple.'"

    Ironically, Yamana's ex-wife has now said to him, "You've started something really interesting."

    Nihon Aisaika Kyokai
    Beloved Wives Get a Holiday to Call Their Own
    Japanese Men Declare 'Wives Day: Group Hopes to Show Men Care

    Boycott Denmark!

    My thought regarding the Muslim boycott of Denmark:

    Islamic Denmark

    Then there won't be any problems.

    The Fog of War

    The Fog of WarPop quiz, hotshot. Name the war being discussed in the following quotation:

    "The war, which we can neither win, lose, nor drop, is evidence of an instability of ideas. A floating series of judgments, our policy of nervous conciliation, which is extremely disturbing."

    Yeah, I know, you want to say "Iraq," but in fact the war in question was Vietnam. This is a quotation from Senator Hugh D. Scott, Jr. (R-Pa), as quoted by President Lyndon Johnson in Errol Morris' Academy-award winning documentary, The Fog of War. Several weeks ago, this movie appeared on one of the local TV channels, where I was able to watch most of it. Fascinated by the movie, I happened to find recently a VCD copy of the film for sale for a little less than S$5 (about US$3) and, of course, I immediately bought it. The movie is an interview/video memoir of Robert S. McNamara, the highly controversial Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations (and, later, president of the World Bank). The movie has the subtitle, "Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara," and these lessons are interesting in their own right. (Although, in an interview, Morris said that McNamara himself didn't like the "lessons" and wanted them deleted from the film.) The lessons are:

    1. Empathize with your enemy.
    2. Rationality will not save us.
    3. There's something beyond one's self.
    4. Maximize efficiency.
    5. Proportionality should be a guideline in war.
    6. Get the data.
    7. Belief and seeing are both often wrong.
    8. Be prepared to reexamine your reasoning.
    9. In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil.
    10. Never say never.
    11. You can't change human nature.

    Robert McNamara, being interviewed in 'The Fog of War'I'm not going to discuss these lessons at length or try to give the context in which McNamara relates these lessons. For that you should either watch the movie or read the transcript. However, I would like to talk a little bit about Lesson #9, "In order to do good, you may have to engage in evil." When I first saw this movie, I recoiled a bit from this "lesson." After all, we are all taught that "two wrongs don't make a right." And yet, after watching the film last night, I remembered the following ayah from the Qur'an:

    "Fighting is ordained for you, even though it be hateful to you; but it may well be that you hate a thing the while it is good for you, and it may well be that you love a thing the while it is bad for you: and God knows, whereas you do not know." (2:216)

    And it occurred to me that perhaps McNamara's lesson and this ayah are trying to express the same truth. I know this ayah has disturbed a lot of Christians (especially American Christians) who believe that it gives Muslims a carte blanche to engage in violence*; however, like Islam, Christianity has its own Just War Theory, the roots of which go back at least to the time of the writing of the Book of Judges (see Chapter 5, The Song of Deborah). The problem, of course (regardless of the Muslim or Christian perspective), is in knowing whether one's fighting is properly sanctioned. Is this violence that I'm doing acceptable to Allah (swt), or am I going to pay for it on the Day of Judgment? It is always best in these situations to err on the side of caution.

    • Unfortunately, these same Christians are unaware that the Qur'an also places strong limitations on when and how the fighting will be done, along with who (and what) may be engaged in fighting.

    For other links, see also:
    The Fog of War (Official Site)
    The Fog of War (IMDB)