Saturday, February 26, 2005

Islamic Terror High School? Yes or No?

I like Crossroads Arabia a lot. Recently John at the site wrote that he didn't think the story about the Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia, of which Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, who is on trial for conspiring to assassinate the President of the United States, was the 1999 valedictorian, was all that big a story.

Firstly, any tangential story off a story of a plot to assassinate the President is a big story.

Secondly, AOAA isn't the only bad egg to roll out of the ISA incubator. As I commented on Crossroads Arabia.
From
http://notpowerline.blogspot.com/2005/02/terror-high.html
Last August, a former comptroller of the school, Ismael Selim Elbarasse, was arrested as a material witness by federal authorities who called him a high-level operative for Hamas, the Palestinian terror group.

In March 2002, another graduate of the school, Mohammad Usman Idris, then 24, was charged with lying to a grand jury probing plots against Israel.
From http://counterterror.typepad.com/the_counterterrorism_blog/2005/02/defendant_ahmed.html
A December 16, 2004 decision by U.S. District Court Judge John Bates includes some interesting facts about Abu Ali: He is apparently associated with the “Virginia paintball” case, in which two men, Randall Royer and Ibrahim al-Hamdi were convicted for their participation in what prosecutors called a “Virginia jihad network.” Royer and al Hamdi received long prison terms; seven others pleaded guilty or were convicted in that case, and two were acquitted at trial. Abu Ali might have known defendants in the Royer case; he and three of the Royer defendants were arrested in June 2003 in Saudi Arabia, where he was held there at the request of the FBI until just recently.
From http://www.warriorsfortruth.com/Muslim-Culture.html taken from a Washington Post article
Eleventh-graders at the elite Islamic Saudi Academy in Northern Virginia study energy and matter in physics, write out differential equations in precalculus and read stories about slavery and the Puritans in English.

Then they file into their Islamic studies class, where the textbooks tell them the Day of Judgment can’t come until Jesus Christ returns to Earth, breaks the cross and converts everyone to Islam, and until Muslims start attacking Jews. …

The 11th-grade textbook, for example, says one sign of the Day of Judgment will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews, who will hide behind trees that say: “Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”

Several students of different ages, all of whom asked not to be identified, said that in Islamic studies, they are taught that it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.

Some teachers “focus more on hatred,” said one teenager, who recited by memory the signs of the coming of the Day of Judgment. “They teach students that whatever is kuffar [non-Muslim], it is okay for you” to hurt or steal from that person.
From http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=5270
The Islamic Saudi Academy (ISA) in Northern Virginia forthrightly states that even though it exists on U.S. soil, it is “subject to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

Students at ISA are not required to study U.S. history or government. They do, however, receive instruction in Wahhabism.

Outsiders are not permitted to observe Wahhabism lessons or any other classes at ISA. But early this year, students at the academy told two Washington Post reporters some of the things they learn at school. Among other things, students discover the intricacies of Judgment Day.

One event on that formidable day will be that Muslims will fight and kill Jews. The cowardly Jews will seek refuge behind trees. Much like the trees in the forest scene from the Wizard of Oz, these trees will become animated and aggressive. They will call out to the righteous: “Oh Muslim, Oh servant of God, here is a Jew hiding behind me. Come here and kill him.”

Students also said they are taught “it is better to shun and even to dislike Christians, Jews and Shiite Muslims.” Furthermore, students learn, it is okay to hurt or steal from a non-Muslim.

The Saudi-supplied textbooks at this and other Wahhabi schools state that Muslims are obliged to consider all infidels the enemy. Certain enemies are not even acknowledged in geography class. Wahhabi schools in America are notorious for doctoring maps of the Middle East, and hanging them in classrooms - with Israel blotted out.
The evidence I could find online about the ISA doesn’t cast it in a good light.

Something I would like to find out is exactly how the educational program has changed in Saudi schools. How are the Qutbist and Jihadist/Muhirab leanings of the old instruction being ameliorated? I’ve read plenty of pretty platitudes about fixing the education system, but have seen no concrete proposals or proofs of change. Is it another chimera, like empty Saudi promises to restrict charitable giving to terrorists? I hope not. But I fear so.

Sincerely, Lorenzo
UPDATE
Crossroads Arabia has a reasonable response to this screed. Summarized, 2 students and one administrator bad eggs out of 28,000 isn't all that bad a ratio. After all Columbine had as many baddies. It goes on to suggest several further steps that can be taken to follow-up on Saudi promises to revise their curriculum in order to see that they are actually making a difference.

Daniel Pipes gives away Research Suggestions

Take a peek. See if any appeal to you.

Patron Saint of the Internet

Peggy Noonan writes about the Patron Saint of the Internet in Opinion Journal:
The obvious patron saint of the internet is St. Joseph Cupertino. St. Joseph was a great man of the 17th century, and is my second favorite saint.

Many saints were deeply intelligent, and some were geniuses, but St. Joseph Cupertino, God bless him, was a bit of an idiot. ...

Why is St. Joseph Cupertino the obvious patron saint of the Internet? Because he flew through the air, lifted by truth. Because no establishment could keep him down. Because he empowered common people. Because they in fact saw his power before the elites of the time did. And because it could not be an accident that the center of the invention of the Internet, ground zero of Silicon Valley, is Cupertino, Calif., named for the saint centuries ago.

Was God in this? Of course. Does God do such things for no reason? He does not. Has the church recognized St. Joseph Cupertino as patron saint of the Internet? No. But the church was always slow to give him his due. If you want to tell the pope that St. Joseph should be patron saint, you can reach him at john_paul_II@vatican.va.


It's a great article. Read it all.


Friday, February 25, 2005

NYT Misses the Point of Narnia

One could get a case of whiplash reading a recent piece in the NYT Movies Update in which David Kehr opines about Aslan the Lion in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He starts his article like this:
As the residents of Narnia like to whisper, "Aslan is on the move." And so he is. But for the moment, Walt Disney Pictures has him on a very short leash.
He gives a summary from a 10,000 foot view of Aslan and previews a huge merchandising blitz for the movie. Then he once again mentions Disney's "special challenge."
But this time, the pros at Disney are wrestling with a special challenge: how to sell a screen hero who was conceived as a forthright symbol of Jesus Christ, a redeemer who is tortured and killed in place of a young human sinner and who returns in a glorious resurrection that transforms the snowy landscape of Narnia into a verdant paradise.

That spirituality sets Aslan apart from most of the Disney pantheon and presents the company with a significant dilemma: whether to acknowledge the Christian symbolism and risk alienating a large part of the potential audience, or to play it down and possibly offend the many Christians who count among the books' fan base.
Geez, is that really so bad? It's being presented as a catastrophe of nearly Biblical proportions. Irony intentional.

Back and forth it goes, a tennis rally of an article. Kehr has chosen to frame his story as a sort of business case in how to cover up the religious content of a religious-themed work, no matter what Disney says about how they intend to honor the religious themes of the work and put it out there as it was written.

Next, un-named Disney executives say that they will not back off from the self-evident Christian themes in the story. Kehr calls in a marketing professor and former marketer for Coca-Cola who describes the story as "an absolute time bomb in these days of extreme sensitivity." Then he follows up with another academic who says that "they can let the Christian mysticism in it either be a subtext or not a part of it at all."

Next, Disney reveals that it has hired the same firm to market the movie to religious audiences that performed that duty for the Passion of the Christ. But Kehr is ever ready to hit the ball back over the net.

Once again, Kehr attempts to reframe the story. "If Disney manages to create a "Star Wars"-like, generalized hero myth of Lewis's work without alienating its Christian fans, the potential rewards are huge." He continues on this line with the only insightful thing he says in the whole article.
As a franchise, the possibilities of "Narnia" seem almost unlimited. It's "Harry Potter" with intellectual respectability and deep cultural roots.
And he follows this with more cynicism. "But how Disney plans to wrestle the Lewis books into line remains a closely held secret."

A few paragraphs describing the marketing plans follow, and then he once again talks about those pesky "religious connotations." This time it's about Disney's image. "Disney does not want to take a side in the culture wars, as it demonstrated when it declined to distribute Michael Moore's 'Fahrenheit 9/11.'"

Finally comes a prosaic ending to the article, where he predicts that the movie will speak for itself, and will not have any heavy handed "religious" message inserted into it. Nor will the marketing be purely religious.

I read these novels as a young teen, often sitting in my church's library to read them. In the same library I read other books with a strong religious theme such as The Cross and the Switchblade. Most of these books were preachy. The Narnia books were, to my taste, the best of the lot. They made the reader think without sermonizing. In the books, the Christ metaphor is there without being shoved in the reader's face. So it is hardly startling that a movie adapted faithfully from the books should take the same approach. It is a metaphor, if you will, not a simile. And as with all metaphors, it is possible to pay attention to it or not.

That is exactly how it should be handled in the movie. And from the article, it appears that is how Disney wants to handle it in the movie.

Since that is the only sensible way to adapt the story, all the sturm und drang about wrestling the books into line, defusing the time bomb, and how to hide the Christian metaphors in subtext is irrelevant.

It was utter nonsense to attempt to turn this sensible, sensitive decision into a controversy. Can it really be that Kehr read Narnia and didn't get it? Or maybe, is the truth of the case that he didn't read the Narnia books?

He didn't read it. Didn't care to. That seems the likeliest explanation of all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Northeast Intelligence Network

From the Northeast Intelligence Network
PalTalk - Fundamentalists Threaten to Kidnap U.S. Journalist
Laura Mansfield, Associate Director, Senior Analyst

21 February 2005-- Surveillance conducted overnight of an ongoing chat in Arabic on PalTalk – the Internet chat room portal popular among Islamic Fundamentalists, found participants discussing possible plans to kidnap a high-profile U.S. or Western journalist in Iraq. The identities of those discussing this plan could not be confirmed beyond their locations abroad, nor could their abilities to carry-out such a plan be determined. Nonetheless, it would be prudent for all U.S. and Western journalists to be extremely vigilant over the next few weeks and insure proper Western security. Journalists in the Iraq theater should travel with armed escorts at all times.

People Eating Tasty Animals

People Eating Tasty Animals is a jokey kind of web site. Once upon a time it was hosted at PETA.ORG. No longer, sadly. It's stagnant. It has been sitting in place for nine years without an update. It's a deliberate thumb in the eye of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. With sections on Meat, Leather, Fur, Taxidermy, Hunting, Fishing, Pets, and Animal Research it offers something to offend every pantywaist PETA poopoo-head from Providence to Peta-fucking-luma.

A soccerball in the groin, a kick in the pants, a fly in the ointment, a dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinking to high heaven. It is a proof that when things go out of balance, when every brain-damaged Bambi fetishist who thinks that rats have as much right to nibble on baby humans in their cribs as humans have to eat a nice juicy hamburger can somehow land a puff piece in the newspaper of record, as if they had something intelligent to say, when things reach their tipping point, then if you pay attention a solution will present itself. At the bottom of the heroic cycle, when everything is at its darkest, when Luke Skywalker is about to be killed, suddenly they Holy Grail, the Force, the Elixir of Life makets itself evident. And the hero is now prepared morally, intellectually, and with the right tools to take action against a sea of enemies and set things aright. The hero marries the queen of spring, overthrows the tyranny of the old, and becomes the kindly new king of summer. Meanwhile the PETAns sneak back to their vegan spider-holes, watch, and wait for memories to fade, for people to forget what phools these PETAns be. For people to think that maybe, just maybe, this time PETA is right. As if!

As if! As if my ass were a surrealist masterpiece by Salvador Dali.

Here's the truth about PETA.
[Being] animal rights activists gives disillusioned feminists an excuse to go back to being women protecting wee creatures without compromising their radical credentials.
--Florence King

Eat a burger. Enjoy your life at the top of the food chain.

Swamp King

From NPR, a tale of a giant white-tailed buck with a rack the size of a small tree.
A leopard does not change his spots, or change his feeling that spots are rather a credit.
- Ivy Compton-Burnett

Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Speaking of Unintended Consequences, "Green" Bullets

From an article in the Association of Firearm and Tool Mark Examiners Journal, Volume 31 Number 4, Fall 1999, via Firearms Identification, as blogged in The Smallest Minority:
America's military is about to lock and load with new ammunition that's tough on enemies but easy on mother earth. It's known as the "Green Bullet", which is a new lead-free projectile that defense officials say is just as lethal as the standard 5.56mm without harming the environment. The Army led effort is designed to one day end the use of environmentally hazardous materials in small-arms munitions for all services.
The Green Bullet replaces Lead with Tungsten alloys. It can be more easily recycled than Lead. It doesn't have the infamy of Lead. And it certainly doesn't have the infamy that Depleted Uranium, another common ingredient in bullets, has. Green Bullets would be nice if they could reduce the amount of lead that is laying around on shooting ranges, hunt clubs, public forests, and so on. Not even to mention the unknown future price that will be paid for scattering depleted uranium in urban battlefields all over the world. So what is known about Tungsten, the ingredient that Green Bullets use instead of Lead?

According to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives and referenced in a Popular Mechanics article online:
Previous work in this laboratory developed a rodent model system that mimicked shrapnel loads seen in wounded personnel from the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In this study, we used that system and male F344 rats, implanted intramuscularly with pellets (1 mm x 2 mm cylinders) of weapons-grade tungsten alloy, to simulate shrapnel wounds. Rats were implanted with 4 (low dose) or 20 pellets (high dose) of tungsten alloy. Tantalum (20 pellets) and nickel (20 pellets) served as negative and positive controls, respectively. The high-dose tungsten alloy-implanted rats (n=46) developed extremely aggressive tumors surrounding the pellets within 4-5 months after implantation. The low-dose tungsten alloy-implanted rats (n=46) and nickel-implanted rats (n=36) also developed tumors surrounding the pellets, but did so at a slower rate. Rats implanted with tantalum (n=46), an inert control metal, did not develop tumors. Tumor yield was 100% in both the low- and high-dose tungsten alloy groups. The tumors, characterized as high-grade pleomorphic rhabdomyosarcomas by histopathology and immunohistochemical examination, rapidly metastasized to the lung and necessitated euthanasia of the animal.
The Smallest Minority notes that "Rhabdomyosarcoma is a form of cancer most often found in children, and it's aggressive and deadly. The survival rate after 5 years is about 50%."

Summing up, Green Bullets will not cause Lead to leach into groundwater, but 100% of soldiers with Green Bullet shrapnel will get an extremely aggressive, metastasizing cancer that infests their bodies and kills half of them in five years, and kills more later.

It hardly seems worth it.

Meme: Unintended Consequences and Chaos Theory

In the past few weeks I've noticed the popularity of this meme exploding to the level of cliche. What, exactly, are unintended consequences?

From the Library of Economics and Liberty:
Unintended Consequences
by Rob Norton

The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or "unintended." Economists and other social scientists have heeded its power for centuries; for just as long, politicians and popular opinion have largely ignored it.

The concept of unintended consequences is one of the building blocks of economics. Adam Smith's "invisible hand," the most famous metaphor in social science, is an example of a positive unintended consequence. Smith maintained that each individual, seeking only his own gain, "is led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention," that end being the public interest. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the baker, that we expect our dinner," Smith wrote, "but from regard to their own self interest."

Most often, however, the law of unintended consequences illuminates the perverse unanticipated effects of legislation and regulation. In 1692 John Locke, the English philosopher and a forerunner of modern economists, urged the defeat of a parliamentary bill designed to cut the maximum permissible rate of interest from 6 percent to 4 percent. Locke argued that instead of benefiting borrowers, as intended, it would hurt them. People would find ways to circumvent the law, with the costs of circumvention borne by borrowers. To the extent the law was obeyed, Locke concluded, the chief results would be less available credit and a redistribution of income away from "widows, orphans and all those who have their estates in money."

Summing up

What exactly are unintended consequences? They are ironic. Certainly that is part of their appeal. At the core, they are a byproduct of complex systems. As the world becomes more automated, more complex, more legalistic, more prescriptive, more dogmatic, more populous, more confusing, full of more choices restrictions of choice, so every choice made will inevitably have unintended consequences. Think of the butterfly effect. A butterfly's wings flapping in China could have environmental effects that lead to a drought that causes a famine in Egypt. Chaos Theory is the trendiest of popular, post-modernist theories. Now the reason why the meme is spreading becomes apparent.

The danger of Chaos Theory is that if taken too far, it can lead people to think that their actions have no logical relation to the consequences of their actions. That way leads to nihilism and sociopathy. A much better way to view Chaos Theory is as a warning to always think at least two moves ahead.

Free Mojtaba and Arash Day


From BBC NEWS, via BuzzMachine
The global web blog community is being called into action to lend support to two imprisoned Iranian bloggers.

The month-old Committee to Protect Bloggers' is asking those with blogs to dedicate their sites on Tuesday to the 'Free Mojtaba and Arash Day'.

Arash Sigarchi is still in Lakan prison in the Iranian city of Rashat.

Fellow Iranian blogger Mojtaba Saminejad has been released from prison in Tehran but still faces charges.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Iraq Ambulance Bomber

On New Sisyphus, Al-Jazeera Shows Video of Iraq Suicide Bomber Using Ambulance. Also on CNN, and here, here and here. Related here and here.

Well, they have once again used an Ambulance for a truck-bomb. Did anybody think that strapping a bomb-belt onto a young man with Down's Syndrome was the lowest the terrorists could go?

How about a show of hands... Anybody really think they are glorious freedom fighters?

Anybody?

Anybody at all?

If you have a link to or copy of the video and could send it to someone who can do something about these murderous scumbags, see here.

Intelligent Kooks

Beautiful quote about I.D.
Intelligent design creationism, like “morphic resonance” and conspiracy theories about HIV-OPV, relies on people's willingness to believe that science is a secretive priesthood. That scientists are just imposing their world-view, and that different theories should be evaluated independent of their broad context. Should we ignore unpleasant truths? No. But we should adhere to the Skeptic's Motto: “Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof."

The Dissolution of Tribal Socialism

From Le Sabot Post-Moderne: Self-defeating Socialists:
There are two nuggets here:

1. The folly of many who believe that economics that 'work' in a nation of 9 million relatively homogenous people will be equally efficient in a massively diverse one of 280 million.

2. Socialistic economics only work even fitfully when there's a very strong shared sense of community and purpose. It's ironic that the very people who most want socialistic policies in the States are also those most aggressively pushing multiculturalism -- a dogma which destroys any national sense of community and unity.
Sr. Discoshaman has a good point about socialism and tribalism being compatible, but socialism and multiculturalism or the melting-pot being incompatible.

Fort Bragg Soldiers Killed by Flu

From WRAL TV, so far three Fort Bragg solders have died from the Flu after recently returning from Afghanistan or Iraq.

Fewer Mosques Please!

From Arab News, via Crossroads Arabia
Why So Many Mosques?
Ali Al-Suwaigh • Al-Watan

An investigation into how local culture influences people’s behavior would reveal that the overwhelming majority of our philanthropists and do-gooders spend their money on building mosques. Huge amounts continue to be spent to build mosque all over the Kingdom. ...

Charity is not limited to one specific field as some may think. Our religion encourages us to perform charitable acts but without limiting ourselves to any specific fields. Islam leaves the door wide open for those who want to spend their money for the public good and benefit. Not only that but the rewards and benefits that come from certain types of charity far exceed those for building mosques. This is especially true if the good work answers an urgent public need. We mean, for example, building schools, hospitals, and specialized medical centers for the treatment of certain diseases, social and cultural clubs, orphanages, vocational training centers that help young people learn a skill and find work, thus reducing unemployment, helping young people of both sexes marry and start families.
As Crossroads notes, the writers are are talking about too many mosques in Saudi Arabia!!!!!

Saved! from the Tsunami

I love this story
We know that 80% of the town of Meulaboh in Aceh was destroyed by the Tsunami waves and 80% of the people also died. This is one of the towns that was hit the hardest.

But there is a fantastic testimony from Meulaboh. In that town are about 400 Christians.

They wanted to celebrate Christmas on December 25th but were not allowed to do so by the Muslims of Meulaboh. They were told if they wanted to celebrate Christmas they needed to go outside the city of Meulaboh on a high hill and there celebrate Christmas. Because the Christians desired to celebrate Christmas the 400 believers left the city on December 25th and after they celebrated Christmas they stayed overnight on the hill.

As we all know the morning of December 26 there was the earthquake followed by the Tsunami waves destroying most of the city of Meulaboh and thousands were killed. The 400 believers were on the mountain and were all saved from destruction.

Now the Muslims of Meulaboh are saying that the God of the Christians punished us for forbidding the Christians from celebrating Christmas in the city. Others are questioning why so many Muslims died while not even one of the Christians died there.

Had the Christians insisted on their rights to celebrate Christmas in the city, they would have all died. But because they humbled themselves and followed the advice of the Muslims they all were spared destruction and can now testify of God's marvelous protection.

This is a testimony of the grace of God and the fact that as believers we have no rights in the world. Our right is come before God and commit our lives to Him. Our right is kneeling down before the Lord almighty and commit our ways to Him. He is our Father and is very capable to care for His children. Praise the Name of the Lord.

Bill Hekman

Pastor Calvary Life Fellowship in Indonesia
I love the story even if it didn't happen. Which it didn't. Nor did this one.
Now the Muslims of Meulaboh are saying that the God of the Christians punished us for forbidding the Christians from celebrating Christmas in the city.
Read the Snopes article (link in the headline) for a fuller discussion.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

41 and 42, Buddies

If the last two ex-Presidents don't hate each other venomously, why can't everybody else get over it?

Termitate Gerrymandering

Steven Hill writes in the NYT concerning the Governator's plan to attack gerrymandering in California. Mr. Hill explains in his piece that in the other states that have election districts picked by non-elected persons, votes are not any more competitive than they are in California, and often less.

The problem appears to be that the party lines have hardened at the edge of the city. Inside the city, here be Democrats. Outside the city, here be Republicans. Unless election districts are formed in artificial pie slices that encompass an equal number of urban and country voters, election districts will continue to be non-competitive.

There is one other possibility that might be worth looking into:
We can't change where people choose to live, but we can begin using some type of proportional representation system. For example, California could use a system like that in Peoria, Ill., for municipal elections. Instead of electing 40 state senators from 40 districts, voters in 10 districts could elect four senators each. Any candidate who won at least a quarter of the vote would earn a seat. These districts would be far more likely to be bipartisan, even electing some urban Republicans and rural Democrats.
In other words, more like Iraq.

No matter what you think about Iraq, there is one thing that stands out as important in the Iraq vote. Many Christians were prevented from voting. Yet, a Christian list got enough votes to send a representative to the Iraqi national assembly.

Now, if this system allows a Christian to get elected in Iraq, then in the USA a city Republican and her country Democrat cousin could both get elected. This would result in stronger candidates getting elected, and make elections less of a horse race and more of a marketplace of ideas. Plus it would start to break down the two-party system, which is responsible for so much of the demonization around US politics.

The Key Master on The Gates

Editorializing in the NYT, Rick Moranis has a wonderfully inspired, satiric, loony dream about The Gates
I had a dream last night. I was 5 years old. It was summer. There was no air-conditioning in our little bungalow on the small crescent-shaped street in the suburbs of Toronto. And so to cool ourselves, we ran through the freshly hanging sheets on the backyard clotheslines. I had no idea that every one of my neighbors had the same apricot-colored linen that we did. Towels too! It was beautiful; as far as the eye could see, rows and rows of shimmering golden-orange fabric dancing in the light.
This piece is funny, especially for folks with a loony sense of humor, the kind of people who liked Second City TV, Monty Python, and Firesign Theater. Thus forewarned, click thee and read.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Not Suicide Bombers, Suicide Seeds

Suicide Seeds are not Suicide Bombers but something just as frightening.

For thousands of years, farmers have gathered up seeds from one year's crop to be planted for next year's crop. It is part of the eternal rhythm of agriculture, reflected in stories about Isis and Osiris, the birth agonies of Dionysus, and other mythologies. Every fall, one part of the harvest is stored away, the seed corn for next year. When farmers eat or lose the seed corn that is the end of farming for them. Forever. The farm dies off. It is a true tragedy.

Now, Companies producing Agricultural Products and government busybodies from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (among others) have decided to interfere with this cycle, to prevent this year's extra harvest from being used to plant next year's crop.
Terminator technology was first developed by the US government and the seed industry to prevent farmers from re-planting saved seed and is considered the most controversial and immoral agricultural application of genetic engineering so far. When first made public in 1998, "suicide seeds" triggered an avalanche of public opposition, forcing Monsanto to abandon the technology and prompting the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to impose a de facto moratorium on its further development.
WHY WRITE ABOUT IT NOW?

There are numerous articles all over the Internet about Canada trying to force Terminator seeds through a UN scientific committee. It does not seem in Canada's interest. There are plenty of farmers on the broad plains of Canada's heartland, and forcing them to buy all their seeds from huge agribusiness (instead of using their own seeds) doesn't look smart. Inquisitive me had to look into it.

Next I found the UN's Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The CBD forms an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group (AHTEG) when it wants to look at an issue. Well, the AHTEG looking into Terminator Technology, which they call Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs), basically came back and said, "No Sir, I don't like it."

The AHTEG report finishes with this recommendation: "In view of the current lack of data, recommends that Parties and other Governments consider the development of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for field-testing and commercial use." Canada, Australia, and New Zealand believe that there is no consensus on this recommendation (merely an overwhelming majority) and they are working to scuttle it. Seems they think that Suicide Seeds could help them protect an artificial good such as biodiversity, while threatening a natural good such as a currently stable ecosystem.

Isn't that what always happens when people get their panties all in a wad about some new abstract understanding of the way the world works? All of a sudden they want to throw everything we already have into the crapper so they can replace it with some sanitized, sterile solution that worked in a lab somewhere.

From the Highlights of the Feb 8th UN Biodiversity Meeting
Genetic use restriction technologies: Supporting the report of the AHTEG on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs) (UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/10/15), BANGLADESH proposed that it be considered by COP-8. PERU requested including all the AHTEG’s recommendations in the report. CANADA, AUSTRALIA and NEW ZEALAND said the report should not be presented as a consensus document, noting that it was prepared by the AHTEG’s Co-Chairs only, without subsequent review by its members. Many delegates supported referring the report to the Article 8(j) Working Group, and conducting further research. AUSTRIA and the EC called for a SBSTTA recommendation restating COP decision V/5 (Agricultural Biodiversity). The NETHERLANDS stressed that GURTs’ impacts had yet to be confirmed and, with CANADA, recommended strict risk assessments, on a case-by-case basis. Aknowledging the need for risk assessments, an INDUSTRY representative said GURTs should not be treated differently from other biotechnologies. The ETC GROUP called for specific recommendations to protect the livelihoods of local and indigenous peoples and ensure their food security. The CBDC called for recognizing farmers’ rights to seeds and for a ban on GURTs. ...

Discussions on genetic use restriction technologies appeared as a battlefield, with an expected polarization of views. Proposals to refer the issue to the Working Group on Article 8(j) left some delegates wondering if the long-lasting odyssey of the report of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group, from one CBD body to the other, would ever come to an end. Noting similar suggestions for referral during discussions on targets, one delegate thought this was but a confirmation of an emerging trend in the SBSTTA to shy away from delicate politically-charged issues.
Let's take just a minute and lay out the PROS and CONS for Terminator Seeds. I have tried to be pretty accurate, because I think conclusions that don't weigh all the evidence are worthless. If you care to suggest more PRO or CON bullets then please add your comments below.

PRO CON At the meeting, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Netherlands tried to work out ways for Terminator Seed testing to be allowed under the agreement.

The Canadian Government, working with the UN, are attempting to open channels for the scientific study of Terminator Seeds, presumably including planting them in a field somewhere. As if Canadian agriculture doesn't have enough to worry about with Mad Cow Disease in their herds.

So, not a suicide bomber. Suicide corn instead. Vast fields of it. In the wide open spaces of Canada's heartland. Waiting for the right mutation.

Jihad City NJ

The Weekly Standard digs into the sordid history of Jersey City NJ. Jersey City is not just your average all-American city. And this activity by no means stopped or went underground after 9/11.

The Weekly Standard:
Soon after September 11, in November 2001, a reporter from the Canadian daily National Post, Marina Jimenez, visited the Jersey City mosque undercover. In an article entitled "The radicalization of U.S. Muslims," she noted the stern warning posted in front of the mosque: "Those who do not belong to this Muslim community will be prosecuted for trespassing." The mosque's Egyptian-born imam, Sheikh Mohammed, she reported, called for a show of loyalty not to the United States, but to oppressed Muslims around the world, especially in Chechnya, Palestine, and Afghanistan, echoing Osama bin Laden's message.
This is a Jihadist Mosque, a temple of evil rivaling anything Indiana Jones blundered into in the movies.

Combined with Zawahiri's recent mention of Copts (remember that the Egyptian doctor Zawahiri, 2nd demon prince in charge of al Qaeda, was the head of Egyptian Islamic Jihad which was one of the two organizations that became Al Qaeda, so he has a long history of targeting Copts in his native country), the circumstantial evidence that Egyptian Jihadists had the motive and the opportunity to do this is strong. They may have been local, like those who mailed the Anthrax letters. They may have been brought in from another country. We don't know.

I'll be keeping my eyes open. I hope you will too.

Syria a la Milius

In his latest editorial, Thomas L. Friedman pens a monologue worthy of John Milius writing for Arnold Schwarzenneger.
Message from the Syrian regime to Washington, Paris and Lebanon's opposition: "You want to play here, you'd better be ready to play by Hama Rules - and Hama Rules are no rules at all. You want to squeeze us with Iraq on one side and the Lebanese opposition on the other, you'd better be able to put more than U.N. resolutions on the table. You'd better be ready to go all the way - because we will. But you Americans are exhausted by Iraq, and you Lebanese don't have the guts to stand up to us, and you French make a mean croissant but you've got no Hama Rules in your arsenal. So remember, we blow up prime ministers here. We shoot journalists. We fire on the Red Cross. We leveled one of our own cities. You want to play by Hama Rules, let's see what you've got. Otherwise, hasta la vista, baby."
Though the Syrians, Bashar, etc, wouldn't agree with the casting, they would agree with the essence of the message.

France has a Hama Rules force in its pocket: The French Foreign Legion. But France has become pussy-whipped by its national mistress, the oil exporting middle east. Unless France wakes up to the fact that it is being dragged around by its manhood it will keep on sleep-walking its way to a future French Caliphate, along with the rest of Eurabia.

However, Friedman left out one powerful regional player in this little melodrama.

Think... think... think...

If engaged, Israel has the intestinal fortitude, the personnel, equipment, and the will to play a part in this little battle. If the Lebanese opposition can call up the political willpower to ask for help from Jews (not such a bad choice with Syria all up in Lebanon's shorts) then Israel could make a difference. There is no love lost between Israel and Syria. Israel and Lebanon are both part of the new Sharm Club of Four. Find a way to appease the Palestinians and Egyptians and it might happen.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Rev. Dr. Keith Roderick on the Slaying of the Armanious Family

JihadWatch has some exclusive content on the Armanious slayings. The Rev. Dr. Keigh Roderick spoke after the Armanious Family press conference in Washington DC today, and he also released a letter to the US Dept of Justice.
A great deal in the media has been made of the potential conflict within the Christian and Muslim communities if the investigation leads to a religious motive. The central issue here should not be about communal disputes, but the fact that the perpetrators of this vicious crime are still at large. To avoid pursuit of what may be the most obvious motive of the murder for fear of maligning one part of the Jersey City community or creating a backlash against that community is irresponsible.

New Details on the Armanious Murders

Your Center for Armanious News

This is a work in progress. It will continue to be modified and kept up to date. Thanks to Michelle Malkin, whose links I followed to JihadWatch's exclusives, which inspired me to start blogging this.

This post takes the form of a long, densely hyperlinked outline of the facts of the case and tangential materials, some speculative, some historical, relevant to understanding what this case means to us. I have been busy scouring the blogosphere, the internet press, and various locations I could find from the search engines for information to add to this post.
Leave a prayer for the Armanious Family.

CANNED SEARCHES: Technorati, Google, Bloglines, Pubsub

LOYAL OPPOSITION: TheReality-Check.ORG

OTHERS BLOGGING: Daniel Pipes, Jihad Watch, Pink Flamingo Bar & Grill, Angry in GWN, Hyscience, Michelle Malkin, Double Toothpick, Jawa Report, Powerline, Cassandra Page, Jack Lewis, Kelli Pundit

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Little Wars

Warhammer!
In a culture dominated by virtual diversions and mass marketing, Warhammer has acquired an ardent following by being tactile and mysterious, using no advertising at all. Games Workshop, the British company that makes it, has licensed two video-game versions, but it is usually played with three-dimensional figures by opponents who face each other across a real-life table.

The armies consist of tiny metal and plastic models, measured in millimeters. The soldiers, often nasty-looking creatures operating arsenals of weapons, have gross or sanguinary names, like Snotlings, Tyranids and Chaos, but they are assembled by their generals with glue and then painted with delicate brushes, often with obsessive precision.

Warhammer begins with a fairly simple set of rules: dice are thrown, imaginary shots are fired, soldiers are moved. But the game quickly becomes complex and arcane as different armies are assigned special rules that modify the basic principles of battle. There are thousands of figures and dozens of armies, each with its own lore, abilities and point values, explained in a series of 64-page manuals called codexes and army books, which include tips on painting and modeling techniques. ...

Like the Space Center, Warhammer is something of a throwback, combining a futuristic vision with nostalgia. It updates the toy soldiering made popular a century ago by H. G. Wells in "Little Wars" and Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts.
Toys for boys.

Monday, February 14, 2005

On Bullshit - NYT Book Review

Finally a book that cuts the shit and lets you know in the title that it is all about bullshit. Since the NYT saw fit to cut all the "bullshit" out, and replace it with "[bull]", I have seen fit to put the bullshit back in. Enjoy this review of a book about bullshit... meta-bullshit.
Between Truth and Lies, An Unprintable Ubiquity
By PETER EDIDIN
Published: February 14, 2005

Harry G. Frankfurt, 76, is a moral philosopher of international reputation and a professor emeritus at Princeton. He is also the author of a book recently published by the Princeton University Press that is the first in the publishing house's distinguished history to carry a title most newspapers, including this one, would find unfit to print. The work is called 'On Bull - - - - .'

The opening paragraph of the 67-page essay is a model of reason and composition, repeatedly disrupted by that single obscenity:

'One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize bullshit and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry.'

The essay goes on to lament that lack of inquiry, despite the universality of the phenomenon. 'Even the most basic and preliminary questions about bullshit remain, after all,' Mr. Frankfurt writes, 'not only unanswered but unasked.'

The balance of the work tries, with the help of Wittgenstein, Pound, St. Augustine and the spy novelist Eric Ambler, among others, to ask some of the preliminary questions - to define the nature of a thing recognized by all but understood by none.

What is bullshit, after all? Mr. Frankfurt points out it is neither fish nor fowl. Those who produce it certainly aren't honest, but neither are they liars, given that the liar and the honest man are linked in their common, if not identical, regard for the truth.

"It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth," Mr. Frankfurt writes. "A person who lies is thereby responding to the truth, and he is to that extent respectful of it."

The bullshit artist, on the other hand, cares nothing for truth or falsehood. The only thing that matters to him is "getting away with what he says," Mr. Frankfurt writes. An advertiser or a politician or talk show host given to bullshit "does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it," he writes. "He pays no attention to it at all."

And this makes him, Mr. Frankfurt says, potentially more harmful than any liar, because any culture and he means this culture rife with bullshit is one in danger of rejecting "the possibility of knowing how things truly are." It follows that any form of political argument or intellectual analysis or commercial appeal is only as legitimate, and true, as it is persuasive. There is no other court of appeal.

The reader is left to imagine a culture in which institutions, leaders, events, ethics feel improvised and lacking in substance. "All that is solid," as Marx once wrote, "melts into air."

Mr. Frankfurt is an unlikely slinger of barnyard expletives. He is a courtly man, with a broad smile and a philosophic beard, and he lives in apparently decorous retirement with his wife, Joan Gilbert, in a lovely old house near the university.

On a visit there earlier this month, there was Heifetz was on the stereo, good food and wine on the table.

But appearances, in this case, are somewhat misleading. Mr. Frankfurt spent much of his childhood in Brooklyn, and still sees himself as a disputatious Brooklynite - one who still speaks of the Dodgers as "having betrayed us." And, in any event, Mr. Frankfurt is not particularly academic in the way he views his calling.

"I got interested in philosophy because of two things," he said. "One is that I was never satisfied with the answers that were given to questions, and it seemed to me that philosophy was an attempt to get down to the bottom of things."

"The other thing," he added, "was that I could never make up my mind what I was interested in, and philosophy enabled you to be interested in anything."

Those interests found expression in a small and scrupulous body of work that tries to make sense of free will, desire and love in closely reasoned but jargon-free prose, illustrated by examples of behavior (philosophers speak of the "Frankfurt example") that anyone would recognize.

"He's dealing with very abstract matters," said Sarah Buss, who teaches philosophy at the University of Iowa, "but trying not to lose touch with the human condition. His work keeps faith with that condition."

Mr. Frankfurt's teaching shares with his prose a spirit Ms. Buss, who was once his graduate student, defines as, "Come in and let's struggle with something."

"He was very willing," she added, "to say, 'I just don't understand this.' "

The essay on bullshit arose from that kind of struggle. In 1986, Mr. Frankfurt was teaching at Yale, where he took part in a weekly seminar. The idea was to get people of various disciplines to listen to a paper written by one of their number, after which everyone would talk about it over lunch.

Mr. Frankfurt decided his contribution would be a paper on bullshit. "I had always been concerned about the importance of truth," he recalled, "the way in which truth is foundational to civilization and the various deformities of it that were current."

"I'd been concerned about the prevalence" of bullshit, he continued, "and the lack of concern for truth and respect for truth that it represented."

"I used the title I did," he added, "because I wanted to talk about bullshit without any bullshit, so I didn't use 'humbug' or 'bunkum.' "

Research was a problem. The closest analogue came from Socrates.

"He called it rhetoric or sophistry," Mr. Frankfurt said, "and regarded philosophy as the great enemy of rhetoric and sophistry."

"These were opposite, incompatible ways of persuading people," he added. "You could persuade them with rhetoric" - or bullshit - "with sophistic arguments that weren't really sound but that you could put over on people, or you could persuade them by philosophical arguments which were dedicated to rigor and clarity of thought."

Mr. Frankfurt recalled that it took him about a month to write the essay, after which he delivered it to the humanities group. "I guess I should say it was received enthusiastically," he said, "but they didn't know whether to laugh or to take it seriously."

Some months after the reading, the essay, title intact, was published by The Raritan Review, a journal then edited by Richard Poirier, a distinguished literary critic. In 1988, Mr. Frankfurt included it in "The Importance of What We Care About," a collection of his essays.

The audience for academic journals and collections of philosophical essays is limited, however, and so the essay tended to be passed along, samizdat style, from one aficionado to another.

"In the 20 years since it was published," Mr. Frankfurt said, "I don't think a year has passed in which I haven't gotten one or two letters or e-mails from people about it."

One man from Wales set some of the text to music; another who worked in the financial industry wanted to create an annual award for the worst piece of analysis published in his field (an idea apparently rejected by his superiors). G. A. Cohen, the Chichele professor of social and political theory at All Souls College, Oxford University, has written two papers on the subject.

"Harry has a unique capacity to take a simple truth and draw from it very consequential implications," Mr. Cohen said. "He is very good at identifying the potent elementary fact."

It was Ian Malcolm, the Princeton University Press editor responsible for philosophy, who approached Mr. Frankfurt about publishing the essay as a stand-alone volume. "The only way the essay would get the audience it deserved was to publish it as a small book," he said. "I had a feeling it would sell, but we weren't quite prepared for the interest it got."

For Mr. Frankfurt, who says it has always been his ambition to move philosophy "back to what most people think of as philosophy, which is a concern with the problems of life and with understanding the world," the book might be considered a successful achievement. But he finds he is still trying to get to the bottom of things, and hasn't arrived.

"When I reread it recently," he said at home, "I was sort of disappointed. It wasn't as good as I'd thought it was. It was a fairly superficial and incomplete treatment of the subject."

"Why," he wondered, "do we respond to bullshit in such a different way than we respond to lies? When we find somebody lying, we get angry, we feel we've been betrayed or violated or insulted in some way, and the liar is regarded as deceptive, deficient, morally at fault."

Why we are more tolerant of bullshit than lying is something Mr. Frankfurt believes would be worth considering.

"Why is lying regarded almost as a criminal act?" he asked, while bullshit "is sort of cuddly and warm? It's outside the realm of serious moral criticism. Why is that?"
It warms the very cockles of my heart!

How Modern Terrorism Uses the Internet


al Qaeda website image
Release Date: March 2004
"By its very nature, the Internet is in many ways an ideal arena for activity by terrorist organizations. Most notably, it offers
  • easy access;
  • little or no regulation, censorship, or other forms of government control;
  • potentially huge audiences spread throughout the world;
  • anonymity of communication;
  • fast flow of information;
  • inexpensive development and maintenance of a web presence;
  • a multimedia environment (the ability to combine text, graphics, audio, and video and to allow users to download films, songs, books, posters, and so forth); and
  • the ability to shape coverage in the traditional mass media, which increasingly use the Internet as a source for stories."
A valuable reference.

What can you do about it? See here.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

We All Want a Candidate Just Like Us

Very interesting article over at smartmobs.
In a study conducted one week before the 2004 presidential election, a representative sample answered a series of survey questions about John Kerry and George Bush, including their vote intention. ...

In the new Bush/Kerry study, participants always saw photographs of Bush and Kerry side by side. We had three conditions.

1) Self is morphed with Bush, unfamiliar face is morphed with Kerry.

2) Self is morphed with Kerry, unfamiliar face is morphed with Bush.

3) No morph for either Bush or Kerry.

Results showed that respondents prefered Bush more in 1 than 3, and more in 3 than 2. Vice versa for Kerry.

As a further control, the 'self' morphed photos for one respondent was always used as an 'other' photo for another respondent, ensuring that attractiveness, etc. of the photographs was controlled completely across conditions 1 or 2. ...

The photographs of the respondents were acquired long before the study began; consequently none of the 200 respondents realized their own photographs had been morphed with the candidates.

The results demonstrated that respondents were significantly more likely to vote for the candidate with whom their face had been morphed (for both Bush and Kerry). This effect was stronger for people who did not have strong party affiliations (i.e., independent voters) than for strong partisans.

In summary, one week before the presidential election, respondents' vote choice was swayed by a simple morphed photograph. In politics, as in life, birds of a feather flock together.
NOTE: I have edited the original post to include an author comment from the blog responses. The authors of the study are looking for comments.

Starve the Bloodsuckers Out

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times writes:
By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

The neocon strategy may have been necessary to trigger reform in Iraq and the wider Arab world, but it will not be sufficient unless it is followed up by what I call a "geo-green" strategy.

As a geo-green, I believe that combining environmentalism and geopolitics is the most moral and realistic strategy the U.S. could pursue today. Imagine if President Bush used his bully pulpit and political capital to focus the nation on sharply lowering energy consumption and embracing a gasoline tax.
Friedman makes a lot of sense.

For about ten years, I've watched the roads fill up with gigantic Suburbans, Expeditions, and Hummers. Most of them have one or two people in them. Almost nobody has the third row of seats up. They could fit what they are carrying into a sedan. Obviously nobody needs a Suburban or a Hummer if they are only driving themselves to work at an office. What is the attraction? "Safety" is the answer from the people in the gigantic SUVs. Yes, they are safe. When a SUV collides with a compact car those in the SUV are safe. On the other hand the compact's driver and passengers are dead. So SUVs are safe, if you don't mind causing the deaths of innocent others in an accident in order to attain your own safety.

The downside of gigantic SUVs is gas mileage. Until the last year, in the previous 20 years real gas prices in the USA have been going down. As it got continually cheaper to buy gas, there was less disincentive to buy a gigantic, enormous SUV. Coupled with the child seat laws that forced families with more than two children to buy either vans or SUVs (since two child seats are the limit for one back seat), it caused an explosion in SUV sales.

But in the last year, I have seen many of my coworkers and friends, who were driving everywhere in their SUV only a year ago, sell the SUV and buy something with better gas mileage. They have long commutes, and fill up every other day. They just couldn't afford to buy $400 worth of gas every month. Something had to change. So they sold the big monster and bought something more economical. Only a change that hit them in the pocket convinced them to reduce their fuel consumption.

Angry about what the Saudi's do with the money we give them for their oil? Upset at the fascist, jihadist rhetoric coming out of their state-sponsored mosques and printing offices? Stop giving them so damn much money to subsidize their evil habits.

Up with nuclear power. Down with Hummers. Up with wind, hydraulic, and geothermal energy. Down with Suburbans. Up with hybrid vehicles. Up with motorcycles. Up with bicycles. Up with light controls tied to access controls or motion detectors in office buildings. Down with stupid, endless budget allocations for more petroleum bought from more bloodsucking, fascist dictators.

Don't buy so damn much gas!

Starve the bloodsuckers out!
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