Friday, January 23, 2004

SLEEP DEPRAVATION: Did you know that I managed to fall asleep in front of my computer (which duly serves as a TV too) during the State of the Union and yesterday's debate? I need to get some sleep.

HELPING THE RUSHDIE-WANNABE CAUSE: For someone who's book hasn't been reviewed positively anywhere respected, she's getting more than enough attention to help her book sales. (Ranked #158 at Amazon.) The Post takes up the cause for Irshad Manji. One of the best rebuttals are buried in the second to last paragraph:

Her critics say the book is simplistic, and that Manji does not have the academic credentials to criticize Islam. "The Trouble with Islam? I think Ms. Manji used the wrong title," said Mohamed Elmasry, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, a non-government organization that represents most of the 600,000 Muslims in Canada. "The book should be entitled: the trouble in the life of Irshad Manji. The book is a personal account of a young lady struggling with her religion, which is common among Muslims and non-Muslims. She is not a specialist to advocate Muslims should revise their religion and holy book. It is not credible."

Elmasry said the Canadian Muslim community did not want to overreact. "We did not treat her like the British Muslim community treated Salman Rushdie," he said. "We ignored her book."

Irshad defends her work. She rejects the argument that she is projecting her personal baggage onto Islam. "It has nothing to do with blaming my father's violence on Islam," she says. "These are distractions at best. People are afraid it will be taken seriously."
It's a shame that even the Post is pandering to Manji's victimhood mentality.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

DID ARMITAGE MEET WITH THE TALIBAN? That's what Pakistani journalist Massoud Ansari is alleging in this week's The New Republic. There's not a lot I know about Ansari besides the fact that he was recently (fall of 2003) imbedded with the so-called "neo-Talibs" in the South. Are these "neo-Talibs" the same people being quoted as "Taliban sources" in the TNR piece? I'd bet on it.

The piece is basically on the Administration's new approach in Afghanistan, which consists of turning to the "moderate elements of the Taliban." The policy isn't that old. Here's what I wrote on it a while back:

The Afghan government and Western officials (Zalmay Khalilzad being the prime and only suspect) are seeking the cooperation of "moderate" Taliban officials (and this is surely not the first time) like Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil. Two reasons: The Bush administration has growing frustrated with the inability of restoring order in areas outside of the capital, even sending American troops to fight Taliban insurgents, and looked for other solutions. The second reasons: the present government in Kabul is far from being accepted by the Pashtuns in the south as adequately representing their interests. Having failed thus far in its efforts to find Pashtun political leaders, who would be acceptable to their community and at the same time be attentive to the interests of the West, they turned to earlier discarded ideas. But who's behind the new idea? Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf's idea of seeking the cooperation of what Musharraf describes as moderate Taliban was floated earlier to prevent the Northern Alliance from entering Kabul, something Musharraf feared would cause civil unrest in his own country. This, in addition to an expanded ISAF-force, is hoped to bring stability. Success is all but guaranteed mainly because the Taliban has a complex web of leadership.
Addressing the question posed: did Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visit Mutawakil, the former foreign minister of the Taliban? Perhaps. But there's no denying that this new policy is official policy and no big secret.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

WHAT A LOFTY STATE OF THE UNION! I rather enjoyed the State of the Union, although I was dissappointed that the President didn't address the use of re-plays in football. Everybody knows that steroids are bad, but what's his position on re-plays? Maybe he isn't that a football fan. The critique by Wapo' Style columnist is quite humerous too.

Often the words of the speech were written to sound lofty, but Bush had such a big Christmas-morning grin on his face that they came out sounding like taunts -- taunts to the rest of the world or taunts to Democrats in the hall.

The dividing line between the parties has rarely appeared so graphic. Republicans on one side of the House chamber couldn't scramble to their feet fast enough to give Bush his obligatory standing ovations. He probably would have gotten one if he'd sneezed. The speech was pretty much so-so, and Bush's gung-ho delivery -- something approaching the forced jollity of a game show host -- lacked dignity and certainly lacked graciousness. Bush has never been big on those things anyway.
Read the rest for some interesting media critique too.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

AFGHAN VOICE ENDORSEMENT: Eager to know my choice for President? There are two. The New Republic convinced me to support John Edwards. His website notes the following:

Secure Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, Edwards believes we must expand the size and scope of an international peacekeeping force beyond Kabul.

Edwards was one of the first Senators to visit Afghanistan after the Taliban was forcibly removed from power, meeting with US troops and visiting other nations and leaders in the region.
Also, read Ezra Klein:
His campaign storyline; triumphing through positivity and a determined reluctance to engage in dirty politics, is immensely powerful. I'm watching his speech and it is terrific -- his policies make sense, his message is unbelievably effective and his story makes him an extraordinary contrast to Bush. I always liked him but he never seemed able to gain traction. Now that he is a real contender it's tough not to rethink my preferences.


The second candidate I support is Wesley Clark mainly because of his military background. He's the only one who can beat Bush on national security. This is what Clark said briefly after 9/11:
This isn't about Afghanistan, it's certainly not even about the bombing of the World Trade Centres and the Pentagon, it's really about the struggle for the heart and soul of Islam and how states can meet the needs of their people, what kind of world we want to live in and so I think that's the basis on which a very broad and powerful coalition can be built and has to be built.
His website notes the following:
Afghanistan is struggling... We probably need to put more forces in and put a renewed effort in Afghanistan. We've got half of the United States Army physically on the ground in the Persian Gulf dealing with the situation in Iraq, which is a distraction from the war on terror.
In addition to that, a friend of mine who's a veteran who served in Lebanon, was behind one of the early Draft Clark movements. His opinion means a lot to me.

Friday, January 16, 2004

FUNDRAISING IN TEXAS: Did you know that Wesley Clark raised more than $300,000 in one evening… in Dallas? Post columnist Robert Cohen lets us know.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

BUSHISM: "I welcome those who are listening by video." -- George W. Bush, announcing his new vision of space exploration at NASA headquarters last Wednesday.

LESSON IN OBJECTIVITY: Has Daniel Pipes been bumped from the New York Post? His last article dates back to October of last year. Since than, his rant have been appearing in the New York Sun and on the right-wing site Worldnetdaily. This time, Pipes gives us a French lesson. And a quite odd one too.

At issue are Senator Tom Harkin's objections to Pipes' appointment to the U.S. Institute for Peace. A short excerpt from Senator Harkin's speech:

From the deepest part of my body I strongly disagree with Pipes when he says that the very fact of enfranchisement, affluence and assimilation will somehow threaten our values. The opposite is true. They have taken on our American values and have become American Muslims, just like other minorities who have come to this country. They brought their religions. They brought their customs. But they have Americanized.
Pipes -- surprise! surprise! -- disagrees strongly. "Muslims assimilate and integrate into American society! Ha!" He tries to refute Harkin by offering an account of Muslim anti-Semitism.... in France! Harkin, of course, wasn't talking about French Muslims (who, arguably, have failed where American Muslims have succeeded.) It's fair to say that Pipes' attack actually makes Senator Harkin's case stronger, since Pipes fails to bring up evidence of anything similar to the situation in France, or any Jewish resentment in the U.S. for that matter.

Speaking of Jews in the U.S., the annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion has found that American Jews still overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party. Jews chose any Democrat over Bush in a 71 to 24 margin. Meryl Yourish has an account of what Pipes had to say on this specific subject back in October.:
On American Jews: Pipes said what he calls (or what has been called) the Golden Age of American Jewry is fast closing, because there is now a Muslim and Islamist presence in America that sees itself in opposition to the Jews.... This, Pipes said, is something that American Jews have not seen before—an organized group with a specifically anti-Jewish bent... Pipes said that liberals are no longer friendly to Jewish causes. The more to the left you go, the more you see a pro-Palestinian, pro-Islam, anti-American outlook. He said the evangelical right is most in tune with the Jews, and that Jewish organizations need to retool their associations. "There's a train coming down the tracks, and most American Jewish institutions are not seeing it," he said.
Something's missing here and I'm guessing it's the train.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

RIPPED INTO PIECES: Sheema Khan, chair of CAIR in Canada, intellectually humiliates Irshad Manji with a serious analytical response. Manji must be dissappointed no one has issued a fatwa against her. (NOTE: The .pdf-file is about 700kb.)

Friday, January 09, 2004

POST MOVES KABUL REPORTER: In a disasterous move, the Washington Post has moved its only reporter in Afghanistan from Kabul to Baghdad. Her latest report from Afghanistan, on the ratification of the Constitution, was featured on the front page. Her articles from Baghdad, three until today, were buried on page 12.

In addition to this debacle (you heard me), the Post will lose Peter Behr, John Berry, William Raspberry and Henry Allen, all top-natch guys. The Post is starting the year bad and is losing its institutional memory.

(Does that mean the Times might stand a chance? Nah. Let's see Judy Miller match this!)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

MISLEAD RABBI FALLS FOR LIAR: The Washington Times lays out post-9/11 reality for us to see:

Some Jews and conservative Christians are questioning a pro-family group's association with an Islamic organization. Rabbi Marc Gellman, a syndicated columnist who makes frequent TV appearances as half of "The God Squad," resigned last month from the advisory board to the Alliance for Marriage (AFM) because it includes a representative of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Steve Emerson, author of a book about terrorism, accused ISNA of links to extremist groups, a charge the Islamic group's leaders strongly deny.
Did the name Steven Emerson ring a bell? It did for me. If you're unfamiliar with him, let me introduce him for you.

Emerson is a self-styled "terrorism expert." He was one of the television-commentators, together with Daniel Pipes, who blamed Muslims for the Oklahoma bombing in 1995. CBS got rid of him, as did the Washington Post. The USA Today stopped quoting him. But that didn't stop him from unrelentingly defaming and false accusing the Muslim community in the United States.

In 1999, Emerson sued John Sugg, former senior editor of Florida's Weekly Planet newspaper, for defamation. Emerson's lawsuit alleged that Sugg "maliciously and repeatedly published false and defamatory utterances" in an "ongoing campaign to undermine Emerson's credibility and damage his professional and personal reputation." It regarded allegations reported by Sugg that two Associated Press reporters said Emerson gave them a document on terrorism supposedly from FBI files. Sugg commented in the May 1999 edition of Weekly Planet: "One reporter thought he'd seen the material before, and in checking found a paper Emerson had supplied earlier containing his own unsupported allegations. The two documents were almost identical, except that Emerson's authorship was deleted from the one purported to be from the FBI. 'It was really his work,' one reporter says. 'He sold it to us trying to make it look like a really interesting FBI document.'" In that same article, Sugg quoted AP reporter Richard Cole saying: "'We were not really clear on the origin of his [Emerson's] material.' Because of that, Cole recalls, much of Emerson's information was sliced from the series."

Sugg went on to record Emerson's lies and attacks in the January/February 1999 edition of the Extra, published by Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. An excerpt:
As Emerson's fame mounted, so did criticism. Emerson's book, The Fall of Pan Am 103, was chastised by the Columbia Journalism Review, which noted in July 1990 that passages "bear a striking resemblance, in both substance and style" to reports in the Post-Standard of Syracuse, N.Y. Reporters from the Syracuse newspaper told this writer that they cornered Emerson at an Investigative Reporters and Editors conference and forced an apology.

A New York Times review (5/19/91) of his 1991 book Terrorist chided that it was "marred by factual errors and by a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias." His 1994 PBS video, Jihad in America (11/94), was faulted for bigotry and misrepresentations--veteran reporter Robert Friedman (The Nation, 5/15/95) accused Emerson of "creating mass hysteria against American Arabs."

[...]

A ranking AP editor in Washington says: "We would be very, very, very, very leery of using Steve Emerson."
My problem lies not with the Washington Times for allowing Emerson to spread his share of anti-Muslim venom; the paper is known to be an openly biased bastion of rabid right-wing ideology. My beef is with the gullible Rabbi Gellman for believing the unsupported charge. Some of you may ask whether the Rabbi is a victim too, because he may not know Emerson's background. That would be quite a thing for the Rabbi, who "greatly respects" Emerson, would it not?

Sunday, January 04, 2004

MAY I INTRODUCE: ... Mohammed Omar Masry. He's a Muslim soldier serving in Iraq helping the reconstruction there. Take the time to read his blog and this piece authored by Masry over at Muslim wake-up on the hijab-hysteria in France. We salute Sergeant Masry and his fellow-soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

INSPIRING SERMON: Who made the following speech?

I would like to tell all honourable Christians that you shouldn't do things which would turn Jesus Christ against you. Christ was a messenger of peace and justice for humanity. He wanted people to live in peace. He wanted divine justice for society. He was opposed to injustice and oppression. He supported the innocent, the deprived, the weak. We believe in Christ and we believe in him more than you. Christ was disgusted with oppressors who bully people and who violate people's rights.
If you guessed "senior Iranian cleric," give yourself one point. For context, read the whole sermon translated by BBC Monitoring. Thanks to the Agonist.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

US SPONSORS TAJIKISTAN-AFGHANISTAN BRIDGE: Via Nathan--who remain mysterious and who has moved to a new location, namely here--we find out that:

The US has agreed to pay $30-40 million for a bridge connecting Tajikistan & Afghanistan to spur the rebirth of historic Central Asian trade in the area (Uzbekistan's "Friendship Bridge" is closed most of the time). The bridge will be over the Pyanj River, and, unlike this one (also built by the US), it will be up to international seismic standards.
Kudos to the State Department.

ETHICALLY WRONG, LEGALLY RIGHT: If you've paid attention, you'd notice the fact that I'm a journalist. Nothing big time, but I still feel compelled to the FBI's new legal tactics in their attempt to find the leaker in the Plame-scandal. The two pieces revealing it: NBC News and Time Magazine, each rumored to employ one of the journalists to which Plame's identity was leaked. As explained on MSNBC's website:

The FBI is focusing on the White House as the probable source of the unauthorized disclosure of the identity an undercover CIA officer and has asked staffers to sign a form releasing reporters from any promises of confidentiality they may have made to their sources, NBC News has learned.
My stand is simple: I think it's wrong for reporters to reveal their sources. But I also think that the Supreme Court has been extremely clear: there is no First Amendment privilege on identifying sources. (As Gregg Easterbrook argued, free speech doesn't come without cost.)

So what if Novak fails to protect his confidential sources and spills the beans? His career will be over, but in this case, national security trumps a columnists' career, especially a conservative one.

TIME TO FIGHT THE REAL ENEMY: Everybody knows that the Washington Times is a well-known bastion of rabid right-wing ideology. Just take a look at their editorial page. Yet nothing measures up to Tim Blair. In the British Daily Telegraph, he writes about the left being in a state of lunacy because the left opposed the war. To avoid being accused of mischaracterizing him, allow me to quote Mr. Blair:

nd on the insane left, we found . . . well, every single leftist who opposed the war in Iraq. What were these people thinking? Let's keep nice old Saddam in power until he is able to hand over Iraq to sweet Uday and darling Qusay, bless their raping, bloodlusting little hearts? Let's behave like our brains have been stolen by the CIA?
Yes, oppose the war, you're a freakin' lunatic! Straw man, right? Certainly. But Blair and many others on his side of the political side of the spectrum miss a point. We opposed the war in Iraq for a reason. A lot of us (not all) didn't agree with the war because they disagreed with Bush. Here's a thought--we were in favor of "shock and awe," but just not in Iraq.

Since September 11th, the left was called out of touch. We live in another cold war, but this one's just getting warmed up. The enemy wants to destroy Western civilization, or hell, any kind of civilized manner of living. The new threat is that of "Radical Islam" and the War on Terror should be renamed to the War on Islamofascism. No time to build democracy, the prime argument of neo-cons, but let's eliminate the threat. Not to ensure national security but to ensure we continue to live in this liberal democracy of ours. Sure, the commentators made their point through abusive language, narrow-minded and mostly anti-Muslim vitriol, but they had a point of sorts. And to be honest, I agreed with the small points they were making.

Let's evaluate the situation in the Middle East real quick. The only obstacle between the nuke and the Muslim fanatics who want to obtain them is a man named Pervez Musharraf; Saudi Arabia's rulers both aid the enemy and are on our side to prevent al-Qaeda's control of the country; al-Qaeda's most substantive moral and financial support comes from Yemen, etc. I could go on but you get the point. Many countries I would list as problematic, yet Iraq is not on the list. Yes, Saddam Hussein was a terrible man, a mass murdered in fact. Despite Christopher Hitchens' arguing to the opposite, Saddam Hussein wasn't supporting Osama bin Laden (or the other way around for that matter). Saddam Hussein was never seen as a hero to the fundamentalist Islamists. What Islamist that you know of would trust a man who employs a Christian as a member of his cabinet? Saddam was crazy; not an Islamist. Let's focus our resources on the real threat instead of giving Laurie Mylroie and her friends (read: the neo-cons who pushed for the war) legitimacy. Would it've prevented the dead in Bali? Most likely not, but it's worth a try. One thing I know: it's certainly better than American soldiers doing nation-building.