Thursday, September 30, 2004

Stick to what you know, Tim

I have the highest respect for Timothy Garton Ash's opinions on international relations. He does not, however, know his Batman.

Timothy Garton Ash, "No more Jeeves", The Guardian, 2004 September 30.

[L]ike Alfred, the aged British butler to impetuous Batman, [Downing Street is] impeccably loyal in public but privately whisper sage advice, mixed with a little delicately worded criticism, into Washington's ear.
Batman is among the most deliberate, calculating characters in the DC Universe. He is not impetuous.

Might I suggest Giles and Buffy as a more apt analogy?


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Uh, wouldn't a high-level summit between Jews and Palestinians be just a bit more helpful?

Jews, Presbyterians Meet Over Israeli Policy Divide

A high-level summit between Jewish and Presbyterian leaders on Tuesday covered little new ground in an ongoing dispute over Middle East policy[.]


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria!

Wow. My little series on family-friendly employment policies attracted more hits in a single day (88) than the previous record-holder, a post that featured Marisa Miller's boobies (49).


Monday, September 27, 2004

Having it all addendum

Joanna Moorhead, "'For decades we've been told Sweden is a great place to be a working parent. But we've been duped'", The Guardian, 2004 September 22.
(hat tip: Stambord)

["T]he glass ceiling problem is larger in family-friendly Sweden than it is in the hire-and-fire-at-will US, and it has also grown as family-friendly policies have expanded. In Sweden 1.5% of senior management are women, compared with 11% in the US[," says Dr Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics who specialises in women's employment and women's issues.]
The corollary is, of course, that believers in the heritability of intelligence who want to see educated women have more children should champion generous Scandinavian-style child subsidies to tempt women away from the boardroom.

As should conservatives who want to see women at home rather than in the office.

And feminists of a revolutionary bent should take note of how successfully laissez-faire economic policies erode traditional gender roles.


Having it all

For a woman to "have it all" (i.e. an ambitious career, a loving marriage, well-adjusted children), it helps if her husband gives up his own chance to do so.

Betsy Morris, "Trophy husbands", Fortune, 2002 October 14.

Behind a great woman at work, there is often a great man at home....The men we're talking about carpool the kids, coach the soccer team, pay the bills, pick up the dry cleaning, and fix dinner.
Nobody has measured how widespread this phenomenon is among well-educated, high-salaried couples....[S]ays Doreen Toben, CFO at Verizon, "almost all the senior women [here] have husbands at home." So do many women at Sun Microsystems. Of the 187 participants at FORTUNE's Most Powerful Women in Business Summit last spring, 30% had househusbands. And of the 50 women on this year's list, more than one-third have a husband at home either full- or part-time....Anne Stevens says she knows of at least 20 women in her division at Ford whose husbands are home.
So maybe it's not only[?] a glass ceiling that has kept so few women from reaching the upper tier of corporate America; only 6% of the FORTUNE 500's very top jobs--senior vice president and above--are held by women, according to Catalyst. Maybe it's that not enough of them have the luxury most of their male counterparts have had forever [Perhaps "until recently" would be more accurate]: a spouse at home. A year ago, when Catalyst asked 3,000 women in their mid-20s to mid-30s to name the biggest barriers to women's advancement, 68% cited personal and family responsibilities. That compares with 50% who blamed lack of mentoring, 46% who said lack of experience, and just 45% who cited stereotyping of women's roles and abilities. "A precondition to having more women in positions of power is to have more sharing in [Read: transfer] the burdens of parenthood," says Dublon. "It is crucial."
Because the onus usually falls on the female half of a marriage, feminists have tried to deny the obvious benefit of having a parent devoted full-time to child-rearing and other duties associated with homemaking.
The dividends for these working wives--peace of mind, no distractions, the ability to focus single-mindedly on work--are precisely the ones their male counterparts have always had....That theme echoes all through the corps of executive women..."I'm more balanced and productive because I know [my daughters] are with [my husband]," [Lauri Shanahan, general counsel at Gap,] says. "It makes a huge difference"...."I don't know how people with two full-time, unforgiving careers manage the small stuff," says [Sarah Fitts, a lawyer with the firm Debevoise & Plimpton].

For better or worse, it is possible for these executives to be on call 24/7--which is still what it takes to get to the top at most companies...."Would I have reached the same position if I had gone home [from meetings that were supposed to end at 7 p.m. but lasted until ten]? That's a question I can't answer," says Dina [Dublon, CFO of J.P. Morgan Chase]. "But one of the criteria was your willingness to stay and do whatever needed to get done, irrespective of anything else in your life."
The higher you go in corporate America, the harder it is to keep two high-octane careers on track, especially when you have children.
The person who subordinates her family life to her work life will always professionally outcompete someone who won't. That's just the way things are and no amount of legislation can ever change that.
[A]mong the most powerful women--and many other high-level women--[househusbands are] a red-hot topic. They gossip about it. They marvel at it. They compare notes. They know which colleagues have husbands at home and which do not. They know which are married to doctors: Shelly Lazarus and Meg Whitman. (Doctors travel infrequently and can often set their own hours.) They are envious of women whose husbands have retired....Carly Fiorina, chairman and CEO of Hewlett-Packard [says of her husband] "Frank has been a huge source of support. He had a very successful career and has lots of interests outside of me and my career. He has been a rock for me; I am tremendously lucky. To describe him as a stay-at-home husband is not fair to him." Frank Fiorina took early retirement in 1998 as a vice president of AT&T's corporate business unit.
When [the family of Pat and Steve Sueltz, both VPs at IBM] moved to California [so Pat could take a job offer at Sun Microsystems], Steve had no trouble finding a finance job at Siebel Systems. "New company. New job. Everything's booming," he says. But Pat was never home during the week, and Steve was rarely home on weekends. "We were losing Kathleen [now in seventh grade]," says Pat. "She was miserable." The Sueltzes spent several months debating what to do. Could one or the other get home earlier? Should one or the other switch jobs? Should Steve become a consultant to give him more flexibility? Ultimately, Steve made the decision to stay home--despite his pedigrees (Phi Beta Kappa at Occidental, Stanford MBA), despite his career success.
I don't know whether the author is oblivious or playing dumb, but the examples she cites establish a consistent pattern: alpha females marry - surprise, surprise - alpha males.

Feminism here has degenerated into an insistence that not only do women have a right to cake, but also an inalienable right to eat it. Feminists are contorting themselves to avoid acknowledging that a situation they lament (the dearth of women with corner offices) is best addressed by correcting the sexist attitudes of women.

The retired alpha males of this article are the exception, not the rule, and the typical career woman is not looking for a nice boy who'll stay home with the kids.

If a feminist sincerely wants to see more women in the echelons of power, then should she find herself giving Wellesley's commencement speech, she should enjoin her audience to, in the words of Jon Lovitz, "lower your standards".*

* Mr. Lovitz has apparently convinced former model and current plastic surgery abuser Janice Dickinson, who has described him as "one hot stud muffin". I offer my most profuse apologies for the mental image.


They may not mean to, but they do

Parents exist for the care of their children, rather than children existing for the "self-fulfillment" of their parents, a concept that has difficulty penetrating the narcissistic, self-absorbed "therapeutic" ethos of the boomer generation.

- me, here

Tim Guest, "Bringing Up Me", The New York Times, 2004 September 26.

When I was 4, my mother became a disciple of the notorious Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. She took a Sanskrit name, dyed her clothes orange and began to do loud meditations in our living room. Soon she left me with my father -- they already lived apart -- and flew off to the guru's ashram in India. She replied to my shaky letters with variations on the same answer: ''I'll be home soon.'' When she claimed me back from my dad, she dyed my clothes orange too. For the next seven years, I bounced around the world behind her, living in Bhagwan's communes in India, England, Germany and Oregon. Bhagwan invented radically new ''dynamic'' meditations and therapies; he took nitrous oxide and spoke from a dentist's chair; he encouraged his disciples to surrender totally to him and to live their lives to the extreme. For my mother, on a rocket-ship rebellion from her strict Catholic girlhood, Bhagwan offered everything she had long hoped for: the path to enlightenment but with free love, drugs and rock 'n' roll thrown in.

For the children -- at least, for me -- Bhagwan's communes were a different proposition. As each adult struggled to prove himself or herself the most egoless, we competed to show who had the best break-dance moves. As they abandoned the consumerist dream, we fought over Legos and ''E.T.'' toys. Intent on building spiritual togetherness as a model for the world, my mother and her friends ignored some of the more practical needs of the children under their feet -- forgetting, for example, to take us to the dentist or to clip our fingernails.
When I was born, my mother swore she would never let her child suffer the way she had: she felt that her Catholic childhood had crushed her. She gave me what she had longed for.


Or, as we like to call it, every couple of months

The next installment of the Terminator series will hit cinema screens in 2005....Sources say it is about what happens when the world's computer systems are infected by viruses.


Saturday, September 25, 2004

Quote of the day

Richard Dawkins, "Race and creation", Prospect, 2004 October.

If I tell you that Evelyn is male, you immediately know a whole lot of things about him. Your prior uncertainty about the shape of his genitals is reduced.
I should hope so.



Mary Wakefield reviews The Naked Woman: a Study of the Female Body by Desmond Morris

The Naked Woman doesn't contain enough ideas to stand alone as a science book, nor are the photographs quite good enough for coffee tables.
There are photographs?


Now Yezidi, now you don't?*

Tha Beeb has posted an eight-image photo journal about the Yezidis (i.e. Kurds who resisted conversion to the religion of their Muslim conquerors).

BBC News
Yezidis are an ancient, pre-Islamic sect of uncertain origin.

Researches [sic] believe that the Yazidi creed has elements from Zoroastrianism, Manicheism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Justin Huggler, "Hell's Angels", The Independent, 2003 November 29.
The Yezidi believe that after man's creation, God ordered the angels to pray for Adam, but that one angel refused - there is a similar belief in Islam.
Their problems have been compounded by the widely accepted belief that Yezidism was a sect that split from Islam - which makes them apostates in the eyes of many Muslims. The Yezidi deny that their religion is an offshoot of Islam - they say it is centuries old and predates Christianity.
In all likelihood, the story of the angel's refusal was transmitted from Yezidism to Islam or, at least, from a common antecedent, than the other way round. I'd want to drag my copy of The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels out of storage before I go into greater detail.

Yezidism, like Coptic Christianity, is one of the only religious relicts in the Middle East to have survived the rise of Islam. However, looking at its apparently Gnostic aspects, I personally doubt that Yezidism, in its present form, predates Christianity. The Yezidi syncretism also seems to borrow heavily from the pre-Christian Zoroastrianism (one of the Yazidis in the Independent article is named Nawroz Ali) as well as the post-Christian Manichaeism (itself a syncretism in which Zoroastrianism and Christianity, alongside Buddhism, predominated). Perhaps, before the rise of Islam, the region was characterized by a diverse spectrum of every shade of synthesis between Christianity and Zoroastrianism (and, as one moves further east, Buddhism as well, as evidenced by inscriptions referring to "Buddha-Mazda") despite the Sassanids' intolerance of Zoroastrian heresies.
BBC News
Yezidis remain fiercely proud of their traditions and have resisted attempts to "convert" them.

This has led to devil-worshipping allegations and, in some cases, oppression by their Muslim neighbours.

Justin Huggler, "Hell's Angels", The Independent, 2003 November 29.
Muslim extremists turned the Yezidi elopement tradition against them and started kidnapping Yezidi women from the fields by force, then making them convert to Islam.
[Majdal al-Hakkari, who runs the local Yezidi cultural centre in Sinjar] and his friends say that, rejected by everyone else, they have come to think of themselves as ethnic Yezidis. One of them proudly reads out a list of demands, for recognition for the Yezidi in Iraq's new government, for UN protection. But the sad truth is that no one is listening.

The Yezidi are almost the only minority in Iraq not to have a seat on the new US-appointed Governing Council. Despite Yezidi representations to the Americans, the powerful Kurdish factions simply announced that the Yezidis were Kurds and should be represented by them - an easy way to boost Kurdish numbers, and therefore, influence.

Without a stake in power, the Yezidi remain at risk as conflicting parties struggle for control of this part of Iraq. Worse, they are in serious danger from the Wahabi Muslim extremist factions that have been growing in power since the fall of the Saddam regime.
In other words, those from whom the nigh-extinct Yezidis are in greatest danger of genocide, are the same people whom John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Naomi Klein and others have praised as the "resistance".

Thanks, ass.

Fortunately the following picture means that I don't have to end on a bitter note.

Could these two be any cuter?

Could these two be any cuter? They might even give Belle's belles a run for their money in the adorability stakes.

* Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week. Try the veal, it's fantastic!


Modern life

Man. Our diet is so crappy.

I will be the first to admit that, serendipitously lazy yet nutritious dishes* aside, mine is too.

There was a debate a few months back that, in a nutshell, pitted absolute standards of living against relative standards of living.

The libertarian gourmand Waddling Thunder contributed, "It's indisputably cheaper to go the grocery store and buy entirely healthy grains and greens than it is to eat some half-garbage from a fast food restaurant. It's at least as fast as well, and I refuse to believe most people haven't got a few hours they now spend in front of a TV to cook food and freeze it for their families. The fact is that they don't want to, and prefer to spend that time doing other things. That's fine, but they don't get to them complain that the supposed rich are eating healthily while they're not."

I agree with him up to a point but share the same reservation as the commenter who replied, "You are right...that it can all be done healthily on a budget, but it's not as easy everywhere as you make it out to be. I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm just saying..."

The fundamental issue here is one of opportunity cost: how we choose to spend the limited resource of our own labor. I enjoy taking a Saturday out to do a week's shopping and cooking when I have the time to spare. But during term with a part-time job on top of studies, I derive more utility from the completion of my coursework than from a home-cooked meal. For many, if not most, of us, time and money are at a premium, meaning that when a trade-off is forced between time, money and nutrition, nutrition is usually the first to give way.

Opportunity cost is also the force that drives one of the few faultlines between free-market libertarians and "family values" conservatives.

Joanna Moorhead, "'For decades we've been told Sweden is a great place to be a working parent. But we've been duped'", The Guardian, 2004 September 22.
(hat tip: Stambord)

The unpalatable fact, she says, is that there are only so many hours in the day and only so many days in the week and whatever else we expect of the UK and EU the one thing their legislation cannot give us is the one thing that working mothers so desperately crave: more time.
"The fact is that children are a 20-year project and a career is a 20- to 40-year project and there is an incompatibility there." Over the past eight years, Hakim has written six books and she says, "There's no way I could have done that if I had had children."
emphases mine
The more skilled a woman is, the greater the opportunity cost she and her household pay when she spends time to raise children rather than work. When both parents work, the diversification of revenue sources means that the household is somewhat less vulnerable to economic shocks. Of course, the flip side of that is that the more financial independence wives have, the less willing they are to stay in troubled marriages, increasing the rate of divorce.

Skilled unmarried women will both delay bearing children and reduce the number of children they do bear to minimize income lost. This is a pattern we see not only in in the "North" but even in societies as recently industrialized as Singapore.
Ellen Nakashima, "With Birthrate Falling, Singapore Targets 'Lifestyle Impotency'", The Washington Post, 2004 September 11.

"One of the most radical things you can do in Singapore is be contented with your life," [said National University of Singapore professor Chua Beng Huat]. "That means you won't compete like hell for the next dollar. The ability of the government to maintain its competitive edge economically will collapse." So, he said, people have been conditioned to excel.
[Married couple Sarah Wee and James Ng] eat out every weeknight because they can afford to and because Wee is often at her desk until 9 or 10 p.m., make dining at home difficult.
"We are so used to a double income," Ng said. "When she becomes a full-time mother, we will become a single-income family. I don't know whether we're prepared for that."

According to [Victor Goh, an obstetrician who in 2002 conducted a study on sexual habits], if the government wants to boost birthrates, it must get people to have children earlier. A woman's fertility peaks in her late teens and early twenties, he said. "It's already a bit late," conceded Wee, who turns 29 in October. But rather than rush into having a child, she said, "we want everything to be perfect."

Ng and Wee, a teasingly playful couple who met through their church, voiced another concern that makes them think twice about having children: the stress placed on children in Singapore's exam-focused schools, what Ng called a "rat race." He bemoaned the way parents compete to see whose child has more spelling worksheets in nursery school and how parents take part in lotteries to get their children into the best grade schools.
Gene Expression readers ought to note that, under this state of affairs, it is the educated classes who are responding most strongly to the procreative disincentive of high income careers. The birthrates of those without the education or aptitude to pursue such careers have not fallen as precipitously. (At this point, I ought to acknowledge the racial dimension to the Singaporean government's concern.)

Those who believe in both laissez-faire and the heritability of intelligence - and I know that among Gene Expression readers you are legion - ought to at least acknowledge the conflict between the two.

* For another serendipitously lazy yet nutritious dish, click here (hat tip: Belle Waring). In addition to being tasty and nutritious, this recipe is also filling, a virtue not to be underrated.

Even if we tilt the playing field in favor of fast-track working mothers, i.e. ignore the the disadvantage of reduced experience (as compared to workers who have never taken time off for pregnancy and nursing), there are still only 24 hours in a day, about a quarter of which can already be written off to sleep. Growing up is not something can be on hold when something pops up at work.

Parents exist for the care of their children, rather than children existing for the "self-fulfillment" of their parents, a concept that has difficulty penetrating the narcissistic, self-absorbed "therapeutic" ethos of the boomer generation.



Oh you heretic! Ricotta? Bechamel IS an integral part of lasagna....damn americans...;)

Re: The following article

I'd bet good money that what happened to Greek moussaka happened to Italian lasagna. Hegemony, colonization, blahblahblah...

Judith Weinraub, "Back to the Classics", The Washington Post, 2004 August 11.

[In] 1896, when Athens hosted the first modern-day Olympic Games...the food on the very best Athenian tables was French -- chicken in a red wine sauce or a white sauce thick with Gruyere cheese, and boned poached fish with mayonnaise. More traditional regional dishes such as eggplant caviar or the caper, potato and garlic dip known as skordalia or braised wild greens were shunted aside as lower-class.

"The fashionable food of the time was completely French," says Aglaia Kremezi, a Greek culinary historian and cookbook author. "The chefs were French-trained. The menus were written in French, with all French specialties."

Kremezi, whose new book, "The Foods of the Greek Islands" (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), celebrates regional foods, thinks that's a shame. "At the end of the 19th century, they wouldn't have been interested in these [regional] dishes," she says. "They weren't considered fashionable. Even up until the 1970s, no one would imagine cooking these foods at dinner parties or serving them in restaurants. They were considered foods of the poor."
[After the emergence of Greece as a sovereign state in 1832] wealthy Greek families returned from self-imposed exiles in cosmopolitan cities all over Europe [bringing] the latest food trends with them. "They knew what the rest of the world was doing," says Kremezi. "They knew that French was the 'in' cuisine. This is what they tried to imitate and cook for guests in their homes.["]

Enter Nicholas Tselementes, a Greek chef who trained in Europe and who wrote what is considered the first comprehensive cookbook in modern Greek. Published in 1910, it became an important resource for fashionable Greek women and sold more than 100,000 copies in 10 editions by the time Tselementes died in 1958.

Although he pointed with pride to the ancient origins of the Greek culinary arts, Tselementes had a cooking style that was unabashedly European, and his influence was pervasive. In his kitchen, traditional regional dishes languished: No garlic for Tselementes -- or as little as possible. No affection for the spicy dishes of the Turks and Slavs either. And no particular pride in highlighting the bounty of the countryside or the sea.

"He really changed Greek cooking -- he destroyed it," says Kremezi, who has been studying his work and its impact for a decade. Instead of olive oil, Tselementes preferred butter. Instead of presenting foods naturally, he preferred them covered with precisely made French sauces, like bechamel.

In fact, his affection for the classic white sauce made with flour, milk and butter transformed two of the most internationally famous Greek dishes, moussaka (usually made with eggplant and ground meat) and pastitsio (pasta and ground meat). Before Tselementes, the casseroles came to the table without their familiar creamy topping. Ever since, they are rarely served in their original naked state.

The many reprints of his popular 500-page cookbook, "Odigos Mageirikis" ("Cooking Instructions") -- even after his death -- extended his reach to several generations. (It is no longer in print.)

"His book made the trend official," says Kremezi, "so people who were preparing the traditional foods were made to feel inferior."

emphasis mine


Friday, September 24, 2004

Ciao bell'[?]

Italian is, judged purely by aesthetic pleasure from both listening and speaking, my favorite language and my second favorite cuisine (after Malaysian/Singaporean, which I suppose is sort of cheating because it encompasses southeast Chinese and south Indian along with Malay).

Americans' early impressions of Italian cooking, like their impressions of Chinese cooking, were by the specific local origins of immigrants as well as how those immigrants adapted to the pantries and palates of their new hosts. (I, for one, prefer my lasagna with ricotta rather than bechamel. [Ducks bombardment of rotten tomatoes])

If anyone familiar with regional Italian cooking knows if dishes associated with Italian-Americans (e.g. sausage & peppers, cheese steaks, etc.) have original analogues back in the Old Country, well, that's what comments are for.

Stacy Albin, "You Say Prosciutto, I Say Pro-SHOOT, and Purists Cringe", The New York Times, 2004 September 20.

Ann Gustafson can discuss food - especially Italian food. She spent many days in the Bronx with her Sicilian grandmother, Sebastiana Ceraolo, learning how to cook with mozzarella. Only Mrs. Gustafson did not call it "mozzarella.'' She said "mozzarell.''


Not to many New Yorkers or New Jerseyans. (Doesn't Tony Soprano drop his final vowels?) Not to some vendors at the annual Feast of San Gennaro in Little Italy this week. But it makes Italian teachers, the purists who love the language just as Dante wrote it, wince.

They suffer prosciutto (pro-SHOOT-toe) becoming pro-SHOOT, calzone (cal-TSO-nay) becoming cal-ZONE and pasta e fagioli (PAH-stah eh faj-YOH-lee) becoming pasta fasul (fa-ZOOL).
Liliana Dussi, a retired New York district director for the Berlitz language schools, said many first- and second-generation Italians whose ancestors immigrated to the United States before World War I were informally taught Italian expressions and the names of food, some of which has ended up part of everyday language in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.


Oh you heretic! Ricotta? Bechamel IS an integral part of lasagna....damn americans...;)

I have always found the taste of bechamel too salty and its texture too unctuous for my liking it sounds like I'm discussing something other than bechamel.

Long story short: not a fan of bechamel. Not in lasagna, not in its Greek analogue moussaka, though I could live off the thankfully bechamel-free Lebanese moussaka.

Americans don't eat much seafood period.

Not only is Italy smaller than the US, but it's a peninsula! Whatever happened to examining the impact of biogeography a la Jared Diamond?

There's a reason why lobsters, clam chowder and crab cakes are associated by name with Maine, New England and Maryland instead of Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.

I wouldn't even begin to know how to prepare a fish dish.

Recettes pour le Paresseux: Salade Nicoise Manquee au Jeet

Cans (or, better yet, pouches) of tuna
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
Lemon juice
Black pepper
Capers (optional)

1. Mix lemon juice into tuna.
2. Serve over bed of spinach, add pepper and capers. A lemon-based vinaigrette wouldn't hurt.

Spinach can be replaced with nutritionally inferior lettuce.

Ratios of tuna to greens should be adjusted for taste and, more importantly, appetite.

Ready-made antipasti (e.g. roasted peppers, mozzarella balls, artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes) add variety without adding labor.

Ripe tomatoes and red onion require little in the way of labor.

If you want to take it to the next level, you may as well make a real salade nicoise or grill a piece of fish.


Monday, September 20, 2004

What a country!

A twentysomething Iranian's response to Fahrenheit 9/11 (hat tip: Johan Norberg)

It sure is a great country, where someone like Moore trashes the president and gets away with it -- and makes so much money!
In addition to being funny, the young man's response raises a good point.

For most of human history, heck, in most countries today, instead of being a rich man, Michael Moore would likely have ended up his cellmate's girlfriend if he was lucky. If the United States were the police state it's so often accused of being, surely Moore would have felt the full wrath of the state apparatus by now. It's not like he's a fugitive who's gone underground or something.

In the West, freedom of speech is a guaranteed right and, as such, Westerners take it for granted. Unlike that Iranian moviegoer, Westerners don't find it absurd that strident denunciation of the state can lead to fame and fortune.

Mr. Moore's words say one thing, but his presently unincarcerated state says another. Nor do his supporters feel the need to conceal their admiration. Ironically, all this reassures me about the United States more than anything else.
"In every Arab country we need one Michael Moore or more[," said Sulaiman al-Hattlan, a U.S.-educated Saudi columnist for the Al-Watan newspaper].
And once it has a Michael Moore of its own to dissect the sins of its present (and a Noam Chomsky to exhume those of its recent past and a Howard Zinn to excavate those of its distant past), I'll feel reassured about the Islamic world.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Johnny comes lately

"The war for Islam's heart", The Economist, 2004 September 16.

Three years ago, it was only Americans who asked Why Do They Hate Us? The same question is now being asked by Indonesians, Spaniards, Turks, Australians, Nepalese, French, Italians, Russians and others whose citizens have fallen victim to jihadist “vengeance”.
The back of the line is over there, behind non-Muslim Indonesians, Sudanese, Nigerians, Thais, Indians, Filipinos and others, who have all been putting up with this since long before September 11th.

Of course, they long ago figured out the answer to the question which you're only starting to ask, so you have an opportunity here to save yourselves a lot of time and trouble.

"They" don't hate you because you're free. And it's not like the peoples I mentioned about have a long history of staunch support for Israel.

So Why Do They Hate You?

Because You're Not Muslim.

And when the targets of Islamic violence respond in kind, does the Muslim media call for understanding or place it into "context" (i.e. excuse it)?*
Egypt's leading newspaper, the government-owned daily Al Ahram, provided a clue recently. On September 1st, it relegated to inside pages the brutal massacre of 12 Nepalese kitchen workers by Iraqi guerrillas, who claimed to be “executing God's judgment” against “Buddhist invaders”. A day later, Al Ahram put on its front-page news that rioters in Katmandu, the Nepalese capital, had attacked a mosque—but did not explain what they were angry about. A slip, perhaps, but the omission reflected a pattern, repeated across the Muslim world, of harping on Muslim injury.
With growing stridency, Muslim liberals are saying that it is high time for Muslims to act, to stop their faith from being hijacked and turned into a cult-like vehicle for a clash of civilisations. Their sense is that the violence of a radical minority is not merely ruining sympathy for just Muslim causes in such contested places as Chechnya and Palestine, it is beginning to threaten Muslims' peaceful coexistence with others everywhere.
You think?

Western Leftists used to make a point of standing in solidarity with Third World peoples of color victimized by territorial aggression, but on September 11th, non-Muslim victims of Islamic expansionism outlived their usefulness to the Western Left. If it had been Third World kafirun who had flown those planes citing the US government's closeness to the bigotry-exporting regime in Saudi Arabia, it would be Muslims' plights that the Western Left would be doing its best to ignore rather than theirs. Palestinians wouldn't be able to get arrested (figuratively, I mean).

* During the recent wave of violence in Thailand, the Thai government struck the hardest blow, not the first.


Saturday, September 18, 2004


Norman Geras links to a list of bumper stickers. Some of them were clever, but I didn't think any of them were particularly funny.

Now these are funny.

My favorite? Lefthand column, third one down.


Swept under the (Persian) rug

I see only two [centers of civilization] - the West and the East. Sorry about India, I don't mean to be offensive, but I don't see any Indian contributions to world culture that are remotely comparable to those of China or those of the West (Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and all of Europe).
[T]wo thousand years ago there was Rome in the West and China in the East. These two cultures supplied virtually all cultural contributions.

Two thousand years ago, there was Rome in the West, China in the East and, between the two, a region that extended from the Euphrates to the Ferghana Valley where the pre-eminent culture was that of Persia (as quite distinct from those of Rome and China). Mesopotamia, which you classify as part of the West, was firmly under Persian dominion for the almost 12 centuries since Cyrus vanquished Babylon until the Islamic invasion.

The influence of the Persians' Indo-Iranian antecedents was likewise widespread. The Indo-Iranian legacy includes the Vedas of Hinduism, the Avesta of Zoroastrianism and, consequently, Zoroastrianism's formative influence on Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The influence of the Indo-Iranians was felt as far west as modern-day Turkey and Syria, in the kingdom of Mitanni. The gods known to the Mitannians as Indara, Mitrasil, Nasatianna and Uruvanassil were called Indra, Mitra, Nasatya and Varuna in the Rig Veda.

Indian civilization itself had a deep and pervasive influence on Southeast Asia, leaving behind a significant cultural stratum that is still plainly visible, even among the peoples who later converted to Islam. For over a thousand years, Indianized Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms ruled the lands between the great Hindu-Buddhist monuments at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the great Hindu-Buddhist monuments at Borobudur-Prambanan in Java, Indonesia.



Jeet seems to object to my arrogating Mesopotamia to the West. He thinks it belongs to what I will call the Middle.

Not quite. This analogy is inexact, to be sure, but I would compare Mesopotamia to Alsace-Lorraine. Rather than belonging exclusively to the West or the Middle, it has demonstrable links to both.

Nor did I make clear that I draw a distinction between Indian culture and those found elsewhere in the Middle on the basis of its pronounced indigenous component. In the Middle, Buddhism is the major meme to have moved from south to north.

Let me hasten to assure everyone that I have a claim on impartiality because I am of Irish descent.

This reminds me of one of the most unintentionally funny exchanges in film history.

"She called me a Paki, but I guess you wouldn't understand what that feels like, would you?"

"Jess, I'm Irish."

Yes, I know the Irish have had a rough time of it over the centuries. It's still hilarious.

I suppose I should make clear that I am not Indian but, in fact, Chinese. Also note that I accept the Aryan invasion theory [or, at least, that Aryans are not indigenous to the subcontinent], which Hindutvadis vehemently object to. I will, however, admit to agreeing with V.S. Naipaul that "Dangerous or not, [Hindu nationalism] is a necessary corrective to history" but only as a counterweight with Third World credibility to fraudulent claims that "Islam spread peacefully" that go unchallenged in the "multiculturalist" circles of academia.

Luke Lea:
[N]o one has mentioned the Bhagavad Gita....The situation, for those who don't know, is a civil war in which the hero has to decide between fighting on the side of his own kith and kin vs. for what he really believes in. He anquishingly wants to know why he has been put in such a situation. Powerful stuff.

I lurrve pointing out to besotted Hinduism-fetishist hippies that Krishna is pretty much telling Arjuna, "Yes, war is bad for children and other living things. It's good that you feel horrible about it. Now get over yourself and let the arrows fly." and watching their facial expressions as their brains "spoink" from the cognitive dissonance.

I love it!

To forgo this fight for righteousness is to forgo thy duty and honour: is to fall into transgression....
Prepare for war with peace in thy soul.


Friday, September 17, 2004

The trifecta

Sabine Reul, "Germany's self-hating conservatives", spiked, 2004 September 16.

Anti-modernism is gaining ground among the German right.
Run, Jews! RUN!

And while we're on the subject,, ulshner...uh, Happy New Year, Jews!


"That is so funny! I collect comic books too!"

Jolene Blalock on the writing of Enterprise: "There's the characteristic where Vulcans don't eat food with their hands, and yet they'll write scenes where T'Pol is eating popcorn at a movie or Trip will bring T'Pol a peach."

From Jolene Blalock's Data Sheet
Turn-Offs: Shallowness, lying, Greedo shooting first

How to get me in the mood: My boyfriend's parents' basement, ice-cold Mountain Dew, Cheetos, and the sound of rolling twelve-sided die. RROWR!


Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shifts in sources of immigration and their consequences

Joshua M. Bernstein, "Dumpling grounds", Time Out New York, 2004 September 16-23.

Until ten years ago, says Dumpling Man owner Lucas Lin, the city's Chinese immigrants hailed from southern provinces, where thick-skinned dumplings are popular. Then travel restrictions eased and northern Chinese immigrants streamed into NYC. They brought with them the secret to the vellum-thin, steam-fried version...tangmian [a yeast free method of mixing dough with boiling water] is painstaking, but the payoff is softer dumpling skins and a sweeter flavor.
The above passage is from an article about the proliferation of dumpling houses in New York, among which Chinese joints are well represented. The article is quite correct: until recently, Chinese migrants to the English-speaking world were predominantly southern, usually Cantonese and, in the earliest stages of immigration to New York City, often from Taishan and its environs. Early Western perceptions of Chinese food were shaped by the specific local origins of Chinese immigrants and, unfortunately, by the paucity of professional cooks among their ranks.

So, what I really want to know is, when is Manhattan going to get cheap and plentiful South Indian food? Yes, I about the dosa cart on Washington Square South but let's face facts; Thiru is the exception rather than the rule. Pongal? Good but expensive. Jackson Diner? I said Manhattan, didn't I?


Now she's a whore in both senses of the word!

Ambitious pop princess Christina Aguilera has applied to add her name to a staggering 450 new products. If the applications are accepted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, fans of the Dirrty singer will soon be able to buy Christina crayons, badminton sets, hi-fis, deodorant and modelling clay. A source says, "There is so much money in merchandising it would be a waste if Christina didn't launch products.
"She has a shrewd business brain and has come up with a lot of these ideas herself."
Because nothing says badminton like buttless chaps and a leather thong clad coochie.


Monday, September 06, 2004

"Don't worry folks, we'll get to all your old favorites. But first we'd like to dip into our new cd..." "No! No new crap!"

Elisabeth Bumiller, "Fuzzy and Out of Focus? This Time, It's Intentional", The New York Times, 2004 September 6.

Mr. Bush is now introduced at rallies across the country with a new video so full of MTV-inspired jump cuts, freeze frames and herky-jerky camera work that it makes it clear again - this is not his father's campaign.

Set to the tune of "Taking Care of Business," a 70's rock song used in the 2000 presidential race, the video shows Mr. Bush grabbing voters' hands, jumping on and off a campaign bus in Ohio and stopping at a candy shop in Wisconsin.
Hey, Republicans! You might want to borrow a page from the playbook of the Democrats who, at their 2000 convention, played a mix of "Mambo No. 5" sans the lyric "A little bit of Monica in my life" and edit out the words "working overtime".


My kind of town, Toronto is...

Laura M. Holson, "The Long View on 'Deep Throat'", The New York Times, 2004 September 5.

It was 1976 and [Brian] Grazer, who was then a struggling producer trying to make it [heh heh] in Hollywood, had been invited to the home of a wealthy real estate lawyer for a screening of the X-rated film about a woman seeking physical gratification through oral sex.
[W]hen the lights went down [heh heh], Mr. Grazer said, an energy gripped the partygoers, making not only the women there more appealing to him, but him to them. "I literally became infinitely more attractive after that movie." Some couples repaired to private bedrooms, he said. Mr. Grazer, now 53 and an Academy Award-winning producer of family fare like "Apollo 13" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," said he went home with a brown-eyed Brazilian woman.
"I was in Toronto recently, and Toronto is like being in middle America," Mr. Grazer recalled. "And you've got very hot, young, 18-to 20-year-old girls with tongue studs and they are simply, publicly advertising that they are interested in and capable of giving you really good oral sex if you're interested...."
Hello, I'm Brian Grazer and I'm a big, big perv.

Note to self: consider Toronto for next vacation.


Sunday, September 05, 2004

Reversion to Zoroastrianism? [fingers crossed]

Dogs and cats living together! A mainstream Western paper has published an article that acknowledges the Islamic record of ethnic cleansing! (hat tip:

Jehangir Pocha, "Shrinking population threatens an ancient faith", The Boston Globe, 2004 September 5.
Zoroastrianism flourished in Persia, now Iran, for more than two millennia, greatly influencing Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But it was decimated by the Arab invasion of Persia in 651.
Iran's Islamic leaders ''have tried for centuries to sweep away all trace of Zoroastrianism," said Sohrab Yazdi, a community leader in Yazd, where most of Iran's estimated 30,000 Zoroastrians live.

Pointing to the bright dome of the Jame mosque in the city's center, Yazdi said it was built over a destroyed ''fire" temple[Hagia Sophia or Masjid al-Babri, anyone?], as Zoroastrian places of worship are called because of the sacred fire that burns perpetually within.

But from outside the shattered splendor of Persepolis, the ancient capital of Persia, Bahram Agaheri, a Muslim teacher, talked in elegiac rhythms about the desire of many Iranians to rediscover the faith of their forefathers.

''People are tired of the mullahs," Agaheri said, referring to the country's religious leaders. ''If we were allowed to convert, millions would convert to Zoroastrianism. I challenge the government to allow conversion out of Islam for even one day."

But he is unlikely to see that day. Islam bans its adherents from converting, and a Muslim who renounces his faith can face a death sentence.

Caught between a religion that will not allow them out and one that will not let them in, many Iranians are thought to practice Zoroastrianism in secret.

There is also evidence that people in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and some Kurdish regions are rediscovering their Zoroastrian and Persian roots.

A secularized version of Nowruz, the traditional Zoroastrian New Year, is increasingly being celebrated across the region.

These tremors of change excite many Zoroastrians, who despite their demographers' troubling estimates, think their religion is poised to witness a renaissance. But such change also makes many uncomfortable.

Mistri and Yazdi agreed that Zoroastrians do not have the wherewithal to deal with any political backlash from Iran's radical Islamists or India's Hindu nationalists, who also oppose religious conversions.

''You must understand our apprehension," Yazdi said. ''We are like a small, colorful fish in a big pond. One wrong move and we will be eaten."
And from the liberal[1] Boston Globe no less!
Tarikh-i Bukhara, c. 944.
The residents of Bukhara became Muslims. But they renounced [Islam] each time the Arabs turned back. Qutayba b. Muslim made them Muslim three times, [but] they renounced [Islam ] again and became nonbelievers. The fourth time, Qutayba waged war, seized the city, and established Islam after considerable strife....They espoused Islam overtly but practiced idolatry in secret.
[1]Longstanding antipathy to John Kerry notwithstanding


"Buying organic 'gives you boost'"

"Buying organic 'gives you boost'", BBC News, 2004 September 4.

New research suggests that buying organic food can make people feel better, even before they eat any of it.

Supermarket chain Sainsbury's says simply making the choice to buy organic can induce a sense of well-being.
One nutritionist says people feel organic food can even boost emotional and mental health, increasing their sense of wellbeing and optimism when they choose the food they think is healthier, BBC correspondent Nicola Carslaw says.
Yes, it's called the placebo effect, you scientific illiterate. It means that something's effect on the human body is, as they say, "in the mind". In other words, someone who's actually taken high school biology will realize that your article actually discredits assertions about the inherent benefits of an organic diet rather than supports them, as you seem to intend. And this from someone who does most of his grocery shopping at farmers' markets and Whole Foods.

I've come to expect biased news coverage, not just from the BBC, but from everybody. But lazy, unquestioning science coverage?


On Beslan

A few weeks ago I commented about how September 11th was originally planned for September 18th, so that the allegations of thousands of Jews being absent would be true, because of Rosh Hashanah. I said that it "made me feel as sick as [I did] the day of [September 11th]."

Perhaps the memory of my emotions had faded in intensity, but that statement was false, as I realized when I heard the outcome of Beslan, when it all came flooding back, and then some.

They targeted kids. I know about what the Russian government has done under Putin and Yeltsin before him. But the one thing that stayed with me was that they targeted kids. This wasn't stray fire. They planned and executed the kidnapping and, now, murder of hundreds of children.

And amazingly enough, people are still making excuses for them.


Friday, September 03, 2004

Thanks... United For Peace & Justice for the discipline you demonstrated and the restraint of your events. Not only did you organize the largest of the protests (the Sunday march), but you kept it almost entirely peaceful. Not an easy task but you nonetheless succeeded in denying the Republican Party images of New York's streets in flames and chaos, images they were hoping for and counting on, images from which they would have extracted political capital like so much oil from the sands of the Persian Gulf. Or Texas. On Sunday, you exemplified the American Left at its best.

Of course, thanks also go to New York's Finest. To one side was respect for protestors' freedom of speech and assembly, to the other the interdiction of hooligans looking to start a riot from behind the sanction of free expression. Left with damn little room for error, you managed to blaze an entirely new trail between the two with few missteps along the way, showing those suckaz elsewhere calling themselves world-class cities just how we do it in tha 212.

Michael Slackman and Diane Cardwell, "Tactics by Police Mute the Protesters, and Their Messages", The New York Times, 2004 September 2.
[The title may tell one story, but the text itself tells another.]

Using large orange nets to divide and conquer, and a near-zero tolerance policy for activities that even suggest the prospect of disorder, the New York Police Department has developed what amounts to a pre-emptive strike policy, cutting off demonstrations before they grow large enough, loud enough, or unruly enough to affect the convention.

The demonstrations, too, have thus far been more restrained than many recent protests elsewhere; five years ago in Seattle, for example, there was widespread arson and window-smashing, none of which has occurred here. Lacking bloody scenes of billy-club-wielding police or billowing clouds of tear gas, the cameras - and the public's attention - have focused elsewhere.
[T]he Bush-Cheney campaign did not get the wild-eyed foil it had counted on, either....[S]everal Republicans had indicated that they hoped to blame the campaign of the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, for any destruction. So far, there has been little to pin on the Democrats.

"If the protesters do something outrageous, they benefit Bush; if they don't do something outrageous they don't get covered," said Kieran Mahoney, a Republican political consultant from New York. "They are the answer to the question, 'If a tree falls in the forest, does it make any noise?' "

In fact, the image that went nationwide, on television and in newspapers, was from Sunday, when United for Peace and Justice, a protest coalition, held a huge but orderly march that managed to cast a shadow over the opening day of the convention.
The police have had widespread praise from demonstrators and their legal advocates for showing restraint and flexibility in dealing with many protests, both those with and without permits.

On Sunday, before the gigantic march past the Garden, a police captain sent a group of officers to clear a traffic lane and escort a large group marching without a permit from Central Park to Union Square, where the day's main protest was to begin.

In another unscheduled march on Tuesday, the police allowed 10 protesters in a larger group to wear masks - technically a violation of the law - as part of a symbolic statement against the abuse of United States military prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

"The overarching issue with no permits is if you try to take a street or sidewalk, if you are marching and forcing pedestrians in the street, you are going to be arrested," said a senior police official, asking not to be identified. "When each of these things forms up, the commander can make a judgment - does it make sense for public safety to allow it to go forward rather than do battle?"

Those judgments appear to vary depending on which police official is in charge on the scene, giving protesters the sense that the rules are always shifting. In many cases, said Mr. Dunn, of the civil liberties union, "the protesters are trying to play by the rules and the police are not honoring their own agreements or are moving to arrest people who are engaging in seemingly lawful activity without any notice."

Last Friday, for example, after tension over police warnings to obey traffic laws, about 5,000 cyclists were allowed to block traffic and run red lights for more than an hour until the patience of police officers suddenly appeared to grow thin. Officers dragged netting across a West Village street to block the ride, arresting dozens there and then many more at its end in the East Village.
Can I get a f*** you to those A31 bitches? You show up to exploit a city that took a pretty nasty hit a couple years back, then go home to leave those of us who live here to clean up the mess. To my eyes there was little difference between the Kool Aid swilling conformist herds raising a racket inside Madison Square Garden and the Kool Aid swilling conformist herds raising a racket outside it.

And don't be getting no ideas, International Olympic Committee. Yes, the NYPD did a great job but, like the Republican National Convention, the Games would be another inconvenient hassle for NYC residents who enjoy how the city shifts into slower gears during the summer months. That, and awarding the Games to New York City would boost the impetus for the proposed West Side Stadium which we kitchenfolk would bear the brunt of. Compared to the mass exodus of drivers found paralyzing the Turnpike for miles around after a Giants game, Manhattan cabbies look like they ought to be rolling down their windows and asking each other for Grey Poupon. And heaven knows how much sports fans and concertgoers love to abstain from the alcohol. If you squint, they could almost pass for Mormons.

Oh, and Republicans? You know the rest of that $2 billion you promised us after September 11th so that we could be ready in case of another attack? Where is that, anyway?


What do you mean, You sent it to Montana?



Anwar Ibrahim has been freed.

Officially it was Malaysia's courts who overturned his conviction for sodomy (but not the one for corruption, for which he completed the full sentence a year or two back). Unofficially Abdullah Badawi has once again shown himself to be a class act.

As Prime Minister of Malaysia, I am not a leader of Muslims, but a Muslim leader of all Malaysians. Therefore, I have a responsibility not just to my fellow Muslims, but also to Malaysians who profess other religions as well. It is my duty to ensure that their rights are protected, that they are free to practice their faith, and that they are not persecuted because they are not from the dominant majority. It is my duty to spread the message of tolerance among all; especially to the Muslim majority.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Return Revenge of the Buddhists

Protesters attack mosque in Nepal, BBC News, 2004 September 1.
Hundreds of protesters have attacked a mosque in the Nepalese capital to protest against the killing of 12 Nepalese hostages by Iraqi militants.

"We want revenge," demonstrators shouted as they stormed the Jama mosque in Kathmandu.
Better a thousand years late than never.

Give in to your anger. Use your aggressive feelings. It is the only way you can save your friends.