June 29, 2009

International Politics Links (29 June 2009)

Once again, sorry for the lack of Links posts last week. I was busy with other matters. This post covers June 22nd through today, June 29th. Not surprisingly, most of the links deal with the Iranian election aftermath; stories on Israel are also increasing, mostly due to renewed settlement in the West Bank. And the newest, hottest story is of the coup in Honduras.)

Coup In Honduras

20 People Killed in Peru in Demonstrations

Merkel Stands Besides Demonstrators - "in Iran" (In Germany, not so much.)

Russia Ready for Deep Nuclear Arms Cuts: Medvedev

Middle East:
Odierno: Iraqis Ready for Handover

Violence Erupts in Baghdad as Deadline for U.S. Troops to Withdraw From Major Cities Nears

Iraq After The U.S. Retreat

FBI Files: Saddam Hussein Faked Having WMDs (Old news, but worth linking to.)

Karim Sadjadpour Reminds Chris Wallace That U.S. Meddling in Middle East Politics is Not Productive

David Gregory Badgers Benjamin Netanyahu Over Whether Israel Will Take Unilateral Action Against Iran

Resisting Calls, Israel Insists on Building in the West Bank

Israel Deploys Troops Along Lebanese Border (Near Shebaa Farms, specifically.)

Barak Authorizes Construction of 300 New Homes in West Bank (American reaction? Nothing.)

Pakistan Navy Slated for Major Revamp

Has There Been a Military Coup in Iran by the Revolutionary Guard in Iran?

Reza Aslan on Iran (His interview on The Daily Show.)

Neda: A Civil Rights Struggle

Obama: Neda Video 'Heartbreaking'

The Meaning of Neda

In Iran, Authorities Admit Voting Discrepancies

Rachel Maddow: Iranian Protesters Targetting the Basiji

Evidence Of Western Intelligence Meddling in Iran

Sunday's Protest March Broken Up; Rafsanjani Defers to Khamenei (Sunday referring to June 28th.)

5,000 March Silently in Iran

Washington and the Iran Protests: Would they be Allowed in the US?

Guardianship Council Rules out Annulment of Election Results; Reformists Planning Strikes, Mourning

Chatham House Study Definitively Shows Massive Ballot Fraud in Iran's Reported Results

More Details on Saturday's Demonstrations (This would have been Saturday, June 20th.)

An Interesting Detail

Iran Election Wrap Up

Has the U.S. Played a Role in Fomenting Unrest During Iran’s Election?

Iran: 'There is Very Little Logic at Work' (This was a very interesting personal essay. Must read.)

Obama Questions Legitimacy of Iranian Elections, Says It is ‘Up to the Iranian People to Decide’ Their Leadership.

Lugar: The U.S. Should Still Be Willing To ‘Sit Down’ With Iran For Nuclear Talks

China Crosses the Rubicon

China-India Relations: An Unresolved Border and 60,000 Troops Deployed

Thousands of Anti-Govt Protesters Mass in Bangkok (Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wants to come home.)

Senegal: Islam, Democracy, Sexy

Indefinite Detention, Anyone? White House is Drafting New Executive Order

Obama Considering an Executive Order Allowing Indefinite Detention.

Kaguya's Last Orbit of the Moon

All good things must come to an end. Occasionally, I've blogged about the Japanese spacecraft Selene, aka Kaguya, this being my fifth post to date. However, as planned, Kaguya crashed into the Moon very recently, on June 11th. The below video is a very clear movie from Kaguya's last orbit of the Moon. Although it's difficult to gauge the distance between the Moon and Kaguya, obviously Kaguya very narrowly misses plowing into some hilly terrain on its way down.

The last photographs taken by Kaguya can be found here

June 28, 2009

2008 Oil Reserves Analysis

The Economist had a recent graph showing oil reserves as of the end of 2008, with the number of years remaining for each country's reserves at the 2008 rate of production. I posted a similar graph from The Economist back in June 2006, so we'll do a little analysis to see how things have gone in the past three years.

First, there have been some changes in the rankings for total reserves. The top four (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait) remain the same, but Venezuela has moved up one notch, replacing the UAE in fifth place. Russia remains at #7, but Libya has moved up to #8, replacing Kazakhstan. Numbers 10 (Nigeria), 11 (United States) and 12 (Canada) remain the same, but Qatar has moved ahead of China for 13th place. Angola comes in at #15 in the 2008 chart, up four places. Eight countries that were on the 2005 chart were omitted this time (in alphabetical order): Algeria, Azerbaijan, Brazil, India, Mexico, Norway, Oman, and Sudan).

The 2005 chart mentioned that if production were to continue at 2005's level of production, the world would have 41 years' worth of oil left. The good news is that, three years on, global supplies should actually last for another 42 years.

Doing a quick-and-dirty analysis, we can find out which countries have been winners over the past three years and which were losers. Winners are those countries whose reserves will survive longer today than they were expected to last in 2005's estimate, taking into account the three years of production that have passed. (This could happen either because more oil reserves have been proved in the past three years, because production slowed down, or both.)

In fact, all of the countries were winners, except for three; the winners being: Saudi Arabia (3.5 years), Iraq (3), Kuwait (2.6), Venezuela (30!), Russia (3.8), Libya (4.6), Nigeria (10.6), United States (3.4), Canada (12.1), Qatar (19.1), China (2.1), and Angola (2.7).

The three losers were Iran (-3.1), the UAE (-4.3), and Kazakhstan (-7.0).

The full Economist article:

Although the price of oil peaked at $147 a barrel in 2008, the world’s proven oil reserves—those that are known and recoverable with existing technology—fell only slightly, to 1,258 billion barrels, according to BP, a British oil company. That is 18% higher than in 1998. OPEC tightened its grip slightly in 2008, and commands slightly more than three-quarters of proven reserves. Saudi Arabia and Iran together account for almost one-third of the total. Venezuela, with nearly 8%, has the largest share of any non-Middle Eastern country. BP reckons that if the world continues to produce oil at the same rate as last year, global supplies will last another 42 years, even if no more oil reserves are found.

June 27, 2009

Foreign Policy: Sulfur Mining in Indonesia

Foreign Policy magazine has a very interesting photo essay on sulfur mining at the Indonesian volcano of Kawah Ijen, located on the eastern end of the island of Java.

The crater lake at the bottom of the caldera is so acidic that it can dissolve fingers and clothing. The sulfur is mined for use in cosmetics, gunpowder, and (surprise) anti-acne soap. The miners make a mere pittance of $0.05 for 1 kg (2.2 lbs.), which works out to about $11 per day. However, local farmers make only $1.65 per day, so the lure of "big money" is strong despite the many health problems miners suffer from. Those problems include bloodshot eyes, teeth eroded to stumps due to the acidic conditions, wheezing, allergies, sore stomachs, and damaged knees. Local people and agriculture have also suffered from the sulfuric pollution.

Be sure to view the rest of the photo essay as there are eight other pictures that are of interest.

June 26, 2009

Islam/Muslim Blogs (26 June 2009)

Sorry for the lack of Links posts this week; I've been busy with little time to get onto the computer, let alone work on a post like this. Still, here's the latest for Islam/Muslim blogs.

Aqwaal-ul-Hikmah: The Worst Thing A Human Can Consume!

Austrolabe: Sarkozy wants “Burqa” ban

Austrolabe: Burka Ban: Not Just Black and White

Dictator Princess: Why should I help you if you can’t help yourself?

Dr. M's Analysis: The "Kosher tax" scam exposed

Fragments of Me: And I miss this place so much

Fragments of Me: And this is why we keep coming back… (I'm not familiar with Tioman Island, but looking up about the place I discovered that the beach scenes in the 1958 movie South Pacific were filmed here. This is "Bali Hai!" :) )

Islam in China: Chinese Muslim Scholar on Teachings of Islam (An interesting paragraph from The Tao of Islam.)

Islamic Art by Morty: Allah Art (Zebra Stripes)

Islamophobia Watch: West must respect the Muslim veil (John Esposito speaks out, although I wish this article appeared in Western newspapers.)

Izzy Mo's Blog: Mirage (Izzy has lived in Dubai for almost a year now.

Moon of Alabama: Burqas, Law And Freedom ("b", who normally writes about international politics, becomes conflicted over the idea of whether "burqas" should be banned or not. My response to Non-Muslims is: Mind your own business.)

Mumsy Musings: The Many Holidays (DramaMama has a personal post about traveling to Vietnam, and talks (among other things) of finding a mosque and various halal restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Cool!)

Tariq Nelson: Fatherhood Involvement (Tariq returns after a brief absense.)

TBogg: The only good Muslim is a dea–. Oh. This is awkward…

The Zen of South Park: Quran Read-A-Long: Al-’Imran 42-54 Talks All About Jesus, Pre-Birth to Adulthood

Umar Lee: Rohingya Muslims, Iran Hype, and Sadaqa

Umar Lee: Sarkozy and Brown Didn’t Get the Message: Colonialism is Over

Umar Lee: Was Michael Jackson a Muslim?

June 21, 2009

Jon Lee Anderson: Understanding The Basij

I don't follow Iranian culture and politics that closely, so the information in Jon Lee Anderson's essay at The New Yorker on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Basij is new to me. In the past few days, stories like this (Warning: not for the squeamish!) suggest that the Basij are thugs who are not afraid to get their hands dirty on behalf of their political patrons (and Anderson's essay says as much as well). But there is, apparently, another side to the Basij and Ahmadinejad. Two excerpts:

On a trip I made to Iran in 2006, a year after Ahmadinejad assumed the presidency, I met a Basij official, Dr. Mahdi Araby, who worked at the Tehran City Hall. In the late nineteen-nineties, Araby had been one of Ahmadinejad’s engineering students at the Iran University of Science and Technology, where Ahmadinejad was studying for his Ph.D. in traffic management. In 2003, after Ahmadinejad’s appointment as mayor of Tehran, he had asked Araby to come and work with him. Araby described Mayor Ahmadinejad as a man of pure heart and missionary zeal. “His original aim was not political,” explained Araby. “He just wanted to serve people.”

Araby pointed to a beige windbreaker that was hanging on a hook on the closed door of the room. I remarked that it appeared to be exactly like the jacket the president usually wore. He smiled proudly and said it was his. “It is the jacket of the Basij.” he said.

He then told me the following story. One night during Ahmadinejad’s time as mayor, Araby had been driving home when he saw an elderly couple standing by the side of the road and looking as though they were in distress. They were holding up a jerrican to show that they had run out of gas, but no one had stopped to assist them. Araby did. He instructed the old man how to siphon some petrol from his car, but the man had explained that he was asthmatic, so Araby did it himself. The old woman had wanted to pay him, but he had refused, telling them, “I am a Basiji. It is our duty to help.” Araby accidentally swallowed some of the petrol and had begun spitting up blood, so he ended up in hospital for three weeks. He explained that he had a lung problem from a chemical-weapon attack during the Iran-Iraq war. He smiled; his wounds, like his Basij jacket, were a badge of honor.

Next, Araby told me a story he had heard about Ahmadinejad while he was mayor. The story was that Ahmadinejad had been dressing up as a streetsweeper at night and going out with a work crew for an entire month, to understand what their life was like and decide how to pay them a fair wage. Araby had confronted Ahmadinejad about the story and asked if it was true. “He asked where I had heard it from, and he smiled,” said Araby. To him, Ahmadinejad’s reaction was a confirmation of the rumor. “Ahmadinejad is a true Basiji,” he said approvingly.

It was that same spirit that propelled Ahmadinejad into the presidential race, Araby believed. “I can tell you that, up to two months before the presidential election in 2005, he was undecided about running. But our people were fed up with the promises being made during the presidential campaign, and we realized that the middle-class people, and the people at the lower rungs of society, were not satisfied either.” Araby said, “He hadn’t planned to become president. We pushed him to do it.”


Gharavian, a teacher of Islamic studies, wore black and white robes and a black turban. He explained that it was he who had first brought Ahmadinejad to Yazdi’s attention, and that it had come about by a quirk of destiny. The ayatollah had been in the habit of speaking to the university professors’ Basij organization once a week, but once, when he was unable to attend, and Gharavian had stood in for him. He had met and been impressed by Ahmadinejad, who was a prominent member of the group. Afterward, he told Ayatollah Yazdi about him, and introduced them. “What was it that impressed you?” I asked Gharavian. “I saw that he had a true Basij culture,” he said approvingly. “And that, like Imam Khomeini, he was especially resistant to foreign cultural influences.”

June 20, 2009

James Petras: The Iranian ‘Stolen Elections’ Hoax

The more I read about the Iranian election, the more I agree with the counter-analysis that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did, in fact, win the recent Iranian election fairly. Most of the American press (and especially bloggers) seems to be driven largely by wishful thinking, that Ahmadinejad, being the American bogey man that he's become, needed to be booted out of office, with the accusation of electoral fraud being a sufficient-enough reason to think Hossein Mousavi should have won.

Of the voices on the American political left that I've read, only Juan Cole at Informed Comment seemed to provide a reasoned explanation for why Ahmadinejad "stole" the election. However, James Petras, in this essay at GlobalResearch.ca, discusses why Cole's argument regarding ethnic and linguistic identity is not a sound indicator of voting behavior.

What many on the left fail to grasp is that so-called reform movements like Mousavi's are made up mostly of the urban elites, people like themselves. However, the more conservative voters, like in America, tend to come from rural areas. Petras brings up several examples of elections that went strongly in favor of populist/nationalist politicians (Juan Peron of Argentina, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, and Lula da Silva of Brazil); to which I would add Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, whose Thai Rak Thai party ("Thai Loves Thai") was also mostly supported by the rural poor in the 2001 and 2005 general elections.

I think a lot of people on the left underestimate the electoral power of the rural poor, especially in countries that are still developing economically. While the needs and aspirations of the urban elite may be similar from country to country, even in nations as dissimilar as Iran and the US, the needs and aspirations of the rural poor are much stronger and more acute in countries like Thailand and Iran than in the prosperous US, where the red states can afford financially to vote against their economic interests in favor of social values.

I've written an additional comment below the following excerpts:

There is hardly any election, in which the White House has a significant stake, where the electoral defeat of the pro-US candidate is not denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite. In the most recent period, the White House and its camp followers cried foul following the free (and monitored) elections in Venezuela and Gaza, while joyously fabricating an ‘electoral success’ in Lebanon despite the fact that the Hezbollah-led coalition received over 53% of the vote.

The recently concluded, June 12, 2009 elections in Iran are a classic case: The incumbent nationalist-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (MA) received 63.3% of the vote (or 24.5 million votes), while the leading Western-backed liberal opposition candidate Hossein Mousavi (HM) received 34.2% or (13.2 million votes).

Iran’s presidential election drew a record turnout of more than 80% of the electorate, including an unprecedented overseas vote of 234,812, in which HM won 111,792 to MA’s 78,300. The opposition led by HM did not accept their defeat and organized a series of mass demonstrations that turned violent, resulting in the burning and destruction of automobiles, banks, public buildings and armed confrontations with the police and other authorities.


A number of newspaper pundits, including Gideon Rachman of the Financial Times, claim as evidence of electoral fraud the fact that Ahmadinejad won 63% of the vote in an Azeri-speaking province against his opponent, Mousavi, an ethnic Azeri. The simplistic assumption is that ethnic identity or belonging to a linguistic group is the only possible explanation of voting behavior rather than other social or class interests.

A closer look at the voting pattern in the East-Azerbaijan region of Iran reveals that Mousavi won only in the city of Shabestar among the upper and the middle classes (and only by a small margin), whereas he was soundly defeated in the larger rural areas, where the re-distributive policies of the Ahmadinejad government had helped the ethnic Azeris write off debt, obtain cheap credits and easy loans for the farmers. Mousavi did win in the West-Azerbaijan region, using his ethnic ties to win over the urban voters. In the highly populated Tehran province, Mousavi beat Ahmadinejad in the urban centers of Tehran and Shemiranat by gaining the vote of the middle and upper class districts, whereas he lost badly in the adjoining working class suburbs, small towns and rural areas.

The careless and distorted emphasis on ‘ethnic voting’ cited by writers from the Financial Times and New York Times to justify calling Ahmadinejad ‘s victory a ‘stolen vote’ is matched by the media’s willful and deliberate refusal to acknowledge a rigorous nationwide public opinion poll conducted by two US experts just three weeks before the vote, which showed Ahmadinejad leading by a more than 2 to 1 margin – even larger than his electoral victory on June 12. This poll revealed that among ethnic Azeris, Ahmadinejad was favored by a 2 to 1 margin over Mousavi, demonstrating how class interests represented by one candidate can overcome the ethnic identity of the other candidate (Washington Post June 15, 2009). The poll also demonstrated how class issues, within age groups, were more influential in shaping political preferences than ‘generational life style’. According to this poll, over two-thirds of Iranian youth were too poor to have access to a computer and the 18-24 year olds “comprised the strongest voting bloc for Ahmadinejad of all groups” (Washington Post June 15, 2009).

The only group, which consistently favored Mousavi, was the university students and graduates, business owners and the upper middle class. The ‘youth vote’, which the Western media praised as ‘pro-reformist’, was a clear minority of less than 30% but came from a highly privileged, vocal and largely English speaking group with a monopoly on the Western media. Their overwhelming presence in the Western news reports created what has been referred to as the ‘North Tehran Syndrome’, for the comfortable upper class enclave from which many of these students come. While they may be articulate, well dressed and fluent in English, they were soundly out-voted in the secrecy of the ballot box.

In general, Ahmadinejad did very well in the oil and chemical producing provinces. This may have be a reflection of the oil workers’ opposition to the ‘reformist’ program, which included proposals to ‘privatize’ public enterprises. Likewise, the incumbent did very well along the border provinces because of his emphasis on strengthening national security from US and Israeli threats in light of an escalation of US-sponsored cross-border terrorist attacks from Pakistan and Israeli-backed incursions from Iraqi Kurdistan, which have killed scores of Iranian citizens. Sponsorship and massive funding of the groups behind these attacks is an official policy of the US from the Bush Administration, which has not been repudiated by President Obama; in fact it has escalated in the lead-up to the elections.

What Western commentators and their Iranian protégés have ignored is the powerful impact which the devastating US wars and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan had on Iranian public opinion: Ahmadinejad’s strong position on defense matters contrasted with the pro-Western and weak defense posture of many of the campaign propagandists of the opposition.

The great majority of voters for the incumbent probably felt that national security interests, the integrity of the country and the social welfare system, with all of its faults and excesses, could be better defended and improved with Ahmadinejad than with upper-class technocrats supported by Western-oriented privileged youth who prize individual life styles over community values and solidarity.


Amhadinejad’s electoral success, seen in historical comparative perspective should not be a surprise. In similar electoral contests between nationalist-populists against pro-Western liberals, the populists have won. Past examples include Peron in Argentina and, most recently, Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales in Bolivia and even Lula da Silva in Brazil, all of whom have demonstrated an ability to secure close to or even greater than 60% of the vote in free elections. The voting majorities in these countries prefer social welfare over unrestrained markets, national security over alignments with military empires.


The wild card in the aftermath of the elections is the Israeli response: Netanyahu has signaled to his American Zionist followers that they should use the hoax of ‘electoral fraud’ to exert maximum pressure on the Obama regime to end all plans to meet with the newly re-elected Ahmadinejad regime.

Paradoxically, US commentators (left, right and center) who bought into the electoral fraud hoax are inadvertently providing Netanyahu and his American followers with the arguments and fabrications: Where they see religious wars, we see class wars; where they see electoral fraud, we see imperial destabilization.

I also wanted to say that President Obama has done the right thing by not getting involved as the Iranians settle their electoral results. The Republicans, such as John McCain, who have tried to goad Obama into interfering with Iranian politics, have shown a tremendous amount of arrogance and hypocrisy on their part. If another country were to interfere with the American electoral process, they would be rightly indignant. Why they think they can interfere with another country's election is beyond me. Shut up, John!

June 18, 2009

Miscellaneous Links (18 June 2009)

Astronomy & Science:
SNR 0104: An Unusual Suspect (A supernova remnant (a star that blew up) with an unusual shape.)

Stars at the Galactic Center (The center of the Milky Way galaxy, as seen in infrared (heat) light.)

Streaming Dark Nebulas near B44

M13: A Great Globular Cluster of Stars (One of the better pictures I've seen of M13.)

NGC 6240: Merging Galaxies

Discovery Magazine: Holes of Silence (Sonic black holes. Cool!)

Science @ NASA: Mystery of the Missing Sunspots, Solved?

Climate change is already having an impact in the Midwest and across the US (The good news: a longer growing season (by one week) for crops. The bad news: temperature and humidity increases, more winter and spring rain, less rain in the summer (i.e., more droughts), more flooding, lower water levels in the Great Lakes, reduced air quality, more insect-borne diseases, pollen and fungi. But don't worry: global warming is just a hoax, doncha know?)

Dilbert ("Too crazy too fast.")

One Big Happy ("Big deal! I know how to say, 'What's the matter with you? You're getting on my nerves," in Italian.")

One Big Happy (Grandma vs. Grandpa.)

One Big Happy (That's right, kids! All us daddies eat breakfast in our underwear. Don't puke while you watch! ;) )

Working Daze (I had a supervisor like this, a guy who kept calling me "Jim." (Not my name.) I could never get him to remember my real name, but when he asked for "Jim" I knew he was asking for me. :P )

Working Daze (Survivor's remorse.)

Science Fiction:
io9: The Composers That Make Space Adventures Epic (Can't disagree with a single one.)

ListVerse: Top 10 Survival Tips For People In Horror Flicks (#11: Teenagers should never have sex! ;) )

SciFi Scanner: Mary Robinette Kowal - Fantasy's Male Warriors Kick Butt (While Baring Butt)

SF Signal: It's Time For Indy To Hang Up His Hat, For Good

SF Signal: Do Literary Awards Affect Your Reading Choices?

The Architects' Journal: The architecture of Star Wars (pt I) (See also part II.)

The Truly Miscellaneous:
APOD: Pyrenees Paraselene (Every now and then, APOD publishes photos that have little to do with Astronomy. This beautiful picture looks down at the Pyrenees mountains, which separate Spain from France, from a local observatory.)

BWG: Asinine Assertion

Google Fusion Tables

IZ Reloaded: Laptop Uses AA Batteries

Kottke.org: 50 Films You Can Wait to See After You're Dead (I've seen three, "Son of the Mask" and "Catwoman," only because they were on TV, and "Rocky V," which was surprisingly good and shouldn't be on this list.)

The Mad Logophile: Foreign Words & Phrases (This diary over at Daily Kos examines the meanings of several hundred foreign words and phrases, including twenty-three from the Middle East, in Arabic, Persian and Turkish.)

WTF Is It Now?!?: Brett Favre, missing the spotlight, to torture country again

Yet Another Web Site: Are audiophiles really this stupid?

Yet Another Web Site: A really stupid article

June 16, 2009

Alastair Crooke: The Essence of Islamist Resistance

Crooke gets it. The third paragraph below, to me, really sums up the difference between Islam and the West. I remember coming across a book, years ago, when I first started becoming interested in Islam, about the role of science in Islam. The basic notion of science in the West is, "How can we ultimately exploit this scientific knowledge for profit?" Even basic research, which may not be immediately profitable, lays the foundation for further research that can be exploited. The book on science in Islam, on the other hand, stressed a much more different role: "How can this science and technology be used to help people and the community at large?"

Likewise, as I continued my study of the Qur'an, I began to agree more and more with the Qur'an about the importance of "a society based on compassion, equity and justice," as Crooke writes. Even though Muslims may agree with many socially conservative positions that American Republicans favor, it is this notion of social justice as espoused by the Qur'an that turns more American Muslims toward the Democratic Party. (Of course, many of us don't agree with everything the Democrats have to say, either, but if needing to make a choice between the two parties, the Democrats tend to be favored, at least for the time being.)

One minor criticism of the essay I have is that, while it appears that Crooke is arguing that this "Islamist resistance" is essentially Shi'ite in nature (the subtitle of the essay is "A Different View of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas"), I would say that the so-called "Islamist" positions he describes is really representative of Islam as a whole, regardless of whether a Muslim is Sunni or Shia.

What follows are various excerpts from the post. The entire essay is not too long, and I do recommend that you read it if the subject is of interest to you.

Most Western analysts of political Islam make the same mistake. They instinctively assume that conflict with the West has mainly to do with specific foreign policies, particularly of the U.S. with respect to Israel, the Arab world and Iran, and, if those changed, all would be well.

In fact, my intensive contact over the years with Iranian clerics, Hezbollah and Hamas suggest that the conflict with the West is much deeper. It is rooted in radically different worldviews about human nature and the good society.

Failing to grasp this reality, the West continually misreads what is going on in the Muslim world. At root, the West is about individualistic, instrumental rationality and materialism; the Islamic resistance movements are about a communal and spiritual approach to life.


Islamism, in short, is not irrational — it is no whimsy of divine caprice; it is accessible to reasoned explanation. And it seeks to evolve an alternative to the ways of the West.


Paradoxically, it was the Kemalists and Turkey’s transformation, which Westerners so admire, that inadvertently, by severing the links to the Caliphate superstructure that had provided stability to the Islamic world for centuries, created the conditions in which Islamism at the popular level could transmute and evolve into a revolutionary movement from the bottom up, including from the margins of the Shiite minority.


Islamists returned to the Quran for insights. The Quran is not a blueprint for politics or a state: It is, as it states frequently, nothing new. The Quran is a “reminder” of old truths, already known to us all. One of which is that for humans to live together successfully society must practice compassion, justice and equity.

This insight lies at the root of political Islam. It is a principle that represents a complete inversion of the “Great Transformation.” Instead of the pre-eminence of the market to which other social and community objectives are subordinated, the making of a society based on compassion, equity and justice becomes the overriding objective — to which other objectives, including markets, are subordinated.

It is revolutionary in another aspect: Instead of the individual being the organizational principle around which politics, economics and society are shaped, the Western paradigm again is inverted. It is the collective welfare of the community in terms of such principles — rather than the individual — that becomes the litmus of political achievement.


But the Islamist revolution is more than politics. It is an attempt to shape a new consciousness — to escape from the most far-reaching pre-suppositions of our time. It draws on the intellectual tradition of Islam to offer a radically different understanding of the human being, and to escape from the hegemony and rigidity of the Cartesian mindset.


The Saudi orientation of Salafism has been used by the West to counter Nasserism, Marxism, the Soviet Union, Iran and Hezbollah; but in so using the literalist puritan orientation, the West has misunderstood the mechanism by which some Salafist movements have migrated through schism and dissidence to become the dogmatic, hate-filled and often violent movements that really do threaten Westerners, as well as other Muslims, too.

Ironically, the West of the Enlightenment is situated on the wrong of the divide — backing dogma versus the open intellect of religious evolution. It is perhaps not surprising that a literalist and dogmatic West has contributed to literalism in Islam also. But the West, by holding on to this flawed perception that it is supporting docility and “moderation” against “extremism,” paradoxically has left the Middle East a less stable, more dangerous and violent place.

Business/Economics Links (16 June 2009)

Advertising is Good for You:
How restaurants get you to spend more

Angry Bear:
Context for Trade Deficit

Trade Deficits Resume Upward Climb

Crooks & Liars:
President Promises 600K New Jobs This Summer

Report: The Employed Are Hurting, Too. Meanwhile, Heritage Foundation Blames Unemployment Checks for Unemployment.

"Dogbert the Pirate." ("That's a different business model." Hah!)

"Job Interview"

"Pretend you don't know that."

"Dogbert the CEO"

The Dollar as a Reserve Currency: Apres le Deluge

Do you see what I see? ("I'm still looking for, and still not seeing, the economic recovery that everybody is talking about.")

How Important Is China to World Growth?

Economist's View:
Chinese Manufacturers Accused of Predatory Pricing in India

"Cultural Authenticity and the Market" (This was slightly off the beaten track for Thoma, but if you have any interest in archeology, you might find this post of interest.)

Rogoff: Rebalancing the US-China Economic Relationship

Fed Watch: Rate Hike? ("Seriously, a rate hike in this environment? Or anytime before the end of 2009? At the moment, I just can't see it happening. That said, long rate are higher, and inflation expectations in some corners of the market are rising. What is going on?")

2009 Reith Lectures: Markets and Morals ("After my piece ran, The Times was flooded with scathing letters - mostly from economists (LAUGHTER), some from my own university. I utterly failed to understand the virtue of markets, they said, or the efficiencies of trade, or even the most elementary principles of economic rationality. Amidst the torrent of criticism, I did receive a sympathetic email from my old college Economics Professor. He understood the point I was trying to make, he wrote, but could he ask a small favor: would I mind not publicly revealing the identity of the person who had taught me Economics? (LAUGHTER)")

Robert Reich:
The Great Debt Scare: Why Has It Returned?

The Bonddad Blog:
Volcker on Recovery

Flow Of Funds Charts, Part I ("Consider the following charts from the Flow of Funds. Then ask yourself, will the consumer be able to lead us out of recession?")

Consumer Confidence Up

Is the Debt Binge Over?

More Signs of Bottoming

It's Looking Like a Jobless Recovery ("Right now there is no reason to hire -- and there won't be for awhile." This is not a surprise.)

June 15, 2009

International Politics Links (15 June 2009)

Almost all of the significant stories this past week in international politics focused on the Iranian election. Juan Cole wrote a number of blog posts throughout the week about that election, with the more recent posts up top. Moon of Alabama doesn't buy Dr. Cole's ideas about the election results. I hate to use this particular slogan, but "We report, you decide," seems to be appropriate in this instance. ;) There are a couple of other stories on Afghanistan, the recent Lebanon election, and North Korea.

Middle East:
Afghanistan: Northern Supply Lines Under Attack (Moon of Alabama)

Former GITMO Detainee Speaks Out! YES! I WAS TORTURED! (Crooks & Liars)

Biden: 'Real doubt' about Iran's presidential election (Crooks & Liars)

TYT: Neocons Rooting For Ahmadinejad To Win (Crooks & Liars)

Reza Aslan Takes Chris Matthews to Task for Fear Mongering on Iran's Nuclear Program (Crooks & Liars)

Clashes, Claims of Election Fraud in Iran (Informed Comment)

Terror Free Tomorrow Poll Did not Predict Ahmadinejad Win (Informed Comment)

Post-Election Demonstrations, Violence, Arrests (Informed Comment)

Class v. Culture Wars in Iranian Elections: Rejecting Charges of a North Tehran Fallacy (Informed Comment)

Stealing the Iranian Election (Informed Comment)

Rafsanjani Blasts Ahmadinejad as a Counter-Revolutionary ; Charismatic Rahnevard Attracts Crowds for her Husband Mousavi (Informed Comment)

Ahmadinejad Defends Himself on Iranian Television (Informed Comment)

Tens of Thousands Rally for Mousavi in Tehran (Informed Comment)

Some Dots You May Want To Connect (Moon of Alabama)

More on the Iran Election (Moon of Alabama)

March 14 Faction Wins in Lebanon (Informed Comment)

North Korea: We Will Weaponize Nuclear Stockpiles (Crooks & Liars)

As Tensions Between North Korea and U.S. Rise, Clinton Hints At Weapons Interdiction (Crooks & Liars)

Joe Scarborough Blames Obama's Cairo Speech for Ayatollahs Rigging Iranian Election--But That's a Good Thing ("Joe Scarborough seems to think the ayotollahs [sic] rigged the election because Obama's Cairo speech scared them into over reaching and making sure he didn't get credit for the reformers winning in Iran, but if they did, it's a good thing in the long run for the United States. ... If they rigged the election Joe, it's likely for the same reasons the Republicans have rigged elections in the United States...to stay in power. Not because they're worried about American politics.") (Crooks & Liars)

June 13, 2009


And now in the "It's so stupid it's funny" category. :)

Lightning Bugs

I hope everyone's enjoying their weekend. This is a nice little video about a couple of kids chasing after lightning bugs in the summer twilight near Great Neck, NY. I don't remember seeing lightning bugs as a child but they often flew around our home during my teenage years. I never tried to catch them, but they were always a delight to behold.

June 12, 2009

Miscellaneous Links (11 June 2009)

Astronomy and Science:
Spirit Encounters Soft Ground on Mars

Spokes Reappear on Saturn's Rings

One Armed Spiral Galaxy NGC 4725 (Of all the recent APOD pictures I liked this one the best.)

A Dusty Iris Nebula

High population density triggers cultural explosions

We Knew Black Holes Were Massive. Now Double That.

Dilbert ("Is there some sort of rule against collecting money for your own birthday?" Why didn't I think of that? ;) )

Luann (Typical American fair food: "Chocolate-dipped deep-fried donuts on a stick!")

One Big Happy

IZ Reloaded: The 40 Second Electric Toothbrush (And Ladies, Father's Day is right around the corner! ;) )

Photoshop Disasters: Hugo Boss: All This And No Brains Too (Low-brow modeling. ;) )

Kennedy International: Mobiusbiking! (Who's first?)

Strange Maps: 391 – Ireland As 100 People

Strange Maps: 389 – America’s Mean Streak

Strange Maps: 388 – US States As Countries of Equal Population (Singapore = Colorado!)

Science Fiction:
MIND MELD: New SF/F Recommendations for the Golden Age Reader (The post is a little long, and science fiction lends itself to subjective differences in tastes; however, the mind map at the bottom of the post, giving suggestions to different themes within SF/F was rather interesting - and with some good choices.)

Science Fiction And Interest In Space Exploration ("Does the predominance of Harry Potter over science fiction bode well or ill for the future of public spaceflight support? What science fiction and non-fiction books would you give to a child or teenager to inspire them about space exploration?")

1,001 Science Fiction Story Ideas

Ten of the Most Classic Science Fiction Movie Scenes

Star Trek ("How plausible does SF have to be? Not in terms of "ideas," but in terms of human behavior.")

Mary Robinette Kowal - The Worst-Dressed Women Warriors in Fantasy

The 25 Women Who Shook Sci-Fi (Characters, not writers - unfortunately.)

June 10, 2009

Muslim Americans Serving in the US Government

Apparently this video is causing consternation among conservatives because it portrays Muslim Americans who work in the federal government in a positive light. Didn't you know they must be Muslim proselytizers?!?

In that case it must be a good video. ;) (Actually, it is; check it out.)

BTW, that Muslimah "Rosie the Riveter" poster is a cool idea. :)

Islam/Muslim Blog Links (10 June 2009)

Austrolabe: Barack Obama Addresses the Muslim World

Bin Gregory Productions: Berjayalah Taskiku! (This was a very interesting and personal post about Muslim primary education in Malaysia and a sports day event that some of Bin Gregory's kids participated in. Very enjoyable to read.)

Dr. M's Analysis: Foiled Robber Begs For Mercy, Asks To Join Islam (See also Muslim Apple: Criticism: Muslim Storekeeper & the Robber Convert)

Fragments of Me: Longing for the Divine (An interesting comment in this post: "...every Muslim is a Sufi but not every Sufi is a Muslim.")

Grande Strategy: Islam Revives in Al-Andalus (Spain)

Grande Strategy: BBC: An Islamic History of Europe

Islamophobia Watch: Mad Mel explains the BNP's success

Islamophobia Watch: Thug demands 'what's your religion' before launching racist attack

Islamophobia Watch: Sharia law 'same as Krays', says Tebbit

Islamophobia Watch: Global Day of Prayer London convenor claims Muslims 'want to take over'

Islamophobia Watch: Resisting extremism in Luton

Izzy Mo's Blog: Reactions to the Nashia Post (A follow-up to Nasiha for Single Women.)

Izzy Mo's Blog: Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

Muslim Apple: What's in a Name?

Muslim Apple: Mormon Dawah, Witnesses, Shahadah Twice, & AlMaghrib

Naeem's Blog: Going Primitive

The Zen of South Park: Quran Read-A-Long: Al-`Imran 10-20 Discuss Hell and Surrender to God

Quran Read-A-Long: Al-’Imran 21-30 Speaks of Judgment Day and Allies

Umar Lee: A Story of the Stages to Being Homeless (The good news is that "B" is getting help, alhamdulillah!)

Umar Lee: Obama Speech to the Muslim World and My Thoughts

The Economist: Arming Up

This was a very interesting (if extremely short) article in The Economist about military spending per capita:

Israel spends most on defense relative to its population, shelling out over $2,300 a person, over $300 more than America. Small and rich countries, and notably Gulf states, feature prominently by this measure. Saudi Arabia ranks ninth in absolute spending, but sixth by population. China has increased spending by 10% to $85 billion to become the world's second largest spender. But it is still dwarfed by America, whose outlay of $607 billion is higher than that of the next 14 biggest spenders combined.

That Singapore comes in at #4 is a little surprising (I would have expected it to be a little lower down on the list), but I'm not surprised that it and some of the other small countries (Bahrain, Brunei, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia) are there: all have valuable assets (mostly oil, and a very modern economy in Singapore) that would make nice war prizes for neighboring countries (witness Iraq's attempted grab of Kuwait back in 1990). Israel's there for the obvious reason (let's not forget that much of that military spending goes for the occupation and oppression of the West Bank and Gaza). The bigger surprise for me is the listing of some of the European countries: Denmark, Greece, Norway and the Netherlands. Is it because the cost of participating in NATO is that high or because owning the best military hardware is that expensive?

Faux News Hypocrisy (Again)

The Daily Show points out Faux New's hypocrisy, once more, when "Fox & Friends" complains about Sacha Baron Cohen dropping out of auditorium rafters and sticking his butt into Eminem's face on an MTV show. Yet, two days later, the same show unthinkingly airs a "lingerie football romp" on morning TV:

Sacha Baron Cohen's @$$ in Eminem's face on MTV at 9 p.m.: disgusting! Brian Kilmeade's @$$ on an underdressed woman's face at 9 a.m.: the best thing I've ever seen on television!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox & Friends' Lingerie Football Romp
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorNewt Gingrich Unedited Interview

Update: Things are no better at Fox Business News, where a whole bunch of reporters are clueless:

June 9, 2009

Challenge to VoxEU: Explain Singapore

I was looking at one of the economics links I just posted, Does climate change affect economic growth? And I must say, I find this particular theory weak. The authors' summary reads:

Hot countries tend to be poorer, but debate continues over whether the temperature-income relationship is simply a happenstance association. This column uses within-country estimates to show that higher temperatures have large, negative effects on economic growth – but only in poor countries. The findings are big news for future global inequality.

Personally, I'd think that the temperature-income relationship is happenstance, especially when one looks at Southeast Asian countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. All of these countries are hot year-round, but that hasn't stopped any of these countries from progressing economically.

The authors wrote:

First, higher temperatures have large, negative effects on economic growth, but only in poor countries. In poor countries, we estimate that a 1ºC temperature increase in a given year reduced economic growth in that year by about 1.1 percentage points. In rich countries, changes in temperature had no discernable [sic] effect on growth.

Presumably, in hot poor countries the economy should remain poor year-in and year-out if this theory holds. Thus, a hot poor country should remain poor with little to no chance of growing economically.

But this flies in the face of the economic histories of Southeast Asian countries. Of the four countries I mentioned above, Singapore, by far, has grown the most over time, despite an average daily high temperature of 88° Fahrenheit (31° Celsius) year-round. In 1960, the nominal GDP per capita for Singapore was a mere US$427. (In comparison, the U.S.'s nominal GDP per capita in 1960 was US$2,912.) By 2008, Singapore's nominal GDP per capita had risen to US$37,597 (with the U.S.'s nominal GDP per capita being US$46,841). That's an annual growth rate over 48 years of 9.78% for Singapore and 5.96% for the U.S.

Now, granted, you won't find as strong of numbers for the other Southeast Asian nations, but if you look at the GDP per capita graphs since 1980 for Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, you will see a fairly steady upward climb in the GDPs per capita with the only exceptions being in the late 90s due to the Asian financial crisis. (One could probably make a similar case for the State of Arizona if State Domestic Product numbers were available.) These growth rates can't be explained due to moderate daily temperatures; this region has a tropical climate.

It seems to me that this theory has a limited value due to its inability to explain the economic success of countries like Singapore. The authors need to explain a case like Singapore, which went from a poor country to a rich country over the past fifty years despite the hot climate here.

Singapore GDP Source
U.S. GDP Source

Economics Links (9 June 2009)

Angry Bear:
Untitled post on the Unemployment Report

Current Recession vs the 1980-82 Recession

DeGlobalization: Transitory or Persistent?

Not a Robust Recovery

James Pethokoukis: "An Improving Job Market"

Output, Employment and Industrial Production in the "1980-82 Recession"

More on Bank Lending Data

High Anxiety (about Interest and Inflation Rates)

Economist's View:
Too Big to be Restructured (The theme of this essay ties in very well with my post on Mikhail Gorbachev's essay from the other day, "We Had Our Perestroika. It's High Time for Yours.".)

Contributions to the Change in Nonfarm Payroll Employment

Shiller: Home Prices May Keep Falling

Uneven Unemployment Rates

"VAT Time?"

Bank Mergers

"Reducing Inequality: Put the Brakes on Globalization?"

Financial Times:
The ‘part-timezation’ of America

China influence to grow faster than most expect: Soros

Real Property Alpha:
California Home Prices in Ounces of Gold

NASCAR helped GM down its path of self-destruction ("Better equipped to compete? How ironic, given NASCAR’s role in helping the auto industry race down its path of self-destruction. Major auto companies used NASCAR for years to push cars and trucks with poor fuel economy numbers. The sport, in some ways, came to symbolize America’s embrace of consumption.")

Why is Japan so heavily affected by the global economic crisis? An analysis based on the Asian international input-output tables

Does climate change affect economic growth?

Washington Post:
Book Review: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street

International Politics Links (8 June 2009)

My series of links posts, which went on a brief hiatus last week, resumes tonight with two major changes. The first is that I've decided to go with a revolving format; for example, international politics will be every Monday, insha'allah. My tentative schedule for the remainder of the week is: Tuesdays - Business/Economics, Wednesdays - Islam/Muslim Blogs, Thursdays - Miscellaneous (e.g., science, science fiction, photos, etc.), and Fridays - Open. Of course, all of this is subject to change without notice.

The other big change is that I've decided not to do links for American politics, for two reasons: one, it's such a fast-moving and huge topic that to do it justice would mean a daily commitment, one which I'm not sure I want to make; and two, most of the political blogs I read follow the philosophy of "know thy enemy," which, in this case is the Republican party. The sheer stupidity and evil of many Republicans really disgust me. I've decided I'd rather not comment on those matters for the most part, although I may occasionally link to posts about American politics in so far as it deals with international politics and economics.

With regard to international politics, I've separated links into geographical areas (continents) for the most part. For example, in today's post, links are for Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with "Miscellaneous" being for other parts of the world or multiple countries discussed in the post. Within each geographical area, I've tried to alphabetize the countries mentioned. So, once more, for example, with respect to the Middle East the countries are Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Syria.

And, of course, if my readers have legitimate suggestions for links, please add them in the comments.

Majid: Dangerous Purities (An interesting guest op-ed essay on the 400th anniversary of the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain. The Moriscos were Spaniards of Muslim descent, either themselves or their parents/grandparents, who had converted from Islam to Christianity. But even their conversion was not enough to satisfy the Catholics, so roughly 300,000 Moriscos, or five percent of the Spanish population, was forced to flee their own country, with most of them dying in the process.)

Biased Election Reporting (On the German results for the European Parliament election.)

Russian Warns Against Relying on Dollar

Middle East:
Obama in the Middle East

Reactions to Obama's Speech

Obama's Speech in Cairo (Juan Cole)

Obama's Speech In Cairo (Moon of Alabama)

Iraqi Prime Minister Warned Obama About Photos: 'Baghdad Will Burn'

It's Only Make-Believe: Bush Policy on Israeli Settlement Freeze Was An 'Understanding'

Obama and Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

OSC: Israeli Press on Obama's Cairo Address

Netanyahu's Problem

UN: Israeli Buffer Zone Eats Up 30 Percent of Gaza's Arable Land

Jewish Settlers Rampage in West Bank

March 14 Faction Wins in Lebanon

OSC: Pakistani Editorialists Respond to Obama

Thousands Flee Mingora in Panic; Army advances toward Kalam; 9 Soldiers Killed, 27 militants

Mysterious 'Chip' is CIA's Latest Weapon Against al-Qaida Targets Hiding in Pakistan's Tribal Belt ("Don't like your neighbor? Drop a chip in his house and the CIA will bomb him.")

Syrian Newspapers on Obama's Arab Tour (OSC)

Made in China Means Quality

American Journalists Sentenced In North Korea To 12 Years Labor Camp

Star War Fantasy Drill (Is North Korea a military threat to America? No, and a military hardware project called the "star war fantasy drill" from the US budget, to the howls of protest by some.)

Seoul Boosts Forces Against N Korea

Fleischer criticizes Obama’s Cairo speech as being too ‘balanced.’

EU And Lebanon Elections

NYT Finally Runs ‘Editor’s Note’ Correction To Misleading Gitmo Detainee ‘Recidivism’ Story

June 8, 2009

Mikhail Gorbachev: "We Had Our Perestroika. It's High Time for Yours."

There's a good essay by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the USSR, in The Washington Post. He argues, correctly, IMO, that America's political and economic systems are broken and in need of reform, although he offers no solutions.

I would offer several suggestions in all seriousness: look to Islam for guidance on economic and financial reform, and look to science fiction (and particularly Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy) for guidance on political and cultural reform. People might think I'm offering pie-in-the-sky suggestions, but many people have thought long and hard on all of these issues. For example, Robinson's work highlights some of the negatives and positives of both the current and future political and cultural systems. When Gorbachev writes, "But I am convinced that a new model will emerge...", everything that follows in Gorbachev's sentence has already been discussed in the Mars Trilogy.

I would not offer these suggestions as solutions ready made to be implemented directly, but I do believe that both can be used as the starting points for discussion on how to solve some of the world's problems.

Here are some of the highlights from the essay:

In the West, the breakup of the Soviet Union was viewed as a total victory that proved that the West did not need to change. Western leaders were convinced that they were at the helm of the right system and of a well-functioning, almost perfect economic model. Scholars opined that history had ended. The "Washington Consensus," the dogma of free markets, deregulation and balanced budgets at any cost, was force-fed to the rest of the world.

But then came the economic crisis of 2008 and 2009, and it became clear that the new Western model was an illusion that benefited chiefly the very rich. Statistics show that the poor and the middle class saw little or no benefit from the economic growth of the past decades.

The current global crisis demonstrates that the leaders of major powers, particularly the United States, had missed the signals that called for a perestroika. The result is a crisis that is not just financial and economic. It is political, too.

The model that emerged during the final decades of the 20th century has turned out to be unsustainable. It was based on a drive for super-profits and hyper-consumption for a few, on unrestrained exploitation of resources and on social and environmental irresponsibility.

But if all the proposed solutions and action now come down to a mere rebranding of the old system, we are bound to see another, perhaps even greater upheaval down the road. The current model does not need adjusting; it needs replacing. I have no ready-made prescriptions. But I am convinced that a new model will emerge, one that will emphasize public needs and public goods, such as a cleaner environment, well-functioning infrastructure and public transportation, sound education and health systems and affordable housing.

Elements of such a model already exist in some countries. Having rejected the tutorials of the International Monetary Fund, countries such as Malaysia and Brazil have achieved impressive rates of economic growth. China and India have pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. By mobilizing state resources, France has built a system of high-speed railways, while Canada provides free health care. Among the new democracies, Slovenia and Slovakia have been able to mitigate the social consequences of market reforms.

The time has come for "creative construction," for striking the right balance between the government and the market, for integrating social and environmental factors and demilitarizing the economy.

June 4, 2009

The Astounding World of the Future

Someone has taken a 1950s-era newsreel film and replaced most of the original visual content with a tongue-in-cheek parody. Ironically, a lot of what the original film talked about ("robot" this and that) really has come about in the time since the film was made. As a result, the so-called "astounding world of the future" really is here, even if it doesn't seem so astounding to our jaded eyes.

HT: SF Signal for both this video and the two Han Solo, P.I. videos.

Han Solo, P.I.

In the "Funny but someone's got waaay too much time on their hands" department, not one but two videos have been created for a "Han Solo, P.I." intro, based on the old Tom Selleck TV series Magnum, P.I. intro. The first video is the Han Solo, P.I. intro by itself, the second compares the two intros side-by-side, the video editor wanting to show how closely he or she was to the original. There are some other mock Star War intros on Youtube as well, most notably MacGuyver and Dallas.

June 3, 2009

A'ishah and Her Toys

Most mornings, after A'ishah has gone to Nenek and Atuk's home (her maternal Grandmother and Grandfather) this is the scene that makes me a happy man:

These are some of A'ishah's toys that we play with after she wakes up. At top is "Alligator," with "Pink Hippo" to the left. In the center is "Julia" (which is what the doll's tag reads). To Julia's left is "Pink Bunny," along with two rubber duckies; the red toy is "Otter." Why does this scene make me happy? Because I waited so long to have kids, beginning to think I might never have any, and now here is the happy mess after "Abah" has had a few more minutes to bond with his child. (BTW, "Abah" is coming out now as either "Abb" or "Bababab." :) )

These next two photos are fairly recent. The first is a one-handed shot I'm rather happy with. A'ishah was balanced on my left thigh with my left hand, and I was trying to take her picture with my right hand. Considering she wasn't cooperative with a second photo I'm rather glad this one came out well.

This photo was taken by Milady, who briefly stopped dressing A'ishah to take it.

This last video was taken over the weekend. Milady had a potluck to go to, and I stopped by a shopping mall where I bought "Pink Bunny." A few weeks earlier we had presented "Julia" to A'ishah, and I regretted afterwards that we hadn't videotaped A'ishah's reaction to receiving the doll as she had gotten really excited. So, this time we were all prepared and, while A'ishah was happy to get this doll as well, the reaction was much more muted. I had a big laugh at the end of the video when A'ishah became more interested in the suction cup than the doll itself. :)