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The world from Pakistan's point of view

A commenter in an LGF thread sent me over to the Daily Times of Pakistan, a newspaper I've read a few times but lost track of recently. Here are some of the issues facing the Paks, as the India Times calls them:

PAEC to train foreign Muslim scientists
LAHORE: The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is committed to training scientists from Muslim countries and will try its best to help them develop their knowledge in biotechnology, PAEC and Biosciences Member Dr Kausar Abdullah Malik said on Friday.

Dr Malik was addressing the concluding session of a two-week training workshop on ‘Advanced techniques on biotechnology’, jointly organised by the National Institute for Biotechnology and the Genetic Engineering (NIBGE) and COMSTECH in Faisalabad.

An official statement issued after the workshop said developing Muslim countries had to generate expertise and skilled manpower in biotechnology.

Oh, that's comforting.

Honour killings bill being swept under carpet: MPs
ISLAMABAD: The women members of parliament protested against the assemblies on Friday for not allowing the bills for debate against honour killings.

The protest was launched in a seminar that was organized by the Aurat Foundation entitled ‘Stop Honour Killing: A demand for action’. The seminar turned into a forum against the feudal landlords, political parties and assemblies of the country who are hindering the way of legislation against the killing of women on the name of honour.

Mehnaz Rafi, MNA, Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) said that the speaker of the National Assembly had refused to present a bill against honour killings that she had filed two months ago. Ms Rafi said she was told the bill would only be eligible to be presented in the assembly after it was approved from the ministry of law and justice and the PML-Q.

No female member of the opposition parties have supported PML-Q member, MP Bhindara, when he requested support to pass a bill in the assembly against honour killings, Ms Rafi said.

[...] Earlier, the chairperson of the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), Justice (Retd.) Majida Rizvi said that the women were killed due to land and money disputes that are being passed off as honour killings, an unislamic custom that is being passed of as Islamic. She said that the laws of Qasas and Diyat are also being misused and a commission has undertaken research to find a way to change all anti-social laws.

Oh, that's surprising.

MMA splits over kite flying
LAHORE: The Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) divided here on Friday as some of its parties arranged a protest against kite flying while others protested against police raids on seminaries in Lahore.

The Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and its subsidiary organisation Shibab-e-Milli (SM) had planed to protest against kite flying but MMA General Secretary Maulana Fazlur Rehman, with the collaboration of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and other local religious parties announced Friday as a protest day against the raids. This controversy badly affected both protest programmes. JI clerics did not join the MMA protest camp against kite flying on The Mall near Masjad-e-Shuhada. It was totally a JI protest camp and JI Lahore head Mian Maqsood and other JI and SM leaders staged a sit in. They announced the MMA would hold an anti-kite flying walk on January 20 from Masjad-e-Shuhada to the Fasial Chowk.

Many other religious parties condemned raids on seminaries in the Friday sermons and protested outside mosques after the prayers. MMA Acting President Qazi Hussain Ahmad in his Friday sermon here at the Mansoora Mosque spoke against kite flying. He said the ban of kite flying was necessary between January 20 and February 20, but the government had lifted it. He said the motive behind this move was only to prove that India and Pakistan have “same culture”. He urged clerics to speak out against it. “We should make it clear that nations who are defeated in the cultural war can never survive,” he said.

“Hindu culture is rapidly dominating us and the rulers are consciously promoting this culture. This is the first step towards the government’s efforts to put the Kashmir issue in cold store,” he added. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Amjad Khan, while addressing at the Jamia Madnia, demanded the government stop raids on seminaries. He demanded the Punjab government dismiss its adviser for religious harmony, Tahir Ashrafi. “Mr Ashrafi is providing fake reports to secret agencies about seminaries,” he said. Several other religious leaders, including Maulana Muhibul Nabi, Maulana Abdullah, Maulana Ameer Hussain Gillani and Qari Jamail Akhter also spoke almost the same in their Friday sermons. —Staff Report

Oh, that's new. Yeah, kite flying is a horrible encroachment on Muslim culture. Kids actually having fun instead of blowing themselves up. What a concept.

And notice how the story headlines the kite flying while downplaying the raids on Muslim terrorist mosques. There's a lot more going on in Pakistan than is relayed by our own media—who are very quick to leap on any real or perceived flaw in Israel. Imagine that.

In the name of "peace:" Anything goes. Lies, lies, and more lies

Yesterday, I excerpted a Ha'aretz story that said that Gush Shalom activists had gotten British Airways to remove billboards in a West Bank Israeli town. Today, Lynn B pointed me to this IMRA article which shows that the peace creeps lied about their influence over British Airways. It seems that the advertising campaign had ended, and that's why British Airways put out the order to take down the Billboards. From IMRA:

The spokesman for British Airways in Tel Aviv called our office an hour or so after we sent out our letter of protest and this is their reaction: "British Airways clarifies that the two week advertising campaign has been completed by December 31th,2003."

David Tamir , of the Tamir-Cohen advertising agency called us too, and this is what he had to say: "We did not give the order to bring down billboards in any specific location- but Maxi-Media, our subcontractor, was asked to bring down all billboards in the entire country , because the advertising campaign had come to an end".

Women in Green's comment:
Adam Keller and Gush Shalom deliberately mislead the public and misquote David Tamir, the representative of Tamir-Cohen, the advertising agency for British Airways, in order to promote their political goals and to falsely give the impression that Gush Shalom and British Airways are on the same political side, against Jewish settlement in the land of Israel.

We are happy that this question has been clarified and that Gush Shalom's ugly face has once again been revealed.

Ruth and Nadia Matar
co-leaders Women for Israel's Tomorrow

Gee. The peace creeps lie to further their own image. Nice.



I love Frank J.

He's such a good boy. He wrote a poem to his mother.

by Frank J.

Mom, you've always been there for me,
Whether with band-aid in hand or bail money.
And though that may not seem like some great feat,
I now appreciate that you never blew up across some street.

There's more. Read the whole thing. And buy a shirt from him or something.

Israel news

Peace creeps get British Airways to remove billboards from Ariel, a West Bank "settlement."

Two British Airways billboards at the entrance of the West Bank settlement of Ariel were removed Wednesday after hundreds of Gush Shalom activists bombarded the company with complaints.

Gush Shalom spokesman Adam Keller explained in a letter to the company that "the placing of the very conspicuous British Airways billboards at Ariel could be taken – even if that was not the original intention – as an endorsement by your company." Keller later wrote in a press release that "Ariel is one of the reasons for the 'separation wall' that is plaguing the Palestinians. And because of it, Israel is being judged before the Hague."

No, the separation fence is there because the pals refuse to stop blowing themselves up in the middle of groups of Israelis.

Ariel Mayor Ron Nachman told The Jerusalem Post that he was unaware that the billboards even existed. "I don't know what they are talking about. I've never even seen the signs."

[...] "These people, these so-called peaceniks, have been inflicting economic damage on us for too long," Nachman said, referring to Gush Shalom's six-year international campaign to boycott products created in the settlements. "They minimize my ability to live, to make a living. They hurt our families – innocent Israelis who never did anything to them."

[...] Gush Shalom only damages Israel's reputation with these campaigns, said Nachman. "All of the anti-Semitism that exists today in Europe is because of them, because they tolerate it, because they gave legitimacy to it. Enough is enough."

Is peace with her neighbors really in Israel's best interests? Should Israel stop pursuing peace? That's a theory currently being broached.

Ya'alon, himself a former OC Intelligence Corps, said Israel's strategic reality has greatly changed. And this is presenting an uncomfortable challenge to our "backs-against-the-wall," "everyone-is-out-to-get-us" view of the world.

The generals and most of the Israeli leadership have shared a persuasive sense that Israel faces an imminent, critical threat and should therefore jump at every chance to make peace with our Arab foes, especially Syria. But that appears to be changing, analysts say.

"Peace has become a dirty word," said Efraim Inbar, director of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. "Peace with Egypt has turned out to be a long-term disappointment. We had peace with the Palestinians and have had enough of it."

Ya'alon noted during a visit to the Armored Corps School on Tuesday that the American offensive in Iraq had caused Iran to agree to reveal its nuclear capabilities, Libya to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction projects, and was the driving force behind Syrian President Bashar Assad's call for peace.

Interesting. No peace without serious efforts from the peace-seekers, as opposed to the mindset that Israel has had for more than 50 years. In other words, the winning state gets to dictate terms to the losing state. Wow. To think, that Israel might actually join the real world.

Syria's once looming military threat is today dismissed as obsolete, thus reducing the incentive to make peace with Damascus. There seems to be a reevaluation under way about the wisdom of exchanging the Golan Heights for peace now.

"Seeking peace is part of our national ethos, which says: We want peace. The other side doesn't," said Prof. Shai Feldman head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

"What we have now is role reversal. At first it will raise eyebrows, but when Israel shuns a hand extended to it will cause a pretty negative effect on our national ethos." Officials in Washington won't stand in the way of peace talks, but there are those in the administration who believe its better Israel not immediately jump into it, he said.

Alpher explained that there are neo-conservative voices from Washington putting pressure on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon not to be so quick to reward Assad with peace talks, since America wants to squeeze more out of Damascus, particularly with regard to its war against the Saddam Hussein regime.

"In the post 9/11, intifada era there is a sense that, unlike in the past, we do not have to agree and sit down with this guy before he stops backing terrorism. We have the right to make this condition," Alpher said.

One reason why Israelis are still skeptical is because Assad hasn't made any nice moves toward Israel.

Yes, there's that. He also hasn't closed down terrorists' offices in Damascus, stopped Hizbullah from having 10,000 rockets aimed at Israel's northern border, and stopped allowing jihadis to cross into Iraq and try to kill Americans, but who's counting?

Still, it's quite a wonderful, refreshing idea: Israel gets to tell her enemies to stop killing her citizens before they can begin to treat for peace. Works for me.

Stupid names

Michele can't ask for the Hot Beefeater at Quizno's. (Quizno's? What's Quizno's?) She mentioned the IHOP Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity, which reminds me of my many IHOP breakfasts with various and sundry friends. One guy in particular used to order the Rooty Tooty partly because it gave me giggle fits to hear him say it, and partly because it had about everything he wanted in a breakfast. And I got to say it many times while talking him into ordering it, then repeat it to the waitress. Just in case she missed it, you see.

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor was a favorite haunt of mine and my cousins every time I visited them in San Diego. My cousin Sharon, who was barely five-two and under a hundred pounds, could (and did) finish a Trough, which was a large platter of ice cream meant for at least two people. When she finished one, the employees would gather around, ring a very loud bell, and announce to the entire restaurant, "Sharon has just made a pig of herself at Farrell's!" and everyone, customers and employees, would oink and snort at her while she laughed and laughed. Sharon had the best laugh. It was an infectious giggle that set everyone else laughing.

Not long after I came to Richmond, I visited a local mall and found an, er, interestingly-named store in the food court. There's a chain called Flamers. I just laughed when I first saw the name. The chain never reached northeastern NJ—the closest they got was Rahway—but damn. You'd think someone might have noticed that the name means more than charbroilers.

Then again, you'd think that at least one person in the Richmond state government might have realized at some point that naming the Virginia Standard of Learning test might, just might, have people thinking something a bit different when telling students they're about to take the SOL test.

While I'm on the subject, the same people who named the SOLs must have named the Powhite Parkway. It's supposed to be named after the Powhatan Indians, or after Chief Powhatan, or maybe even after both. The radio and TV traffic announcers pronounce it the way that the Powers That Be decreed you should pronounce the name: Pow-Hite. Of course, everyone else in Virginia pronounces it the "Po' white Parkway," because, let's face it: Did you really think we wouldn't? Even an ex-Yankee like me saw immediately that the name had to be po'white.

You would think with all the money those folks get paid to name things, that at least one person would up and say, "SOL? Powhite? What the hell were you thinking?"

You would think.

BBC Bias watch

No, the BBC isn't biased at all. That's why they just hired Al Jazeera's editor-in-chief. Because Al Jazeera is such a model of objective journalism.

Al-Jazeera editor leaves for BBC

The Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera says its editor-in-chief has submitted his resignation.
According to an al-Jazeera spokesman, Ibrahim Helal said he had had "a tempting offer" from the BBC.

The charity BBC World Service Trust confirmed that Mr Helal was joining to work on a variety of media training projects over the next two years.

Al-Jazeera has been criticised by the US for airing recorded messages from Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

Actually, they've been criticized for a lot more than that. Anyone looking for more objectivity from the BBC should be looking elsewhere. "Media training projects"? What, training them how to slant the news more steeply against Israel and the U.S.?



The tipping point

Thanks to all who have hit the tipjar. You'll get individual thank-you notes in a few days. (Monday will be a good day to write those notes, as I'll be recovering from working all weekend, again.)

If the rest of you are wondering why you should buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free, it's because—you know, I really hate that aphorism. Damn. That's just a truly annoying image, when you think of it, and so insulting to women overall, because it's generally used for a woman who's sleeping with a man who won't marry her. No wonder I get mad when I read the word "cow" applied to women, especially in comic books (because they can't use "bitch").

Where was I? Oh, right. Donations. Why you should if you normally don't. That's easy. It's because you like me better than you like the people you don't tip.

You put your right paw in

I have begun to realize my true purpose in life. I am a door-opener for my cats.

There's a nice desk upstairs, where I should have my printer and my laptop, but I seem to be a kitchen-table worker. My setup is on half my kitchen table (sometimes more when I'm extremely messy), with my back to the patio glass sliding doors, and my front to the TV so I can watch my soaps—er, the news—while I work. The cats believe that the reason I am downstairs, and not upstairs, has nothing to do with the easy availablity of the fridge, pantry, and television. No, it's so I can get up and let them out. Then it's so I can get up and let them right back in. Then I can get up and let them out. Then I can get up and let them in.

Gracie's favorite little game in the morning is the "I want to go out!" yowl, while standing and looking out the door. I open the door. She runs away. I close the door. She runs back. I open the door. She runs away. This is a game that would go on forever, except it gets interrupted by extremely bad language and nasty remarks about cats, doors, and my purpose in life.

Tig only rarely plays that game, but he's become quite adept at the "Guess which door I'm at?" game. I let him out the patio. He walks around the building and scratches on the front door. I let him in the front door. He stops for a bite to eat, goes to the back door, and asks to be let out. I let him out the back door. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

This morning, while Gracie was going in and going out and going in and going out and going in and going out, after about an hour and a half, I realized that Tig was missing. I did a quick checking of all his normal sleeping places, and couldn't find him. I figured he was outside, so I called at the back door and whistled. Nothing. Called at the front door and whistled. Nothing. Told Gracie to go find Tig. She stared at me as if I were speaking an unintelligible language, when you know damned well that cats understand every word you say and, it has been scientifically proven, can read your thoughts as well. But she still didn't find Tig. Finally, I remembered that sometimes, Tig crawls underneath my covers, and since I rarely make my bed, because, well, I'm just going to mess it up again tonight, and anyway, you can't see it so what are you compaining about?, and, wait. Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, since I finally remembered that Tig does that, I went and checked the covers, all lumped at the bottom of the bed, and saw a suspicous-looking, cat-shaped lump at the foot of the bed. I poked it. It meowed. I poked it again. It meowed in extreme annoyance. Satisfied, I watched as Tig crawled out from under the covers and yowled at me. Of course, the first thing he did was come downstairs and demand to be let out.

Sean Penn: Back to Baghdad

Oops, he did it again. Sean Penn has an overlong article in the SF Chronicle (where else?) on his return to Baghdad, one year later. Some highlights:

My wife and 12-year-old daughter are different people in the sense that my wife will occasionally kiss me on the lips, and my daughter, occasionally on the cheek. With this one exception, they're exactly the same person. And when I told them, "I'm thinking about going back to Iraq," they rolled their eyes and said, "Uh-huh." I interpreted that to mean "You're an idiot" or that they just didn't want to invest in my explanation. So much for guidance.

Okay, that description of his wife and daughter is more than a little creepy.

But my 10-year-old son said rather quickly, "Could you get killed?" I immediately and idiotically responded with, "I could get killed crossing the street -- or struck by lightning -- and SARS, what about SARS?"

Yeah, what about SARS? Can we blame that on Bush, too?

He was embarrassed for me.

So are we, Sean.

[...] Only later would I realize the incredible burden I risked at his potential expense.

Cue scary music: Dum da dum! Foreshadowing the perils of going into a war zone!

I grab a hot dog and head over to the Meditation Room.

I'm sorry, but the cognitive dissonance of that line is breaking my brain.

As I approach, I see at least 30 sleeping bodies, travel- weary bones at rest on reclining chairs. A woman opens her eyes and stands.

"Sean?" she says.

"Yes, are you Medea?"

Okay. What kind of parent curses a daughter with the name of the witch in the Jason mythology who killed her own children? It is perfectly understandable, under these circumstances, that Medea is responsible for the following acts:

She is a diminutive blonde with delicate features, with a reputation for having ridden out the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, interrupting Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's news conferences, consistently putting herself on the line -- in South America, the Middle East and Washington.

You know, interrupting Rummy's press conferences can have perilous results. But back to Sean's trip.

Before the Gulf War, Sattar had been a well-paid civil engineer. Now he drives the perilous 12 hours into Amman and 12 hours back to Baghdad, shuttling journalists and humanitarian aides, for a mere $300 per 24- hour round trip.

Three hundred bucks a day is a pretty good salary even here in the U.S., you millionaire asshat. In Iraq, it's a hell of a lot more. But as to his fall from grace: Did you ask him if he was a Ba'athist before the war? Or was that not important?

Sattar is in a great hurry to get to the Iraqi border, nearly 400 kilometers from Amman, before the 7 a.m. shift change. It is important not to be delayed at the border crossing because from there we'll begin an additional eight-hour drive to Baghdad through the desert. Nobody likes to drive the last 200 kilometers through the Sunni Triangle at night. The desert hubs of Ramadi and Fallujah are not only political hot zones rampant with guerrilla insurgents but also a center for road bandits (in Iraq, called "Ali Babas").

Racism! Racism! You're using racist terms on Iraqi citizens who merely rob because they have been driven to it by the U.S. invasion, which took away their former livelihood of torturing and murdering Iraqi citizens.

Dipping into my pocket, Sattar is able to influence the outgoing shift guard to stamp our passports and send us on our way.

Okay, that's the second creepy sexual reference. Ew, Sean. Ew.

It should be noted that by Western standards, these borders appear extremely penetrable. Their ramshackle and lightly staffed appearance aside, not one explosive-sniffing canine is in sight. The vehicle's undersides are given a quick check by mirror, maybe a trunk is opened here or there, but that's it.

Shocked, shocked I am, that the Jordanians are not carefully checking everything and everyone that wants to get into Iraq. Why, you'd think they didn't care if Americans and Iraqis died or something.

This is the obligatory Deep Thought paragraph. Please try not to laugh out loud.

We're now on the road to Baghdad, cutting through the endlessly flat Iraqi desert. For hundreds of kilometers at a stretch, the occasional Bedouin sheepherder is the only human form in sight. As far as the eye can see, these Bedouins -- solitary robed figures traveling the desert followed by a hundred head of sheep -- appear to have neither a point of origin nor a destination. It seems their only mission is to exist as props for a National Geographic photographer. Where are they taking these sheep? And where did they come from?

You know, we're only about halfway through his article, and he hasn't even gotten to Baghdad yet. Let's flash forward.

I arrive in Baghdad at about 1:30 in the afternoon. It's about 60 degrees and sunny. The military presence is heavy on the outskirts of town. Gun turrets and high concrete walls surround all U.S. military facilities. A Black Hawk helicopter flies overhead at a surprisingly low altitude, considering the number of attacks that have come the helicopters' way lately. I've quietly arranged (the less my whereabouts are known, the better) to switch cars at the Hunting Club, a private social club that traditionally hosted a who's-who of Iraqi society. Saddam Hussein's son Oday was known to pick up girls there. There are many such clubs for the elite in the Middle East. And the Hunting Club had reportedly been used until recently as a meeting place for Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress.

So we're talking heavy-duty Ba'athists here. The families and friends of the torturers and killers. Nice company you keep, Sean. Let's hear what they have to say about their loss of status.

There, I would be greeted by Hiwa Osman, the editor of the weekly Iraq Crisis Report and a trainer with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. It's a non-governmental organization, based in a safe house in Baghdad, where young Iraqi journalists are schooled by functioning war correspondents. My friend Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy,

Stop, you're killin' me!

with whom I made my first trip to Baghdad, had arranged a room for me at the institute through Mohamad Bazzi, Newsday's Baghdad correspondent.

Look at this next part. Sean's mixing drugs and alcohol. Tsk.

When this term "mass graves" is used, one of the young Iraqi students chimes in with laughter: "This whole country is a mass grave. We live in a mass grave." And with that, the fatigue of the trip hits me in the back of the head like a rocket-propelled grenade. As I excuse myself, Hiwa offers me a shot of Glenfiddich. I accept a sip, enough to wash down an Ambien, and then crawl under the covers in the bed they've given me, sinking into a five-hour chemically induced coma.

See, it must be a Hollywood thing. When the fatigue of a trip hits me, I just go to bed and sleep. I figure I don't need a sleeping pill, what with fatigue being tiring and all that. But I'm not a movie star. I just don't know any better.

Warning: Obligatory movie reference coming up.

In the evening, gunfire emanates with the relentlessness of frog "ribbits'' around a summer pond, sometimes sporadic and at other times overwhelming. But in the daytime, it's intermittent at most -- a few pops here and there. Five times a day, the Islamic call to prayer is broadcast through loudspeakers from each mosque in the city. The chant echoes and ricochets through Baghdad's declining alleys and architecture. One experiences a palpably hypnotic engagement with Middle Eastern spiritual life, like living in a movie with this chant as its score.

Because, like, movies aren't like life. Life is like a movie, you see. Happy ever after and all that. Hey, if my life had to be like a movie, I call Eowyn in LOTR.

The commander of the unit is Lt. Col. Mark Coats. Coats' demeanor is confident and alert. He is accommodating of my request to photograph his soldiers and their interaction with the children. There is no question of politics here, and the warmth of these soldiers toward the children is genuine. I get the impression that such events occur daily here, and not only when journalists are present.

What? Praise? Praise of U.S. soldiers' actions? Sean, are you still high on that Ambien?

Oh. Here we go.

U.S. soldiers today are not what you'd picture if you grew up on World War II movies.

Again, the movie references.

Think younger.

No, think real life.

Now add zits (some of them).

Sorry, they don't all fit the Hollywood glamour stuck inside your airhead, Sean.

And access to e-mail.

This is not the war of yesteryear, with relatives waving our boys off on ships and losing all contact beyond a weekly mail drop. These are young people who, via the Internet, are reminded daily of the comfort and safety of home and are quick to express their desire to return to their families. I want to ask many of them their feelings about our occupation in Iraq, and some express thoughts on this issue without being asked. And their thoughts represent all sides of the debate. But one has to be mindful that these are young people who have lost friends to battle, and girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands to distance. One wouldn't expect them to yield easily to the notion that perhaps the United States should not have sent them in the first place.

Perhaps because one can't accept the notion that many of them believe they should have been sent.

The administrator takes Hiwa and me on a tour of the building, where thousands of documents are stacked floor to ceiling in each office. If the Hussein regime could be credited with anything, it would be with keeping obsessively complete records of the atrocities the regime itself committed. (Pol Pot and Hitler shared this habit.) Many of the death warrants are signed by Hussein. Our tour ends in a room of moldy documents piled head-high and wall to wall, representing some of the lives claimed under this horrific regime. Our guide makes the point simply: "We will put all these names in a museum as a way to say thank you to all those who sacrificed their lives on the long road to reach freedom." It's a reminder that it wasn't only the Americans and coalition forces that "liberated" the country. There were tens of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives opposing the regime as well.

Um. Asshat, those people include hundreds of children, who were slaughtered because their parents angered the local Ba'athist creep. They weren't "opposing the regime." The Iraqis didn't "liberate" their country. American soldiers liberated it. And lose the scare quotes. Hussein's a POW. His sons are dead. The regime is over.

Qadir has to drop us off several blocks away from the Palestine Hotel. The military has erected huge concrete barriers to protect the hotel from car and truck bombing attempts because only a couple of weeks earlier, the hotel suffered a rocket attack from the back of a donkey cart parked on the main boulevard. Hiwa and I walk the pedestrian route through the barriers to the hotel, where we are once again searched before entering. My friend isn't there, so we have a quick tea and head out to find some lunch. As we walk back to our car, I take a long look at the rocket damage on the side of the building. There is a lot of power in that donkey cart -- talk about "dual-use" technology!

No, there isn't a lot of power in that donkey cart. It's a hunk of wood that has to be pulled by someone or something. However, hidden inside it was a powerful weapon. Your analogy is as empty as your [fill in the blank].

Here's the money quote, that Sean simply moves blithely past:

For Iraqis, there was no pro-war or anti-war movement last spring when the United States invaded their country. That, in their view, was a predominantly Western debate. They're used to war; they're used to gunshots. What's new is this tiny seed and taste of freedom. It is a compelling experience to have been in Baghdad just one year ago, where not a single Iraqi expressed to me opinions outside Baathist party lines, and just one year later, when so many express their opinions and so many opinions compete for attention.

And in the next paragraph, he writes:

This is an occupied country. A country at war. Many Iraqis I speak to tell me there is no freedom in occupation, nor trust in unilateral intervention.

It astonishes me that they have such a disconnect between reality and their version of it. In one breath, he relates the vast differences from a year ago, and in the next, he discounts it. And then refute it!

And with all this, one must consider the daily toll of civilian deaths in similar situations of mis-targeting. "Your government has come to liberate the people from Saddam," one man asks me, "or to liberate oil from the people?"

Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's all about the oil,™ move along, nothing to see.

The alienation bred by war on a people doesn't stop with armies, but instead continues with corporations and privatization dominating and shaping the very culture and economic participation that freedom might otherwise express. One man tells me that "if the United States fails in its promise of freedom to the Iraqi people, we may very well create an entire nation of suicide bombers."

Oooh, those wicked, greedy corporations. You know, the ones that put up all the money to back, say, the films of Sean Penn. And that suicide bomber line: Nope, that wouldn't be us creating them. That would be the Wonderful Arab Cult of Death, brought to you by Yasser Arafat and his ilk, and polished recently by Osama bin Laden. Please, credit where it's due.

Okay. Time to see what heroics Sean is coming up with now.

What should be understood is that when I arrive in Iraq this go-round, for what would be a four-day trip, there are roughly 1,500 journalists in and around Baghdad, and in these four days, only one, to my knowledge, is shot and wounded. So the survival odds for such a brief trip are very much in my favor.

Brave, brave Sean. Audience: applause, please. So, how fares our hero?

But for the people and children of Baghdad and the coalition forces, the insurgents and the utter lawlessness of the streets are a constant and real threat. Shortly before the U.S. attack, Hussein opened the gates of his largest prisons and released his worst criminals and killers into the population. Until recently, several illegal taverns posted Arabic signs reading "Killer for Hire." Kidnappings, robberies, rape and murder are commonplace.

But wait... wait... you're not done yet. Oh. There's more.

Thursday: Getting out of Iraq is even more challenging than getting in.

Maybe later.



LOTR: Geeking out again

The One has so many great links you can get lost there for hours. Here's a neat USA Today article asking various questions of various cast members now that it's over.

Judith Weiss sent me this link to a review from some guy at Swarthmore a while ago. I haven't quite decided how much I agree with yet, though I do agree with a few of the author's points. Like, the one about Arwen getting sicker as Sauron gets stronger:

The incredibly aggravating bit about Arwen dying because Sauron’s power is growing was a big example of wretched dramatic excess. It’s friggin’ unnecessary: how much more motivation does Aragorn need at that point in the story? The people of Gondor depending on you, check. Frodo, depending on you to distract Sauron, check. The free peoples of Middle-Earth, depending on you, check. Does he really need Elrond to show up and say, “Win this thing fast, kiddo, because your beloved is going to croak if you don’t”. I mean, she’s going to anyway if Aragorn loses, since she gave up her ticket to Valinor.

Preach on, brother.

I haven't gotten this movie to work yet. Something is hinky with my Windows movie player. But I'm told it's great. Update: Yep. Just call it "Bogart of the Rings." Very clever cuts of Humphrey Bogart films with dubbed voices. And Peter Lorre as Gollum, of course.

And to think, when Judith first joined Kesher Talk, I was worried that one of my prime sources of links would be too busy to send me any more. The woman is simply unstoppable. Betcha she could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money.

Paypal, you, and me

So the Paypal button is up now (the one that says "Make a Donation") and verified. A number of you have sent me emails in the past saying you'd contribute if I'd put one up.

I'm not asking for 80k, like Andrew Sullivan did during his first pledge week. I'm not even going to do a pledge week thing, as I find that very annoying. But I'd appreciate a little help at the moment. I'm currently starting a new business and working a few different things to make ends meet, and, er, they're not quite meeting at the moment. They will, in a couple of months, I'm sure. In the meantime, yep, the tipjar is up, and yep, I'm asking for tips.

Of course, there's always my secret weapon: I could have my mother guest-blog and guilt you all into contributing. There's nothing quite as powerful as a Jewish mother's guilt trip.

The sick, twisted heritage of the palestinians

A mother of two blew herself up at the Erez Crossing in the Gaza Strip.

The female suicide bomber entered the security check building, which is a new facility with extensive security measures and blew herself up causing vast damage inside the building.

She was identified as Hamas member Reem Salih al Rayashi, 21 from Gaza. According to a Reuters report, she was a mother-of-two.

And the pals are proud of the saying that they love death more than we love life. Apparently, they love death more than they love their children. Golda Meir's aphorism remains true: Israel will have peace when the palestinians love their children more than they hate Israelis.

Magen David Adom evacuated the injured to Barzilai hospital in Ashkelon, and security forces closed down the checkpoint. Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 workers await returning to their homes.

So much for "easing conditions" in the Gaza Strip. Let them work in Egypt. Or let them eat sand.

Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni, commander of the Gaza Division told a press conference Tuesday afternoon that Rayashi evaded metal detectors by claiming she had platinum insets in her legs. She was forwarded to a side office where she made a show of falling over. When soldiers rushed to her help, she blew herself up.

Another witness, who declined to be named, said an unfamiliar woman waiting with the laborers was walking strangely. When she offered to help the stranger, the woman brushed her off, and the blast went off shortly afterward, reports Associated Press.

"Because she was a woman, a female soldier was sent for, to inspect her. The terrorist made use of the waiting period for the arrival of the woman soldier, made her way further into the complex, and exploded," Shamni said.

The scientific advances made by palestinians: Newer, better, trickier ways to murder people. The scientific advances made by Israelis: Too numerous to list.

Referring to the 20,000 Palestinians who pass through the crossing each day to work in Israel or in the adjacent Erez industrial complex, he said, "the bomber was trying to disrupt future cooperation."

"We're doing our best to facilitate Palestinians finding work in Israel As a result of this bombing, the whole crossing will be closed for several days."

And this, too, will be blamed on Israel.

In a video made before the bombing, Rayashi declared her lifelong dream of becoming a suicide bomber. "I always wanted to be the first woman to carry out a martyr attack, where parts of my body can fly all over. That is the only wish I can ask God for," she said with a smile.

Hey asshat, you weren't the first. You probably won't be the last. But you are a pathetic example of the culture of death that permeates palestinian society today. Rot in hell.

An IDF official called the attack an attempt to underscore this symbol of Israeli – Palestinian coexistence. "The incident will only serve to prevent thousands of Palestinians to place bread on their table," he said.

Refusing to condemn Wednesday's bombing, PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said Israel was responsible for the attack. Construction of the security fence, curfews, destruction and attacks on Palestinian villages, he said, would only entrench the circle of violence.

Of course. Blame the victim. That's what your people do. "Circle of violence." Last I heard, the IDF had withdrawn from most of the towns in the West Bank and Gaza. Naturally, this is a result of easing restrictions meant to prevent terrorism.

Reem Salih al-Rayashi is the first female suicide bomber from the Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group Hamas. The use of a woman bomber could signal willingness to compromise its religious principles in order to more easily carry out attacks.

"Resistance will escalate against this enemy until they leave our land," Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin told Reuters. He also said the use of a woman was unique, but holy war "is an obligation of all Muslims, men and women."

"This is an indication that resistance will continue," he said.

Tell me again how Israel is supposed to have peace with these murderers? They twist their own religious rulings to fit their bloody agenda. And the BBC is going to fire a man for simply telling the truth? The world is upside down.



Hidden gems

Every once in a while, I happen upon a weblog that's just... good. I don't read these weblogs regularly enough, but when I remember to, I am always happy that I did.

White Pebble is one of those weblogs. It has no angle, no theme, just a lot of really nice posts.

Sorry to hear about your mother, Patti. And yes, laughter helps at these times.

Crossing the Rubicon is a similar website (the old site with all the posts is here), and both of them are going onto my links page under a new category, Hidden Gems. They both make me feel like I do when I'm going through a normal day and suddenly see a perfect spiderweb, or something I'm generally not expecting to see. I like surprises. Good ones, anyway.

Jersey James is jammin'

Found a blog via Kate (or refound it, I think I've been there before) written by a guy from New Jersey (get off blogspot! Kevin will show you the way). I just spent far too much time reading the blog and laughing and smiling and reminiscing about New Jersey. Favorite line so far:

Believe me, I would rather lick the men’s room floor in New York City's Port Authority Bus Terminal than take another bar exam.

It's from a post where James discusses leaving NJ.

Laughed out loud at this one, too:

On December 23rd, I was really glad to receive the reminder from Rufus Greene that "Christmas is near...ticzbbtxcksutaozrj." Good thing too, because I had thought that Christmas is near..biczbbtxcksutaorzj. Thanks, Rufus.

But James' comparison of his small town in NJ and a small town in a red state is the best of all. I didn't check, but what town are we talking about James, East Rutherford? I see you mentioned Rutt's Hutt way back in the beginning. Never ate there. Kosher dogs or none at all.

Of course I'm going to insult East Rutherford. I was born in Newark, raised mostly in Essex County. The smallest town I ever lived in was Menlo Park, which is the town that started me smoking, thanks to the greaser crowd I was hanging with. I had stints in Irvington (ew), Hillside (ew), Elizabeth (see above), Maplewood (eh), and finally, Bloomfield (yay!) and Montclair (Best. NJ. Town. Ever). But I got tired of living in the most densely populated state in the union. Merely moving to Richmond lost me about 90% of my neighbors. From 6,000 per square mile to 600. It's a lot easier to drive around here. Look me up if you ever decide to visit. I can show you the NJ side of Richmond, too. You can't really get away from it. But you can avoid a lot of it.

Freedom pays

The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal put together an annual Index of Economic Freedom. A look at the various ratings of several Middle East nations is in order.

Israel is standing at number 29, in spite of three years of terrorism and economic recession due to the implosion of the tourist industry and lack of foreign investment because of the terrorism. That's 29, out of all the nations in the world. Here's a view of the rest of her neighbors' ratings:

Jordan, the "moderate" nation: 51
Saudia Arabia, the palestinians' patrons, home of one of the world's largest oil reserves: 74
Lebanon, occupied by Syrian forces for decades, home of Hizbullah terrorists: 83
Egypt, which gets $2 billion a year in U.S. aid: 95
Syria, supporter of terrorists for over 30 years, occupier of Lebanon: 138
Iran, stifled by mullahs for a quarter century, founder and supporter of Hizbullah: 148

Looks like it pays to be the only democracy in the Middle East.

More loser news: Dorktator Baby Assad won't treat with Israel

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad says that Israel "isn't serious" about inviting him to Jerusalem to discuss peace between Syria and Israel. Look, I'm the one who has you in my ATS Dead Pool, not President Katsav.

Various media outlets have been posting pictures of the little dictator. Y'know, this guy is the dorkiest dictator to walk the earth since that little Austrian psychopath. And look at this picture I found (left): Darken the mustache, ignore the stork-neck, and it could be Adolf's bigger (but dorkier) brother. I think he was going for that look, myself.

Then again, there's this picture (right), in which he's even dorkier. Man, if he wasn't the dictator's son, bet he would have gotten his ass kicked all through high school. I do believe from now on I'll be calling him the dorktator.

And he's an ophthalmologist. The world's only dictator who can order your eyes plucked out after first checking them for glaucoma.

Can we get rid of him the old-fashioned way? Someone send the IAF to buzz him again, and then, whoops! dropped our payload on your summer palace. Bummer.

Loser news

So this guy is at the zoo in Buenos Aires, and he hears voices telling him to jump into the lion cage and taunt them. The voices were inside his head. Guess who won in the battle of lion v. human?

Yup. And the Telegraph has a cute little picture of the man lying on his back with his arms waving, and the lion sitting on him, looking rather bored and annoyed. Amazingly, the lion did not kill the man. The moral of the story: You can tease the little cats, but don't mess with lions.

Update: Jeff Silver says I shouldn't lump a man obviously suffering from mental disease in with the next two stories. He's got a point. So the "loser" in this case will simply mean the loser of the battle between man and lion. There, that takes the edge off nicely.

British serial killer Dr. Death hanged himself.

Although his motive for the killings was not entirely clear, the report concluded that Shipman began ending the lives of terminally ill patients and then moved on to patients that he found annoying or uncooperative.

I guess he got annoyed with himself. Buh-bye!

Disney's shutting its Florida animation studio. Could that be because Disney movies suck great big (etc., etc., etc.) these days and nobody's going to see them? I think the last Disney animated film I paid to see was The Lion King. No, Tarzan. Nothing since. On the other hand, Pixar rocks. Finding Nemo was a hoot.



Yep, that button on the left is what you think it is

I've added an Amazon Honor System tipjar to the website. The Paypal tipjar will be up as soon as they've verified my account information. For the record, I pay more monthly than most other bloggers do, because I'm an extremely loyal person, and I don't want to leave Net Access. Then again, my site has only gone down twice in the years that I've been with them. Can't say the same for many on Hosting Matters and other servers. And N@c's service is phenomenal. When I was so frustrated at an extended outage that I threatened to leave, one of the owners phoned me personally to make sure I stayed. (The site went down during an Instalink in my early days. Talk about your bad timing!)

Plus, my buddy Jay is working for them again. So the extra few bucks are worth it, to me.

But that's not why the tipjar is up. I spend a lot of hours writing these posts. When I get an article published in a magazine like the Weekly Standard, I get paid for it. I'm adding the tipjars so that I can get paid for writing on my blog.

I've said from the very beginning that I started writing these blogs to hone my writing skills, and now you're reaping the benefits of the thousands of hours and millions of words that I've written these past two and three-quarters years.

Not only that, but maybe I'll start taking requests if the tip is big enough. Well, unless the request is to stop posting cat pictures. I can't do that. Well, okay, but it would really cost you. Put out a figure and we'll talk.

British anti-Semitism: Working on Jewish Double Standard Time

Robert Kilroy-Silk, a BBC correspondent, wrote last week about Muslims:

“What do they think we feel about them? That we adore them for the way they murdered more than 3,000 civilians on September 11 and then danced in the hot, dusty streets to celebrate the murders? That we admire them for being suicide bombers, limb amputators, women repressors?”

He has since been suspended from his job, and an outrcy has arisen from Arabs throughout the U.K. and elsewhere. In a Guardian op-ed today, a Muslim correspondent wrote:

The Express's response in defending its columnist is more worrying. And all the more so since it has been joined by the knee-jerk recourse of its rivals to the cul de sac of absolute freedom of speech. Suffice it to say that neither Kilroy-Silk nor anybody else would have been allowed to say the same thing in our national newspapers about black people or Jews.

Nobody would be allowed to say the same things about Jews, eh? Let's review.

A.N. Wilson publishes anti-Semitic drivel and recommends a book by Holocaust denier in a British newspaper. When confronted with that fact, even though the newspaper issues an apology, Wilson at first refuses to apologize or withdraw his approval of the book. No calls to have him fired or stop him from writing for that organization in the future.

The Independent runs a cartoon depicting Ariel Sharon eating a baby. Calls that it is anti-Semitic are refuted by the cartoonist and his editors. The cartoon ultimately wins first prize from the British Political Cartoon Society.

Guardian correspondent Richard Ingrams states in his column that he no longer pays attention to any letters in support of Israel written by people with Jewish-sounding surnames. No shitstorm ensues; Ingrams is not fired.

British MP Tom Dalyell says that Tony Blair is "being unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers." People spluttered and fussed, and even the Guardian called his remarks anti-Semitic—but Dalyell was not removed from office for his remarks.

And of course, there was the infamous Tom Paulin remark about how Jewish settlers should be "shot dead." As this Telegraph article points out, Paulin is still a regular guest on the BBC.

A couple of academics got in trouble for discriminating against Israelis. But those were legal issues of discrimination, not issues of speech. In all of the speech issues, nothing happened to the purveyor of the anti-Semitic remarks.

On the other hand, Robert Kilroy-Silk is about to lose his job, and may face hate crimes charges for making remarks about Muslims. Yes, it's Jewish Double Standard Time again. So. What else is new?

Here a fence, there a fence

Judith Weiss has an excellent post up about fences dividing nations today. In fact, there seem to be more fences than you can shake a protester at. Funniest of all is her title to the post: "Selective indignation." Yeah.

The Must-Read part of the article is the very end, where she quotes a Ha'aretz article in which the mayor of an Israeli Arab village as saying that he would not like to be annexed by the PA, that he and his people would be much better off under Israeli rule than under the palestinians.

Surprise, surprise! Prisons are, like, no fun at all

Kate Raphael, who was arrested while trying to tear down the separation fence, had a rude awakening in custody. Being locked up was (gasp!) no fun at all. And, like, there were a lot of other criminals in there with her (though she doesn't call them such). Via Kesher Talk.

There are five other women in my dorm room, with bunk beds like a Jerusalem hostel. Augel is from Uzbekistan, Valentina and Tanya from Moldova, Alvira from Romania and Arletta from Liberia.

Arletta has been here the longest, nearly three months. She came to Israel four years ago with her uncle, who bought her ticket. She lost both parents at age 17, fourteen years ago, when they were murdered in the civil war that has raged ever since. She worked as a housekeeper here, for so many families she can't count them. Some were very kind and trusted her, she says. Others were suspicious and begrudged her even a glass of water or a sneak peak at CNN while she worked. Her house was raided at 1:30 in the morning one night, because some of those who lived there had registered to go home (this gives them immunity from arrest and time to get their affairs together) and gave the address to the police. Three others were arrested that night besides Arletta. They have all gone back to their countries, but she could not because of the war. She has applied for refugee status, but the human rights organizations and United Nations refugee officers are too busy to help her, and the Ministry of Interior is on strike. So she sits, day after day.

Hm. She's an illegal immigrant from Liberia. Yes, she has had a tragic life. But still, she was an illegal immigrant. Perhaps if the UN stopped spending so much time and money on the palestinian "refugees" and concentrated on people in war zones like Liberia, Arletta would not have had to sneak into Israel.

When she is able to talk to her friends outside, they give her discouraging news. More and more people are being arrested. Israel wants to be rid of all its foreign workers, though new ones will keep coming to do the work Palestinians are no longer allowed to do in Israel. In July of 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon set a goal of deporting 50,000 undocumented workers, or 1,000 every month. On my eighth day in Hadera, Arletta learned that the man who was keeping her things in Tel Aviv had gone to the hospital in Jerusalem and was arrested when he tried to get treatment.

No, Israel wants to be rid of all her illegal foreign workers. People who are breaking the law. Unlike Kate, most people do believe in things called borders.

[...] Most of the women here are more like Augel, who crossed into Israel on foot from Egypt, with many other girls. They were brought by a man who paid their fare and kept their passports. Augel and I speak Hebrew, which she has learned fluently in the two years she is here, but I speak very poorly. She can't tell me that much, but she mimes being beaten as she made her way into Israel. Women from war-torn countries, "other war-torn countries," I should say--come here to work: cleaning houses. Some of them do that, and most of their salaries are kept to pay back the traffickers for their tickets.

She made her way into Israel from Egypt. Question? Why didn't she look for work in Egypt? Aren't there any jobs there? Surely there isn't discrimination against dark-skinned people in Egypt. What? There is? No! I thought only Americans and Israelis could be racists. Arabs can't be racists. Can they?

Here's where we find out that, well, four walls do a prison make:

[...] Eli tries to explain to me that this is not a prison, but "custody." Prison, he says, is a police matter, and custody is custody. I answer that the barbed wire and guns preventing us from leaving makes it a prison in my lexicon. When I try to end the conversation, he says, "You are in my place. You cannot do whatever you want. If I tell you to sit down, sit down." Mornings, he or one of the other officers comes into our rooms at 8:15 or so, shouting, "Banot, lakum!", girls, get up. "Nikayon," they demand, clean up, though it is ridiculous, because we have nothing to do all day, you get up, spend half an hour cleaning and the rest of the day sleeping, sitting around, watching television (if you understand Russian), making everything dirty again.

Man, that is such a bummer. There isn't even any American television in an Israeli prison. And they make you get up at the same time every morning, and go to sleep at the same time every night, even though you don't want to and it's so unnecessary. I think you should complain to the United Nations or Amnesty International or something.

Telephone calls are the big carrot and stick. "Rotzah telefon?", get up, clean up, shut up. It is the thing which keeps you sane and connected to the outside world. Yet it too is set up to cause maximum strife. There are only two pay phones for perhaps 60 women, they are outside and we only get to go outside for an hour or hour and a half each day, except when it rains, when we don't go out at all. So then, of course, squabbles break out over the phone and then everyone is punished by being made to go in early.

Even worse! Everyone doesn't get their own phone in prison. Medic! Medic! I'm having a heart attack! And look, collective punishment! That's against the Geneva Convention. Sue! Sue at the Hague!

Man, prison really sucks. I don't know what we can do to help Kate out here. Oh, wait, yes. Don't get arrested, asshat.




I am so effing tired, I can barely type. My new job entails a lot of physical work. Flat stomach by June, that's my goal. I think I may get there by May.

I got the job at the climbing gym. Belaying climbers is a lot more work than it looks. Especially when your last climber of the day outweighs you by about a hundred pounds.

I think I'll rest tomorrow and do some climbing on Tuesday. I've never had a job that was fun before. See, you're never too old to learn new things.

I'll be back after dinner. Maybe. Go check out last week's blogs if you haven't already. Or the week before's. I'm in reruns for the moment.


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.