Monthly Archives: January 2010

Corporate Personhood & Guantanamo

Cartoon by Ted Rall

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Blog Recommend – QusayToday

Got a comment a few days ago from Qusay and visited his blog, Qusay Today. It’s really nice, really slick. It’s a feel-good blog about Saudi Arabia, the kind of blog that drives home the point that Arabs are not exotic strangers who are completely different from Americans. It makes me smile.
Check it out here.

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Filed under arab, arabist, Blogroll

The U.S. is a Very Generous Country

Many’s the time I’ve heard that the US is the country that spends the most on foreign aid. I know that this is not true every year, but it’s true pretty often. However, when you look at where that “aid” money goes, you get a different picture of our generosity.

We send more than four times as much money to Israel as we send to our next-door neighbor, Mexico. What am I saying? We send almost six times as much money to Israel as to Mexico.

Taken from this .pdf file found on this CBS news blog.

And here’s the 1998 version from the same source:

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Filed under arabist, miscellaneous

A Dog Photo for a Change

If I were ever going to clone a pet, which I never would, I’d clone this dog. He was awesome. I didn’t get to live with him and he wasn’t mine, but he was one fine dog. Went jogging with him a few times.

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That 30:1 Kill Ratio Might Have Something to do With It

Stephen M. Walt wrote a great column over at Foreign Policy in response to Tom “Friedman Unit” Friedman’s scrawlings about why Muslim extremists want to kill Americans. This was about two months ago, but somehow I forgot to blog about it earlier.

Tom Friedman had an especially fatuous column in Sunday’s New York Times, which is saying something given his well-established capacity for smug self-assurance. According to Friedman, the big challenge we face in the Arab and Islamic world is “the Narrative” — his patronizing term for Muslim views about America’s supposedly negative role in the region. If Muslims weren’t so irrational, he thinks, they would recognize that “U.S. foreign policy has been largely dedicated to rescuing Muslims or trying to help free them from tyranny.” He concedes that we made a few mistakes here and there (such as at Abu Ghraib), but the real problem is all those anti-American fairy tales that Muslims tell each other to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions.

I heard a different take on this subject at a recent conference on U.S. relations with the Islamic world. In addition to hearing a diverse set of views from different Islamic countries, one of the other participants (a prominent English journalist) put it quite simply. “If the United States wants to improve its image in the Islamic world,” he said, “it should stop killing Muslims.”

To repeat: I have deliberately selected “low-end” estimates for Muslim fatalities, so these figures present the “best case” for the United States. Even so, the United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.

It is also striking to observe that virtually all of the Muslim deaths were the direct or indirect consequence of official U.S. government policy. By contrast, most of the Americans killed by Muslims were the victims of non-state terrorist groups such as al Qaeda or the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans should also bear in mind that the figures reported above omit the Arabs and Muslims killed by Israel in Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank. Given our generous and unconditional support for Israel’s policy towards the Arab world in general and the Palestinians in particular, Muslims rightly hold us partly responsible for those victims too.

Contrary to what Friedman thinks, our real problem isn’t a fictitious Muslim “narrative” about America’s role in the region; it is mostly the actual things we have been doing in recent years.

This unrelated article at Dawn News says Predator drones in Pakistan have killed 700 civilians and 5 al-Qaeda or Taliban leades.

According to the statistics compiled by Pakistani authorities, the Afghanistan-based US drones killed 708 people in 44 predator attacks targeting the tribal areas between January 1 and December 31, 2009.

For each Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist killed by US drones, 140 innocent Pakistanis also had to die. Over 90 per cent of those killed in the deadly missile strikes were civilians, claim authorities.

The success percentage for the drone hits during 2009 was hardly 11 per cent. On average, 58 civilians were killed in these attacks every month, 12 persons every week and almost two people every day. Most of the attacks were carried out on the basis of human intelligence, reportedly provided by the Pakistani and Afghan tribesmen, who are spying for the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.


Filed under Our glorious war in Iraq, Our glorious war on terror, War in Iraq

Who All the Terrorists Are

Found this on Loonwatch: All Terrorists are Muslims…Except the 94% that Aren’t.

CNN recently published an article entitled Study: Threat of Muslim-American terrorism in U.S. exaggerated; according to a study released by Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “the terrorist threat posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans has been exaggerated.”

Yet, Americans continue to live in mortal fear of radical Islam, a fear propagated and inflamed by right wing Islamophobes. If one follows the cable news networks, it seems as if all terrorists are Muslims. It has even become axiomatic in some circles to chant: “Not all Muslims are terrorists, but nearly all terrorists are Muslims.” Muslims and their “leftist dhimmi allies” respond feebly, mentioning Waco as the one counter example, unwittingly affirming the belief that “nearly all terrorists are Muslims.”

But perception is not reality. The data simply does not support such a hasty conclusion. On the FBI’s official website, there exists a chronological list of all terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil from the year 1980 all the way to 2005. That list can be accessed here (scroll down all the way to the bottom).

According to this data, there were more Jewish acts of terrorism within the United States than Islamic (7% vs 6%). These radical Jews committed acts of terrorism in the name of their religion. These were not terrorists who happened to be Jews; rather, they were extremist Jews who committed acts of terrorism based on their religious passions, just like Al-Qaeda and company.

Yet notice the disparity in media coverage between the two. It would indeed be very interesting to construct a corresponding pie chart that depicted the level of media coverage of each group. The reason that Muslim apologists and their “leftist dhimmi allies” cannot recall another non-Islamic act of terrorism other than Waco is due to the fact that the media gives menial (if any) coverage to such events. If a terrorist attack does not fit the “Islam is the perennial and existential threat of our times” narrative, it is simply not paid much attention to, which in a circuitous manner reinforces and “proves” the preconceived narrative. It is to such an extent that the average American has no image of his head of any Jewish or Latino terrorist; why should he when he has never even heard of the Jewish Defense League or the Ejercito Popular Boricua Macheteros? Surely what he does not know does not exist!

The Islamophobes claim that Islam is intrinsically a terroristy religion. The proof? Well, just about every terrorist attack is Islamic, they retort. Unfortunately for them, that’s not quite true. More like six percent. Using their defunct logic, these right wingers ought now to conclude that nearly all acts of terrorism are committed by Latinos (or Jews). Let them dare say it…they couldn’t; it would be political and social suicide to say such a thing. Most Americans would shut down such talk as bigoted; yet, similar statements continue to be said of Islam, without any repercussions.

Read the rest of it at the link.

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Filed under domestic terrorism, Our glorious war on terror

Parade of Pious Polygamists

Polygamy isn’t just limited to religions that start with M (Muslims, Mormons). Here are a couple polygamists from other, bigger faiths who have been in the news lately:

Jacob Zuma, president of South Africa, a proud Christian polygamist who runs a whole, big country! No low profile there. It looks like he’s currently married to just three women, with one ex-wife and one late wife, who committed suicide in 2000. In 2005 the man who would later become president was charged with rape, but he was found not guilty in 2006. What a colorful character.

And this brings up the question, what do you call a second and third First Lady?

One spouse, Kate Mantsho Zuma, committed suicide in 2000, leaving a note that life with her husband was “hell.”

And according to this news article, there may be a fourth and fifth First Lady before long:

Zuma reportedly has 19 children. He is also engaged to a Durban woman, Gloria Bongi Ngema, who works for IBM — and South African media have reported unconfirmed rumors of the president’s interest in a Swazi princess.

Jacob Zuma isn’t just a casual Christian, he’s a Bible-thumper. Here’s an article addressing Zuma’s religiosity.

Zuma might not believe he is God, but he is certainly capable of drawing a parallel between his own personal narrative and that of the New Testament. In an interview in March 2006 Zuma said he was “like Christ”, that the media and his detractors wanted to nail him to the cross, like Jesus; and that certain newspapers had sought to “crucify him”.

And his utterances about God, Jesus and the ANC certainly indicate that he believes he and the ANC are not answerable to the electorate or a given constituency. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that, for Zuma, the law comes a distant third to both the ANC and his religious beliefs.

For Zuma, the ANC is sanctioned (“blessed”) by God, a notion which carries with it a series of profound implications for those who stand in opposition to the ANC, because “to oppose governments that rule by divine right is to be a traitor; to attempt to dislodge them, even through the ballot box, is a declaration of war.

During the March 2004 election campaign [Zuma] told a gathering of ANC supporters that those who vote for the ruling party will be “blessed on earth and in heaven”.

October 2006, Zuma described his philosophical outlook as follows: “I start from basic Christian principles. Christianity is part of what I am; in a way it was the foundation for all my political beliefs.”

By way of illustration, as the ANC’s internal divisions were starting to turn ugly, Zuma pleaded with around 5 000 worshippers at the Ethiopian Holy Baptist Church in Zion over Easter last year to join the ANC en masse, and to pray for it, in order to fix the organisation. Later he suggested that religious people should challenge government if they felt legislation conflicted with the Bible, that “Church leaders should be able to tell government leaders if they are straying and their laws clash with the teachings of the Lord”.

This most recent such declaration is nothing new – at least twice before Zuma has said something similar. In the run-up to the 2004 election, Zuma told a crowd that “the ANC will rule South Africa until Jesus comes back”[14] and, in 2007, he declared that “we believe it (the ANC) will be in power forever until the son of man comes back”.

And then there’s Goel Ratzon, a Jewish polygamist, just arrested in Tel Aviv on suspicion of rape, slavery, and incest.

From Times Online UK:

Residents of Tel Aviv’s quiet Hatikva neighbourhood were shocked yesterday to discover a self-styled Jewish sage living in their midst with a harem of 30 women kept as “slaves” in squalid apartments.

They were shocked, shocked! Somehow they all missed the documentary program on tv about him and his harem.

From NY Daily News:

Ratzon made no secret of his unusual living arrangements, and was featured in a documentary broadcast last year, where he claimed to have fathered 89 children by more than 30 women.

In the documentary, the women were seen to be wearing tattoos of Ratzon’s name and face. When asked why young, attractive women would be part of his group, he replied, “I am perfect. I have all the characteristics that a woman wants.”

I guess when the documentary aired, and before it, and up until now, people figured live and let live with their wacky polygamist neighbor who ruled his multiple consorts with an iron fist and kept them out of the sight of, well, anyone who might explain their rights to them.

“The evidence shows the suspect controlled his women with a firm hand, including their possessions and their money,” police said. Mr Ratzon even wrote a list of commandments to ensure that the women were kept in “conditions similar to slavery”, police said.

In addition to turning over all their wages, the women were forbidden from making telephone calls or talking to men other than Mr Ratzon. If they broke the rules they would pay a fine or receive physical punishment.

Mickey Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, said that Mr Ratzon convinced his victims that he had godlike status. “The women didn’t really understand what their situation was, they didn’t understand what freedom was,” Mr Rosenfeld said.

Here are a few more interesting tidbits from a Jerusalem Post article:

In the film, the women can be seen showing the camera large tattoos bearing Ratzon’s face and name on their arms and neck. All of the children conceived by the women and Ratzon are named after him, like Tehilat Ratzon (Ratzon’s Glory), one of his daughters, and Goel Goeli, one of this sons.

The women usually dressed in an extremely conservative manner to ensure no part of their body was exposed.

Um, okay, I’m having more and more trouble believing that neighbors were shocked, shocked! by the news of this group living in their neighborhood:

Despite the quiet, noise levels would rise dramatically when the women, always quick to take offense at criticism of their “master,” became confrontational with neighbors who had a bad word to say about Ratzon.

“The police have been called here many times to calm things down,” a neighbor said. “At one point someone threw fire crackers at their home,” she added.

The silence was also shattered periodically by the parents of the women, who came to the house to plead for their daughters to come back. “It would happen routinely,” the neighbor said. “The parents filed many complaints with police and social services,” she added.

“Whenever I saw the kids, they were quiet,” the neighbor said. “Sometimes I heard them crying. They always had long clothes on.”


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Wednesday Cat Photo

Finally got a pretty decent picture of my first-born. I think I’m going to treat myself to a nice camera this year.


Filed under cat photo

Malaysia Supreme Court: Catholics Can Call Allah “Allah” Again

February 2008 I blogged about the Malaysian government’s forbidding a Catholic newspaper to use the name “Allah” to refer to God.

On December 31st the Malaysian supreme court ruled that a Catholic newspaper in Malaysian can use the word “Allah” to refer to God in its Malay-language newspaper. When I read about this in 2008 I didn’t realize the newspaper was Malay-language. Malay has a perfectly good word for God, “tuhan,” which is what the Malaysian government wanted the Catholic paper to use.

Apparently Malaysia is much like the United States, except that the entrenched religion is Islam. It’s still a head-scratcher to me that people insist that Islam’s god and Christianity’s god are different. Anyway, according to the crack New York Times reporting, “the government” of Malaysia (apparently one solid mass, entirely in agreement, except for the pesky supreme court) is protesting the court’s decision and there has been some rioting.

Wow, this makes sense, huh?

Ethnic and religious politics have grown more intense since the government suffered severe losses in a general election last March. Much of the reverse came at the hands of minority voters who were disturbed by the government’s increasingly conservative Islamic tone.

So “the government” suffered severe losses…so that means there is significantly less government now? Because so much of it was lost?

My vote is that everyone say “God” in the language they are speaking.

Found this around the web, one hard-bitten gumshoe’s thoughts on the Allah-God linguistic and theological debate:

Okay fine — not my line — not my deal at all. But it’s all so stupid, I just gotta say something.
Y’see: Folks, they all got these languages. Like, your grandmama spoke Italian, and mine spoke — well, we never knew my dad, and my mom skipped town, but anyhow, somewhere, back in the Old Country, back in the day, great-great-grandfather Patrick and great-great-grandmother Molly were chatting away there in Irish. Capisc’?

So take French. My fans will know this as the frog-talk that I spoke, a little, to such tremendous effect, in one of my famous cases (“Murphy on the Mount”). So like, you & me, we say: “sh*t”; and in France they say, “merde” — pardon my French, it’s actually the only French word I know. So help me out here, dictionary.
Right. We say, “doggie”, and they say, “chien”. And we say, “table”, and they say — well how about that, they say “table” too, only they pronounce it funny. And– here, key point: we say, “God” (like when we’re praying — you gotta not take this name in vain), and the French say — when they’re praying — …. “Dieu”.
Different words — same idea.

— Only, you say: Reeelly? Is it the same idea reeeally?

Well listen, back in Ireland, we got Catholics and we got Protestants, and they both say “God”, but the stupid ones hate each other, and each says the other
guy got his head up his… (checking out the dictionary now — they was French, they’d say “cul”), and if the other guy says “God” (probably not praying, he just hit his thumb with a hammer), he probably means some purple moon-god with three heads or something; but anyhow, no way those bums know what they are talking about.

And in fact they don’t. And we don’t. I mean, How could we? God is infinite — on top of and at the bottom of and behind of, all things. And us? We’re just us, just doing our best, scraping by. And when any one of us says, “God”, it is really just a prayer: saying, “Thou — there — up there, somewhere — Do thou help us to comprehend…” (My Greek buddies got a word for this: Eleison, Kyrie.)
So we do, most of us, mostly the best that we can; but of “God” we got only the vaguest idea. So we just keep on, keeping on — slipping and sinning and screwing things up, century after century; until one day, God gets fed up, and he sends down his only, lonely, begotten son, to straighten things out. — Least that’s what us Catholics believe; the Protestants, I don’t know.
So where was I? — Yes! — You got, probably, somewhere in your bloodlines, your great-great-great-great-….grandmother Fatima, back from when the Crusaders were over there, laying about them with cutlasses; but after a hard day of crusading, a man’s mind turns to other matters; and lo, behold, that dark-haired beauty, her eyes like almonds, her eyes like diamonds — shy, yet inviting — drawing water from the well. And she’s from the other camp, the bad guys; but that ewer is so heavy, and you you’re a knight, right? and a knight does not leave a damsel to her distress, no no no, Saracen or no Saracen; so maybe he will offer her his services, and maybe later she will offer up a cup of the purest, to his parched lips… Anyway, that’s the story of your great-great-etcetera-grandmother Fatima.
So what did Fatima say; and what does her great-great-(you get the idea)-granddaughter, say today, when praying?
They say: “Allah”. Allah! Meaning it, whatever it means.
And they don’t understand what exactly it does mean, any more than we do, any more than you do, any more than that preacher-man who thinks he does know the real deal and you don’t — any more than does any of us, when we say “God”.
But it’s the same prayer…..

More wisdom from Murphy here at his blog.


Filed under arabic, arabist, church and state, Islamic relations, language

War Works Both Ways

Great article by Glenn Greenwald on, More Cause and Effect in Our Ever Expanding War.

Read the whole thing over there. Here are some excerpts:

Why would Balawi — a highly educated doctor, who was specifically recruited by Jordanian intelligence officials to infiltrate Al Qaeda on behalf of Western governments — want to blow himself up and murder as many American intelligence agents as possible? The article provides this possible answer:

He described Mr. Balawi as a “very good brother” and a “brilliant doctor,” saying that the family knew nothing of Mr. Balawi’s writings under a pseudonym on jihadi Web sites. He said, however, that his brother had been “changed” by last year’s three-week-long Israeli offensive in Gaza, which killed about 1,300 Palestinians.

So extreme is anger towards Israel over Gaza among Yemenis that even that country’s President — our supposed ally in the War on Terror — called for the opening of camps to train fighters against Israel in Gaza.

So we’ve spent the last decade screaming to the world that WE ARE AT WAR!, that we’re a War Nation, that we’re led by a War President. That we are “at war” — not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but generally against Islamic extremists — is an absolute bipartisan orthodoxy that must be affirmed by all Serious people. And we are currently waging some form of actual war in no fewer than five predominantly Muslim countries (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia); are threatening Iran with “crippling” sanctions and — from our more deranged quarters — war; and continuing our unbroken devotion to Israel’s causes.

But it’s equally irrational to think that you’re going to spend a full decade bellowing WE ARE AT WAR! to the world, send bombs and troops and all forms of death to multiple Muslim countries (both directly and through Israel), and not have that directed back at us. That’s what happens when a country is “at war” — it doesn’t just get to blow up things and people in other countries, but its own things and people sometimes get blown up as well. That’s how “war” works.

The principal problem is that by pretending that we do nothing to fuel Islamic radicalism, we stay unaware — blissfully ignorant — of the staggering costs of our actions. I defy anyone to find a political figure in either major party’s leadership who has, in the context of discussing U.S. policy towards Israel, ever even mentioned the fact that undying, endless American support for Israel — making all of their conflicts our own — increases the risk of terrorist violence aimed at the U.S.


Filed under Our glorious war on terror