Monday, August 30, 2010

Netanyahu's Real Views?

CrooksAndLiars had a video a few weeks ago from about 9 years ago - an interview with Netanyahu.

I haven't watched it yet, but if the partial transcript is correct, Netanyahu is not really worried about the peace talks leading to peace.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Top Stories August 30, 2010

Azzaman (Iraq): German firm strikes deal with Iraqi Kurds to transport Iraqi gas to Europe - This will be part of a pipeline designed to make Europe less dependent upon Russian gas.

Egyptian Gazette: Lacklustre Ahly draw with JS Kabylie - Egyptian soccer results.

Haaretz (Israel): Mahmoud Abbas: If talks fail over settlements, only Israel will be to blame - The Palestinians are worried about the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.

Turkish Daily News: 'Decentralization' remains central aim of Turkey's pro-Kurdish party - The pro-Kurdish party wants a solution to the "Kurdish question." They think part of it could be solved by having a less centralized government, with more local power.

Syria Today: Green Power - Syria is concerned about declining oil supplies and looking at wind and solar power.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mosque Madness Update VI

This topic just won't end. There's a guest commentary on Juan Cole's site that is really worth reading. For all that the Republicans compare Ground Zero to Pearl Harbor, there actually is an analogy. But hopefully we won't start putting Muslim Americans in internment camps as we did to Japanese-Americans during World War II.

What this comes down to is simple racism. During World War II, the US fought Germany and Japan. Germany was white. Japan wasn't. Germany had "good Germans" who might help us. Japan had people living in America for generations who would help them. This is straight-up racism. And the same is true for Islamophobia. It's almost painful to me that even today many Americans just can't see it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Human Rights

Yet again, Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of domestic worker abuse. A maid from Sri Lanka had 24 nails hammered into her, when she complained about her workload. The Gulf States have a bad history of this. There are huge numbers of Southeast Asians who go to the Gulf, to make money to support their families back home. And they are generally exploited. I met a Pakistani man who had to work everyday for 1 year at his hotel job, then he received a month off to visit his family. And that was a good job.

It goes even further than that. Southeast Asians are seen as menial workers in the Gulf States. If you are a person of Southeast Asian ancestry, you may not want to travel there. I have read hotel reviews of wealthy Indians being mistreated at fancy hotels. I went on a student trip to the Gulf and a Muslim student was hassled at the airport because her ancestry is Pakistani. The Arab and Western ("white") looking students had no problems whatsoever. But every time we reached a security checkpoint, she was pulled out of line and her bags searched. Welcome to the Gulf.

Islamophobia? What Islamophobia?

A cabbie in New York City was stabbed, after being asked if he was a Muslim. But don't worry, all the lies and vehemence over the "Ground Zero Mosque" won't translate into anti-Muslim actions. There is no Islamophobia behind the curtain.

I'm old enough to remember the 1980s. I'm old enough to remember the IRA bombings in England. I remember staying at a hotel in London, and having to go through a metal detector to get into the lobby, because they had been bombed several times. What I do NOT remember is anyone saying "All Catholics are terrorists" or even "All Irish are terrorists." Yet, in America, Islam has been demonized.

I truly do not understand it. I could understand if really devout Christians had a problem with Hindus, because of the number of gods in Hinduism. But Christianity is a direct precursor to Islam. Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all worship the same God. But when the Bible uses harsh or violent language, it's being allegorical. When the Qu'ran does it, it's being literal, and Muslims are evil, violent extremists trying destroy The West. The hypocrisy and simple stupidity is mind-boggling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mosque Madness Update V

A nice article from Yahoo! today about people rallying in favor of the mosque (cultural center). A group of different organizations, including people who lost family in 9-11 joined together in favor of freedom of religion. They also pointed out that this Muslim Community Center is based on the Jewish Community Center.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosque Madness Update IV

Okay, this is really getting out of hand. I am sick and tired of hearing about how "Ground Zero is hallowed ground" and "Muslims are trying to impose Shariah law on the US." This is all a bunch of crap! It is nothing but ignorance and racism. What's next, Muslims sit at the back of the bus?!?

1) The "Ground Zero" Mosque is not being built at Ground Zero but 2 blocks away. In the same vicinity around Ground Zero are strip clubs and off-track betting (video on ABC News). So why is it being called the "Ground Zero Mosque?" And how far away is enough? Is three blocks far enough away? What about four blocks? Who gets to decide this?

2) It's not a Mosque! It's a Muslim Community Center that has a mosque on one floor. But somehow, that makes it a mosque. According to Rush Limbaugh, a prayer room in the Pentagon is not a mosque, just a room for Muslims to pray. Therefore, this is a community center with a prayer room, and not a mosque.

3) Apparently all of the plans for every single room in the "mosque" are not available, which has some right wing conservative wacko bloggers (whom I will NOT link to) saying that there is a hidden agenda for these rooms. And that agenda is to impose Shariah law on the US. Gasp! Somehow this minority group of Muslims is going to take over Congress and force enough States to change the American Constitution into Shariah. We cannot even get a women's equal rights amendment or flag burning amendment passed, but watch out for those Muslims.

The main impetus for the Shariah brouhaha seems to be the Cordoba Initiative's Shariah Index Project. From what I can tell, this project is designed to come up with some answers about how the governments of Muslims countries should be run, and to rank them according to Islamic governance principles. Maybe I'm going crazy, but in the past, hasn't the United States ranked countries based on how democratic or socialist they are? And haven't independent panels ranked countries based on how Christian they are? And aren't all these Christians in America constantly talking about how we are a Christian Nation? But one mention of the word Shariah and these same people freak out.

You know what? I miss the Cold War. We used to be concerned about the "godless communists" whereas now we're more concerned about the "godfull Muslims." If you really want to send a message to the terrorists, especially the ones who perpetrated 9-11, then let the Ground Zero Mosque be built, and also build a huge new building complex at Ground Zero, right up into the sky. THAT would show people that America will not be pushed around. THAT would show the world that we are NOT in a war against Islam, that we DO believe in freedom of religion, and that a terrorist attack will NOT change us for the worse.

If you still have energy to read about the mosque situation, I highly recommend Roger Ebert's post on the subject "Ten things I know about the mosque."

Top Stories August 23, 2010

Asia Times: Bushehr: Iran's strike against sanctions - Bushehr is a city in southern Iran that has been trying to build a nuclear power plant, with help from Russia. They received "nuclear fuel on Saturday."

Daily Star (Lebanon): Hariri tells parties to keep STL detached from local debates - The STL is the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Saad Hariri is the current prime minister, son of Rafik Hariri who was assassinated.

Haaretz (Israel): Iran: If attacked our response will be wide-ranging and unpredictable - Iran is concerned that Israel will bomb their reactor, so they are showcasing their military arsenal.

Hurriyet (Turkey): Turkey to remove Iran from enemies watchlist - The Turks do mention that they would prefer a nuclear-free Middle East. And a lot of this goes back to the Flotilla Attack; it really hurt Turkish-Israeli relations.

Yemen Times: 21 Killed In Confrontations in Abyan - Fourteen soldier and seven men thought to be part of al-Qa'eda were killed in a battle in Abyan Governate. Also, the security chief in Shabwa escaped being assassinated. Yemen is not a good place to be right now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My apologies. I am a little behind in everything. (School starts next week.) So there may not be many postings this week.

Friday, August 13, 2010


In 2005, the former prime minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri, was assassinated. The Syrians were originally blamed for it, but now Hizbollah is saying it was the Israelis. Hizbollah claims to have evidence and will turn it over to the Lebanese authorities.

Who is really to blame? At this point, it's anyone's guess. Syria is still a strong contender, and last year a German paper suggested Hizbollah was involved (see the last link above). We may never know for certain.

Monday, August 9, 2010

American Former Politico Questioned by Israel

Donna Shalala may not be a household name, but she used to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Currently, she is president of the University of Miami. She also has Lebanese heritage. She was in Israel as part of an exchange program, and was hassled when she tried to leave. Although officials at the airport are denying it. But I wouldn't expect anything else. Isn't that the first rule when something goes wrong? Deny, deny, deny.

Flotilla Investigation Update II

Remember the UN set up a panel to investigate the flotilla attack? The UN says they may have to question Israeli soldiers, but Israel doesn't like that. So they are threatening to pull out of the investigation. But according to Haaretz, the UN was told they couldn't question the soldiers and agreed, although Bank Ki-moon is saying he never agreed that that was completely off-limits. So it's a giant mess.

What Exactly is Terrorism?

Juan Cole has a good quiz on his website: Rudolph: Can You Pass the Terrorism Quiz? It's a good test for people to take. The answers are given, along with commentary. And many of the answers may surprise people. Here's an excerpt.

11. True or False: Over 20% of the respondents of a 2005 Gallup poll of ten predominantly Muslim countries felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified.

-False. Only 7% felt the 9/11 attacks were fully justified; moreover this 7% was no more or less religious than the other 93%. (Kenneth M. Pollack; A Path Out of the Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East; Random House; New York: 2008; p. 209)

-Even “The Hizbollah leadership distanced itself from September 11 and went public in its criticism of Al Qaeda.” (Fawaz A. Gerges; Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy; Harcourt; New York: 2006; p. 189)

Yum, Blackberries Update I

Well, Bahrain has no plans to ban the Blackberry. They are a little concerned about the security issues, but don't think banning the device is the way to go.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Top Stories August 9, 2010

Arab News (Saudi Arabia): Make Makkah the most beautiful city: Prince Khaled - Prince Khaled al-Faisal is the governor of Mecca and wants to make it beautiful and modern.

Haaretz (Israel): Israeli held in Libyan prison freed in secret deal - A man who belongs to a preservation society for Jewish history in Libya was arrested for taking photos of former Jewish buildings. They thought he was a spy, and he's been in prison since March.

Hurriyet (Turkey): Old rivals, new partners: Turkey, Russia's journey from Cold War to hot sun - More and more Russians are tourists in Turkey, but the Turks still worry about the trade deficit they have because of Russia's natural gas.

Tehran Times (Iran): Four advanced submarines join Iranian fleet - These subs were made in Iran, and bring their submarine total up to about 19.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Japanese Tanker Attacked

It's almost official - the tanker was hit by a dinghy filled with explosives, according to the UAE. Some American analysts aren't convinced yet. An Al-Qa'eda group - the Abdullah Azzam Brigades - has claimed responsibility. This is bad news. This is the first time a tanker has been attacked in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. Apparently it happened when the tanker entered the Strait of Hormuz. The Strait of Hormuz is the little area between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman (next to the Indian Ocean). One side is Iran, the other side is UAE/Oman.

Why is this so bad? Because Iran was not involved in the attack. And the US State Dept considers Oman the safest country in the Middle East. So is this a UAE-based group? Or part of a Saudi group, which is nearby? Al-Qa'eda has a big presence in Yemen now, and attacks there are not unexpected. Apparently the Abdullah Azzam Brigades has claimed responsibility for other attacks over the last few years too. So are they the new kid on the terrorist block?

Yum, Blackberries

Okay, what is going on in the Gulf States? First the UAE decides to ban the Blackberry, then Saudi Arabia jumps on the bandwagon and preempts them. So service stops in Saudi Arabia, only to start up again. Indonesia (a Muslim country) is also annoyed at RIM, the maker of Blackberry.

So what's the big deal? Blackberry communication is encrypted. Which means that the Saudi government cannot monitor what you and your friends are doing on your Blackberries. One article I read mentioned a Saudi blogger, who said he received a lot more comments from people using Blackberries, because they weren't afraid the government would arrest them. So there are freedom of speech issues here, except that Saudi Arabia doesn't have freedom of speech.

Another big deal is that the Blackberry is Western. And by that I mean the company that makes it (RIM) is Canadian, and the servers are in Canada, the US, and maybe Europe. And the Middle Eastern countries cannot believe that the US government isn't getting its hands on Blackberry information. So Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Indonesia, and India, all want the ability to read what people are saying on their Blackberries. In Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf States, the Internet is throttled and the government has complete access to what people are doing. They now want that same access on the Blackberry. Supposedly, RIM is now trying to work with Saudi Arabia on the situation. And see this article for a bit more information on how the Blackberry works.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Mosque Madness Update III - Links

As if you haven't heard enough already, here are more links about the mosque:

Crooks and Liars: Mayor Bloomberg Addresses Planned Islamic Center in New York - video and transcript.

PrawfsBlawg: The Mosque at Ground Zero: Religious Freedom, saved by the usual lawlessness of land-use regulation - about the laws and land surrounding the mosque issue.

BallonJuice: When they came for Ishmael, Abe grabbed a rope... - on the bigotry in the Anti-Defamation League.

The Week (Yahoo! News): 'Ground Zero mosque:' Who's for it - and against? - the main people on both sides and some quotes. (Also some good links at the end of this article.)

Mosque Madness Update II

I finally found a picture of where the mosque is located (on Wikipedia of course). It is a little closer to Ground Zero than I had thought, but that still does not change my argument that a mosque and cultural center have a right to be built there. (Mosque is at 45 Park Place, near the top of the picture.)

Mosque Madness Update I

Yes, the Mosque Madness is still going on in New York City. Luckily, it looks like the mosque will be built. Here's my original post on the subject. Things have gotten hotter with Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and even Rudy Guiliani weighing in against the mosque. For me, this just shows how deeply anti-Muslim sentiment runs in this country. But if you asked, it wouldn't surprise me if old Newt and Rudy claimed they weren't anti-Muslim. They're just anti-organized-Muslim. Muslims may be okay in the abstract, but "we don't want their kind around here." Does that sound familiar to anyone?

Slate has a really good breakdown of the situation here (I highly recommend this article). And an explanation of some of the legal hurdles too. And a panel in NYC just ruled that the building to be demolished for the mosque isn't historical, so it can go ahead.

Why is this such a big deal? I could understand it if the mosque was actually being built on top of Ground Zero, but it's not. It's several blocks away. Let me try a reverse scenario. A fundamentalist Christian blows up an abortion clinic, killing doctors, nurses, and patients. A Christian group wants to build a church down the block, but I decide to oppose it because the bomber was a Christian. I would be laughed out of town for trying that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Back in Town

I have returned, so I'll be posting soon. I wanted a little vacation before the Fall semester started, but my "getting away from it all" turned out to be truer than I thought. Although being without the Internet for a week is somewhat freeing. Everyone should try it at some point.