June 30, 2007

Du@n's Megamixes

One of my bro-in-laws, who's going by the screen name of "Du@n," told me today about two megamix videos he's edited recently, both of which are below. The first is of Kelly Clarkson, and the second is of Rihanna.

Good job, Mika!

Umm Zaid has a new post about one of her pet peeves, "...our tendency to make every little event seem like something of historical importance. ‘People’ magazine came in the mail today. The cover story is Paris’ time in the jailhouse. Give me a break. In 50 years, who will remember her? In 200?"

Then, ironically, I read Juan Cole's latest post, about how MS-NBC journalist Mika Brzezinski didn't want to start off a broadcast with a story on Paris Hilton; she didn't think it was as high a priority of story in comparison to, say, oh, the Iraq War?

In fact, she got so upset with the story (and her producer) that she first tried to light on fire the paper the story was written on, then ripped up that copy instead and shredded another copy in a shredder behind her. Hysterical.

She told viewers: "I hate it and I don't think it should be our lead. "I just don't believe in covering that story, at least not as the lead story on the newscast, when we have a day like today."

Earlier Hilton, 26, had given her first interview after leaving prison to CNN's Larry King Live show telling him that she wanted to help her former inmates, do more work for charities, and said that partying would no longer be the "mainstay" of her life.

I agree with UZ. To be honest, the fluff news (like the story on Paris or those dealing with Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Anna Nicole Smith, JonBenet Ramsey, or any other moronic celebrity) seem to be mostly an American phenomenon. Asian news will cover some of these stories, but only give them a minute at the most, buried deep within the broadcast. It just isn't newsworthy. But what would you expect from a country that prides itself on its stupidity?


This is such a broad topic that it's difficult to do it justice in a relatively short answer. First and foremost, as I suspect most of you know, jihad does not mean "holy war." Literally, it means "struggle." I think this becomes apparent in a related word, ijtihad or "reasoning." As we all know from school, working through a problem can be a struggle. Those of you who are musicians should understand jihad very well as practicing music can often be a struggle. From a Muslim perspective, virtually any aspect of life can be a jihad. And this is why Muslims get rather upset when non-Muslims mistranslate jihad, because jihad is a concept far broader than many non-Muslims understand and is very highly regarded among Muslims. Fighting back against those who oppress, in Arabic, is qital, which is a completely different term (see below). Qital is part of jihad, but it is far from being the whole of the concept.

Sunni Muslims have developed a hierarchy for jihad. There is:
* Jihad of the heart/soul (jihad bin nafs/qalb) - an inner struggle of good against evil in the mind, through concepts such as tawhid (the oneness of Allah (swt)).
* Jihad by the tongue (jihad bil lisan) - a struggle of good against evil waged by writing and speech, such as in the form of dawah (proselytizing), khutbas (sermons), etc.
* Jihad by the pen and knowledge (jihad bil qalam/lim) - a struggle for good against evil through the scholarly study of Islam, ijtihad (legal reasoning), and through the sciences.
* Jihad by the hand (jihad bil yad) - a struggle of good against evil waged by actions or with one's wealth, such as going on the Hajj pilgrimage (seen as the best jihad for women), taking care of elderly parents, or political activity for furthering the cause of Islam.
* Jihad by the sword (jihad bis saif) - this refers to qital fi sabilillah (armed fighting in the way of God).

Despite the hierarchy, most Muslims think of jihad in two forms: the Greater Jihad and the Lesser Jihad. This comes from a hadith, one variation of which reads:

"Some troops came back from an expedition and went to see the Messenger of Allah Muhammad (pbuh). He said: "You have come for the best, from the smaller jihad (al-jihad al-asghar) to the greater jihad (al-jihad al-akbar)." Someone said, "What is the greater jihad?" He said: "The servant's struggle against his lust" (mujahadat al-`abdi hawah).

The lesser jihad then is the physical fighting in the cause of Allah (swt). The greater jihad is the jihad an-nafs, the struggle against our own desires, our ego. This greater jihad gets into the very heart of the concept of "struggle," because that struggle permeates our lives. As my wife is fond of saying, "We strive to be better Muslims." And that striving is jihad.

Cross-posted at Street Prophets, Daily Kos, and Dunner's Learn About Islam.

June 16, 2007

The Economist: The Frayed Knot (1)

First in a series.

In late May, there was an interesting article in The Economist about marriage and divorce in America. The main thesis of the article is that "As the divorce rate plummets at the top of American society and rises at the bottom, the widening 'marriage gap' is breeding inequality." The article has a lot of information that is pertinent to both Islam and marriage and divorce trends among Malays and Muslims here in Singapore (and worldwide), so I thought I'd share a number of the more interesting parts of the article. Due to the length of the original article, I'll be splitting this post up into several segments, insha'allah.

There is a widening gulf between how the best- and least-educated Americans approach marriage and child-rearing. Among the elite (excluding film stars), the nuclear family is holding up quite well. Only 4% of the children of mothers with college degrees are born out of wedlock. And the divorce rate among college-educated women has plummeted. Of those who first tied the knot between 1975 and 1979, 29% were divorced within ten years. Among those who first married between 1990 and 1994, only 16.5% were.

At the bottom of the education scale, the picture is reversed. Among high-school dropouts, the divorce rate rose from 38% for those who first married in 1975-79 to 46% for those who first married in 1990-94. Among those with a high school diploma but no college, it rose from 35% to 38%. And these figures are only part of the story. Many mothers avoid divorce by never marrying in the first place. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among women who drop out of high school is 15%. Among African-Americans, it is a staggering 67%.

Clearly, education is a significant factor in the likelihood of whether a couple will get divorced or not. As the side graphic shows, even the difference between attending college vs. obtaining a Bachelor's degree is significant. In fact, divorce rates for couples married between 1990-94 are almost equal for women who went to college but didn't graduate vs. women who never went to college at all. Less significantly, women who had obtained a Bachelor's degree and those women who obtained a post-graduate degree have an almost equal percentage for divorce. In other words, it doesn't really matter whether a woman has a Bachelor's degree or a post-graduate degree, that couple's divorce rate will be roughly 15-17%. However, without that Bachelor's degree in her hands (notice that the study focuses on the woman's level of education, not the man's), the divorce rate jumps dramatically to about 36% for women who've gone to college but didn't get their degree, 38% for those women who've only gotten a high school diploma, and a whopping 46% for women who are high school dropouts. So, women should be strongly, strongly encouraged to complete their college degree prior to marriage if a society is to keep the divorce rate down.

Now, unfortunately, Statistics Singapore, which normally analyzes everything (and does a wonderful job at it), doesn't have any stats on divorce rates with level of education. They do have some of those statistics with regard to marriage, and they have divorce rates with the occupations of the bride and groom, but neither of those sets will work in this case. So, we'll look at several other sets of statistics and make our own conclusions.

Some base numbers to keep in mind: Among the resident population, the Malay community makes up 13.64% of the population (per the most recent, 2005, study). The Chinese make up 75.56%, the Indians 8.70% and "Other" (such as us Caucasians) are 2.10%. The number of Muslims in the country make up 14.9% of the country (per the 2000 census). The reason why the Muslim number is higher than the Malay number is because there are a significant number of Muslims who are of other ethnicities. 25.6% of all Indians here are Muslim, as are 22.3% of the "Other" (only 0.3% of all Chinese have become Muslim).

Now, in Singapore, there are two laws by which couples may become married or divorced: the Women's Charter and the Muslim Law Act. Obviously, we're concerned with the latter. In 2003, 2004, and 2005, the percentage of all marriages done under the Muslim Law Act was 17.63%, 18.47%, and 17.18% respectively. Not bad; all three years' percentages are above the percentage of Muslims (14.9%) in the country. We Muslims in Singapore are getting married a little more frequently than people of other religions. The bad news is, we're getting divorced far more often as well. The percentages for divorce under the Muslim Law Act are 32.08%, 29.04% and 27.11% for the same years. Almost twice as many divorces as marriages; that's far too many a number to be comfortable with.

Let's look on the educational side of things. The government splits out the non-student population (aged 15 and older) by their highest qualification obtained and by ethnicity. In 2000, among the Malay community, the number whose highest qualification was a secondary (high school) diploma was 32.1% (compared to the national average of 24.6%). Among those whose highest qualification was a university degree, the Malay community came in at a mere 2.0%, compared to the national average of 11.7% (the Chinese percentage is 12.6, the Indian is 16.5%, and "Other" comes in at 27.5%).

Generally speaking, most Malays in Singapore get through high school, but only 17.8% go on for an Upper Secondary, Polytechnic or University education. This is in contrast to the national average of 32.8% of the country that further their post-high school education.

Moreover, the situation isn't likely to get better any time soon. In 2005, Malays made up 2.48% of the Singapore university students. Remember, Malays make up 13.64% of the population! Compare this to the other ethnic groups: Chinese university students: 81.05% compared to 75.56% of the country; Indian university students: 11.54% compared to 8.70% of the country; and "Other": 4.93% compared to 2.10% of the country.

If the study mentioned in The Economist's article applies to Singapore as much as it applies to the U.S. (and I have no reason to think that it doesn't), then the Malay/Muslim divorce rate in Singapore is likely to remain at a very high rate for many years to come. The Malay/Muslim community in Singapore (and other countries) needs to drum into the heads of Malay/Muslim children - especially girls - that they MUST go on for a university education. Only then, maybe 15-20 years from now, may we see the Muslim divorce rates dropping, insha'allah.

June 10, 2007

Alan Parsons - Apollo

This is from an album, On Air, that I have back home in storage, but haven't been able to buy just yet here in S'pore. As a result, I just heard this instrumental, "Apollo," for the first time in a number of years. The song was written by Stuart Elliott, who wrote several songs for On Air and The Time Machine. After one of Alan's concerts in Tempe, Arizona, I met Stuart after the show and told him that I liked the techno instrumentals that he was creating, and he said (paraphrasing), "Someone has to drag the band into the 20th century." :)

This video has been dedicated to all the astronauts and cosmonauts who have lost their lives exploring space.

June 9, 2007

"Life's Short. Your Marriage Doesn't Have To Be"

Update: Click here for more information on Corri's sexual harassment lawsuit.

Corri Fetman is back in the news. A month ago, the Chicago divorce attorney made waves with her billboard that read "Life's short. Get a divorce." That billboard was taken down within a week after Alderman Burton Natarus ordered the sign taken down on the grounds that Fetman, Garland & Associates didn't have a proper permit. Fetman believes, however, that the ad was taken down due to "unconventional censorship" and has created a new, mobile billboard. From the law firm's press release:

An early preview of the next phase of our “Life’s Short. Get a Divorce.” advertising campaign will be displayed for the media on June 7, 2007 from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at 612 North Wells Street, Chicago, Illinois. Our message will be presented on two color two sided mobile billboard media trucks which will roam through various Chicago neighborhoods from June 7, 2007 through June 9, 2007, including but not limited to the infamous “Viagra Triangle.”

Apparently, this is not the last ad we will be hearing about with regard to Fetman's firm.

On a positive note, "An Arlington Heights couple upset with Fetman's ad campaign erected their own billboard, which reads: 'Life's short. Your marriage doesn't have to be.'" (Emphasis mine.)

Racy Billboard Goes Mobile
Racy Billboard Gone, But Ad Campaign Continues

Update: Panem et circenses time: I've been weathering the Corri Fetman storm these past few days. Beginning last Friday, the number of hits went well over my recent daily average, spiking at 586 on Monday (that's about four times my average). Interest on the Internet in Fetman is due largely to the size of her chest (as opposed to the ads), and a recent picture of Corri that I've seen (but not posted) shows that Corri is more interested in "advertising" for her law firm based upon her "personal attributes," rather than any ability of hers to practice law.

And so Corri single-handedly lowers the reputation of the legal profession even further. No wonder other attorneys are upset with her. Do you think Playboy has contacted Fetman yet? It wouldn't surprise me if they had.

June 7, 2007

Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again, yeah

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay
Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay
Wastin' time

-- Otis Redding and Steve Cropper, (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay

Photo taken at East Coast Park, Singapore; Saturday, 2 June 2007

June 6, 2007

Fishermen at East Coast Park

Taken 2 June 2007.

The Economist: Libraries in the Desert

There's a nice, short article in The Economist this week about the race in Mali to conserve ancient documents. Timbuktu had become the center of scholarship in western Africa, especially during the Songhai Empire era. However, military forces for Morocco's Saadi Dynasty conquered the Songhai Empire in 1591, and the numerous documents that had been collected in Timbuktu scattered with families fleeing the war. Now, scholars are trying to bring the documents back home.

Ancient and mystical as Timbuktu may be, these days it leaves many a traveler hot and even a bit disappointed. Yet it still houses some amazing treasures. Among them, in old family homes, is a wondrous literary past that was in danger of disappearing but may now, with luck, be preserved.

Scholars are scrambling to preserve thousands of manuscripts that detail daily and academic life hundreds of years ago on the edge of the Sahara desert. Hidden from Moroccan invaders in the 16th century, French colonizers in the 20th and random thieves and tyrants in-between, bundles of old documents are at last being recovered and conserved in new libraries in Timbuktu.

More than 150,000 manuscripts, dating back as far as the 12th century, tell of battles, astronomy, the sciences and the music of the day. “We must preserve them because it is our history,” says Abdulrahman Ben Essayouti, imam of Timbuktu's Great Mosque [see the picture above]. “Writing remains but stories disappear. It's not just for Timbuktu but for all Muslim culture.”

Written mainly in Arabic but also in some African languages, the documents are being collected in public and private libraries. Visitors can inspect a 12th-century copy of the Koran written in gold or a manuscript written on a gazelle's skin when paper was scarce.

Timbuktu was established over 1,000 years ago as a seasonal camp for Tuareg nomads. Before long it became a famously rich town, bustling with gold, ivory and slave traders. It also drew Muslim scholars from across the world; in its prime, the University of Sankore boasted 25,000 students. “It was a melting pot of cultures,” says the imam.

But the sacking of Timbuktu by the Moroccans at the end of the 16th century led to its demise. The manuscripts were scattered across the desert, where fleeing families hid them in chests or elsewhere in their homes — for hundreds of years. As a result, the history they told was increasingly transmitted orally, from generation to generation. Now, as scholars persuade owners to set up the libraries, it may again be read on paper.

Timbuktu is still isolated, and Mali is one of the world's poorest countries. Aside from a handful of tourists, salt caravans from across the desert and, nowadays, American soldiers on anti-terror exercises, it has few visitors. But this may change. “If we conserve these documents, people will come to read and understand more,” says a scholar, Abdul Kader Haidara. “And people will realize that Islam is a tolerant religion.”

June 4, 2007

Is Life Choice or Chance?

The following is a comment I wrote to a diary at Street Prophets called, Is Life Choice or Chance? The diary is rather long, but I thought the crux of the diary was rather easy to answer. The block quotation below is from the original diary, and everything written below is my writing (except for the Qur'anic quotations, of course).

So why doesn't God's kindness result in a fair distribution of good things? I have no idea. I have to think that God is always trying to work with us, to give us good things, but that there are forces of evil in the world, and that those can be very destructive.

The answer is simple enough from an Islamic perspective: Allah (swt) has said numerous times (dozens of times) that He will test us in our lives and in our possessions to see who is best in conduct, because not all of us acknowledge Him in both the good times and bad. Following are a small number of ayat from the Qur'an to give a flavor for the topic:

Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, (2:155)

Or do ye think that ye shall enter the Garden (of bliss) without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? they encountered suffering and adversity, and were so shaken in spirit that even the Messenger and those of faith who were with him cried: "When (will come) the help of Allah." Ah! Verily, the help of Allah is (always) near! (2:214)

Ye shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and ye shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if ye persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs. (3:186)

Thus did We try some of them by comparison with others, that they should say: "Is it these then that Allah hath favored from amongst us?" Doth not Allah know best those who are grateful? (6:53)

It is He Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (6:165)

And know ye that your possessions and your progeny are but a trial; and that it is Allah with Whom lies your highest reward. (8:28)

Among them is (many) a man who says: "Grant me exemption and draw me not into trial." Have they not fallen into trial already? and indeed Hell surrounds the Unbelievers (on all sides). (9:49)

See they not that they are tried every year once or twice? Yet they turn not in repentance, and they take no heed. (9:126)

If We give man a taste of Mercy from Ourselves, and then withdraw it from him, behold! he is in despair and (falls into) blasphemy. But if We give him a taste of (Our) favors after adversity hath touched him, he is sure to say, "All evil has departed from me:" Behold! he falls into exultation and pride. (11:9-10)

But verily thy Lord,- to those who leave their homes after trials and persecutions,- and who thereafter strive and fight for the faith and patiently persevere,- Thy Lord, after all this is oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (16:110)

That which is on earth we have made but as a glittering show for the earth, in order that We may test them - as to which of them are best in conduct. (18:7)

There are among men some who serve Allah, as it were, on the verge: if good befalls them, they are, therewith, well content; but if a trial comes to them, they turn on their faces: they lose both this world and the Hereafter: that is loss for all to see! (22:11)

"That We might try them by that (means). But if any turns away from the remembrance of his Lord, He will cause him to undergo a severe Penalty. (72:17)

June 3, 2007

Night Owls of the World, Unite!

Last post of the day, insha'allah!

Well, the Danes have done one thing right! They started up the "B-Society." Personality theory says there's an "A" personality and a "B" personality. On the assumption that the "B" personality is a night owl, who likes to get up later in the morning but is also willing to work later in the evening, the B-Society is pushing to improve working conditions for those of us who are not morning people.

I will admit, as a Muslim, fajr is one of the more difficult prayers for me to do. At present, my job hours are such that I'm able to do the prayer. But there have been times when getting up early for prayer (or even fasting during Ramadan) was very difficult for me. Islam, with its fairly rigid prayer schedule, was something of a minor test for me, the night owl, but (of course) it's one that I am more than willing to tackle.

Still, I appreciate the goals of the B-Society and, yes, I did join up as a member. ;) Click on the title above for more information.

Pullo and Vorenus

Milady and I are fans of the HBO series Rome. While looking at the IMDB webpage for Rome, I discovered an interesting bit of trivia: the characters Titus Pullo (played by Ray Stevenson) and Lucius Vorenus (played by Kevin McKidd) were real soldiers in one of Caesar's legions, possibly Legio XI, which later became known as Legio XI Claudia Pia Fidelis (Faithful and Loyal Claudian Legion). Pullo and Vorenus were in the winter camp (of 54 BC) commanded by the Legatus (general) Quintus Tullius Cicero, the younger brother of the famed orator Marcus Tullius Cicero. The camp had been attacked by the Nervii, a Belgic tribe, and was saved only by the appearance of Caesar leading several legions to the rescue.

The following passage is the only one in Caesar's book, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, that mentions Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus. I've noticed that some other translations of Caesar's work gives Pullo's name as "Pulfio," but the S.A. Handford translation calls him "Pullo."

In the legion were two very brave centurions named Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus, both of them nearly qualified for the first grade. They were always disputing which was the better soldier, and every year the competition for promotion set them quarreling. When the fighting at the entrenchment was at its height, Pullo cried: "Why hesitate, Vorenus? What better opportunity do you want to prove your courage? Today shall decide between us." With these words he advanced outside the fortification and rushed into the thickest place he could see in the enemy's line. This brought Vorenus too over the rampart, hastening after his rival for fear of what everyone would think if he lagged behind.

Pullo stopped a short way from the Gauls, hurled his spear and transfixed one of them who was running forward from the ranks. The man fainted from the wound, and his comrades covered him with their shields, at the same time showering missiles upon Pullo and preventing him from advancing further. His shield was pierced by a javelin, which stuck in his sword-belt; and as the blow knocked his scabbard out of place, he could not get his hand quickly to his sword when he tried to draw it, and was surrounded by the enemy while unable to defend himself.

His rival Vorenus ran up to rescue him in his distress, and all the Gauls immediately left Pullo, who they thought had been mortally wounded by the javelin, and turned upon Vorenus. Vorenus drew his sword and fighting hand to hand killed one of his assailants and drove the rest back a little; but pressing on too eagerly he stumbled down a steep slope and fell. It was now his turn to be surrounded, but Pullo came to his aid; both of them escaped unhurt and after killing a number of the enemy returned to camp covered with glory. Thus Fortune played with them in their struggle for pre-eminence: bitter rivals though they were, each helped and saved the other, so that it could not be decided which was the more deserving of the prize of valor.
-- Gaius Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul, Book V.44 (S.A. Handford translation; Penguin Classics, p. 125)

The BIG Lie

A couple days ago, I wrote that "Smaller countries make for better media." In particular, I showed (via some posts at bsalert.com here and here) that the American media sometimes dumbs down the message for the American public while giving the rest of the world straight talk about what's going on. Part of a post by Juan Cole today reinforces that message:

What is important about what Gore is saying is his focus on how the pollution of America's information environment by 1) corporate media consolidation (all television news is brought to Americans by five private corporations, the CEOs of which all vote Republican) and 2) government propaganda (i.e. lies purveyed to Americans using the money and resources of Americans).

Polling shows that the percentage of Americans who view Iran as the number one threat to the United States has risen to 27 percent now. I think it was only 20 percent in December 2006. First of all, how in the world can a developing country with about a fourth of the population of the US, about a $2000 per capita income (in real terms, not local purchasing power), with no intercontinental ballistic missiles, with no weapons of mass destruction (and no proof positive it is trying to get them), with a small army and a small military budget-- how is such a country a "threat" to the United States of America? Iranian leaders don't like the US, and they talk dirty about the US, and they do attempt to thwart US interests. The same is true of Venezuela under Chavez. But Tehran is a minor player on the world stage, and trying to build it up to replace the Soviet Union is just the worst sort of fear-mongering, and it is being done on behalf of the US military industrial complex, which wants to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. It is propaganda, and significant numbers of Americans (a 7 percent increase would be like 21 million people!) are buying it.

Why have those poll numbers gone up? Because the Bush administration is trying to hang the Sunni Arab insurgency in Iraq on Iran (and even trying to hang the Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan on Iran). The message of administration and military spokesmen is that Iran is deliberately killing US troops and is a major source of insurgency in Iraq. No convincing evidence has ever been presented for either allegation, nor is it reasonable to assume that Iran plays a significant role in funding hyper-Sunni, Shiite-killing death squads to deliberately destabilize its client governments in Baghdad (al-Maliki) and Kabul (Karzai). Yet the New York Times and even the Guardian put this b.s. on the front page, and of course it is all over CNN, Fox Cable News, MSNBC, etc. Are US journalists trapped in the the dictates of the military-industrial complex by virtue of working for these mega corporations? We know that Roger Ailes at Fox Cable News orders his employees how to spin the day's news (he is a former high Republican Party official). Has any of the journalists counted up how many of the 127 US troops killed in Iraq in May was killed in Sunni Arab areas and how many in Shiite neighborhoods? Has any of them actually read the translated communiques on World News Connection of the Sunni Arab guerrillas and what they say about Iran and Shiites? Has any demanded air tight proof and non-anonymous sources before printing this garbage?


It is this sort of thing that Gore is alarmed about. He is a man of enormous experience in public life, and he is saying that he sees a sea change for the worse in this regard. I concur.

My fellow Americans, do us all a simple favor and THINK! Engorged on a diet of frivolous LCD (lowest common denominator) TV, celebrity gossip and Islamophobia (along with several tons of Cheetoz™), you've allowed your head to be filled literally with shit. You can't think critically, nor do you seem to want to. You're swallowing the BIG LIE once more. Just as you swallowed the big lie with regard to Iraq, now you're swallowing it with regard to Iran.

Let us be perfectly clear: Iran is not a threat to the U.S. To be honest, I don't believe it's even a threat to Israel. Even if Iran is developing nuclear weapons, they are almost certainly being developed as a defensive weapon. Assuming that Tehran seriously wanted to nuke Israel, the Israeli government would almost certainly strike back with a much larger nuclear arsenal. As Jacques Chirac recently said (as quoted by the New York Times), “Where will it drop it, this bomb? On Israel? It would not have gone 200 meters into the atmosphere before Tehran would be razed.”

No, Tehran, if it is developing nuclear weapons, would be developing them to protect themselves and their oil fields from the rapacious West. Tattoo this on your brain: OIL. That's the only reason why we're in Iraq, that's the only reason why Cheney is trying to start a war in Iran:

"Multiple sources have reported that a senior aide on Vice President Cheney's national security team has been meeting with policy hands of the American Enterprise Institute, one other think tank, and more than one national security consulting house and explicitly stating that Vice President Cheney does not support President Bush's tack towards Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic efforts and fears that the President is taking diplomacy with Iran too seriously.

"This White House official has stated to several Washington insiders that Cheney is planning to deploy an 'end run strategy’ around the President if he and his team lose the policy argument. The thinking on Cheney's team is to collude with Israel, nudging Israel at some key moment in the ongoing standoff between Iran's nuclear activities and international frustration over this to mount a small-scale conventional strike against Natanz using cruise missiles (i.e., not ballistic missiles)." (Source)

My fellow Americans, stop being manipulated by using that forgotten organ of yours called a brain. Reject the propaganda that's being pile-driven into your head (turn off the f***ing TV set if you have to), and wake up before it's too late!

June 2, 2007

United 300

This is funny. Yahoo is promoting this short spoof and four other finalists for the MTV Movie Awards. I only looked at a few of the spoofs, but this is the one I liked the best. Not a bad little film for 5 hours work and a thousand bucks.

Update: "United 300" won the MTV Movie Award for the best spoof.

June 1, 2007

"All we are saying..."

The Economist Intelligence Unit, a division of the corporation that publishes The Economist, has come out with its first annual "Global Peace Index," an index that ranks 121 countries based upon their "peacefulness." One of the irritants I have about certain American Christians and Islamophobes (who are often one and the same) is their claim that the US is sooo peaceful and Muslims are sooo violent. Well, the Global Peace Index exposes the lie behind that claim. Of the 121 countries in this year's index, the US placed 96th, ahead of Iran, but behind Yemen. The most peaceful Muslim country is Oman (22) [see below for a list of the remaining Muslim-majority countries]. Countries of interest: Norway (1), New Zealand (2), Japan (5), Canada (8), Hong Kong (23), Australia (25), Singapore (29), South Korea (32), United Kingdom (49), China (60), India (109), Russia (118), and Israel (119).

The following comes from the press release that describes the objective of the Index and how the Index was created:

"The objective of the Global Peace Index was to go beyond a crude measure of wars by systematically exploring the texture of peace," explained Global Peace Index President, Mr. Clyde McConaghy, speaking in Washington. "The Index provides a quantitative measure of peacefulness that is comparable over time, and we hope it will inspire and influence world leaders and governments to further action."

The rankings show that even among the G8 countries there are significant differences in peacefulness: While Japan was the most peaceful of the G8 countries, at a rank of five in the Index, Russia neared the bottom at number 118. The Global Peace Index also reveals that countries which had a turbulent time for parts of the twentieth century, such as Ireland and Germany, have emerged as peace leaders in the 21st century.

The Economist Intelligence Unit measured countries' peacefulness based on wide range of indicators - 24 in all - including ease of access to "weapons of minor destruction" (guns, small explosives), military expenditure, local corruption, and the level of respect for human rights.

After compiling the Index, the researchers examined it for patterns in order to identify the "drivers" that make for peaceful societies. They found that peaceful countries often shared high levels of democracy and transparency of government, education and material well-being. While the U.S. possesses many of these characteristics, its ranking was brought down by its engagement in warfare and external conflict, as well as high levels of incarceration and homicide. The U.S.'s rank also suffered due to the large share of military expenditure from its GDP, attributed to its status as one of the world's military-diplomatic powers.

The main findings of the Global Peace Index are:
  • Peace is correlated to indicators such as income, schooling and the level of regional integration
  • Peaceful countries often shared high levels of transparency of government and low corruption
  • Small, stable countries which are part of regional blocs are most likely to get a higher ranking

  • Muslim-majority countries: Oman (22), Qatar (30), Malaysia (37), the UAE (38), Tunisia (39), Kuwait (46), Morocco (48), Libya (58), Kazakhstan (61), Bahrain (62), Jordan (63), Egypt (73), Syria (77), Indonesia (78), Bangladesh (86), Saudi Arabia (90), Turkey (92), Yemen (95), Iran (97), Azerbaijan (101), Algeria (107), Uzbekistan (110), Lebanon (114), Pakistan (115), and Iraq (121).


    From IZ Reloaded. Now I love Star Trek just as much as the next Trekker, but this is one of those videos where someone has a little too much time on their hands. :) The video is a compilation of the last few seconds from each of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes from the first season (plus the ending credits for one episode). For the record, there are 11 "Engage!"'s, one "Make it so!" and one "Sh-tep on it!"