Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Importance of Terrorist Whack-a-mole

...thousands more arise to replace it."


For every website that gets taken down, the same site rises back up again at a new location, or under a new name, in a process that can take 4 to 14 days. That is the typical scenario. Sometimes sites cease operation altogether due to factors ranging from simple weariness on the part of the webmaster to the webmaster being captured or killed. In any event, to say that jihadist websites are proliferating on the web and that nothing can be done about it is not only grossly defeatist it's also just plain wrong.

There may be thousands of websites out there that scream 'Allahu Akbar!', but there are only a relative handful of sites that are of any significance either in terms of the users or the content, and there are not all that many people involved in keeping the significant sites online or producing the gory content for which these sites have become known.

So if the sites are not proliferating, why then are they able to survive at all?

Because we, the greater we, the global community of people who all at least claim to be trying to combat Islamist terrorism, allow those sites and the people who run them to survive. On the one hand there is no consensus as to which sites should be taken down vs. which one's should be allowed to continue to operate for intelligence purposes. On the other hand, tracking down and taking out the people who run the sites is not a trivial matter. It can certainly be done, but there is a justifiable interest in prioritizing what the Israelis call 'the ticking bombs'.

The problem is that day by day, as we allow these sites to continue to operate, the jihadis get stronger because the websites of the global jihad are their way of reproducing themselves and their ideology.

Rover Meseareau

Jacko's attorney practices pleading for clemency for his terminally weird client. H/T Netizen News.

Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tariq Ramadan calls for worldwide halt to hudud

I'm of two minds on the Tariq Ramadan visa issue. On one side, I want my country to encourage academic freedom and the study of all cultures, however attractive or repellent they might be. On the other hand, as I want my country to be safe I believe that no non-American who preaches in favor of terrorism should be allowed to visit America. In any case, this time Ramadan has done something pretty good.

In an article printed on Dak Bangla, Tariq Ramadam calls on Muslims to Stop in the Name of Humanity!
Muslim societies and Muslims around the world are confronted with a fundamental issue: the application of the penalties linked to the Islamic penal code -- widely referred to as sharia or, in stricter terms, as hudud. I refer, of course to the practices of corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty applied in several countries in the name of Islamic law. ...

The majority of Muslim scholars (known as the ulama) are of the opinion that these penalties are, on the whole, Islamic but that the conditions required for their application are practically impossible to recreate (notably in regards to stoning). They are, therefore, almost never applicable.

One would have hoped that this conclusion would have served as a guarantee to protect women and men from repressive and unfair treatment; one would have wished that the stipulated conditions would be seen as an imperative to promote equality before the law and justice between humans by their respective governments and the legislators that speak in the name of Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Behind the current Islamic discourse lurks a sombre reality where women and men are punished, hit, stoned and executed in the name of hudud. This is occurring in the absence of the slightest emotion shown by the Muslim conscience throughout the world.

It is as if one does not know, as if a minor treason were being done to the Islamic teachings. The height of these injustices is that these penalties apply mainly to women and the poor -- doubly victimized -- never to the rich, the governing or to the oppressors. ...

There is today a quadruple crisis of closed and repressive political systems, religious authorities promoting contradictory requirements and uneducated populations swept up with more a feeling of religious fervour and passion than true reflection. These facts cannot legitimize our silence. We are accomplices and guilty when women and men are punished, stoned or executed in the name of a formalist application of the scriptural sources.

It leaves the responsibility to the Muslims of the entire world. It is for them to rise up to the challenge of remaining just to the message of Islam in the contemporary era; it is for them to denounce the failures and the treasons that are being carried out by certain authorities or Muslim individuals.

Taking into account all these considerations, we are launching today a call for an immediate international moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty in all majority Muslim countries. ...

1. Muslim scholars are not in agreement on the interpretations given to the texts upon which these practices are based, nor do they agree on the required conditions in which they would be applicable. It is necessary, therefore, to have an open debate to immediately suspend these practices as there is no consensus on the matter.

2. The application of the hudud laws today is used by repressive powers to abuse women, the poor and political opponents within a quasi-legal vacuum and with a total disrespect for human dignity. The Muslim conscience cannot accept these denials of justice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Legend of Terri Schiavo

Wretchard on The Belmont Club has a terrific post in which he explains how because of her long suffering, her estranged and repulsively monomaniacal husband, her increasingly desperate parents, and the coldly logical, legalistic courts, Terri Schiavo is becoming a transcendent figure, a legendary character, a sort of hero. Her importance will transcend her own life.

Read it.

The bits about butterflies and catastrophe theory are a bit much though.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Woman Leads Muslim Prayers in New York

Yesterday morning, in New York, a woman led Muslim Friday Prayer Services for what the organizers claim was the first time ever on record. The Voice of America writes:
Amina Wadud has now taken a step to change Islamic traditions. An Islamic scholar at Virginia Commonwealth University, Professor Wadud describes herself as a lonely scholar who took this most public of steps to symbolize the possibilities for gender equality within Islam. She led the mixed-gender service at a building on the grounds of the episcopal Cathedral of Saint John the Divine after the original venue was changed following threats.

Several religious leaders in the Middle East have criticized the event, saying it violates centuries of tradition. But in her sermon, Professor Wadud said it is a violation of god's integrity to try to reduce half of God's creation. 'Allah is always present whether we acknowledge it or not, whether we agree with it or not, whether it is convenient for us or not, women and men both are necessary and essential to Allah's plan for creation and women and men both have the capacity to reach more moral excellence,' she said.
A quote in the New York Daily News brings up the fear of Muslims who protest against this event, that it might spread ripples of women's emancipation across the Muslim world.
Although billed as a spiritual event, yesterday's service held potentially profound social implications for Muslims around the world, said Khaled Abou El-Fadl, a professor of Islamic law at UCLA.

"What the fundamentalists are worried about is that there's going to be a ripple effect not just in the U.S. but all over the Muslim world," Abou El-Fadl said. "The women who are learned and frustrated that they cannot be the imam are going to see that someone got the guts to break ranks and do it."
Also see New York Times, other related stories.

UPDATE 3/28/05:
Khalid commented:
The Grand Mufti did not speak out in support. You can read his ruling for yourself.

Anyhow, there are already female imams, in China, where they have woman-only mosques; no one has a problem with this. And women have always been scholar/jurists and sufi shaykhas-- both of these positions are considered much more important than imams, whose function really is just to keep everyone ontime and in sequence.
I see that he actually reported that some scholars wrote that it was acceptable for a woman to lead men in prayer, but not in the Friday prayers.

Cretaceous Park

In Jurassic Park dinosaurs were cloned from blood cells inside a mosquito that was frozen in a chunk of amber. In real life, all the scientists had to do in order to isolate Cretaceous period Tyrannosaurus soft tissue and perhaps blood was to break a T. Rex thighbone in half.
Scientists who had to break a dinosaur bone to remove it from its sandstone location say they have recovered 70-million-year-old soft tissue from inside the bone.

The find included what appear to be blood vessels, and possibly even cells, from a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Cretacearrific! Cretaceatastic!!!

H/T ArchaeoBlog

Friday, March 25, 2005

Petroleum Conservation for National Security

Max Boot at the L.A. Times is as incisive as ever about Petroleum prices and national security
In absolute terms, today's [petroleum] prices are still half of the 1970s peaks, and the U.S. economy has become much less dependent on petroleum since then. (Computers run on electricity, not gasoline.) But imagine what would happen if Al Qaeda were to hit the giant Ras Tanura terminal in Saudi Arabia, where a tenth of global oil supplies are processed every day. Prices could soar past $100 a barrel, and the U.S. economy could go into a tailspin. As it is, high oil prices provide money for Saudi Arabia to subsidize hate-spewing madrasas and for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. [...]

How to do better? Biking to work or taking the train isn't the answer. Even if Americans drive less, global oil demand will surge because of breakneck growth in India and China. The Middle East, home of two-thirds of the world's proven oil reserves, will remain of vital strategic importance unless we can develop alternative sources of automotive propulsion and substantially decrease global, not just American, demand for petroleum. An ambitious agenda to achieve those goals has been produced by Set America Free, a group set up by R. James Woolsey, Frank Gaffney and other national security hawks.

They advocate using existing technologies — not pie-in-the-sky ideas like hydrogen fuel cells — to wean the auto industry from its reliance on petroleum. Hybrid electric cars such as the Toyota Prius, which run on both electric motors and gas engines, already get more than 50 miles per gallon. Coming soon are hybrids that can be plugged into a 120-volt outlet to recharge like a cellphone. They'll get even better mileage.

Add in "flexible fuel" options that already allow many cars to run on a combination of petroleum and fuels like ethanol (derived from corn) and methanol (from natural gas or coal), and you could build vehicles that could get — drum roll, please — 500 miles per gallon of gasoline. That's not science fiction; that's achievable right now.

Set America Free estimates that if we convert entirely to flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, U.S. gasoline imports in 20 years will drop by two-thirds. As important, because Americans are the world's biggest car buyers, U.S. preferences would reshape the global automotive industry. Carmakers would wind up shipping hybrid electrics to Europe and Asia too.

Fragments of the Evolving Quran

An excellent article from Atlantic Monthly about some ancient copies of the Quran that have been discovered in Yemen. The most interesting thing about them, from a historical point of view, is that they differ from current Qurans. This is blasphemy to conventional teaching about the Quran within Islam, which states that the Quran is the perfect word of God and that it has not changed since it was first dictated.

H/T Dean Esmay

Khadr Family Values

Read this story about a Canadian Muslim family who went to Afghanistan to run charities for orphans and lived and socialized in the same circle as Osama Bin Laden.

One critical point to remember is what Maha and Zaynab, the mother and oldest daughter of the family, have to say about extremist and moderate Muslims.
INTERVIEWER: I guess I had the impression that there are a lot of more moderate Muslims around the world who felt that he [Osama Bin Laden] has brought untold misery on to the heads of Muslims. He's brought hatred towards Muslims in the United States, in North America, in Europe.

ZAYNAB: There's no such a thing as moderate Islam. Islam is Islam. It's been there and it's been the same. Fourteen hundred years ago the same book. The same prophet. That's how it's going to be for until the day of judgment.

MAHA: It's not like Christianity, 2,000 years ago Jesus -- bless him, for us we believe he's a prophet, may God has blessing on him -- he said homosexuality is forbidden. Adultery is forbidden. Now it's all allowed. So this is modern Christianity. But for us, no.

ZAYNAB: I mean you can't bring two Bibles that would have the exact same things in it. You can bring as many Qurans as you like and open the exact suras and the exact same verses and you find exactly the same.

INTERVIEWER: So you don't think there's such a thing as a moderate Muslim?

ZAYNAB: No. You either follow the Quran or you don't follow the Quran.

MAHA: Moderate Muslims are not following the complete Quran.
Troubling, not only because they deny the hope of moderation in Islam, but because they are so wrong about Christianity.

H/T Liberals Against Terrorism

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Network Mapping the 9/11 Conspiracy

It's perfect! Valdis Krebs is an extremely smart man. Read it!

Here's a money quote that describes the best strategy to use to disrupt future conspiracies, should they be discovered in time
Although we do not know all of the internal ties of the hijackers' network it appears that many of the ties were concentrated around the pilots. This is a risky move for a covert network. Concentrating both unique skills and connectivity in the same nodes makes the network easier to disrupt - once it is discovered. Peter Klerks (Klerks, 2001) makes an excellent argument for targeting those nodes in the network that have unique skills. By removing those necessary skills from the project, we can inflict maximum damage to the project mission and goals. It is possible that those with unique skills would also have unique ties within the network. Because of their unique human capital and their high social capital the pilots were the richest targets for removal from the network. Unfortunately they were not discovered in time.
Did I mention that you should read it?

LAT has more. Papers 1 and 2 about disrupting covert networks.

H/T praktike via nadezha at LAT.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Conventional Wisdom

I love to read Liberals Against Terrorism. They are smart people who think deeply about things. They are liberal and hopeful as all young people should be. Sometimes they underestimate the vastness of the problem we have before us with extremist Islam. And sometimes they underestimate the strategic wisdom of a president whose domestic policies and elocution they dislike.

So I wrote something that was good enough that I wish I had just blogged it here. Go and read it there instead.

Iranian Dissident Censorship Lifted

Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian law professor and former judge, was the first Muslim woman to win the Nobel prize. George W. Bush said of her:
the demand for democracy is strong and broad as we saw when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi - The regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy.
Despite this, she had been prevented from publishing her book in the US because the US Treasury Department stupidly insisted that it was enemy literature. While she theoretically could have published it in the US, it was a criminal offense for any editors, publishers, printers, or anyone else to help her do it.
Ebadi was told she could not publish her memoirs in the United States because of regulations that prohibit "trading with the enemy." The Trading With The Enemy Act (TWTE), passed in 1917, allows the president to bar transactions during times of war or national emergency.

Though the law has been amended to exempt publishers, the Treasury Department continued to rule it illegal "to enhance the value of anything created in Iran without permission," including books.
Grrrrr... Grrrrrrrr... Stupid bureaucratic bullshit like this just gets me so mad I wanna spit, or even let loose with some horrible sarcasm!
At the same time Treasury was denying Ebadi the right to publish her book, the U.S. State Department -- which is reportedly in charge of "winning the hearts and minds" of people who live under repressive, authoritarian regimes -- was lauding her on its website as one of Iran's "Voices Struggling To Be Heard."

The website notes she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 "for her life-long campaign to protect vulnerable and persecuted groups within Iranian society." It also quotes the citation from the Norwegian Nobel Committee: "As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran and far beyond."
Ebadi and her allies filed suit against Treasury to knock down this ridiculous law. Money quote.
"Writers in Iran, Cuba and Sudan cannot publish freely in their own countries. It is a tragic and dangerous irony that Americans may not freely publish the works of those writers here, either"
At last, Treasury relented from its incredibly boneheaded position.
Last week, the Treasury Department abruptly reversed its interpretation of the TWTE Act and largely exempted writers, publishers, editors, translators and literary agents from rules on the publication of information materials -- including medical and scientific publications as well as books -- from countries subject to U.S. trade embargoes.

Edward Davis, whose law firm represents the publishing organisations as well as PEN, called the Treasury Department's decision "a very encouraging first step toward restoring the freedom of expression," but cautioned, "the government has not yet undone all the restrictions imposed."
Isn't this what the 1st Amendment is all about? Free expression without government oversight, threat, and oppression? Isn't this one of the freedoms we want to export to the entire Middle East?

But geeze, Treasury never struck me as a particularly intelligent organization. After all, the IRS is part of it. And the BATF was part of Treasury when they led the raid against the Branch Davidians in Waco. BATF was cut out and thrown into Justice after 2001, but the mindrot continues in Treasury. Apparently.

Regime Change Plans for Iran

Today's phrase is eminence grise. Sometimes you just need a ten-dollar word, or a fifty-dollar word after cost-of-living increases, to impress the wife's parents or obscure something you're discussing so the kids don't get it. Today's word for the more plebian "advisor" or even "consigliere" is just way beefier than either.

On the other hand, consigliere was all through Godfather, which is pretty freaking beefy.

Enough musing.

According to Inter Press Service News Agency, George Shultz, eminence grise for the Bush administration, is the senior-most leader of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), an unofficial coffee-klatch meeting in and around Washington and hashing out a plan (or hatching a plot if you prefer a poultry metaphor) to motivate Iranians to toss their government out on its collective tuchas. Some assistance would also be provided. BUT one of the main goals seems to be to avoid a full-scale war against Iran.
Specific elements of a new U.S. policy, according to the paper, would include:
  • A major policy address by Bush that would pledge to ''reconnect with the Iranian people, to help the vast majority of Iranians who want democracy to achieve it ... to assure their security in return for not acquiring nuclear weapons and to help develop their economy'';
  • An announcement of U.S. willingness to re-open its embassy in Tehran and the designation of a senior official devoted to the co-ordination and implementation of the policy, including lobbying U.S. allies, speaking with Iranians via various media, and engaging with senior Iranian government officials, as opposed to ''ordinary diplomats in the Foreign Ministry'';
  • Making clear that Washington will not accept Iran's possession of nuclear weapons and will back that up with force, presumably unilateral, if necessary;
  • Supporting Iranian democrats and dissidents ''to make clear that they are our partners in a new dialogue and that even as we meet with representatives of the Khamenei regime, we consider these to be illegitimate''. Support would include sending Iranian activists abroad for short seminars with their counterparts, ''who have been successful in organising civic campaigns in Serbia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Chile and elsewhere'';
  • Developing relations with the military and various other security services in Iran in order to undermine the regime's ''pillars of support,'' and marshalling evidence for a legal case against Khamenei for indictment in an appropriate tribunal;
  • Devising other ''smart'' sanctions to isolate the regime and its supporters, including the revolutionary foundations, or ”bunyads”, by publicly identifying companies and bank accounts controlled by them to highlight alleged corruption and prepare legal cases for economic crimes; and
  • Attempting to launch a ''dialogue with Khamenei and the clerics around him about how to arrange ''a way to exit peacefully from political power, combined with indications of the alternatives (jail or hanging)''.
The only thing that strikes a bad note for me is the mention of nuclear weapons. Obviously we don't want an expansionist, totalitarian theocracy to have nuclear weapons. But neither do we want the government to have a way to weasel out of regime change, by pretending to acquiesce on the nuclear issue and continuing work on a nuclear bomb in underground labs.

But then I could be wrong. My wife, my own eminence grise, tells me I usually am.

Next time out, I really must find a more elegant way to close the loop.

Pip pip and all that tosh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Saudi Religious Police Forced to Desist

In another first in Saudi Arabia, a writer who was sentenced to four months in prison and 275 lashes by the religious police (Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) has been rescued by the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Dr. Ali [Hamza] Al-Mizeini, an Arabic language professor at King Saud University, was charged by the commission with allegedly questioning the religious institution’s abilities and knowledge in an article written by him in Al-Watan newspaper. The commission was represented in court by another professor at the university, Abdullah Al-Barak from the Islamic Culture Department.
The case was tried in Shariah Court by Judge Suleiman Al-Fantooh.
The judge’s ruling violates the Royal Decree No. 37 of the publication law in Saudi Arabia issued in November, 2000, which states that Shariah courts in the Kingdom should not intervene in trying journalists or writers and that all matters concerning the media and publications should be dealt with through the Ministry of Information.
It seems that the religious police are not as unstoppable as they have been.

H/T Crossroads Arabia.

Corrected name.

Also, Crown Prince Abdullah has intervened.
Prince Abdullah issued the decree to annul the court ruling. Al-Mizeini had also been told that he would be banned from writing in the Saudi media. The decree was in response to the judge’s violation when he issued a verdict against the writer despite his knowledge of a Royal Decree announced last week which states that all conflicts that concern publication matters must be dealt with through the Ministry of Culture and Information.
Hamza Al-Mizeini will not be flogged 275 times, nor assuming he survives the flogging go to jail for four months, but he will be prevented from writing for Saudi media. Saudi media. Saudi media.


Satanic Verse

Bukhari:V6B60N378 “‘O Mother of the faithful, did Muhammad see his Lord?’ Aisha said, ‘What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Know that if somebody tells you the following things, he is a liar. Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar. [i.e., the Qur’an isn’t from God] Whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar.[i.e., Muhammad wasn’t a prophet] Aisha added. ‘The Prophet saw Gabriel in his true form twice.’” [i.e., the Qur’an is 112 surahs too long]

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