Thursday, May 27, 2004

Brother's Keeper, Part IV: Little Platoons

Inigo Gilmore, "Arab team wins Israel's 'FA Cup' for first time to secure place in Europe,", 23 May 2004.[A]n unfancied team from Galilee stunned Israeli football last week by becoming the first Arab club to qualify for Europe.
For the residents of Sakhnin...the victory - the first in the State Cup by an Arab team since Israel was founded in 1948 - is a source of local pride, and a filip for the 1.2 million Arabs who hold Israeli citizenship but have long seen themselves as second class citizens.

In addition to the team captain, Abbas Suan, 13 other members of the Sakhnin squad are Arab Israelis. The club also boasts seven Jewish and four foreign players, from Poland, Cameroon, Brazil and Ghana.

Nidal Shalata, 29, a defender who was born in Sakhnin and has played for the team for the past 10 years, said: "Our team is comprised of Arabs, Jews and foreigners but we're one family. To tell you the truth though, it would have been even sweeter if an Arab player had scored the winning goals."

After the win, euphoria swept through Arab communities with thousands of fans converging on Sakhnin, playing loud music, letting off fireworks, singing and dancing.

Yet the victory was also hailed as a bridge between Arab and Jewish Israelis. One of Sakhnin's Jewish strikers, Lior Asulin, scored twice and ran over to hail the support of the Arab fans.

"This was a historic day," said Abu Saleh, a club official. "The Arab leaders should come to Sakhnin and see how Jews and Muslims live together, drink and eat together and play together. We always talk about the disasters that have been inflicted on us, but this is a victory for Sakhnin and for peace."
via normblog and Harry's Place, which titled its post "Mazal Tov to Sakhnin". To be fair, shouldn't Gene also have wished Sakhnin a hearty alhamdulillah?


He was always so quiet

Justin of the conservative blog Right Side Redux googled the name of Adam Yahiye Gadahn, the only American citizen among the seven terrorist suspects recently named by the FBI, discovering some rather disturbing pages on the website of the Muslim Students Association of the University of Southern California, which I myself have linked to for some time. (They have a snazzy online Qur'an.)

Not only is there a page advertising videos of a speech given by a Taleban ambassador in March 2001, but Mr. Gadahn himself contributes an account of how he came to the decision to convert to Islam. He realized that he could not be a Christian because he took exception to certain of their beliefs and practicies, such as "paranoid espousal of various conspiracy theories," "fiery preaching" and belief in "the Infallibility of 'God's Word'".

Dude, you totally picked the wrong religion to convert to.

via Volokh


Psst...Professor Yoo, you're at Berkeley. Play the race card!

Juan Non-Volokh calls attention to a campaign by Berkeley law students calling for the resignation of Professor John Yoo, arguing that his articulation of arguments that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to ununiformed insurgents blending into civilian populations (in the Afghanistan war, mind you) led to Abu Ghraib.

Michael Anderson, a newly minted Berkeley JD, has been defending the petition both in periodicals and on his own blog.

[W]e aren't asking the school to fire him. We're calling directly on Prof. Yoo to act on his own behalf. But we have absolutely no power to enforce this request or impose any conditions on him. It's entirely his decision to make! He has total freedom to ignore our demands completely and stick to his position (exactly as he is doing). So how, exactly, is his freedom actually being infringed? Those who claim we are "intimidating" Prof. Yoo either don't know him, or are simply being disingenuous.
You give the man an ultimatum of "Recant or resign" and you come up with a way to avoid calling that intimidation. Damn, you are a bunch of lawyers.

If any institution of higher education in the United States curtails speech that creates a "hostile environment," it would be Berkeley. If I didn't believe in free speech for all, I would suggest to Professor Yoo that he request that those restrictions be invoked. If this isn't a "hostile environment," then nothing is.
By the way, several of us are presently planning to put together a panel discussion at which we will invite Prof. Yoo to defend his position.
Which begs the question, Why didn't the students who took exception to Professor Yoo's opinions do this in the first place before demanding that he either "recant or resign"?


Two steps forward...

One step forward, or Brother's Keeper, Part III.v

Elizabeth Evans, "The Judge Who Converts Terrorists," Slate, 18 May 2004.
Over the last year or so, the government of Yemen has released 182 captured Islamist militants. Thus far, their rate of recidivism is zero.
Violent fundamentalism in Yemen was first sparked by the so-called Afghan Arabs. Like so many young men from Arab countries, thousands of Yemenis went to Afghanistan in the '80s to fight the Soviet Union. The Soviet empire collapsed as they nipped at its underbelly, and they returned to Yemen fired up by their victory and eager to recruit. By 2002, the government had arrested hundreds of militants, and in August of that year President Saleh invited a group of Islamic and legal scholars to talk about what to do with them. [Judge Hamood Al-Hitar, the man responsible for letting the prisoners go] was the youngest of the scholars, and, he says, the least learned. He had stirred controversy once before: In 1985, when he was a criminal court judge in Sanaa, he passed a death sentence on two Muslims who had killed a Jew. Yemen's tiny Jewish minority were second-class citizens, and meting out such harsh punishment for murdering a Jew was until then unheard of. Even earlier in his career, Al-Hitar was something of a campus firebrand. "He was one of the brightest students in the faculty of Sharia [religious law]," said Abdo Ali Othman, who has been a sociology professor at Sanaa University for the last 28 years and was for several years the dean of students. In the late '70s, Al-Hitar preached in mosques on and off campus, and after he graduated, he would return to speak at the faculty club on Fridays. "He talked about inflation, social problems, youth, unemployment," said Othman. "He's open-minded."

The president asked the scholars to talk to the prisoners about the latter's wayward interpretation of Islam. The scholars tried to figure out what to do but were afraid that the militants still on the loose would claim they were agents of the United States. "But the biggest problem," Al-Hitar said, "was the fear that we might be assassinated, as happened to Sheik Zahabi in Egypt." His reference to an incident that occurred in 1977 shows the long shadow cast by a single act of violence. Sheik Mohammed Hussein Zahabi was a prominent scholar from the venerable Islamic University of Al Azhar who served as Egypt's minister of religious endowments. An extremist put a bullet through his eye for being a part of Anwar Sadat's liberalizing government.

After fruitless meetings among the scholars, Al-Hitar decided to take on the task of talking to the prisoners himself. He picked four fellow judges, and at their first session they met with 104 prisoners in a Sanaa jail. "I was apprehensive," Al-Hitar said. Guards urged the scholars, for their own safety, to remove their jambiyas before entering the room, but Al-Hitar refused.

He presented the prisoners with a series of questions and proposed to debate them based only on the Quran and the hadith, or ways of the prophet. The first question was, "Is Yemen an Islamic nation?" The prisoners said no; Al-Hitar said yes. He gave them copies of Yemen's constitution and legal code and volunteered to change anything they could find that was un-Islamic. They came up with nothing. Al-Hitar next brought up Yemen's alliances with the United States and other non-Islamic countries. "Nations have treaties with other nations," he told them. "Even the prophet did, in his time." When the prisoners objected to the existence of vice, he told them that vice existed even in early Islamic times—otherwise, the Muslim caliphates would never have developed criminal law.

The scholars and the prisoners discussed whether President Saleh had the right to lead the country, whether war was justified, and whether killing non-Muslims was allowed. (The judge's answers: Yes; only if you are attacked first; and no.) Al-Hitar has told captives that as a member of the United Nations, Yemen is honor-bound not to attack other countries, and even if another nation has harmed Yemen, only the government has the right to retaliate.

What becomes clear from talking to Al-Hitar is that a crucial component of his success with the prisoners is convincing them of the legitimacy of the state. There is an appeal to Yemeni tribalism in all this: As part of the tribe, you must honor its promises. But this reliance on the notion of rightful leadership suggests the Yemeni model cannot spread across the Middle East. In a part of the world where legitimacy is highly relative, Yemen's government looks pretty good. President Saleh ran virtually unopposed in the 1999 election and is grooming his son to be his successor. But he is also a genius at balancing competing interests, not least by letting the leaders of the religious Islah Party play a role in government. His cult of personality is small, and the press in Yemen is fairly free. In other words, you can make a case here that the government is the right one, and a disaffected young zealot might take you seriously. This would be much harder to achieve in Egypt, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia.

As to whether Islamic dialogue can cure fanaticism locally, many Yemenis I've talked to think Al-Hitar's methods work, but mostly on the margins. That is, the men he is winning over are not the die-hards. He has probably stopped some low-level attacks, but he wouldn't be able to convert Osama Bin Laden. (Although the judge has stated publicly that he would talk to Bin Laden if Bin Laden were willing.)

But even small successes are victories when it comes to fighting fanaticism. Al-Hitar will soon meet with a new group of prisoners for more of what he calls "intellectual surgery." His faith in his methods is secure: "The pen and the tongue that God has granted you can achieve more than all the weapons in the world."
Another step forward
Holly Lebowitz Rossi, "Muslim Group Launches `Not in the Name of Islam' Petition Drive," Religion News Service via Beliefnet, 14 May 2004.
A national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group has launched an online petition drive that aims to distinguish between the violent deeds of terrorists who act in the name of Islam and the tenets of the faith itself.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations announced "Not in the Name of Islam" Thursday (May 13) as its latest effort to combat what it calls "misperceptions of Islam and that faith's stance on religiously motivated terror."

"Those who commit acts of terror, murder and cruelty in the name of Islam are not only destroying innocent lives, but are also betraying the values of the faith they claim to represent," the petition says.

It continues, "We repudiate and dissociate ourselves from any Muslim group or individual who commits such brutal and un-Islamic acts."

Particularly in the wake of the videotaped beheading of American contractor Nick Berg by militants linked to al-Qaida, CAIR believes current events demand that Muslims communicate to the world that they do not condone violence.

"We hope this effort will demonstrate once and for all that Muslims in America and throughout the Islamic world reject violence committed in the name of Islam," said Omar Ahmad, CAIR's board chairman.

In addition to the petition drive, CAIR published a commentary in a number of newspapers across the country, titled "Judge Us Not by Un-Islamic Acts of Few."
(Jeet's note - the first comment reads, "They (sic) knife cuts both ways.")

Not quite one more
Eugene Volokh, "So is Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism or not?" The Volokh Conspiracy, 24 May 2004.
[N]ote the logic of the CAIR release: Hostility to political arguments that benefit Palestinians, and that defend Palestinian claims, is, in CAIR's view, racial and religious bigotry. When such hostility leads to physical attacks, that makes it a hate crime. Presumably when the hostility leads to verbal criticism, that would still (even in CAIR's view) be constitutionally protected speech, but it would still be racial and religious bigotry.

If that's so, then under CAIR's own reasoning, anti-Zionism would indeed be anti-Semitism. After all, one would say, "Because of the ethnic and religious nature of [pro-Zionist speech] and its sponsors," strident criticisms of such speech should be treated as bigoted speech (or, if they lead to physical attacks, as hate crimes). "[Religiously Jewish] and [ethnically Jewish] students should feel safe in exercising their First Amendment rights, free of intimidation or harassment."
CAIR...thinks that enmity towards one side in the Israeli-Palestinian debate is indeed religiously and ethnically bigoted. It seems that under their logic, enmity towards the other side is bigoted as well.


It's funny because it IS true

"U.S. Gives Up Trying To Impress England," The Onion, 26 May 2004.
"Yes, their royal family is cool, and yes, they have The Beatles and Shakespeare, but—well, they don't have to act so high and mighty," Hendricks said. "Every time they talk, it's like they think they're better than us. Do they think we don't notice that look on their faces?"

According to surveys, Americans are not looking for special treatment from the British, only a little bit of acknowledgement once in a while.

"All we want is one little nod of affirmation, a pat on the back, a 'good job' for some of the things we've done as a country," said Matthew Prousalis, a customer-service agent for AT&T Wireless in Peoria. "Really, all it would take is a quick 'Thanks for inventing the first successful gas-powered automobile. Keep it up.' That's it. But no, nothing."

"I've admired the British ever since I saw them on PBS as a kid," Prousalis added, blushing slightly. "Do they have any idea how bad they make us feel when they disregard us like this?"

Nicole Arndt, a computer-system sales representative from Chicago, said she was frustrated by England's dismissal of American entertainment.

"The British are always acting like we're so base," Arndt said. "Well, maybe we do go in for violence and sex a bit more than some other countries, but all around the world there are people who really love our movies and music. Just because we do things a little differently, that doesn't mean it's wrong."

Added Arndt: "In fact, I'd be willing to wager that, if we chose our five best movies from the past year and Great Britain chose theirs, and we asked an impartial country—let's say, Peru—they'd like our movies better. That'd knock England off her high horse."

Josh Feldman, an insurance claims adjuster in Union City, CA, said England assumes America is stupid.

"We have playwrights here doing some really advanced work," Feldman said. "Tony Kushner is giving it his all and writing what I hear are some very good plays. Not that England would ever notice."

Despite the two countries' decades of close political and economic alliances, many Americans said their counterparts in England should learn to appreciate what we do.

"We've cured lotsa diseases and invented a bunch of vital technologies," said Eric Pucci of Gruene, TX. "And I hate to bring this up, because they'll just call me a warmongering meathead or something, but we're breaking our backs to bring democracy to the whole damn world. England fights side-by-side with us, and yet they still treat us like they're deigning to form an alliance with us. Ask the rest of the world; you'll find a whole lot of nations who would want to be our friends. No, not everyone. But a lot of countries."

Alex Soellner, a Newport Beach, CA computer consultant, described his mood as one "more of resignation than exasperation."

"We tried so hard to catch your eye with our advances in Internet development, our soccer team, and our modern dance," Soellner said. "But you guys just keep acting like we're not a civilized country because we drink coffee instead of tea and our cops carry guns. That really stings."
Many Americans expressed great relief at the declaration, saying it freed them from their personal struggles to defend America's legitimacy.

"I can focus on doing my own thing now, and I can finally stop worrying about whether or not the British are going to like my work," said Gary Sherwin, a post- doctoral bioinformatics researcher at Stanford. "From now on, I'm working for me and my colleagues, and if England doesn't like it, it's their loss. Of course, it'd be nice if, when they see what I'm doing, they're impressed, but I'm not holding my breath anymore."
As an American lived in England for three years, I can personally confirm the existence of Britons who get all up in your face, never passing up an opportunity to take a swipe at the United States - its people and culture as well as its government and foreign policy, as soon as they're sure you're not Canadian. I believe the word for them begins with an "A".


No, "arsehole".


Brother's Keeper, Part III

Annys Shin, "China Discovers The World," The Washington Post, 23 May 2004.
"They want Mercedes-Benz service for horse and dray prices."

AI PEE, AI CHEE, AI TUA LIAP NEE (Contributed by K. Ang)
Teochew saying which literally translates as ' Want cheap, want pretty, want big breasts!' It is used to describe someone who wants the earth, ie. someone with unrealistic or unreasonable desires or expectations.
“Singaporeans all very hard to please, one. They all ai pee, ai chee, ai tua liap nee.”
Source: Coxford Singlish Dictionary
(Jeet's note - see also: kia su)
As a Chinese, I would like to apologize to workers in the tourist and service industries everywhere, especially those whose livelihoods depend on tips, on behalf of the Chinese people and, especially, my relatives.

Don't be givin' me that Don't break ranks in sight of outsiders shit. You know it's true.


Brother's Keeper, Part II

Belle's got a post up at CT about the FBI retracting its fingerprint-based allegations against Muslim convert and advocate Brandon Mayfield.

I know the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the FBI to focus on adherents of Islam rather than, say, Lutherans when fighting extremist Islamic terrorism. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if the government knows how to “only sort of” violate your rights. The dial goes all the way to eleven, right from the start.
It is one of the misfortunes of history that September 11th occurred during the Bush administration which, even before that day, has consistently placed expedience and politics above principle. The Bush administration has time and again demonstrated its failure to grasp that, in a war at least as dependent on public opinion as force, any deviation from the utmost scrupulousness effectively hands our enemies a victory.


Theme for the day: Tribalism


Brother's Keeper, Part I

More good sense from Sebastian Holsclaw

I believe one of the major failings in Western society is a failure to police your own. If KKK members weren't protected by their towns this world would have been a better place. If pro-life groups policed their own we wouldn't have abortion clinic bombings screwing up the debate. If Muslim groups policed their own mosques it would be much harder for terrorists to get support.
I only take exception to the use of the word "Western," though I concede that the failure to police one's own is more harmful in societies (such as the West) where adherence to a universal rule of law is expected to supersede tribalism.

Tribal loyalty is nonetheless universal and, though Sebastian might dispute this characterization, the most conservative of values.

O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, bearers of witness for Allah's sake, even if it be against yourselves or your parents or your kin.
- Qur'an 4:135

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.
- Matthew 10:35-36

Man, why you got to say that? It ain't us, it's the media. The media has distorted our image to make us look bad.
- Chris Rock, Bring the Pain

Farid Esack has been linked under Esoterica & Eclectica


Class interest

I've argued before that multiculturalism, rather than promoting a harmoniously multicultural "Star Trek"-like state of affairs, will instead kindle the flames of strife by fueling innumerable nationalisms, some of which are already in conflict with each other (e.g. Hindus and Muslims), some of which will inevitably come into conflict with each other, all because none of their constituent communities recognizes or respects a common public sphere. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Well, now I've got some proof.


Never say never again

For once, I agree wholeheartedly with Kerim Friedman.

UPDATE: Abiola Lapite links to a post by Brian "Popeye" Black Star Journal

People in western countries generally aren't that interested in what's going on in non-western countries. Sure, there are a few exceptions. The British and French tend to be moderately interested in the doings in their former African colonies because a) they maintain considerably economic ties in many of them and b) there are many African immigrants in those countries. Western Europeans tend to be disproportionately interested in the Israeli Occupied Territories. But generally speaking, most westerners care little about non-western countries, except in a tangential way. Ask them if 'x' crisis is bad and they will say "Yes, it's awful." It usually doesn't translate into anything more than that.
and throws in his own two cents.
A single child is killed in the Occupied Territories and the Western media blazes with publicity for weeks on end; 1 million people in Northern Africa have their homes scorched and are driven on death-marches, and few do more than shrug and say "how terrible."


Apples and trees

Anna Bahney, "High School Heroes: Mom and Dad," The New York Times, 16 May 2004.[U]nlike the chasm that separated baby boom parents from their parents, these teenagers' tastes in clothes and music, and many of their political and social beliefs, dovetail with those of their parents.
Like Juan Sanchez's article on the "Millennials," this article also cites Millennials Rising. I suspect that, like most tries at the generation game, this book is filled with self-contradictory generalizations but must admit that I haven't read it because I don't want to encourage cod sociology with my own coin. But of course I have no business judging anyone's ideas and work secondhand so let's hope I'm accepted into a graduate school with a good library, eh?

The sample examined in this article isn't exactly statistical, but nonetheless implies that my assumption of the inherently rebellious nature of youth is incorrect.
[Dr. Frank Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the chairman of a research group examining transitions to adulthood] said there was nothing preprogrammed about teenage rebellion. "The thinking that adolescents rebel as they seek more autonomy and push off from their families is a peculiarly well-developed idea in American society," he said. But this phenomenon is at least partly a product of American culture, not inbred.
Hey, I'm an open-minded guy willing to entertain the possibility that I'm wrong if there's contradictory evidence.

Maybe the "old-fashioned" values from before the 60s are the thesis, the permissive liberal values of the decades since then the antithesis, and what we're starting to seeing now the synthesis.

Errm, maybe.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I don't know what you heard about me...

...but, for a brief shining moment, I was the number one Google result for "pimps up hoes down". (Sadly this is no longer the case.)


Holy Scripture, Batman!

The Internet Sacred Text Archive (via Virginia Postrel) has been linked as have and Talking Cock.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004

And I'm sure his forthright attitudes on homosexuality and abortion must go down a treat in mainstream Europe!

Ed Douglas, "On a mission," The Observer, 23 May 2004.
His ideas about compassion strike a chord in the West but [the Dalai Lama] is equally forthright on the damage consumerism and sexual freedom can inflict on individuals. Not attitudes, you feel, that would go down well in mainstream America.
Ed Douglas, welcome to The List!


Thursday, May 20, 2004

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations

Ted Baehr, "New movie mocks Christian faith," ASSIST News Service, 11 May 2004.
Ted Baehr, world-renowned media scholar and founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission™ ministry, says that the new Hollywood movie SAVED!, to be released May 28 by MGM, is a sad, bigoted, anti-Christian movie that mocks the Christian faith.
Doesn't referring to yourself as "world-renowned" flagrantly flout the Biblical admonition that "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall"? And does his ministry face so much competition that he has to trademark its name?
“Cassandra is the real heroine who turns Mary away from the uptight Christian students who believe in faith, values, and the power of prayer. Imagine if this movie were set in an Orthodox Jewish school with faithful Jewish children cast as the villains and a Christian girl shows how legalistic the Jewish girls are. Or, what if it were set in an Islamic school with faithful Muslims cast as the villains and a Christian or Jewish Girl exposes how legalistic the Muslims are? The outcry in the press would be tremendous! Not to mention the righteous outcry from Jews or Muslims!
Dude, has this guy never heard of The Passion? Or True Lies?
He urged other religious leaders, including Jewish and Moslem leaders, to warn their constituents about the bigoted movie, which stars Mandy Moore and Macaulay Culkin in a story about self-righteous Christian youths in an uptight Christian school.
“Looking at it from the point of view of other faiths,” Dr. Baehr continued, “highlights how bigoted the movie SAVED! is...
Looking at it from the point of view of other faiths highlights how thin-skinned and hypocritical this guy is. If he hopes that Jews and Muslims will join his little Holy War against Hollywood, then he should have built up some good faith by joining theirs. Why doesn't he follow Jesus' example and take his lumps with a little equanimity, the big pussy.
MGM is marketing it to Christian children to try to divorce them from their faith!
'Cause, you know, it's not like that's precisely what evangelical Christians set out to do to people in developing countries. Save this, you hypocritical asshole.
"New film mocks Christianity," WorldNetDaily, 13 May 2004.
The movie's website includes phrases alternately shown on the homepage, including: "Got passion? Get Saved! 5:28," a Scripture-like reference to the film's release date. Other phrases are "Let's kick it Jesus style," and "Prayer works, it's been medically proven."
Brief audio snippets from the film featured on the website include one female character angrily shouting at another: "I'm filled with Christ's love!"

Ted Baehr, "New movie mocks Christian faith," ASSIST News Service, 11 May 2004.
“This is abhorrent and people of faith and faith must be forewarned,” Dr. Baehr concluded.
And I and I have got to see this film and support it with a little of my cash.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez links to a piece that addresses the persecution complex of evangelical Christians in contemporary America.
I've always found grating the claims of some pundits that Christians, a huge majority of the American population, are some sort of downtrodden, persecuted minority. Usually what's meant is that in a pluralistic society, it's less and less the case that one group's religious conception is woven into the public legal structure, and that cultural products geared to appeal to a wide variety of citizens will be less likely to consistently embed and celebrate the same set of Christian values.
razib at Gene Expression also has a great post (as usual) on the subject.

Man, why you got to say that? It ain't us, it's the media. The media has distorted our image to make us look bad.


O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, bearers of witness for Allah's sake, even if it be against yourselves or your parents or your kin

Asma Gull Hasan, Why I Am A Muslim, 2004.
Contrary to widespread popular belief, Islam was not really spread by the sword--most Muslim leaders including Muhammad abhorred forced conversion. The Qur’an itself says, "Let there be no compulsion in religion," (2:256) and in my experience, Muslims do not engage in missionary activity.
Either Ms. Hasan is being disingenuous or her experience is limited.
(Judaism has a similar prohibition on missionary activities)
Recite the shahadah three times before witnesses. BOOM! You're a Muslim! The Jews turn you down the first two times. And then they make you study. For months. If Muslims and Jews both have prohibitions on missionary activities, let the record show that Jews submit to the will of God rather more completely than Muslims here.
However, one could say that Islam was spread by Sufism--not in all areas of the Islamic world, but certainly in South and Central Asia. Muslim conquerors might have gained power in a certain area, but the appeal of the emotion-guided Sufis actually caused the locals to convert or to become more devout Muslims.
Like the Battle of Talas* had nothing to do with it? Or the establishment of a society in which non-Muslims were second- (if Christian or Jewish) or third-class (if Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian or Manichaean) citizens didn't hurt either.
Asma Gull Hassan interviewed by Deborah Caldwell, "Girls Just Want to Have Fun," beliefnet.
As a Muslim you grow up learning about Islamic history and the great Islamic warriors. Every Muslim child learns about the scientific achievements that Muslims have been behind. Paper wasn’t created by Muslims, but the technology of paper was created by Muslims.
I don't think I've ever read a wafflier sentence. Here's an article entitled "Paper and the Arab Role for its Development" from Al Shindagah Magazine based in the United Arab Emirates.
And the number zero was invented by Arabs.
Bollocks. While we're on the subject, the so-called "Arabic" numerals were invented by jahil (pre-Islamic, literally "ignorant") Indians.

Muslim community advocates like to point out that some of the bricks in the foundation of contemporary Western civilization are Islamic and they are absolutely correct. That makes it hypocritical to ignore the pre-Islamic Persian and Hindu blocks in the foundation of the medieval Islamic civilization whose glories they are so fond of celebrating.

I would regard it as a very positive development if the worldwide Islamic mainstream became more like Asma Gull Hasan (though she would doubtless argue that it already is), so I regret that her whitewashing of Islamic history has earned her a place on The List.

*Barry Hoberman, "The Battle of Talas," Saudi Aramco World, September/October 1982.
"Central Asia west of the Tarim which Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, and Nestorian Christian influences had been strong, eventually became almost entirely Muslim."

Ethnic cleansing by conversion, though morally preferable to ethnic cleansing by extermination, is still ethnic cleansing.


Separate is inherently...

To mark the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Ed, I submit for your consideration a non-American, non-Western example of racial integration.

Roger Mitton, "The Cost of Casual Racism," Asiaweek, 28 November 2001.
There is much to admire about the People's Action Party (PAP) government in Singapore. Most admirable, perhaps, is its splendidly honest policies on race....Lee Kuan Yew...discussed Singapore's race relations during an interview last year. He talked about the policy of racially integrating the housing-development-board flats where most of the population live. People want to be among their own kind. It feels more natural and comfortable if the people next door speak the same language, have the same religion, eat the same food -- and have the same color skin. We all lack tolerance in this regard; some of us just admit it less readily than others. But if this intolerance is left unchecked, it results in ethnic ghettos in which the intolerance feeds upon itself and leads ineluctably to violence.

To forestall this, Lee made sure that flats were allocated in proportion to the racial makeup of the country. In a block of 100 units, roughly 70 would be taken by Chinese, 16 by Malays, 8 by Indians and the remainder by Eurasians and others. And they were mixed up together, Chinese next to Malay-Muslims, next to Indians. Of course, as Lee himself told us, people did not like it. As a politician who had to contest elections every five years, he would do better in a vote-winning sense by letting the Chinese have their own blocks, the Malays theirs, and so on. But, as he put it, with one of his trademark piercing glares, the alternative was worse to contemplate.

I have thought about this often. As a libertarian, my instinct is to let people live where they want to live. So this PAP policy grates on my liberal outlook. But reality increasingly makes me concede that Lee is right.
UPDATE: Just a reminder that, as much light as race relations in other countries can shed on America's, there are limits to how applicable Singapore's example is to the United States. Leaving aside issues of Constitutionality and political feasibility, there are other considerations as well. The income gap between Chinese, Malays and Indians in postcolonial Singapore was far narrower than that between blacks and whites in the United States. Singapore integrated housing, which would be impossible to implement in the United States; the American debate on racial integration focuses on education and sometimes the workplace. All this said, that racial tensions still persist in Singapore should indicate to Americans the elusiveness of racial equality even when free of Constitutional constraints.


Face it, Tiger...You just hit the jackpot!

Sonia Gandhi has stepped aside and Manmohan Singh, the former Finance Minister whose policies have brought First World middle-class standards of living to millions of Indians, has been named the next Prime Minister of India. I usually find that a little pessimistic skepticism early on saves a lot of heartbreak later, but I can't help but admit that I'm a little excited at the prospect of a Singh premiership. I may regret these words later but this could be comparable to watching Lee Kuan Yew take power in 1959. Take a look around the world and you'll see that most developing countries could do a hell of a lot worse than Manmohan Singh (and usually do).

Amy Waldman, "Sikh Who Saved India's Economy Is Named Premier," The New York Times, 20 May 2004.
Manmohan Singh, the gentlemanly Oxford-educated economist who saved India from economic collapse in 1991 and began the liberalization of its economy, has been appointed the country's next prime minister.
Mr. Singh, who is 71, is widely described as honest, intelligent and thoughtful. Perhaps the only bad word anyone has to say about him is that he is not a better politician.

"He's miserable at it," said Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist and a friend of Mr. Singh's since their days together at Cambridge.
Mr. Singh, who is 71, is widely described as honest, intelligent and thoughtful. Perhaps the only bad word anyone has to say about him is that he is not a better politician.

"He's miserable at it," said Jagdish Bhagwati, an economist and a friend of Mr. Singh's since their days together at Cambridge. Mr. Singh ran for Parliament in 1999 from south Delhi, and lost.

Ordinarily, that would doom him to fail in a job that is a largely political office, especially in the coalition government he will lead, and it still might. In a December interview in his office at Parliament's upper house, where he was leader of the opposition, Mr. Singh rued the decline in Indian governance due to the broadening of its political class beyond the middle class.

He has repeatedly expressed concern about "competitive populism" - politicians' instinct to promise goodies like free electrical power regardless of the ability to pay for them - and its effect on fiscal discipline and the country's economic health.

Now he will lead a cabinet containing some of those same populists, as well as Communist parties that have vowed to slow some reforms. During his stint as finance minister, he was accused of looking the other way during a host of corruption scandals, although his own integrity has not been questioned.

But in an arrangement unusual for the Congress Party, where one leader has typically dominated, Mrs. Gandhi will remain in charge of the party, leaving Mr. Singh freer to focus on governance. "He will be a technocrat, basically," Mr. Bhagwati said.

Still, Mr. Singh has learned, after more than a decade of stops and starts with reforms, that in a democracy, political compulsions must inevitably shape economic policy.*
"Even good things need to be sold in this modern age of marketing," he said in the December interview.
[In 1991, he] was called into urgent service by the prime minister then, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to extricate India from a balance-of-payments crisis. For the first time, India was on the verge of defaulting on its external debt obligations.

Mr. Singh quickly devalued the rupee, but in two stages, to avoid provoking political opposition. He lowered taxes and tariffs and began opening the economy to foreign investment and competition, all of which helped lay the foundation for the economic boom under way here.
*Now all we need is for the Bush administration and the anti-globalist movement to figure this out and we're golden!


Das Übermädchen

Is it just me, or does anyone else think that the South Asian math whiz with hiphop pretensions in Mean Girls is a dead ringer for Fareed Zakaria?


Mean Girls

* * * * * if you're a thirteen-year-old radical feminist
* * ½ if you're not

I should bring non-American readers up to speed by giving them a bit of background on Tina Fey, who wrote the script and plays the math teacher. Fey has been co-head writer for the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live for some years now, as well as anchoring its Weekend Update news parody which, as good as The Daily Show is, has been on for much longer. (The current anchor team of Fey and Jimmy Fallon is one of the best, even if that Fallon punk can't keep a straight face to save his life.) Fey's stint as co-head writer deserves some of the credit for the revival of SNL's fortunes.

So it is no surprise that Mean Girls is, like Ms. Fey herself, both smart and funny. Not to get too abstruse, but comedy is intrinsically entropic. It's good at breaking things down with a corrosive scrutiny. So when this film, the former part of which is unsparingly caustic, suddenly starts letting sacred cows ripe for slaughter go unmolested, this viewer found the effect unpleasantly jarring.

He opened my eyes. Only the best comedians accomplish that.
- Alan Moore

Most Americans probably aren't familiar with the heavily political, openly left-wing British "New Comedy" movement of the 1980s. (You remember, lads, "Comedy is the new rock'n'roll"?)1 With few very honorable exceptions2, the character of British comedy until then was predominantly conservative (with one foot in the music hall and the other on the stage), sometimes Conservative and sometimes even brazenly racist. Margaret Thatcher's reign provided the New Comics with a bottomless source of material. However, the mordancy with which they attacked a particular views made it all the more conspicuous when they left another foibles of another set of prejudices untouched or, worse, espoused it (see: Jeremy Hardy). In one episode of Alexei Sayle's Stuff, Mr. Sayle takes time for a "very special" moment to honor Stalingrad's steadfastness against the Nazis. Perhaps he was being ironic; he certainly wasn't being funny. Not that the Left has a monopoly on this failing. The precipitous decline of Ms. Fey's predecessor Dennis Miller ought to serve as an object lesson for any comedian tempted to allow his political leanings too strong an influence over his material.

In Mean Girls, when the school faculty resorts to touchy-feely therapy-culture bromides as a last resort for the cruelty of children, the film takes a few half-hearted swipes but leaves this target, which is begging to be subjected to the same scathing wit as other targets in the film, relatively untouched, shifting the tone suddenly from biting to earnest. The same happens with the ending, which casts our heroine, Cady Heron (played by Lindsay Lohan), as a kind of Übermensch (Übermädchen?) schoolgirl revolutionary who tears down an unjust order and replaces it with a cliqueless society.

As an aside, in addition to the casting of Mini-Fareed Zakaria, the love interest looks like he was cloned from Ms. Fey's Weekend Update co-anchor Jimmy Fallon.

Also, Rachel McAdams? Hot. Oh, stop squicking. Jeet's younger than she is. In case anyone's wondering why Jeet's recent taste in films has been more suited to thirteen-year-old girls, it's because relatives have been visiting for the past few weeks, one of whom is a thirteen-year-old girl, whom Jeet only accompanied to "13 Going On 30" and "Mean Girls" because he heard they were good. Jeet was forewarned about "Ella Enchanted" and saved two hours of his life as a result. Jeet plans to see "Kill Bill: Vol. 2" as soon as his relatives are safely on a plane back across the Pacific. Ooh, "Shrek 2"!

1"x is the new rock'n'roll." Sometimes apt, always annoying. That said, video games are the new rock'n'roll. Something the 'rents don't get and it scares the shit out of 'em.

2As an American, I grew up with a very high opinion of British culture thanks to Monty Python reruns and the cream that PBS had skimmed off the top of British television. Then I moved to Britain and witnessed a Jimmy Tarbuck performance. I've met piles were less irritating.

Richard put away the Narnia books, convinced, sadly, that they were allegory; that an author (whom he had trusted) had been attempting to slip something past him. He had had the same disgust with the Professor Challenger stories, when the bull-necked old professor became a convert to Spiritualism; it was not that Richard had any problems with believing in ghosts--Richard believed, with no problems or contradictions, in everything--but Conan Doyle was preaching and it showed through the words. Richard was young, and innocent in his fashion, and believed that authors should be trusted, and that there should be nothing hidden beneath the surface of a story.
- Neil Gaiman, "One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock"

So... Neo and Trinity can gun down a lobby full of security guards who are just doing their job, crash a helicopter into the side of a building in an escape attempt, and not have it affect their conscience? Because everyone else is still "part of the system"? Round in these parts, we call that terrorism.
- Cognito, "Could You Repeat the Message?: Movie Morals That Annoy You," Fametracker Forums, 18 May 2004.


Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The distinction between tolerance and approval: an ongoing series

John Derbyshire, "Carl Sagan," The Corner on National Review Online, 16 May 2004.
"Sagan wasn't convinced that homosexuality was genetic, though if forced to accept that conclusion, he wanted it understood that homosexuality was a genetic deformity. [W]hen Sagan discovered that his son was best friends with a homosexual at school - he told his son that it would be wrong to not be friends with the boy just because he's gay, but also wrong not to acknowledge that the boy's sexual preferences were not to be approved. ... Sagan's views on homosexuality left the authors confused because at one moment he would be saying something very homophobic and at the next arguing for the promotion of a gay faculty member, etc. What the authors lacked the imagination to understand is that this is how the mild & tolerant homophobic mind works."
Kikuchiyo, "The mild & tolerant homophobe?" Kikuchiyo News, 17 May 2004.
Derb is trying to prove that he's in excellent company by posting a reader's email which claims that Carl Sagan was a "mild and tolerant homophobe." What's the point of that? I mean, if you're going to sully your personality by being a homophobe to begin with, what do you gain by being mild and tolerant about it? And isn't there some kind of oxymoron swimming around here?
What does a homophobe gain by being mild and tolerant about it? Perhaps this would become clear if we replace "homophobe" with "vegan". Without respect for fellow citizens' rights and liberties, he will find it difficult to live in a liberal pluralistic society where people have the right to eat meat or wear leather and some invariably will. However, like a pro-lifer, he may feel that the acts that he objects to are tantamount to murder, releasing him from the obligation to respect the rights of those who carry out or abet such acts. If, in following the dictates of his conscience, he violates those rights, the state may see fit to subject our vegan to incarceration, where efforts to impose vegetarianism would likely earn him the sort of treatment that would appall the homophobe. (Advice to incarcerated vegetarians: "tossed salad" may refer to something other than a meat-free meal option.)

For Islamic fundamentalists, the primary criterion of moral worth is acceptance of the perfection and finality of Muhammad's prophecy; for evangelical Christians, the acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Political ideologues' use of shibboleths is similar. "You're a socialist? That must mean you hate America!" "Only an anti-Semite would criticize Israel!" "You don't agree with affirmative action? Then you must be a racist!" A person's morality is judged by whether he subscribes to certain beliefs, as opposed to the crazy idea of judging a person by how he treats others (including those who disagree).*

So Carl Sagan held attitudes some might label "homophobic" yet still treated homosexuals decently and fairly. In my book, that makes him a damn sight better than the right-wing McCarthys of the 1950s and the left-wing McCarthys of today.

*This dynamic is also employed in reverse.
Premise: X is/was a moral person.
Conclusion: Therefore, X must have been one of us.
Hence hanifiyyah, the Islamic doctrine that claims that Abraham, though he lived millennia before Muhammad received the Qur'an, was a Muslim and most certainly was not a Jew (which is impossible because Muslims hold that Judaism didn't exist until Moses received the Covenant at Sinai); and attempts to claim that Jesus - you know, he of the fishes and loaves - was a vegetarian but that Hitler was not.


Oh sh*t! Mike Wallace! Run!

At the beginning of this week, American television networks submitted their slates of programs for the 2004-2005 to the scrutiny of advertisers.

The week before last saw network executives screening about 30 pilots per network, followed by day or so of research, when those pilots are market-tested to sample audiences across the United States. Several days are then taken for scheduling, during which the executives decide which programs will debut in the autumn, which programs will be held in reserve for possible airing at midseason, and which pilots won't be developed into programs at all.

Sometimes market-testing damns a program to oblivion, sometimes network executives dismiss the results of market-testing (believe it or not) and decide to take a chance on a risky program anyway. Of course, it helps if the risky program has a powerful star or producer whom the network execs want to remain on the good side of. (Cop Rock, anyone?) But who knows? Maybe sometimes the execs feel that a program deserves a shot to find an audience.

The generation of American capitalist (or Zionist) running dog propaganda is nowhere to be found on network execs' list of objectives; putting asses on seats is invariably at the top of it. And if Americans are like other peoples (a point disputed by both anti-Americans and American exceptionalists), then a program that appeals to a mass audience in America (whether it's through fake breasts crammed into a red one-piece or witty repartée in a Boston watering hole) is likely to appeal to mass audiences elsewhere.

Most of America, frankly, is much smarter than television assumes they are...We proved that.
- Kelsey Grammer, lead actor, Frasier


The bitching's back!

I have returned and should have some new posts up soon!

Over the weekend, not only did I re-read Of Paradise and Power but, better still, I retrieved my copy of The Tarim Mummies! Potential posts on the themes within Of Paradise and Power have been gestating in my head for some time and, now that my copy of The Tarim Mummies is once again safely in my hands, there may even be, if not new posts on Central Asian antiquity, updates to old posts.


Saturday, May 15, 2004

Everybody's working for the weekend

I am, anyway, and the assignment finishes late on Tuesday, so be very surprised to hear from me before Wednesday.

I mean it this time.


Friday, May 14, 2004

What if the enemy of my enemy is also the enemy of my friend?

Carl Schrag, "Jews Choose," Slate, February 10, 2004.
A few days ago, I spoke with a woman in Chicago who could have been speaking for many Jews I know. "What am I supposed to do in November?" she asked. "Bush has been so good for Israel, and that's so important to me."

"So, what's the problem?" I asked, even though I knew exactly what her problem was. I hear it every day.

"I'm a lifelong Democrat," she said. "How can I vote for Bush?" She is gratified by Bush's support for Israel in the post-9/11 era, and she believes he's right to pursue the war on terror. But she disagrees with just about every plank of his domestic agenda, and she can't conceive of casting a vote that might mean further weakening the separation of church and state or an end to Roe v. Wade.
American progressive voters find themselves in a similar quandary over Israel. Though they may share positions on domestic issues with this woman, the Third World sympathies of progressives are outraged by the oppression of the Palestinians at the hands of Israel. The reason this is such a predicament for American progressives is that Jews are a crucial constituency for the Democrats, the mainstream American progressive party. I suspect that many of Ralph Nader's supporters are progressives whose sympathy for the Palestinians is strong enough for them to break with the Democratic Party in the Presidential election. On Israel/Palestine, if nothing else, Nader is correct (Jeet can't believe he wrote that either): the difference between most Democrats and Republicans is negligible.
Lorenzo Vidino & Erick Stakelbeck, "Along Came Sharia," National Review, February 29, 2004.
The European Left's strong support for Muslim immigrants has traditionally been twofold: first, Muslims are a religious and ethnic minority in Europe and therefore advance the Left's multicultural agenda. Secondly, as evidenced by their joint participation in the antiwar protests of the past two years, Europe's Left shares with many Muslim immigrants a resentment of the U.S., Israel and capitalism. But virtually all other aspects of the two groups' belief systems are at odds: gay rights, women's rights, abortion rights, multiculturalism, separation of church and state, interfaith dialogue and opposition to the death penalty, all perennial Leftist causes, are opposed by an overwhelming number of Europe's Muslim immigrants, sometimes brutally so.
By killing thousands of Americans, the September 11th attacks absolved Muslim causes of any sins and earned them the immunity from left-wing criticism that had hitherto been enjoyed only by the Palestinians. The United States provoked September 11th and, instead of contrition, responded by declaring war on the Islamic faith, starting with the impoverished Taleban regime of Afghanistan. The enemies of Islam were therefore the allies of the United States and deserved their fate, whether they were animists in Sudan, Hindus in India or Buddhists in Thailand. The struggle against America is so important that the Left was willing to put aside its differences and stand shoulder to shoulder with those who see the independence of East Timor as a neocolonialist Christian partition of Muslim lands. Violence between poor, dark-skinned Third World non-Muslims and Muslims was, as before, linked to the West wherever chains of culpability, no matter how long or circuitous, could be forged. Failing that, however, blame is now more likely to be laid at the feet of the non-Muslim parties or the violence otherwise ignored.

An ex-Marxist whose home was decorated with portraits of both Marx and Lenin, the late Pim Fortuyn, like a stereotypically liberal Dutchman, supported gay rights - Fortuyn was himself openly and proudly gay - and legalized drugs and prostitution, yet was characterized as "far-right" for pointing out that Islamic culture does not share the permissiveness of Dutch culture. Fortuyn was potentially the tip of an iceberg - ex-Leftists no longer able to turn a blind eye to the fundamental incompatibility between the values they hold dear and the objectives of such "comrades" as Dyab Abu Jahjah or the Muslim Association of Britain.

When you're not willing to be bedfellows with either Zionists or Islamic extremists, the mattress gets awful lonely.

UPDATE: Oliver Kamm illustrates how the Socialist Workers Party in Britain, militantly pro-choice in 1999, is papering over its differences on that issue with its allies in the Muslim Association of Britain and George Galloway.


Thursday, May 13, 2004

Hearts and minds

Abu Ghraib will reinforce the already well-entrenched perception that the United States is waging a war on Muslims and Arabs and cares nothing for their interests. However, before September 11th, elected officials were reaching out to Muslim-Americans and even continued to do so afterwards, though they were no longer willing to stick their necks out quite so far.

Michelle Goldberg, "Banished from the American dream," Salon, April 26, 2004.
[T]he Kesbeh family tried everything imaginable to remain in the United States. They enlisted the media, briefly becoming a cause célèbre in Houston, where protesters held vigils on their lawns and local churches offered to shelter them from the immigration authorities. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee introduced a bill in the House that would have granted them legal residency. Republican Rep. Daryl Issa, an Arab-American from California, spoke out on their behalf, and Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy reportedly intervened with immigration to delay their deportation.

In post-9/11 America, though, it proved impossible for a family of illegal Arab immigrants to garner enough political support to stay. So on March 28, 2003, they were put on a plane bound first for Amsterdam, Netherlands, and then for Amman.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee saw the family on TV, and a week later, she made a public statement praising them as the embodiment of America's values. Soon, there were stories in the Houston Chronicle about the "Palestinian Cleavers" and reports on Amy Goodman's radio show "Democracy Now." Lee introduced a resolution in Congress that would have granted the family legal residency.
Under pressure from New Jersey's Arab community, Democratic U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli agreed to introduce a companion bill to Jackson Lee's in the Senate, and Sen. Edward Kennedy intervened with immigration to have Sharif and Alaa released while the legislation was pending. The family's deportation was stayed for six more months.

Asmaa was in the hospital waiting to go into surgery for a hernia when Noor told her that their bill had found a sponsor in the Senate, and that they might be able to stay. She fell to the floor, thanking God and crying with happiness and relief.

But Torricelli, in the midst of an ethics scandal, withdrew from the Senate race at the end of September. After that, the Kesbehs were unable to find another champion in the chamber.

The publicity their case had generated began to backfire, with the right seizing on their story as an example of Democratic squishiness on illegal immigration. Michelle Malkin, the caustic conservative author of the book "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores," wrote a syndicated column called "Lawmakers Who Love Lawbreakers," which excoriated those politicians who'd risen to the Kesbehs' defense. Senators that initially had seemed sympathetic backed away.
Even though scandal prevented Senator Torricelli from following through, the point remains that the Arab community was successful in pressuring him. September 11th not only was the impetus for the deportation of the Kesbehs and others like them, but also made it difficult for elected officials to stand up for Arab and Muslim Americans.

Sometimes you have individuals who support homosexual values, abortion, and marijuana legalization, but at the same time take an anti-Israel stance. BOOM! The lesser of two evils!

It seems that no matter how many times Americans intervene on behalf of Muslims in situations like Kosovo and Bosnia going back to Suez and beyond, the United States will never earn enough merit in the eyes of Muslims to make up for its support of Israel. Fair or not, in the eyes of Muslims, Israel/Palestine supersedes all other considerations.

But even on that front, do American elected officials invariably side against Muslims and Arabs? One of my very first posts argued that US foreign policy towards Israel/Palestine is better explained by electoral politics than elaborate conspiracy theories. Most Republicans' positions on Israel/Palestine will be determined by the staunchly pro-Israel attitudes of their evangelical Christian constituents and those of most Democrats by the staunchly pro-Israel attitudes of their Jewish constituents. But it follows that some elected officials, specifically those dependent on Muslim or Arab votes, will express sympathy with the Palestinians.

The voting records1 on 107th Congress House Resolution 392 and 108th Congress House Resolution 294 bear this out, though a comparison between the two shows just how difficult it is for elected officials to show sympathy for the Palestinians when American voters feel threatened by Islamic terrorists.

House Resolution 392, 2 May 2002, Expressing Solidarity with Israel in its Fight Against Terrorism
NoesAnswered "Present"Not Voting
New Jersey-11
New York--1
North Carolina-21
West Virginia11-

House Resolution 294, 25 June 2003, Condemning the terrorism inflicted on Israel since the Aqaba Summit and expressing solidarity with the Israeli people in their fight against terrorism.
NoesAnswered "Present"Not Voting
New Jersey--1
New York--1
North Carolina-1-
West Virginia1--
Source: Office of the Clerk, US House of Representatives

These voting records show Representatives from California and Michigan willing to publicly express sympathy with the Palestinians, though either that willingness or their numbers were much reduced by June 2003, when Resolution 294 was voted on. Open sympathy with the Palestinians could lead to perceptions of being "soft on terror," which would likely have been problematic in the first post-September 11th Congressional elections. The House of Representatives that voted on Resolution 392 took office before September 11th, as did George W. Bush, whom Stephen Waldman has credited with coining the rhetorical innovation "churches, temples and mosques" as a candidate.

I do not believe it is a coincidence that California and Michigan are home to two of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. Though their frightened neighbors may have demanded Representatives with a harder line on terrorism on Election Day 2002, some of those elected in 2000 were clearly unafraid of displaying pro-Palestinian sympathies even after September 11th.

Though the numbers are small (and after 2002 almost insignificant), what this shows is that, on the issue of Israel/Palestine, American elected officials have demonstrated a willingness to court Muslim voters that was largely destroyed after September 11th. If Arabs and Muslims, especially Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, want to counter the pro-Israel leanings of American foreign policy, they must win over the hearts and minds not only of American government officials, but American voters; they cannot afford not to. Just as Abu Ghraib has damaged the American struggle to win Arab/Muslim hearts and minds, September 11th damaged the Arab/Muslim struggle to win over American hearts and minds. The tragedy is that it occurred just when they were making some real progress (unlike Abu Ghraib).

1I totally busted my ass researching voting records and coding these tables, so if you want to borrow them, I'd better see some credit.
2On June 25, 2003, the Aspen Wildfire, which ultimately scorched 85,000 acres just north of Tucson, was still burning, probably explaining the failure of 6 of Arizona's 8 Representatives to vote.


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

The socialism of fools, mark 2

Awesome. Just awesome.

The trick is, of course, to distinguish between subjective criticism of US government policy and reflexive opposition to anything done by the US anywhere at any time. John Lloyd, former editor of the New Statesman (a journal currently ravaged by anti-Americanism) pulled it off in an Observer article two years ago:

"Anti-Americanism is not criticism of the American government's policies, any more than criticism of the Israeli government's policies is anti-Semitism. But there is now a narrative of the left…which sees in the US an imperial predator whose actions - all actions - are conditioned by this aspect of its being.

”This narrative has ceased to be critical, but become predestinarian: rather as predestinarians divided humanity into those whose actions could never be wrong and those whose actions could never be right, so this strain of left critique arrogates to itself the first and confers on the US the second. It is important not to confuse this grand, totalising critique with criticism, from left or right. The latter is essential for governments, most essential for governments with such awful power as the US commands. But the totalising critique is an intellectual construct, derived from the techniques of 19th century philosophy, which bends all facts to fit the ideological line. "

The point is that you can take your two weeks August holiday in Florida, prefer Coca-cola over Evian and Mark Twain over Cervantes and this doesn’t give you immunity. Anti-Americanism is not (just) a rejection of US culture or its people, but an infallible intellectual doctrine that demands loyalty to the notion of an America that is insatiably ambitious, predisposed to imperialism and fixated on self-aggrandizement. It necessarily follows that she is incapable of acting outside her naked self-interest and, what is more, this strategy can never – and I mean never - enjoy the most accidental or incidental of happy corollary.

America may know better but cannot help herself, and all her foreign policy exploits must be viewed through this perfect prism, no matter the extent to which empirical evidence to the contrary must be reshaped to fit the prescribed ideological mould.

It is worth restating the point: it is perfectly possible to dissent from the Washington line and avoid the charge of anti-Americanism. The US may be the most benign superpower in world history, but she has erred sufficiently often that bona fide, principled criticism is possible without falling foul of anti-Americanism. The criticism itself need not be valid, only rational, at which point genuine anti-Americanists are easily identifiable, eschewing, as they do, intellectual rigour the same way 13-year-old boys dodge soap. So whilst the principled critic and anti-American might share an aversion to what they both regard as US interventionist tendencies, only the afflicted will adjoin a condemnation of US reluctance to intervene, from East Timor to Zimbabwe. Similarly, both parties may be moved to denounce Washington’s provocation of innumerable civil wars in South and Central America, but it is the anti-American who does this while insisting the US should have repeated the trick in Iraq 14 months ago. It is this same, transparent, intellectual dishonesty that juxtaposes an implied racist US disposition that permits the killing, torture and maltreatment of Muslims with impunity, and fierce opposition to American efforts to prevent Muslim genocide in Kosovo. It laments US unilateralism and a contemptuous disregard of international law (Gulf II), whilst reserving the right to berate the failure of the US to act on those occasions when to have done so would have put it beyond the same law (Rawanda, Gulf I and Bush Senior’s decision not to effect ‘illegal’ regime change by proxy in 1991).

The examples are legend and legion, and all are characterised by an almost contrived illogic. Irrational doesn’t cover it.


Word, word, and word

From Laban Tall

There's no doubt that our European partners (and a few Brits) did some bad things in the Crusades. From the sack of Jerusalem in 1099 (including the killing of the Jewish population, who sheltered in the synagogue only to be burned alive) to the attack on Byzantium, it could be said in President Clinton's words that "mistakes were made".

But there are one or two outstanding issues the other way. The Med was once a Christian lake. Turkey, Egypt and the whole of North Africa were Christian but were overrun militarily by Islam. These peoples weren't converted as were the Saxons and Danes. It was 'convert or die' for most (though not all) of them. Where now are the Galatian Christians to whom St Paul wrote ? Where are today's African saints ? Anatolia is full of ruined churches. Saint Sophia in Constantinople is now a mosque in Istanbul. And of course the site of Solomon's Temple is now the Dome of the Rock.
"[Abu Ghraib] is deeply shameful and indicts us all in the West". Think about that. Does Saddam's regime, the latest horror decapitation video, or Osama Bin Laden indict all Muslims ? I thought stereotyping was one of the most feral creatures in the anti-racist bestiary.

But when 'Westerners' (a code name for white people - you could hardly call us Christians any more) do bad things - we are all indicted. One or several Muslims do bad things - they are not typical. Indictment is for 'us' and not for 'them'.
Having studied at a English university for three years, I can vouch from personal experience for the accuracy of Laban's assessment of how deeply the "Self-Hating White Liberal" worldview is part of educated English culture, from ignorant patronizing* to what can only be described as a desire to absolve the sins of one's ancestors (while of course ignoring the sins of others' ancestors) through civilizational suicide.

However, I must correct Laban on one small point. The Hagia Sophia is no longer a mosque but is now a museum that acknowledges its Christian heritage as well as that of Islam.

*UPDATE: I have removed the anecdote, "In a discussion on diet and exercise, a girl once congratulated me on the enlightened spiritual and medical wisdom of my people; the girl was very, very hot so I let it slide," because I have been reminded that the girl in question was not English nor even British. However, she was indeed very, very hot.


War, Famine, Pestilence and Not-Being-Able-To-Afford-Vanilla-Beans

Dan Boudreaux has thrown a stone into Lake Blog.

One of the ripples:

In America today, famine doesn't divide the rich and the poor; what does is the ability to buy vanilla beans, dine at Galatoire's, or eat a diet that would make a nutritionist proud.
Income inequality is not invisible. Status symbols surround us (as they probably always have). The lifestyles of the rich and famous are well-documented. Rising living standards don't change this.
Isn't famine a problem orders of magnitude more important than a "vanilla bean" gap between rich and poor?

In developing countries, poverty still means a palpable possibility of starving to death. Lasting improvement in the living standards of developing countries requires economic growth, which entails the possibility of increasing income inequality. The problem is that the First World Left is trying to export to developing countries its elevation of income equality - which is a reasonable goal in developed countries - to the summum bonum of social justice.

This utterly parochial lack of perspective puts the lie to the Left's internationalist cosmopolitan posturing. The only circumstance under which First World Leftists are likely to endure widespread famine themselves is if they ever came to power.


Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Can't win for trying

Elinor Burkett gives a ground-level view of anti-Americanism in Kyrgyzstan.

Even if the United States became everyone's paragon of virtue -- a twisted tango, given the vagueness and endless mutations of virtue's definition -- how much really would change? Would the Russian press or Iranian television share that good news with people who have no means to change the channel?
She also explains something I'd wondered about for some time.
The lush [Fergana Valley] had been split between the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik Soviet Socialist Republics by Stalin, no slouch in the "divide and conquer" department.
via Arts & Letters Daily


Protecting a world that hates and fears them

This exchange...
"America got what it deserved because it always meddles in everyone else's business," exclaimed a senior named Rada, just moments after her classmates offered me their formal sympathies for the attacks on New York and Washington.

"What 'meddling' are you talking about?" I asked.

They all shouted at once: Vietnam, Bosnia, Serbia, Haiti, Somalia, Iraq. Their knowledge of history, well beyond what American teenagers could have mustered, was cold comfort. Could they really see no difference between Vietnam, which I thought of as old-style American imperialism, and Bosnia or Haiti, President Clinton's postmodern brand?

I interrupted the litany: "If Uzbekistan invaded Kyrgyzstan to annex the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley, what would you want the United States to do?" The lush valley had been split between the Kyrgyz, Uzbek, and Tajik Soviet Socialist Republics by Stalin, no slouch in the "divide and conquer" department. But in the post-Soviet era, many Uzbeks lusted after the entire basin.

"You must defend us," they said.

"But we can't," I responded. "That would be meddling."

"Oh, no, it would be different if the Uzbeks invaded. You wouldn't be meddling. You would be defending us."
...reminds me of this passage from the profile of Colin Powell in GQ.
[Powell] dived into a story about "this little stupid island that I had to deal with about a year and a half ago, off the coast of Morocco, which is as big as two soccer fields. Nobody lives on it. And for some reason, the Moroccans went aboard and claimed dominion over the island—not even an island, it's a rock. It's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. It belongs to Spain."

"Why would they want it?" I asked.

Powell winked. "Because it belonged to Spain, and it's 200 yards off the Moroccan coast. And they've been arguing about it for a couple hundred years. Next thing we knew, it was an international crisis. The European Union immediately said, 'Spain is right,' and the Organization of Islamic Conference—the fifty or so Muslim nations in the world—said, 'No, Morocco's right.' So there you have it. Well, what are you going to do? Take it to the U.N.? No. What are we going to do?" He paused for effect. "Call the U.S. secretary of state on a Thursday night.

"And so the brand-new Spanish foreign minister, who is now one of my best girlfriends, Ana, calls me. She calls me and says, 'I have a problem,' and she explains this rock. And she gets finished and I say, 'Why are you calling me?'

"And she says, 'You need to fix my problem.'

" 'Ma'am, what's this got to do with me?'

"Well, over the next forty-eight hours, I did nothing but work this rock problem. I must have made, oh, I think we counted it one day, thirty-eight or forty phone calls to her, the prime minister of Spain, and the king of Morocco. And the only way both sides would agree to the outcome is if I would write a letter to both of them telling them what they agreed to do to each other and if I would sign the letter. Not each of them—I would sign the letter. If I would cosign this deal!

"So I wrote the letter at home," he continued. "I shipped it out to the two of them. They both started arguing about the letter. It was a major problem in that the name of the island on the part of the Moroccans was one name, and the Spanish called it something else. And this wasn't going to work. So what to do, what to do? I say, 'Can't I just call it "the island"?'

" 'No, it's got to be more than that.'

"So I went to the State Department cartographer, and I got the exact coordinates of the island, and we put into the letter 'the island located at da-da-da.' Okay, that'll do it. And then, when the deal was about done, the Spanish agreed to it thirty minutes before darkness. Couldn't find the king of Morocco. He'd gone off in his car to go to another city. I tried to reach him, and they said he doesn't take calls in his car. I said, 'Well, you need to find him in ten minutes, because I'm going to go play with my grandchildren, and the Spanish won't leave the island. So he needs to pull over somewhere.' And he did. They caught him. He pulled over, called me from somebody's house. The king got on the phone. I said, 'We got the deal, but you've got to approve the letter.'

"He said, 'But the letter isn't here. It's back in Rabat.'

"I said, 'I've got to have you approve the letter now, Your Majesty.'

"And he said, 'But I only saw an early draft. What does it say now?'

"I finally said, 'Your Majesty, the letter does what I told you it would do. Trust me.'

"And he said, 'Mr. Secretary, I trust you.' And he got in his car and went off where he was going. I signed two copies of the letter, faxed one to Spain and one to Rabat. The Spanish left, and they've been buddies ever since."

He paused for a second. "Now, that's a silly story," he said, "but it illustrates so much. They come to the United States. It takes diplomacy. It got almost no attention in the press. Why would it? I mean, it's not terribly exciting. But that's what diplomacy is about."
"You have no idea how many issues end up on the desk of the secretary of state of the United States," [National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice] said.

"Little things?" I asked.

"Yeah," she said. "There is no issue that people honestly believe is not an American problem."


Who'd have thought they'd lead you here where we need you

Oliver Kamm has returned to both his blog and my blogroll.


Clearing out the bad air

After long resistance, foreign aid donors now favor the use of artemisinin, an extract of qinghaosu, or sweet wormwood, for the treatment of malaria.

[Artemisinin] cut the death rate by 97 percent in a malaria epidemic in Vietnam in the early 1990's.
As a plant material, artemisinin cannot be patented, said Dr. Allan Schapira, a policy specialist for the Roll Back Malaria campaign of the World Health Organization. Nor can the simple extraction process. Some synthetics, he said, are old and off patent, which public health officials like but pharmaceutical companies do not, because they make a larger profit from drugs on which they have patent monopolies.

No company has registered artemisinin in the United States, said Dr. Nick White, a professor of tropical medicine at Mahidol University in Thailand, because sales would be too small to justify the cost of seeking approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Now, with more purchases, fears of a shortage that would push prices up are developing. The W.H.O. estimates that 100 million doses will be needed by late 2005, and the world now has only about a third of that.
Wouldn't increasing sales increase the incentive for a company to register artemisinin and then use registration to enforce a worldwide patent monopoly?
Even if enough artemisinin can be made, obstacles will arise, experts warned. For example, Dr. Kopano Mukelabai, a malaria specialist at Unicef, said shopkeepers would have to be trained not to sell one or two pills to patients who lacked the money for a full course of 12.
Also, counterfeiting will become a problem. In Kenya in 1997, Mr. Allan said, he found 120 versions of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for sale, "ranging from very good drugs to talcum powder." A recent study of artemisinin drugs in Asia "found that 38 percent were fakes," he said. "We can expect the same thing to happen in Africa."
Which is not to say that people in developing countries who either don't understand how diseases develop resistance or are unscrupulous can't cause problems.
[Richard Allan, director of the Mentor Initiative, a public health group that fights malaria epidemics,] favors giving artemisinin away to remove the counterfeiters' profit motive.
Yeah, good luck with that.


I suppose it would be in bad taste to point out that we told you so

For Andrew Sullivan, Epiphany falls on the second Monday of May this year.

Abu Ghraib...has turned the image of this war into the war that the America-hating left always said it was: a brutal, imperialist, racist occupation, designed to humiliate another culture. Abu Ghraib is Noam Chomsky's narrative turned into images more stunning, more damaging, more powerful than a million polemics from Ted Rall or Susan Sontag. It is Osama's dream propaganda coup. It is Chirac's fantasy of vindication. It is Tony Blair's nightmare.
The one anti-war argument that, in retrospect, I did not take seriously enough was a simple one. It was that this war was noble and defensible but that this administration was simply too incompetent and arrogant to carry it out effectively. I dismissed this as facile Bush-bashing at the time. I was wrong.
Noam Chomsky is wrong. Abu Ghraib is not the real meaning of America. And we now have to show it - in abundance.
But how? Given its track record, the Bush Administration is unlikely to do so. If a Kerry Administration does, does anyone believe that the Republicans, on scenting blood, would not tear it to pieces as a sign of its weakness? Since the beginning of the Clinton Administration, the Republican leadership has been relentlessly, opportunistically and mendaciously on the attack and I do not expect them to now put the good of the country above maintaining and advancing their own power.


Monday, May 10, 2004

Big in Britain

So I checked eXTReMe Tracking (great features, awful name) this morning to find that Britons had gone from about 10% of my readers to over 40%, within 5% of exceeding my American readership. I feel like the Strokes circa early 2001!

And I owe it all to Laban Tall who, with a link and a good word, effectively became the one-man NME of the blogosphere! Thanks Laban!

Speaking of Britain, Harry has responded to a Guardian paean to working-class British cuisine and its grassroots multiculturalism.

One of the saddest conversations I have with foreigners who have visited Britain is about fish and chips. So many times I am told that they tried our national dish but that the experience was disappointing to say the least. 95% of the time the explanation for this is simple - they ate in London or somewhere else in the south.
I may well alienate all of my newfound British readers with the following remarks but if I were going to censor myself, I should have started a long time ago, so here goes, For most of the three years I lived in southern England, the best chips in town could be found in, of all places, a Chinese take-away. There was a "proper" chippie in the center of town but, not only did they never seem to change the oil, but they never bothered to raise it to a sufficient temperature. Result: oil-sodden chips as flaccid as an old man's d*ck. (I've had better fish & chips in New York and even in what appeared to be a transport caff transplanted to a suburban New Jersey railway station. Owned and operated by a British expat family, the place also served a sublime treacle pudding which its menu called "sticky toffee pudding" for the benefit of its American clientele.) Mercifully, a few months before I left, the town saw the opening of another chip shop, this one belonging to (and the remainder of this paragraph is what I expect will most offend British readers) *sigh* a chain that I shall leave unnamed. (Its initials were "HR".) Also, if you're in London, you can do a hell of a lot worse than Sea Shell.
Now you can't avoid the wonders of Doner Pizzas (which I am not a great fan of) or that speciality of Asian Lancashire the Naan Doner. As opposed to the usual dainty pita bread offering with the slices of gunk, slither of salad and dash of chilli sauce, the Naan Doner is as as big as a calzone pizza and is stuffed with every varient of grilled meat, loads of salad and all the sauces.
Can't speak from experience about döner pizzas, but given that pizza, pita and naan all share a very prolific, very ancient ancestor whose offspring can be found everywhere from the Mediterranean to south Asia, it doesn't sound so crazy. (However, tuna & sweetcorn pizza is just wrong.)

I must agree with Harry that the naan kebab is, to put it simply, f*cking genius, especially when filled with tandoori chicken: juicy grilled chicken (as opposed to a cylinder of unnaturally reconstituted mutton that's been sitting there for heaven only knows how long) on a soft, baked-that-day, buttery naan (as opposed to a dry-ass pita from a plastic bag that's been sitting there for heaven only knows how long).

Having been raised in the metropolitan New York area, I must confess a certain chauvinism when it comes to pizza and bagels. And having been raised by men and women who were culinarily exacting, even by Chinese standards, instilled in me a prejudice against bastardized Chinese food. (Jews and Muslims, please note, Pork and chicken? Not interchangeable. Not in Chinese cooking anyway.)
[H]alf-rice half-chips in a curry sauce...Pineapple Fritters, Chips and gravy
None of which is to say that I am against "fusion cuisine" if done right. I often wonder fantasize about what professional Cantonese chefs would do with the Italian larder. Also, the Indian bastardization of Chinese food deserves to be warmly welcomed into the family fold.

UPDATE: My British readership now exceeds my total North American - that includes all seven ten unique Canadian visitors, people - readership.