Monthly Archives: July 2009

Qur’an Authors

Found this over on The Arabist’s site. lists the authors of the Holy Qur’an as Muhammad and Gabriel. 🙂

The angel Gabriel, that is

The angel Gabriel, that is

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Filed under arabic, books, miscellaneous

White Terrorist Arrested!

I don’t know what to make of this story. It seems to have been barely mentioned by the media, and I only noticed it tucked away in a tiny corner of a big website with lots of headlines.

On the one hand, it’s the first news story I recall seeing that uses any permutation of the word “terror” in conjunction with a white guy. But I can’t call it a major story, because almost no one has reported it or seen it.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. authorities on Monday arrested seven people from North Carolina who have been charged with plotting to carry out terrorist attacks overseas, including in Kosovo, Jordan and the Gaza Strip.
U.S. prosecutors said the ringleader of the group, Daniel Patrick Boyd, trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1989 to 1992 and used that experience to set up his own organization to train fighters, raise money and carry out attacks abroad.

Three of the seven arrestees are whitey-white Americans. I think that might be the reason that the next paragraph in the article was this:

U.S. official told reporters that there was no indication that Boyd’s group was connected with an international militant organization or that they were planning attacks in the United States.

I keep seeing these disclaimers in news stories about white American men.

All seven face up to life in prison if convicted.

They were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to murder, kidnap, maim and injure persons abroad. Boyd and others also face weapons charges.

Additionally, the indictment accused Boyd and several of the others in the group with practicing with weapons they acquired — mostly rifles and armor-piercing bullets according to the U.S. official — and trying out military-style maneuvers.

Here’s some more of what’s weird about this story:

In 1991, Boyd and his brother were convicted of bank robbery in Pakistan. They were also accused of carrying identification showing they belonged to the radical Afghan guerrilla group, Hezb-e-Islami, or Party of Islam. Each was sentenced to have a foot and a hand cut off for the robbery, but the decision was later overturned.

Their wives told The Associated Press in an interview at the time that the couples had U.S. roots but the United States was a country of “kafirs” — Arabic for heathens.

Sabrina Boyd said in her statement that her husband was in Afghanistan fighting against the Soviet Union “with the full backing of the United States government.”

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this. So far it doesn’t look likely to overshadow the story of the New Jersey rabbi kidney extortionist and his coconspirators.

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Rally at American Consulate

This is footage shot at a rally outside the American consulate in Jerusalem. Interesting stuff, but it doesn’t include my favorite quote, “It’s the land of the Jews. Leave us alone.” That’s from Feeling the Hate in Tel Aviv, if I remember right.

But it does have the delightful, “If we are important enough to them, then they should give us money but not tell us what to do.”

On July 23, thousands of Jewish settlers and their right-wing allies in the Knesset gathered in front of the American consulate in Jerusalem for a torchlight rally against Obama’s proposals. My friends Joseph Dana and Mairav Zonszein were there with a video camera to document the demonstrators’ histrionics. According to Dana, no other journalists shot video of the event.

“Saddam Hussein Obama! Saddam Hussein Obama!” the settlers chanted. “Piss off, you little shit!” a young radical growled when asked if he had a message for the American president.

“I believe if Barack Obama manages to hurt Israel they will be punished,” said another twenty-something rightist. “At some point Israel will survive and America will fall.”

The most remarkable comment came from a demonstrator who claimed that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, a former civilian volunteer for the Israeli army and the son of a former member of the Zionist terrorist group Irgun, is a self-hating Jew.

Emanuel “is an auto-anti-Semite,” the protester said. “He is a Jew that has something against his Jewishness.”

In another era, it might have been possible to dismiss such a remark as paranoia from the far-right fringe. Unfortunately, Netanyahu is reported to have said the very same thing in private discussions with his top advisers. According to Ha’aretz correspondent Barak Ravid, the Israeli Prime Minister has routinely referred to Emanuel and David Axelrod as “self-hating Jews.” Like the settlers whose rhetoric he apparently emulates, Netanyahu has become unhinged by Obama’s interference with Israel’s ongoing colonization of the West Bank.

Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, will hold several meetings this week with top members of Netanyahu’s government. Seeking to tamp down on the growing rancor between Tel Aviv and Washington, Mitchell called the meetings “discussions between friends.”

That’s weird: the date on the video is July 27th and the date in the story is July 23rd. Video found here.

Rahm Emanuel was mentioned, and therefore I shall post his photo.


Filed under miscellaneous

More Fail

The error is right in the center

The error is right in the center

It’s all fail this week, apparently. Today over at Sadly, No! I found this beautiful Fox News map fail. The error is so outlandish that it took me a while to see it. I was looking for something more subtle.

UPDATE: Vet Voice has a great headline for this: The Tigris Ain’t Just A River in Egypt


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Deity Identification Fail

TBogg has a blurb quoting some moron who thinks the supreme being of Islam of someone other than God.

Said moron wrote:

Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if the Vice President of the United States used the name of Islam’s supreme being as a curse word? They rioted all over the Muslim world when a Danish newspaper cartoonist penned a series of satiric pieces on Mohammed, so making “Allah” a curse word would likely incite far more serious violence.

And does anybody doubt that the editorial pages of The New York Times and other liberal newspapers would instantly demand an apology before further damage is done to America’s supposed standing in the world. Joining in that chorus would be the National Council of Churches, Democratic congressional leaders and, of course, CAIR.

This is the Biden quote that got the moron in a tizzy:

I can see Putin sitting in Moscow saying, ‘Jesus Christ, Iran gets the nuclear weapon, who goes first?’ Moscow, not Washington.

Well, I’m not going to argue about whether using an interjection is swearing or not. The point is, the supreme being of Islam is God, which is الله in Arabic and Dios in Spanish and Dieu in French. The only way this moron´s complaint would make sense is if Joe Biden had exclaimed “God” in his sentence, and I think it’s a safe bet that he has done so many times, as has almost everyone.

The word الله is used as an interjection and in compounds all the time by observant Muslims. It´s ridiculous to imagine there would be an uproar about it in the Muslim world, especially since everyone all over the world uses their own word for “God” as an interjection all the time.

Mon dieu! Dumnezeule! Oi gioi oi! A Dduw! Oh, Herregud! Boje moj!

Pobre pendejo, ojalá que se mejore pronto.

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Filed under arabic, arabist, bigoted idiots, language, names

Blog Post Recommend

Did you hear about the arrests of mayors, assemblymen, and rabbis in New Jersey the other day? It’s a little out of my area of expertise, but Mantiq al-Tayr has a thorough post about it over here.

I’m bringing this up because I’ve seen almost nothing in the way of coverage, and I thought at least Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would have a field day with it.

The most amazing thing to me is the rabbi who trafficked in human organs and coerced “donors” at gunpoint.

Her sources include a man who started working with Rosenbaum imagining he was helping people in desperate need. The man then began to see the donors, or to be more accurate, sellers, who were flown in from impoverished countries such as Moldova.

He said it was awful. These people would be brought in and they didn’t even know what they were supposed to be doing and they would want to go home and they would cry,” Scheper-Hughes said.

The man called Rosenbaum “a thug” who would pull out a pistol he was apparently licensed to carry and tell the sellers, “You’re here. A deal is a deal. Now, you’ll give us a kidney or you’ll never go home.’ ”

It took the FBI seven years to move on these guys!

The Brooklyn man arrested Thursday for dealing in black-market kidneys was identified to the FBI seven years ago as a major figure in a global human organ ring.

Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum’s name, address and even phone number were passed to an FBI agent in a meeting at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan by a prominent anthropologist who has been studying and documenting organ trafficking for more than a decade.

I know some of my readers are libertarians and probably think that selling organs is the free market at work and shouldn’t be illegal or discouraged, but to the rest of us, that’s terribly sad.

Here’s a list of the 44 people who were arrested.

And I’m not sure if this article is straight or sarcastic, but it praises the kidney merchants.

Deal, New Jersey, USA, 26 July 2009. Organ trafficking, money laundering and corruption are just some of the crimes to allegedly have been committed by a ring which included three NJ mayors, five rabbis, two state assemblymen, and a city council president.

The rabbis were really just out to help people that needed kidneys, and if the economics of it allowed, make a few dollars on the side.

The rabbis were paying up to $10,000 in much-needed money to the sellers, and receiving about $160,000 from the buyers, mostly well-to-do Israelis.

Fantastic profit! So, my libertarian friends, yea or nay?

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Outsourcing Interpreters

The Army Times has an article about contractor linguists who are expected to perform like soldiers and marines. For some reason the DOD hasn’t chosen to train enough soldiers and marines to be interpreters, even with so many years of lead time.

It’s true that it takes a long time to get proficient at Pashto or Urdu. But then, you could get really quite good in eight years time, if you were trained properly.

DOD doesn’t want to spend its money that way, though. It prefers to pay contractors.

Troops say low-skilled and disgruntled translators are putting U.S. forces at risk.

“Intelligence can save Marines’ lives and give us the advantage on the battlefield,” said Cpl. William Woodall, 26, of Dallas, who works closely with translators. “Instead of looking for quality, the companies are just pushing bodies out here, and once they’re out the door, it’s not their problem anymore.”

The company that recruits most U.S. citizen translators, Columbus, Ohio-based Mission Essential Personnel, says it’s difficult to meet the increased demand for linguists to aid the 15,000 U.S. forces being sent to southern, Pashto-speaking provinces this year as part of President Barack Obama’s increased focus on Afghanistan. Only 7,700 Pashto speakers live in the U.S., according to the 2000 census.

How translators come to believe they won’t face danger could originate with recruiters.

“They’re going to tell you whatever it is to get you hired,” Spangler said.

Khalid Nazary, an Afghan-American citizen living in Kabul, called Mission Essential about a job and let an AP reporter listen.

He asked if he would go to “dangerous places.”

“Oh, no, no, no. You’re not a soldier. You’re not a soldier. Not at all,” the recruiter, Tekelia Barnett, said. “You’re not on the battlefield.”

The Afghan-American asked repeatedly if he would be sent on battlefield missions. Barnett said he would translate for soldiers at schools, mosques or hospitals. After being pressed on the point, Barnett said the linguist would be subject to “any” assignment, and if he didn’t want the task he could quit.

“They say you’ll get a shower once a day, have access to Internet and TV, call home six times a week,” Woodall said. “And when the guys get out, they’re completely shell-shocked. They’ve been lied to.”

Habib, the translator who spoke to the AP while carrying a heavy pack in the stifling heat, said a Mission Essential recruiter originally told him that if he passed his language test, he would work out of the main U.S. base at Bagram about 30 miles north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

“That’s what she promised me over the phone. That was attractive to me, and it was safe,” Habib said.

Once in Afghanistan, he says he was told he would lose his job if he didn’t go with the Marines to Helmand.

“It’s been very hard, very hard, physically,” said Habib, a Pashto-speaking U.S. citizen born in Pakistan who says he signed up because he wanted to serve his country.

Millions of dollars are involved. Known as Category II translators — U.S. citizens who obtain a security clearance — such linguists earn a salary that starts at $210,000 a year.

If the individual interpreters are making over 200K a year, what kind of money is the DOD paying the contracting agencies? The mind wobbles.

I wonder how much of this is due to the mindset that accurate machine translation is just around the corner or already exists. Or how much is due to the perception that DLI translators just turn out to be gay, anyway, and have to be discharged from the service.

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Filed under language, translation

West Bank Story

Coming soon to Netflix. The whole film is only 21 minutes long (this trailer is less than a minute).

From Wikipedia:

The film begins with a scene in which both the Palestinians and Israelis are both snapping, similar to the opening scene of West Side Story. The two parties head in to their own stands and tell about their own family-owned falafel stands, Hummus Hut (“Our People Must Be Fed”) and Kosher King (“Our People Must Be Served”). During the day, Hummus Hut employee Fatima and Kosher King relative David are daydreaming about each other (“When I See Him). Fatima then runs out to give a customer their forgotten leftovers, at which point she has a chance encounter with David, when they both realize the other likes them.

Upon returning to the shop, Fatima finds the Israelis have built a large machine that encroaches onto their property. The head of Hummus Hut throws a rock into the machine, making it malfuncton, provoking a standoff between the two families (including David and Fatima). Ariel, head of the Kosher King, decides he is going to build a wall. After they leave, David and Fatima stay and David says he plans to come to her balcony tonight.

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Filed under arab, movies and shows

Completely Off Topic – Professor Gates’ Arrest

This blog has an awesomely excellent post analyzing the Gates arrest and reactions to it.

Here are just a few choice excerpts:

So, I can’t stop thinking about Henry Louis Gates, Jr., being arrested at his own home last week. Very short version: He got home from a trip to China, found his front door jammed, let himself in the back, and then worked with his driver (also a black man) to open the front door. A white neighbor witnessed their efforts to unjam the door and called the police to report a suspected break-in. Cops showed up when Gates was already inside the house, and well, details are hazy — not surprisingly, the police report differs substantially from Gates’s statement — but basically, Gates produced i.d. proving it was his house, he and the cop argued, argument moved outside, and Gates got arrested on his front porch for disorderly conduct. (The charges were dropped today).

The problem (well, one of them) is, too many white people imagine the scenario going pretty much as I described in answer 3. Cop says, “Neighbor thought you were breaking in,” you say, “Oh, ha, it’s my own house, here’s my i.d.!” and the cop apologizes and goes away. Because A) that actually is how it would be likely to happen for us, and B) the words “a neighbor thought you were breaking in” would not, in themselves, be loaded. Your first thought might be, “That’s weird,” or “Maybe she didn’t recognize me because I was wearing a hat,” or “Wow, what a fucking busybody!” But your first thought would not be, “Oh, of course she saw a white person forcing the door and assumed it was a crime in progress. Jesus Christ. Welcome home.” That would, in fact, be a completely unreasonable response for a white person, on account of how NOBODY EVER ASSUMES WHITE PEOPLE ARE CRIMINALS JUST BECAUSE WE’RE WHITE.

That’s the thing that’s different about this story. Gates knew it was utter bullshit, knew his rights, and knew the right people to get himself out of there and make a huge stink about it. But this sort of crap and much worse happens again and again and again to black men who also know it’s bullshit but don’t have the power to do anything about it. And on the relatively rare occasion when it gets media attention, my fellow white people cling to the just world theory and scramble to explain what the guy did wrong, how he brought it on himself, how different choices would have led to a different outcome, how it’s not a matter of institutionalized racism but individual behavior.

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Mildly Amusing Video

Chameleon grooves to Arabic music.

Song is apparently “Ya Walad Ya Nino” by Faisal Alawi Fasil Alawy.

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Filed under animals, arabic, miscellaneous, music