without comment

I haven't seen any muslim bloggers denounce the AllahBlogger yet, though I'm sure that it is forthcoming. But personally I think Allah is in the House is an amusing parody of the same extremist element that I have criticized strongly on this site many times. And even though it was already painfully obvious that the site is not hateful in the same way that the coments at LGF are, the AllahBlogger has decided to make it explicit:

I want to make clear that I have nothing against Muslims--or the adherents of any other faith, for that matter--who practice their religion peacefully. This site is intended as a parody of the radical Islamist mindset with which Americans have become only too familiar in the past two years. I tried alluding in my last post to the distinction between radical and moderate Islam by having "Allah" remark that most of his disciples pray only for innocuous, beneficent things like food and good health. To those moderate Muslims who read this site, then, I'd ask you to bear in mind that there's no malice directed here at you or your beliefs, and I apologize if any offense is given. To any radical Muslims who should read this site, I'd ask you to bear in mind that I hope you die soon, and painfully.

If you haven't actually read some of the posts, consider this post a warm endorsement. I'm also thankful that there aren't comments. One cesspool of hatred is enough.

conservatives will be rewarded in the afterlife

Eric Robson's information-paranoiac meme "shut up (pass it on)" seems to be spreading to FOX News.

Pascal's Wager is also relevant in this context... because hey, you never know!

sometimes, LGF can be fun

Ikraam has chided me for my LGF obsession, but I think it can be justified by pointing out that in the dank caves of the comments threads, sometimes truly scholarly and educated debates can occur. For example, Tte LGF thread in response to the Najaf car bombing ("Muslim kill Muslim") contains a brilliant scheme by someone whose influences seem to be equal parts Steven Den Beste, equal parts Ann Coulter. After being careful to explain to the LGF audience that "Obvously not every Muslim is an Islamofascist, not even every Arab Muslim.", Dean Douthat then proceeds:

US and IDF forces capture Mecca and Medina, ejecting all Muslims. The requisite response by Arab and other Muslim armies will set them up for easy destruction in desolate settings far from collateral civilian damage. An aerial turkey-shoot whereby the "Sword of Allah" comes to nothing.

Next, the Mecca/Medina franchises are operated by Jews, preferrably females. Access is only by El Al, again preferrably with all-female crews. This should complete the destruction of Islamofascist mythology.

Eventually, once Muslim reformers have been freed to work on Islam, Mecca/Medina can be returned to Arabic/Muslim control. But only after demonstrated reform, abandonment of Sharia, acceptance of secular and religiously tolerant government, etc.

Interestingly, the nations of the world have not yet contacted Dean Douthat offering him the mantle of leadership and guidance.

Another poster, mommydoc, critiques the plan by pointing out a fatal flaw:

The one thing that makes me wonder how successful we can be, even in your scenario, is that we are sealing with a mindest and culture totally unlike any of those we encountered in WWI and WWIII.

The Europeans we fought still came from a JudeoChristian background and shared somewhat similar cultures. Even the Japanese are more similar.

Truly, the relative similarity of Japanese culture to Judeo-Christian religion had escaped me until this moment. From such a vantage point, the alienness of Arabs/Muslims/whatever is readily apparent.

Interestingly, Brian Tiemann might disagree. He has found conclusive evidence that the attitude of Iraqis towards our occupation is actually one of unvarnished appreciation. Perhaps for bringing them into civilzation, or perhaps just for liberating them from the evil influence of Johnny Walker.

but back to LGF. A third poster, Promethea, sidesteps the concerns raised by mommydoc and suggests that warfare is preferably avoided:

Although all these "total war" scenarios are frightening to think about, I'm glad that various posters on lgf are suggesting plans of action. There is too much "politeness" in the general populace, and it's much better if people start discussing what needs to be done in order to win the war on terrorism. That being said, it would be nice if major warfare could be avoided. However, we all need to think about various courses of action. I don't have a particular one to suggest, but I have thought about destroying Mecca and Medina as one possibility.

It's interesting that Promethea doesn't seem to realize that he and momydoc are in agreement that Dean Douthat's scheme is unworkable. However, the discussion is largely moot - as Trent Telenko points out, the bombing is actually a sign of our occupation's success. Oops - this is the correct link, sorry about that. Trent:

The Rebuilding of Iraq will be won or lost with the cooperation of the largest ethnic group in Iraq, the Arab-Shia.

The car bombing is a case of the Iranian Mullahs and Al-Qaeda cooperating to take down the growning success of the Shia-American alliance in the south of Iraq.

The bombing was a sign, ignored by the media, that the American occupation policy was working.

This is of course rather optimistic, but what worries me is that if Trent is right (and he may well be), then what conclusion do we draw from the bombing of the UN compound? That the UN's nefarious anti-human-rights objectively pro-Saddam scheming is also succeeding? Disquieting, if true.

There is much more informative debate in the thread, including a revealing psychological assessment of Arab culture as an institutionalized sociopathy. To all LGF detractors, next time you see LGF's comments boards denigrated on other weblogs, I urge you to remember this thread.

Mughal and Roman comparisons

Conrad is famous in my comments section for erudite, deeply detailed long posts that simply belie summary. In the recent post about religious tolerance, I had asserted that the Mughal empire was a good example of a tolerant entity towards non-Muslims. Obviously a simplistic view - but Conrad responded with a fantastic mini-essay on the nuances, invoking the Romans as an analogy. I simply have to share it:

I would use the Roman imperial analogy as well with one important distinction - one should look at the policy of the non-Christian Emperors rather than the Christian ones. Almost all invaders who came to Indian did so for one purpose - loot and territorial expansion. Religion was incidental; there is little that suggests the behaviour of Mongol or turkic invaders would have been different in this sense even if they were non-Muslim. It was a bloody time and state expansion was a violent process, Tamurlame, Mahmoud Ghazni etc. were not noted for their good treatment of defeated Muslim peoples - why should anyone imagine that it would be different for non-Muslims who were unfortunate enough to face them? Yet to legitimise and expand a state, the politics of legitimacy necessitated certain concessions to domestic indigenous groups which included respecting their religious practises and not indulging in mass scale persecutions. The Mughals and their Muslim predecessors were not the first invaders to face this, as the examples of the Sakas, Kushans, Huns, before them shows and they were not the last. Similarly, the Romans before becoming heavily Christianised were tolerant of pagan cults and eastern religions, as long as the Roman civil religion was accorded primacy within the empire. Over time of course many of the barbarians took Roman culture and practises as the standard and imitated them; as long as Roman leaders themselves did not seem to succumb to non-Roman religious practises and outwardly showed their respect for the civil religion, nobody cared much for how real this adherence was. When some were too open about the influence of non-Roman elements like Mark Anthony, the result was different. Only religions, which refused to accord primacy to Roman civil religions, like for example Imperial Divinity (which few took seriously but all ritually sanctioned) that repression occurred, hence the early moves against the Christians. Some groups like the Jews could effectively guarantee internal autonomy in return for political loyalty and convincing the Roman authorities that they were more than happy with Roman hegemony (though revolts were put down harshly and without regard for religious sensibilities when they did occur as the destruction of the Second Temple shows) and some religions put themselves beyond the pale by rites which were deemed horrific by the Romans such as human sacrifice - hence the eliminations of those Druidic groups that practised them.

The problem in the later Empire occurred when this civil religion itself had fallen into dis-repair and a number of other competitors such as Mithraism, paganism etc had emerged jostling with each other for space. I these circumstances it is unsurprising that any religion that had a chance for dominance grabbed it and suppressed its rivals; though Christianity like the other Semitic religion was more intolerant than most under such conditions.

The problem with extending this analogy to Mughal India is that the socio-political context is quite different. Given the more cellular structure of Indic society at the time, it would have been very time-consuming to impose religion 'from above' as it were and quite dangerous. No serious political leader would jeopardise his empire for this, especially as the main motives for expansion were secular rather than religious in nature. Religious transformation needed to occur from below if a serious transformation of the religious landscape was to be achieved; it is no accident that the deepest demographic impact of Islam was in the mixed regions of Bengal and Punjab, both formerly Buddhist, rather than Hindu centres of power and where Brahminnic and Vedic Hinduism had always been rather weak. Popular Sufi cults and saint, like Baba Farid were far more influential in this regard than any state policy. Many groups at this time would not have seen themselves as either Hindu or Muslim; and for mobile martial landless groups and pastoralists, as well as tribal clans in the forested and mountainous zones which provided an important source of military manpower; patronage was a much more important form of linkage than religion. Neither Hindu nor Muslim rulers would get very far by pushing an ossified and rigid form of their religion on an potential subjects, in this situation; hence such a policy was followed not because of any great love of tolerance (though some individual rulers were so inclined, and other not so; most were largely indifferent) but because it was good politics.

Iraq was not Germany

Tacitus links to an outrageous statement by a German historian whose goal is to refute analogies between Germany and Iraq:

"In addition, Iraq and its people do not have nearly the same shame and sense of responsibility that Germans had after the war and the Holocaust," which Hartmann said had quelled resistance to the victors.

He also noted that despite Nazi Germany's barbarism, the country was grounded in Western culture and traditions which allowed US troops to find quick and broad acceptance for a new democratic order.

Let's leave aside the fact that Iraq's tradition of civilization is longer than Germany's by millenia. Tacitus nicely demolishes the assertion that Germans had any imediate sense of shame for their participation in their fascist state's systematic genocide of the Jews. But what strikes me as even more disingenious is the implication that Iraqis should bear any similar burden of responsibility. Speaking as a Shi'a with no particlular fondness for Sunni oppression over the past 1400 years, I don't see any collective responsibilty for the genocidal impulses of Saddam against Kurds, Marsh Arabs, Shi'a, and Sunnis beyond the circles of the Ba'ath party.

However, the rise of fascism in Germany was of a coimpletely different order. Iraq was a totalitarian state, but not a fascist one. It's worth noting that Saddam's state far more closely resembled Orwell's 1984 than did Hitlers - since at some level, even the common German was complicit in the functioning of the regime, whereas the common Iraqi was always a victim of it.

Via David Neiwert's landmark essay on Fascism, is this recollection of a professor's anecdote about the liberation of the death camps:

When he was a young man, he told us, he served in the U.S. Army as part of the occupation forces in Germany after World War II. He was put to work gathering information for the military tribunal preparing to prosecute Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. His job was to spend time in the villages adjacent to one concentration camp and talk to the residents about what they knew.

The villagers, he said, knew about the camp, and watched daily as thousands of prisoners would arrive by rail car, herded like cattle into the camps. And they knew that none ever left, even though the camp never could have held the vast numbers of prisoners who were brought in. They also knew that the smokestack of the camp�s crematorium belched a near-steady stream of smoke and ash. Yet the villagers chose to remain ignorant about what went on inside the camp. No one inquired, because no one wanted to know.

"But every day," he said, "these people, in their neat Germanic way, would get out their feather dusters and go outside. And, never thinking about what it meant, they would sweep off the layer of ash that would settle on their windowsills overnight. Then they would return to their neat, clean lives and pretend not to notice what was happening next door.

"When the camps were liberated and their contents were revealed, they all expressed surprise and horror at what had gone on inside," he said. "But they all had ash in their feather dusters."

Neiwert comments: "That story neatly compresses the way fascism works: in a vacuum of denial." In Iraq, there was a vacuum of courage, driven by fear. Saddam took power, Hitler received it.

The attempt by the German historian to dispute analogies between Iraq and Germany is more self-serving, an attempt to whitewash that collective guilt. By projecting its absence onto the Iraqis!


why I am not a Democrat

The traditionally democratic special interest groups like the NAACP are AWOL when it comes to Gov Riley's bold and courageous attempt to bring justice to Alabama's tax code. As Peter Beinart points out in TNR, the participation of Democratic groups would provide badly-needed firepower to the effort, but that has been absent and the measure looks doomed to fail (and Riley to be punished accordingly):

But there's one more reason the plan is behind in the polls: National civil rights groups have barely lifted a finger for it. Riley's plan would arguably do more for black and poor Alabamians than anything since the civil rights era. And yet, as far as I can tell, it received not a single mention at last week's anniversary March on Washington. You won't find any reference to it on the naacp's website. In fact, the only prominent African American who has publically announced a trip to Alabama to support the initiative is "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard.

Capitalizing on that indifference, Norquist and company have turned many black Alabamians against Riley's plan. An ad on black radio features a man warning, "Our property taxes could go up as much as fo' hundred percent" (400 percent sounds like a lot, but Alabama's property taxes are so low that the average homeowner would pay only $94 more per year, a sum that Riley's plan more than counteracts with state income tax cuts and increased federal income tax deductions). Some have suggested that Alabama's black leaders are sitting on their hands because Riley vetoed a bill to restore voting rights to ex-felons. A recent Birmingham News poll found black voters split on the plan and voters earning less than $30,000 strongly against it.

A national effort by civil rights organizations could change that. The NAACP and the Urban League, not to mention the Democratic Party, should be sending college students to Montgomery and Birmingham by the busloads. Al Sharpton, Jackson, and Mfume should be taking up residence in the state. Alabama GOP Chairman Marty Connors recently told The Washington Post that, "If this can pass in Alabama, it could be a precedent to attempt it elsewhere." And he's absolutely right. Riley, who couches his reforms in biblical language about the obligation to "take care of the least among us," is one of the few white politicians in recent history to try to use religion on behalf of social justice. He's won significant white evangelical backing, and, if his plan passes, it could upend conventional wisdom about what is politically, and morally, possible in the South. A conservative white Republican has thrown down the gauntlet to the supposed custodians of Dr. King's dream: Speak now or forever hold your peace.

emphasis mine. For shame. Democrats need to be wedded to their ideals and principles, not their party. Riley deserves support and then he deserves re-election! But as long as you have (D) after your name, you're blinded to your self-interest.

UPDATE: Informative chart detailing how the tax plan would affect income groups.

live like Ali - die like Husain

As a Shi'a, I am used to others denigrating Ali ibn Abi Talib (SA), denying his status as the Prophet's SAW designated heir and successor, and labeling those who follow Ali's teachings as heretics. I myself have been barred form paying respects at the tombs of the religious leaders of our community, by young boys armed with stones, who threatened to crack my skull if I prostrated myself. There is no anger like that of a believer thwarted from expresssing his belief, but I have always been taught that we must abide, we must have patience, we must do taqiyyah. But no persecution is borne lightly. This was the lesson of the martyrdom of Imam Husain on the plains of Karbala.

And now, this - a suicide bomb attack on the House of Ali AS, on the first day of the Month of Ali AS (Shere Rajab al-Asab).

There is anger, there is sorrow, there is fear, but there is also conviction. The enemies of Ali only have the power to kill.

UPDATE: well, at least the American priorities in Iraq are clear. (addendum: Bremer was on vacation.)

UPDATE 2: Ayatollah Mohammed Baqer al-Hakim is confirmed dead in the bombing. He was widely regarded as a moderate and sought to avoid confrontation with US forces, and his brother serves on the Governing COuncil. An excellent article in the Financial Times details the history of the rivalry between the competing SHi'a groups and the allegation that the bombing in Najaf was the work of Moqtadar's followers. Personally, I cannot believe that any Shi'a would attack the Shrine of Ali. It makes as much sense as Osama bin Laden burning the Qur'an live on Al-Jazeera.

UPDATE 3: Tacitus suggests that Muslim violence against Muslim holy sites is not uncommon, pointing to a siege of the Great Mosque in Mecca in 1979 by some extremists. But the event in question resulted in no damage - ie a physical attack on the structure - it was instead an attempt to take control of the compound. The Sunni jihadists who were behind the siege had no compulsion in executing other believers, of course, which is about par for the course. Also worth noting is that Shi'a blood and the Shi'a holy sites are bomb-fodder for Sunnis worldwide.

UPDATE 4: I'm struggling to redirect my outrage over the incident - I don't believe any force on Earth could marshall against Ali's physical tomb. This was an attack on believers first and foremost.

UPDATE 5: An email on Tacitus' blog suggests the next target could be the holy tomb of Imam Husain AS in Karbala. My initial reaction was simple denial. But I am beginning to see the grim logic of the campaign thus far. The Coalition must send troops to Karbala and make safety at the holy shrines the highest priority of the New Iraqi Army and civil defense.


the shield of the law

In a discussion in the real world with Jason (who I might someday induce to guest post), I came down strongly in favor of the rule of law with respect to states' rights. I agreed with his case example of California defying federal law about medical marijuana, but on the whole I approach any such conflict from the a-priori assumption that federal law, especially when validated by a Supreme Court decision, trumps state and local. Jason took the opposite view, saying that such conflicts need to be approached from the state-primacy viewpoint. Ultimately we both agreed that regardless of how you approach an issue, it should still be possible to find agreement - for example, we both agree about California and marijuana, and about Alabama and the 10 (Protestant) Commandments.

But an article in World Net Daily by Alan Keyes really made an impact upon me. Speaking from a rigidly constitutional perspective, he made a compelling case in defense of Judge Moore. For context, here are the relevant Amendments:

Article 1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article 10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

On to Keyes' analysis:

Taken together, therefore, the First and 10th Amendments reserve the power to address issues of religious establishment to the different states and their people.
The establishment clause of the First Amendment secures a right of the people. Until now, though, many have treated the first two clauses of the amendment as if they are one ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..."). This practice ignores both the linguistic and the logical contrast between the two clauses. Where the first clause deals with a right of the people (that is, a power of government reserved to the states and to the people), the second clause deals with an action or set of actions (the free exercise of religion) that cannot be free unless they originate in individual choice. The first clause forbids Congress to address a subject at all. The second allows for federal action, but restricts the character of such action.

By virtue of the first clause, the states and the people as such are protected from federal domination; by the second, individuals are protected from coercion in their religious conduct. The first clause allows the states and the people as such to follow their will in matters of religion; the second guarantees the same liberty to individuals and the corporate persons they voluntarily compose. The first has as its object matters that are decided by the will of the people (i.e., by the will of the constitutionally determined majority in the different states). The second involves matters decided by the will of each individual.
As the U.S. Constitution is written, matters of religion fall into this category of parallel individual and governmental possibilities. Federal and state governments, in matters of religion, are forbidden to coerce or prohibit individual choice and action. Within the states, the people are free to decide by constitutional majority the nature and extent of the state's expression of religious belief.

This leaves individuals free to make their own choices with respect to religion, but it also secures the right of the people of the states to live under a government that reflects their religious inclination. As in all matters subject to the decision of the people, the choice of the people is not the choice of all, but of the majority, as constitutionally determined, in conformity with the principles of republican government (which the U.S. Constitution requires the people of each state to respect).
The Constitution reflects the view that the choice with respect to governmental expressions of religious belief must respect the will of the majority. Unless, in matters that should be determined by the people, the will of the majority be consulted, there is no consent and therefore no legitimacy, in government.

Though it may be argued that matters of religion ought to be left entirely to individuals for decision, this has the effect of establishing in the public realm a regime of indifference to religion. Thus, a choice of establishment is inevitable, and the only question is whether the choice will be made by the will of the people or not. The U.S. Constitution, being wholly republican, decides this question in favor of the people, but in light of the pluralism of religious opinions among the people, forbids any attempt to discern the will of the people in the nation as a whole.

By leaving the decision to the people in their states, and by permitting a complete freedom of movement and migration among the states, the U.S. Constitution offers scope for the geographic expression of this pluralism while assuring that the absence of a formal and legal expression of religious reverence on a national scale does not inadvertently result in the establishment of a national regime of indifference to religion.

When, by their careless and contradictory abuse of the 14th Amendment, the federal judges and justices arrogate to themselves the power which, by the First and 10th Amendments, the Constitution reserves to the states, they deprive the nation of this prudent and logically balanced approach to the issue of religious establishment.

Whether through carelessness or an artful effort to deceive, they ignore the distinction between the individual right to free exercise of religion and the right of the people to decide their government's religious stance. They have, in consequence, usurped this right of the people, substituting for the republican approach adopted by the Constitution an oligarchic approach that reserves to a handful of un-elected individuals the power to impose on the entire nation a uniform stance on religion at every level of government.

The right to decide the issue of establishment is a fundamental right of the people. It is also among the most likely to cause bitter and passionate dissension when the religious conscience of the people is violated or suppressed. That may explain why it is the very first right secured from federal violation in the Bill of Rights.

When they take this right from the people, the federal judges and justices depart from the republican form of government. They impose, in religious matters, an oligarchic regime upon the states. They therefore violate, in letter and spirit, Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution. This section declares that "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government ..."

This is a tough article to excerpt. You really need to read it in its entirey (and yes, it's long) to get a full sense of the legal argument being made. Its way out of my league but I'm prepared to accept that Judge Moore did have at least a Constitutional interpretation that supported his view. Keyes goes on to argue powerfully that when a federal order violates the spirit and intent of the federal law (as Keyes argues that the order to remove the monument construed), there is a federally-derived responsibility for state and local actors to disobey on grounds of conscience.

This argument speaks powerfully to my sense of morality and civic justice - it appeals to my liberal instincts.

However, there is another side to this coin. David Neiwert, whose essay on Fascism (PDF) is absolutely required reading, has a relevant historical example of precedent in the South of defying court orders:

Consider, if you will, a tale from 1906: The lynching of Edward Johnson.

Johnson was a 23-year-old black carpenter who did odd jobs for friends at the Last Chance Saloon in Chattanooga, Tenn., who had the misfortune to be chosen almost randomly for a public lynching by the local white populace. Here is a nicely succinct version of the first round of events, from a review of a book (scroll down to "Lynching in Tennessee") about the case titled Contempt of Court: The Turn of the Century Lynching that Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism.
This was at the height of "the lynching era," that spate between 1890 and 1920 when racial violence inflicted by whites against blacks, all for the purposes of terrorizing them into submission, was not only common but positively celebrated as a form of the "popular will." Often these lynchings came at the end of spectacle trials in which blacks were swiflty convicted with flimsy or nonexistent evidence and then swept out into the public square by the vengeful mob.

Edward Johnson received this sort of "let's give 'em a fair trial afore we hang 'em" proceeding in court, swiftly convicted even though the only evidence against him was Nevada Taylor's half-hearted identification, though in fact she told police she wouldn't be able to identify her attacker positively because she did not get a good look at him. Johnson's substantial alibi evidence was dismissed. He was convicted and sentenced to death, but was whisked away to Knoxville before the crowd could stir to action.

Johnson's trial ran afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court because 20 years before, it had ruled that jury pools must contain African-Americans as well, while Johnson's jury pool excluded blacks. A courageous black lawyer named Noah Parden took up Johnson's case and pursued it all the way from state appeals courts to the Supreme Court, where he finally found a sympathetic ear in the person of Justice John Marshall Harlan, the "Great Dissenter."

On March 19, Harlan issued a stay of Johnson's pending execution and announced that the Supreme Court would hear his appeal. It announced that he was now a federal prisoner, and issued an order that he be remanded to federal custody.

But before that could happen, the mob struck. That very night -- with the collusion of the sheriff, who left only one man on duty to guard the jail -- Johnson was hauled out of the jail and lynched. They hauled him out to a bridge that had been the site of the last previous lynching in Chattanooga (in 1893). Here is how Philip Dray describes it in his profound and disturbing study of the era, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America:

Slipping a rope around his neck, the mob demanded that Johnson confess, assuring him he had nothing to lose now by telling the truth. "I am ready to die," Johnson replied, adding:

"But I never done it. I am going to tell the truth. I am not guilty. I have said all the time that I did not do it and it is true. I was not there. I know I am going to die and I have no fear at all. I was not at St. Elmo that night. Nobody saw me with a strap. They were mistaken and saw somebody else. I was at the Last Chance Saloon just as I said. I am not guilty and that is all I have to say. God bless you all. I am innocent."

Someone fired a pistol, then a spray of bullets struck him. One shot split the tope and Johnson fell to the ground, where his body was fired into hundreds of times as it lay motionless on the ground. The mob then departed, leaving a note pinned on the corpse:

"To Justice Harlan. Come get your nigger now."

A last note: This case, as Contempt of Court goes on to explore, was at the root of the famed United States v. Shipp ruling.

This is the seamy underside of states' rights. And it provides an equally effective moral counter to Keyes' argument, because it emphasises that the only constant is the authority of law. Defying court order may be noble in some cases, but assuredly ignoble in others - and the only way to ensure justice is to work within the system. Justice in the broader sense, which occurs sometimes at the expense of justice in a specific case.

I don't shed any tears of sympathy for Justice Moore, and find his invocation of states' rights obscene, because it arises out of a craven desire for personal political gain rather than any true standard-bearing for religious freedom and proper accord of the 1st and 10th Amendments. Keyes may be correct in the letter of the law but the spirit has been violated, in the name of religion, wich offends me as much when it occurs in Christianity as when it occurs in Islam.

And my gut instinct that government, and the structure of law, provide a bulwark against evil has been validated again. Even if the implementation of that governance and the interpretation of that law is sometimes flawed. The alternative is a retreat from civilization, honor, and decency.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias writes:

You should know that Alan Keyes' defense of Roy Moore isn't nearly as strong an argument as you seem to think. What Keyes overlooks is that a long string of precedents have established the principle that the 14th Amendment's due process clause applies the same limitations to state government actions as the bill of rights applies to the federal government [emphasis mine]. It's possible to question the soundness of the reasoning that led to this doctrine -- it's called the "incorporation doctrine" -- as a matter of constitutional interpretation but it's very much a settled precedent and part of the positive law of the United States. If Keyes means that the courts ought to invalidate these precedents and put us back to the early 19th century view that we have no first amendment rights vis-a-vis state governments, he ought to come out and say so. The consequences of such a move would, however, be quite grave.

See the post by Jack Balkin, a professor of constitutional law at Yale Law School, for more on this subject.

why I am not a Republican

Michael Tomasky is on my wavelength:

The Republicans don't know how to run a country. The party has become so inflamed by its ideological ardor that it no longer has the basic ability to do what a political party in a democracy does: advocate a view of the world, yes, but balance interests and constituencies in such a way as to show at least some regard for the common good. In Dwight Eisenhower's GOP, or Richard Nixon's (Watergate aside, of course), or even Ronald Reagan's and certainly Bush Senior's, there was always a sense that the Republicans, however conservative they may have been at heart, understood and respected the limits of putting ideology above all else.

To today's Republican Party there is no common good. [emphasis mine] Instead, there is a severe ideology that recognizes only what's good for the party, not for the nation. This conflation of party with state ought to sound familiar, and, indeed, today's GOP is dramatically like the Soviet Communist Party in this respect. Writing for TAP Online yesterday, Jason Vest quoted an administration official as having remarked that American soldiers would be greeted with a "deluge" of "rose water and flowers" in Iraq. This sounds like nothing so much as the party apparatchiks who praised the "liberation" of Finland in 1940.

And, of course, there are wealthy interests who keep the party alive financially and who must be rewarded on all possible fronts. This, actually, is the one service Republicans do perform competently. They make damn sure of that.


a letter to Soundvision.com

I have been absolutely disgusted with how you have let the forums be hijacked by anti-Islamic extremists, jihadists, and fools.

I am pleased you have shut down the forums. You must take a public stand however and modify your policies to explicitly state that NO such behavior will be tolerated. You must assign moderators who will police the forums and ban offensive users by IP address. You must take responsibility henceforth that such bile and hatred do not continue, lest the good name of Islam be further associated with such craven evil.

You must make a PUBLIC statement to that effect and acknowledge that your forums had been a diseased source of hatred, and your EXPLICIT intent to make it clean.

If you do not embrace these responsibilities, you will find that Soundvision.com will no longer be seen by Muslims as a site friendly to Islamic values of peace and tolerance. I hope that you do not make sanctions or boycotts necessary.

Aziz Poonawalla

(thanks to LGF for bringing this to my attention)

UPDATE: SoundVision.com responds:

Assalamu alaikum
Our feelings exactly. But with volunteers we can only monitor that much.
Although we were deleting and banning but there IP's are not the same. They
keep changing and talking.


Religion of Tolerance

Nathan Newman has some information about the brutality of the Knights Templar in Jerusalem. I'm more interested, however, in his addendum discussing the relative level of tolerance between Islamic civilizations and Christian ones towards communities of the other:

In Islamic lands, large number of Christian communities survived and even florished under Muslim rule-- Copts, Armenians, Orthodox, Maronite -- while Muslim areas reconquered by Christianity-- such as Spain and southern Italy-- were completely crushed or were forcibly converted, leaving almost no surviving muslim religious populations. About the only ancient communities of muslims in 20th century Europe were the Bosnian and Kosovar muslims brought under Christian control from the Ottomans early in the century-- and we know how those populations got treated.

Update: Ah, a little rightwing fisking by Marduk's Babylonian Musings who claims it's a myth that there was "Islamic tolerance for Christians and Jews." Now I of course said, for those who read the post, that Christians and muslims both engaged in a range of barbarism at various points at history, but the fact remains that essentially no muslims survived in Christian-dominated areas, while to this day there are millenium-old Christian communities in Islamic areas. Skip the competing books-- that fact speaks for itself.

It's worth noting that the vision of the Wahabi extremists today is not in line with the tolerant nature of past Islamic civilizations. Under Osama bin Laden's Caliphate, I imagine it would be unpleasant for all non-Wahabis - that goes for Jews, Christians, Shi'a, and even other Sunnis of more reasonable persuasions.

Unsurprisingly, Israeli partisans see all of Islam's history through the lens of their own occupation and conflict. Marduk and Yourish try to rebut Nathan, but are effectively countered:

Well, there goes 75 years of ethnological and anthropological studies on population shifts and cultural dispersions. Let's just "skip the books," and make some asshat uninformed conclusions.

Posted by Marduk at August 25, 2003 03:07 PM

He also knows nothing about the Armenians. The slaughter of Armenians in the 20th century was by--guess who?--Turkish Muslims.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at August 25, 2003 09:49 PM

Much more accurately- the genocide against Armenians was done by Turkish nationalists-- along with the mass murder and expulsion of Greek Christians in the same period.

But the interesting point is that there were so many Armenian Christians to kill at that point in what had been the muslim Ottoman Empire for centuries.

There were no similar muslim populations in Spain or other areas that had once had large numbers of muslims, because they had all been murdered, forcibly converted or driven out centuries earlier from Christian lands.

Posted by: Nathan at August 26, 2003 12:27 AM

I'm always bemused by the manufactured outrage over jizya taxes and the concept of dhimmi (though I'm no fan of Uthman or the Umaiyyad Caliphate either). I wonder how Caliph Judge Roy Moore would adapt those concepts? David Neiwert points out that Moore's supporters are more mainstream than you might imagine. Ah, here's another example.

an Administration inmical to wetlands?

Joshua Marshall wrote, simply:

All this talk about civilization, totalitarianism, fascism and terror is just preventing us from looking at what's happening and recognizing what our own interests are. They also make it possible for some people to convince themselves that it's not a screw-up that we've turned Iraq into a terrorist magnet. After all we're at war with 'the terrorists' and it makes sense that 'the terrorists' would attack us anyway, if only in a new venue. And we always knew it would be a long fight, a long twilight struggle, and yada, yada, yada and the rest of it. Same with the mumbo-jumbo about totalitarianism.

Look at the difference thus far between Afghanistan and Iraq. In the first place, we drained the swamp. In the second, we've made the swamp.

It's really that simple.

Kevin Drum also noted the same obstinacy to our self-interest:

Bush's conduct toward Iraq continues to be something that I just shake my head over. He lost my support before the war because I eventually became convinced that he wasn't serious about postwar reconstruction. After the war, it became clear that my suspicions were well grounded and that virtually no serious postwar planning had been done. And now, his continuing refusal to admit that we need more troops in Iraq or to make any effort to rally the country behind the time and money it will take to do the job right is simply inexplicable.
So what is he doing? His reluctance to involve the UN or the rest of the world is at least understandable given his worldview, but his reluctance to do anything just boggles the imagination. Even accepting the world on his terms, his actions make no sense.

Kevin's question is partly answered by Josh's post. The bottom line is that the Administration has a "faith" based policy ideology, one which is imune to evdience of failure. The basic message of David Ignatius' "Time to Unite" column is completely incomprehensible to such an Administration - they are structurally unable to "disenthrall themselves".

The evidence is mounting that the Iraq occupation is not proceeding towards our self-interest. Tacitus has a disturbing roundup of factual stories that completely demolish the wishful thinking of Bush apologists that the resistance is limited to the Sunni triangle[1]:

Now, there is indeed much more of a specifically Ba'athist resistance in Iraq than I first hypothesized; but let's leave that aside for a moment. Let's also leave aside the surplus of examples within the "Sunni triangle" of non-Ba'athist and anti-Ba'athist resistance to the occupation. If resistance outside the Sunni triangle is what David Adesnik demands, it is what he shall get. Therefore:

  • How about an American serviceman gunned down in the Shi'a city of Hilla?
  • How about the ambush that killed three British soldiers in the Shi'a city of Basra?
  • How about yet another (fortunately non-fatal) ambush of British soldiers also in the Shi'a city of Basra?
  • How about a fatal bomb attack on British soldiers yet again in the Shi'a city of Basra?
  • And let's not forget the horrific massacre of Royal Military Police in the Shi'a town of Majar al-Kabir.

  • ...
    Look, is most of the resistance within the Sunni triangle? Yes. Is it mostly Ba'athist-related? Quite possibly, but it's a legitimately debatable point. Is the rest of the country just fine, sans resistance, with no Shi'a out to kill our own and our allies'? Give me a break. All is not well, and for all we know, it may get worse. With Turkomen calling on the Turkish army to crush the perfidious Kurds; with Shi'a factions trying to kill one another and blaming the Americans for not taking sides with appropriate alacrity; and with the occasional violent riot breaking out among the Shi'a populace in Basra and Baghdad, David Adesnik's refusal to admit that there is -- or even could be -- a resistance outside the Sunni triangle is simply absurd.

    While comprehensive, Tacitus omitted the most important evidence of our stumbling in Iraq - the rise of Al-Qaeda as a player in the region. Under Saddam, AQ had no influence whatsoever, a fact that explains Osama bin Laden's own denunciation of Saddam as an infidel. The UN bombing has demonstrated the end of the AQ-free Iraqq era, however. Despite the desperate spin that the UN bombing was the work of the remnant of Saddam's regime, the evidence points directly to and unequivocally to Al-Qaeda:

    BERGEN: Well, what's happening is utterly predictable, unfortunately. Which is that Iraq is acting as a sort of super-magnet for ... al Qaida or the jihadists in general. And they're coming to Iraq. Were they behind the Jordanian embassy attack? Very possibly. It happened on August 7th, which is a date that al Qaida is fairly preoccupied by, because that was the day that President Bush [Sr.] announced Operation Desert Shield and [began] posting American troops in Saudi Arabia. And then 8 years later [al Qaida] blew up two US embassies simultaneously on that day.

    TPM: Huh, I'd never heard [that it was on the same date.]

    BERGEN: They don't operate on anniversaries, but this is one that they have operated on. And they would definitely -- you don't spend five years [planning for] blowing up two US embassies without actually deciding, "We're going to do it on a day that really makes sense for us." And their principle political beef has been the US presence in Saudi Arabia. So the fact that the Jordanian embassy was attacked on August 7th, it's an interesting coincidence at least.

    Then, attacking embassies, doing it in a professional manner. This is something that al Qaida has -- al Qaida or its affiliates -- among their specialties. Whether it was in Africa in '98, the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan in '95, attempting to blow up a series of Western embassies in Singapore post-9/11, which didn't happen.

    So that's point one. Then point two: The United Nations is definitely -- attacking the United Nations is definitely something that for starters was a suicide attack, probably extremely well-organized. I don't think there's a huge group of people willing to martyr themselves to bring Saddam Hussein back to power. I mean it just doesn't make sense on the face of it. You know, there might be people who are nostalgic, but not nostalgic enough to want to kill themselves � Secular socialism posits heaven here on earth, rather than in eternity.

    Now, there's information just now that the FBI is saying that the explosive materials involved indicate some sort of military Iraqi [connection], which is interesting. So maybe there is some alliance between these former military people and the jihadists. But I think that -- I've never heard of a suicide operation mounted by people who don't believe in heaven.

    Peter Bergen is an expert on Al Qaeda, author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden , and interviewed Osama bin Laden himself in 1997. The interview that Marshall conducts with Bergen is intensely fascinating, informative, and authoritative - both parts one and two are essential reading.

    The Administration's own "flypaper" theory demonstrates how they are trying to spin the issue both ways. They admit that jihadis and AQ are headed to Iraq, claiming that this is a good thing, because then they are all concentrated in one place for our forces to obliterate at our leisure. But the moment a terrorist attack occurs - which has a demonstrably different modus operandi than the ongoing guerilla war against our troops (which is NOT terrorism!), they pretend that AQ doesn't exist. These are the contortions that ideologues must self-impose upon their worldview, when reality contradicts their faith. These contortions lead to rationalization of stupendously stupid decisions such as recruiting Mukhabarat agents as allies.

    What is needed is an Administration that doesn't use ideology as the basis for policy. The stakes are just too high to allow Bush another chance. We must succeed in Iraq, and the Bush Administration is averse to doing what it takes to ensure that success.

    [1] Do the words "occupation" and "resistance" make you uncomfortable? deal with it. Stop hiding behind pedantic fear of words. Embrace the ones that describe reality rather than those that mask it.

    brain drain

    Den Beste is back, with a long essay on demographic auto-filtering. In the course of the larger point, he writes:

    That also applies to the brain drain, and the way that Europe's best engineers and scientists try to come to the US. If they want to do cutting edge work, they as individuals have a lot better chance of it here than they do trying to create such an environment in Europe. There are too many hurdles and roadblocks in the way. Had all of those who emigrated remained behind, gotten organized, and worked hard at it they probably could have done so. If the US didn't exist in its current form, then they all would have stayed behind, and Europe would be the scientific and technological capital of the world.

    But we do exist, and thousands of individuals are making self-interested decisions that they'd rather go somewhere to work that encourages what they want to do, instead of placing roadblocks in the way. And because of that, Europe is stagnating technologically.

    Of course the effect doesn't apply to all of the best and brightest, but certainly does affect a significant majority. However there are two countering forces to the brain drain, namely Nationalism and Population. India is an example of a country that has been fighting against the brain drain for decades - my community is typical of Indian-origin groups in that we have a massive concentration of doctors and lawyers and other professionals. However for every immigrant that comes to the US, there are 1,000 equally qualified ones who don't, partly because of immigration controls, partly because of financial barriers, but also (especially recently) because of nationalistic pride. And a large, LARGE population, which ensures that the brain-remainder is still sizable enough to make enormous contributions. Europe has nationalism in spades, but it's population is (IIRC) actually decreasing due to lower birthrates. The magnitude of the brain drain problem affects India as much as Europe, but India's population is three times larger than all of Europe combined.

    Population has its own problems of course. It's hardly a reason to envy India - in fact, I have a thesis that almost 100% of India's problems can be traced back to population pressure as the root cause (for another post. have mercy).

    What is interestig about the brain drain is that it has also affected the Arab world. Mostly because due to the sponsorship of dictatorial regimes by the West for Stability's sake, the best and the brightest of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Saudi, etc have had even more rationale to flee (those with the means, anyway). Unfortunately the Nationalism part has been dormant since Sadat and Nasser. Most Arabs are less concerned with pride than they are with survival.

    Ultimately, if we are successful in Iraq, we will have to combat the brain drain as well. Already some expatriates are moving back, but things are nowehere near normal, and until the alarming rise in fundamentalism can be documented to be reversed, the smart Iraqi professionals are going to stay abroad. The way to encourage the reverse brain drain effect will be to make investment in universities and labs and other professional and industrial resources. The magnitude of that challenge is enormous.


    a thinker, not a linker

    Demosthenes is feeling blog-fatigue:

    The problem I'm having blogging, recently, is the way in which it works... with that "sequential scrolling posts" aspect of it; there's a catch-22 at the center of it all. If one writes fairly long, well researched or well-thought-out or whatever posts, there is still a significant possibility (if not a likelihood) that the post will have no impact whatsoever. It'll just disappear into the archives, and once that's happened, it's gone. This creates a disincentive towards longer posts, unless you're absolutely sure that you'll get noticed. Even then, there's the problem of getting people to actually read through the thing, instead of skipping ahead to something more easily digestible.
    Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Write long original stuff, and too soon it'll disappear, unread and unremarked, into the archive; all that time and effort is for naught. Write shorter link-based stuff, and you're just a links page with some pithy words attached, no different than literally thousands of other writers. Try to find a balance between the two, and length becomes the priority instead of content.

    I have some thoughts on this. I'm definitely in the "thinker" camp - not to say I don't have short "linker" type posts, but the main rationale for blogging in my case is to put my ideas down. And I find that stuff I write doesn't disappear - after all, thanks to Google, every embrassing thing you write will persist long after it has scrolled off the page. Not to mention the deep links to your archives that persist far and wide.

    There are also simple things a thinker-blogger can do to keep their writing accessible. For example, have links to your best stuff on your sidebar (see mine at left). Jonathan Edelstein has the most comprehensive of these I have seen, and Dwight Meredith also as a fantastic collection. The advantage if this is that new visitors can quickly see what else you've written besides just the last weeks' entries. If there's a single blog out there that I'd like to see add such a "Best of" links collection to, it's got to beShadow of the Hegemon.

    But I think the single best way to avoid blogger fatigue is to simply not worry about your hits. I achieve this by keeping UNMEDIA free of any counter or stats meter. I honestly have no clue as to how many people are reading this blog. As a result, my writing here is free of any pressure or subconcious desire to attract readers. The point of this blog is just to give me somewhere to write.

    There's surely a reason that Demosthenes didn't choose Locke for his pseudonym. Like all writers, what matters is his writing. Whether it scrolls off the page, gets linked by Instapundit, or ends up as the number-one hit on Google searches for "Bush sucks" is irrelevant to a reader like me.

    the price of partisanship

    If this country had more politicians like Bob Riley, well, we'd have fewer like Roy Moore. This man deserves to be re-elected. This is why I'm not a Democrat - I'd end up having to support the downfall of a truly principled and pragmatic leader solely because he has the wrong letter after his name. It's also why I'm not a Republican, because I'd have to make excuses for someone who sees religion and deep faith as a political tool for career advancement. Not unlike Osama bin Laden.

    In general though, the Republican Party is a far more hostile place for principled people.

    Bushies losing blog mojo

    Jeff Fecke of "Moderate Left" blog notes a trend that I had been unaware until now, but recognize easily with perfect hindsight:

    Before the war, the righty blogs had all the mojo. Reading Insty or Lileks or Mitch Berg's site was fun, because they were so damn giddy. They knew they had the momentum, they knew the big issue of the day favored them, and they were joyous.

    Meanwhile, the lefty blogs were either dispairing or furious or, in my case (and a few more notable cases, like TPM), circumspect. The left knew we were on the wrong side of the White House door, and while not all of us opposed the war outright, most all of us were leery, to say the least, at the way the war was sold and prosecuted.

    Fast-forward six months, and look around. Kos is at the top of his game, Josh Marshall is witty as Hell, Pandagon has found his voice, Atrios rules, and...well, pretty much any lefty blog you stumble into is sweetness and light, while righty sites grumble about media coverage and why people don't see things like they do.

    And I realize something:

    We've got the mojo now.

    Jeff goes on to point out how righty blogs are stumbling, fixated on things like insulting France and whining about anti-Americanism. He's absolutely right - the BlogRight is full of stock entries, not fresh debate! For example, this post by Glenn, which Matt demolishes. Then there's Ezra's short, but devastating, big-picture view. Overall, it's a massive shift in tone, and it's a welcome one. The media is about two steps behind, but where the Blogsphere goes, they will follow, in time.

    Administration losing Iraq mojo

    even Republicans are saying we need more troops in Iraq!

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), returning from a trip to Iraq, called on Bush to send "at least another division" � which could mean an additional 17,000 troops.

    "We are in a very serious situation ... a race against time," McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "We need to spend a whole lot more money to get services back to the people. We need to get the electricity going, the fuel, the water. And unless we get that done and get it done pretty soon, we could face a very [serious] situation."

    But it's not just McCain on the R side - via Liberal Oasis, even South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham sounded sour notes:

    �I would agree with the idea we need more.

    Not necessarily more combat troops, but more people to help get Afghanistan and Iraq into decent shape so that we can turn the corner on what's happening over here with the public�

    �The public [also] needs to know that al Qaeda and Taliban that are left are regrouping on the Pakistan-Afghan border to try to destabilize Afghanistan as they go into their democratic elections.

    So we need more combat aircraft in that area�

    � [And] the infrastructure needs in Afghanistan and Iraq are billions.

    We are underestimating the cost of this conflict, and we in the House and the Senate need to appropriate a lot more money.

    the attitude of the Administration is "nothing to see here. move along." - Paul Bremer's response to being asked about needing more troops was a curt "I don't think so." It's obvious that the Administration is more interested in control of Iraq rather than stability in Iraq - and acknowledging the need for more troops would require either UN support (as the Democrats, notably Dean, have been advocating) or a draft (which would probably trigger an impeachment trial).


    freudian slip

    Casting the 2004 election as the Ultimate Battle of Good vs Evil, William Kristol makes a small freudian slip:

    Imagine the two most likely outcomes in 2004: a Bush victory, almost certainly accompanied by increased GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, and by a pickup of gubernatorial and legislative seats, leaving Republicans as the true governing party for the first time since the New Deal; and a Bush defeat, which would mean that the Democrat would have received more votes than the Republican in four straight presidential elections. In the latter case, even if the GOP hung onto majorities in Congress, moderate Republicans would suddenly be interested in working with a Democratic president, and bitter fights would emerge among Republicans and conservatives, rather than among liberals and Democrats.

    Interesting that he assumes a Bush defeat in 2004 can only occur with the Democrat winning more votes. What makes 2004 different than 2000 in that sense?

    I'm also amused by his assertion that should Bush lose, "moderate Republicans would suddenly be interested in working with a Democratic president" is portrayed as a bad, and a sure, thing. If I recall correctly, this didn't happen during Clinton's presidency. But should it indeed happen, and conservative moderates also find their spine, it's interesting to note that he predicts "bitter fights" between "Republicans and conservatives" (which group does he favor?). Perhaps what he is really worried about is that conservatives will vote Democratic.

    Ultimately though his entire credulity-straining and selective-assumption-laden thesis is that electing a Democrat will be Bad for the CountryTM because the GOP is too fractious and bitter and too moderate and too willing to work in a bipartisan way with the President of the United States. We must therefore appease the GOP for it's petulant threats of disruption by granting them complete control. The lunatics must be placed in charge of the asylum. We must burn the village to save it.

    Well, I agree with Kristol's opinion of the GOP, a party that has in my opinion placed more emphasis on party loyalty than any true concern for what policies, conservative or liberal, may be best for this country as a whole.


    are Qusai and Ebay martyrs yet?

    Tacitus did ask a month ago to be reminded...

    creationary evolution

    Zack started an amazing discussion at his blog about Muslims and belief about evolution and creation. It's amazing for its dignity - with honest expressions of belief alongside hard-core scientific explanations and links to resources such as Talk Origins (which I've semi-lurked on for years).

    Talk Origins had an article on Evolution and the Qur'an back in November 1996. There also are some links to specific Sura in the "what is Creationism?" FAQ under the subheading Islamic Creationism.

    I've been long interested in this topic, but I've never actually been motivated (until Zack's post) to sit down and try to exp[ress my own conviction in a formal sense. I've often adopted semi-temporary positions to refute people who have tried to bludgeon me one way or the other. But this is my first attempt to "reconcile" the Qur'an and the Origin of Species.

    My theological framework is Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili - specifically, Dawoodi Bohra. As such we do believe in the Qur'an as both the literal and the symbolic word of Allah. We do not ascribe literal meaning to each and every ayat. That gives me an enormous flexibility in adapting my understanding to fit my unalterable convictions of faith and my professional belief in the scientific method.

    I do believe that God created Man. The facility of reason is what differentiates us from animals, and I believe this is a divine gift.

    I also believe that men and apes share a common ancestor. The genetic evidence is clear on this, and my intuition also resonates strongly with the science.

    The logical conclusion then is that I must have an ancestor who did not have the faculty of reason. It is tempting to simply define all such ancestors as "clay" and be done, but there is room for more nuance. Some of that nuance is housed in religious theology that I cannot discuss here, but other parts are easily attributed to my finite capability for understanding in an infinite ocean of knowledge. I don't feel that the two bold statements above are neccessarily a contradiction, and in fact I intuitively feel that they provide the opportunity for a more complex answer than either Creationism or Science alone can provide. Whether I am capable of comprehending it, at my current stage of understanding of both God's law and Man's works, I personally doubt.

    So, I guess my answer is a retreat, or an evasion at best. I have faith in God and the Qur'an. I also have faith in Science, because that too is the pure expression of Man's facility of reason, itself a divine gift. I don't see any real tension between these, so that removes any need for a "reconciliation".

    I guess i Just don't know. My curiosity about human origins is well-fed by science and my religious educatoin, as separate processes. That's really all I can ask for. I know my questions have answers. I have faith.


    happy birthday

    My sister Zahra is the best writer in the blogsphere. Trust me, I've been all over. I realise that Lileks gets high marks, but Zahra blows him away. Head on over to her blog and check out what she has to say.

    Happy birthday zar :)


    Tacitus writes:

    On the subject of the bombing of the UN compound, let me also say that a great deal of the rhetoric coming from the blogospheric right -- mostly from self-described "anti-idiotarians," which is a self-nullifying label if there ever was one -- was a pathetic disgrace. If your first reaction was to crow about it, or to whip up a monologue on the irony of it all, you have my pity. I spent part of my day yesterday drafting condolence letters to the families of the dead; let me assure you that whatever the glaring flaws of the United Nations, those folks there were doing more for a free Iraq than you and I hunched behind our terminals stuffing our faces with Cheetos. So quit with that crap.

    Maybe I disagree - the label suddenly doesn't seem quite as self-nullifying as before.


    the terrorists win a round

    Before the murderous attack in Jerusalem, there was recognition of the need for motivation:

    The condemned man is already buckled into the electric chair and the signal is given to throw the switch. All of a sudden the power goes dead. They press the button again and again, and nothing happens. All of a sudden, they remember that the guy in the hot seat is an electrician. "Hey, man. Maybe you can fix this thing?" they ask. "I can," he replies, "but at the moment, I'm not exactly motivated."
    The Abu Mazen government is not in control of the West Bank today. For it to be capable of cracking down on terror from there, Israel must hand over jurisdiction of more population centers. In two dramatic meetings over the weekend, Mofaz accepted Dahlan's argument that the more extensive his powers and the more cities under the aegis of the PA, the fewer attacks there will be. Mofaz proposed transferring control of Qalqilyah, Jericho and Tul Karm to the Palestinians, and further easing restrictions on the civilian population, and Sharon agreed in principle.

    That last point is key. The real battle here hinges on the perception of the Palestinian civilian population. No other group. And therefore it is that group to whom all efforts must be tuned towards education and an aligning of self-interest towards peace:

    Israel, with all its power, will never be able to get rid of all the terror infrastructure. The harder Israel strikes, the more it will multiply. Only the Palestinian government can hold it in check - not as a collaborator of Israel, but as a central governing body that derives its authority from representing the whole of the Palestinian people.

    But as long as we bark the orders in the West Bank, the terror organizations will enjoy the support of the masses. The Palestinian government will be in a position to enforce its authority only if it has national and economic achievements to show off. A Palestinian government threatened by the terror organizations needs sweeping support from the Palestinian public if it is to do anything about stopping terror. And that depends a lot on us.

    The experiment begun by Mofaz is worthy of encouragement. The more urban territory in the West Bank handed over to the Abu Mazen administration, the more interest it will have in guarding the cream. And as the possibility of founding a state without terror becomes more of a reality, popular support for Abu Mazen will grow, and with it, the motivation of his government to take a tough stand against the terror organizations.

    All this promising recognition of the real solution has been put in peril by a small band of fanatic maniacal bloodthirsty bastards. And Israel is all too willing, under Ariel Sharon's watch, to let the terrorists win:

    Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will hold security consultations on Wednesday to discuss the suicide bombing. Well-informed sources in Jerusalem said Tuesday that all understandings reached with the Palestinians on the transfer of security control in West Bank cities were void.

    Following instructions from the political echelons, IDF officials cancelled talks scheduled to have taken part with PA officials on Tuesday night and Wednesday. IDF officers were to have met with Palestinian officers in the vicinity of Jericho on Tuesday, and talks were to have been held near Qalqilyah on Wednesday, ahead of the transfer of security control of these cities on Thursday.

    Earlier Tuesday, top security officials decided that Israel would probably hand over Qalqilyah and Jericho to Palestinian Authority security control this week.

    cycle of violence


    No amount of fencing, no amount of military invasion, no amount of restrictions or blockades or sanctions, will stop those determined to carry out evil, short of shutting down all freedom, all mobility, all openness of society.

    What is needed is a "domino theory" for the conflict - a relaxation of barricades, massive economic aid and cooperation, joint civic projects, and investment from Israel to the occupied territories. All settlements need to be frozen. The road systems that feed them need to be opened to all traffic. The vast labor pool of the Palestinians must be tapped in one direction, the vast manufacturing and consumer industries of the Israelis must be allowed into the Palestinian market. The cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa must dine on fruits and wheat grown by Arabs, and Arabs must watch television programs and wear wrist watches and carry cell phones manufactured by Jews.

    What is needed is an Israeli Marshall Plan to the Palestinians. Whatever meager soup kitchens and minor payments that Hamas makes to enekmies of peace, Israel can match or exceed. Buy the loyalty of the common Palestinian prole. Drown the bullets of Islamic Jihad under an avalanche of toys and candy. Donate textbooks (carefully selected from American printers) and build schools, and give all Palestinian children a new backpack and a few colorful pens.

    America shoudl match this spending dollar for dollar.

    And watch the swamp evaporate into nothingness, without any draining needed...

    UPDATE: Ha'aretz analysis:

    For every incident in which the IDF kills a wanted man, quick revenge will result.

    On Tuesday night, even before the official announcement was released, it was easy to guess that the Islamic Jihad would announce it was vengeance promised by the organization for the killing of Jihad leader Mohammed Sidr in Hebron last week.

    Israel's goal in the coming week will be to break these new rules of the game, and to prevent a situation in which every attempted arrest of a wanted man that goes wrong brings the burned buses back to the streets of the major cities.

    of course, the only way to break those rules is to break the cycle. The targeted assassinations must end. The settlements must be dismantled (not just a water tank on a hill, but teh real settlements that even now continue to grow wildly).

    The attack in Jerusalem is going to force all the sides toward a decision: Halt the deterioration and put the road map back on track - or to allow escalation that will lead to the collapse of the Abbas government and a renewed Israeli occupation of the West Bank's cities - and possibly Gaza.

    about my blogroll

    I'm flatterred that some people actually think being on my blogroll is desirable enough to request reciprocity, but I regret to inform you, my three dear readers, that it just doesn't work that way here. My blogroll is not for anyone but myself - it's purely functional. It doesn't exist to promote this blog, but to help me find interesting stuff. It also changes regularly - for example I use to have Suman Palit, Thomas Nephew, Zack, and even Glenn on there. It's not that I don't still read these blogs (and many, MANY others, it's just that at present, for a number of reasons, I don't need to visit them directly. They may get excerpted by other blogs, show up in my Technorati refers, or just happen to be bookmarked or in my IE history.

    Getting on my blogroll is not about reciprocity. I'm not on Kevin's blogroll, or Atrios's, or Billmon's, or Steven Den Beste's, or Radley Balko's blogrolls (and I have never asked). Getting on a blogroll is not why I blog - and I don't even have a counter on UNMEDIA to tell me how many visitors I have. I'm completely ignorant as to whether I actually have more than three readers (hey, they could be inventing false names and arguing with themselves in my coments, like Locke and Demosthenes from Enders' Game. Peter, if you're reading, I swear fealty to the Hegemony. Hire me.). But I read them, and find them informative and interesting, so I want to link to their sites.

    And some blogs on my blogroll are there because they are people I know, not just words on a page (which is the extent of the reality of most other bloggers to me, especially pseudonyms). Insert Eric's NPC Theory here - I like having a window into my Real Life friends' minds. So few of whom are actually geographically nearby, nowadays...

    I blogroll because I want to read, not because I want to recommend reading. And I blog because I want to write, not because I want to be read. Does that make sense? If there weren't any of you, I'd still be doing this. Sometimes it actually helps to pretend that there aren't any of you at all, in fact.

    So if you were on my blogroll and are offended that now you aren't, or added me to your blogroll and are now eagerly awaiting reciprocity, please don't be offended. I rotate through blogs on there all the time. Its purely random, subjective, and ephemeral. It's just a function of where i feel like going.

    Greatest Figures Of The 20th Century

    John Hawkins had another poll of left-wing bloggers, this time for the "greatest figures of the 20th Century." When it comes to choosing the best rather than the worst, I'm not comfortable making a list. A list of greats is always incomplete, regardless of length. A list of villains is always too many, no matter how few. So I decided to choose a single name instead of sending him a list - and I chose Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    (the full list is here - and I think it reflects well on left-wing bloggers as a whole. Every name on the list is someone who contributed to the state of humanity, who did something to advance society, whether on a personal level or a societal transformation level. Unfortunately John has not asked the same question to a right-wing group yet.)

    I chose FDR for a number of reasons. The first is the New Deal and his introduction of social programs that have had a vast influence on unlocking the potential of human beings to contribute meaningfully to our society. Conservative bloggers placed FDR on their Worst Figures of American History list for precisely the same reason[1], perhaps because they feel that the huddled masses have nothing to contribute if given a chance, and whose Darwinian elimination would be more a net benefit to mankind than the scientific, artistic, and economic contributions that those liberated by the New Deal were able to render.

    The second reason I chose FDR is because of his leadership during WWII, which was the most recent true threat to civilization and freedom that we as a species have ever faced. The threat from terrorism is miniscule and insignificant compared to the prospect of fascist authoritarian rule.

    And the third reason I chose FDR is because, as an American president who served four terms, he probably had the largest influence upon the Presidency and the nation of any holder of that office, before or since.

    [1] Of course, that same conservative list has Bill and Hillary Clinton, Noam Chomsky, Jimmy Carter, and Al Sharpton up there alongside assassins and traitors. The liberals fared much better with only two embarassments, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. However, while Reagan absolutely doesn't deserve placement on any such list, Bush has saddled this nation with a structural debt (unlike Reagan's) which will indeed do vast harm to future generations, as well as endangered country by unfunded mandates for homeland security, starting aggressive wars which have fed the anti-American hatred that gives rise to terrorism against us, and damaged our strategic relationships with our oldest allies. So while Bush didn't make my Worst ever list, I don't think it's beyond the pale for him to be on it.


    my precious...

    I can't wait any longer to pre-order the DVD.

    holy alliance

    usually, the only thing that unites former rivals is the perception of a common enemy. Whether the perception is true or not is irrelevant. This story alone demonstrates that in Iraq, the US has won the battle, but is losing the war:

    NAJAF, Iraq, Aug. 16 -- A popular Sunni Muslim cleric has provided grass-roots and financial support to a leading anti-American Shiite cleric, a rare example of cooperation across Iraq's sectarian divide that has alarmed U.S. officials for its potential to bolster festering resistance to the American occupation, senior U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

    The ties mark one of the first signs of coordination between anti-occupation elements of the Sunni minority, the traditional rulers of the country, and its Shiite majority, seen by U.S. officials as the key to stability in postwar Iraq.

    The extent of the cooperation remains unclear between Ahmed Kubeisi, a Sunni cleric from a prominent clan in western Iraq, and Moqtada Sadr, the 30-year-old son of a revered Shiite ayatollah assassinated in 1999. But ideologically and practically, it represents a convergence of interests between the two figures, who were left out of the Iraqi Governing Council named last month and, in their own communities, have emerged as influential if still minority voices of opposition to the four-month-old occupation.

    prosletyzation as heresy

    There's a great amount of fascinating debate that occurs at the weblog intersection of Zack Ajmal, Ikram Saeed, Al-Muhajabah, Jonathan Edelstein, and Bill Allison. I am sometimes tempted to withdraw from the political blog world and immerse myself in the literary, religious, and philosophical worlds within their comments sections. If there were some way to unify these writers on a single forum the net impact would be truly impressive.

    In the course of one of these bloggers' conversations, Bill makes the following observation:

    The juxtaposition of these two ideas�potential salvation through ignorance on the one hand and religion providing the ethical construct for society�suggested to me a kind of heresy. If one accepted both Al-Muhajabah's statement of the orthodox view of salvation and that it is more important to treat people well rather than to pray, then it might follow that the religious duty of the heretic is to maintain a complete silence, lest he inadvertently condemn those who do not share his faith and whom he wishes to treat well to damnation by exposing them to the basics of Islam. And surely, the heretic would find fault with Al-Muhajabah, who goes to great lengths on her main site to introduce non-Muslims to "a good understanding of the basics" of Islam.

    Note that Bill is not picking on AM here, but speculating about the extrapolation of the broader beliefs of many Muslims about who is (and who is not) eligible for paradise in the afterlife. AM's own writing on this topic is part of an ongoing attempt to "respond to those Muslims who believe that no non-Muslim can ever enter Paradise, no matter what, and to present information to those non-Muslims who also think that is the position of Islam." I often tackle the more conservative beliefs of Muslims (and the perception of those beliefs by non-muslims) myself, and AM is a great ally in this (though we do sometimes disagree on tactics, more on that later).

    Bill makes an interesting point. Speaking from my own Ismaili Fatimi perspective, there isn't any "threshold" for admission to paradise. Heaven is not a Michigan grad school. On the part of the believer, there is either acceptance or lack of acceptance (or outright enmity) of the message of Allah. Entry is a matter of Allah's judgement, which is postulated to be both infinite and perfect. There is always room for Allah's mercy or intercession.

    It's almost heresy to definitively assert that ANY particular person, muslim or not, is or isn't bound for paradise. The sole and final judgement is Allah's. And the only thing the religion tells you, really, is HOW to get there. That doesnt necessarily preclude another path, but
    there are an infinite number of very, very wrong paths. There is only ONE "right" path, however.

    As a result, from my perspective, proslytezation is a value-neutral activity, and the heresy angle doesn't really come into play. My community does not engage in prosetyzation but we have a number of converts each year, usually from the Hindu faith in India, but also some Sunni conversions (mostly in Pakistan) and occassionally even a European.

    in the comments, Bill expands upon his point:

    Aziz, I think, raises an interesting point as well. Is God bound to follow the law he promulgates? Suppose it is written that man must wear at all time green hats or be damned; suppose a man who otherwise follows all God's laws, and is exemplary in spirit, wears a blue hat. Suppose he does so because he genuinely believes the divinity intended men to wear blue hats, or because he simply prefers blue to green. Would God be bound to cast that man into hell?

    I think asking whether God is bound by God's law is equivalent to asking "Can God create a rock He cannot lift?" - essentially, a logic trap. The question itself really is meaningless, like asking "What color are the eyes of the King of the United States?"

    Likewise, the issue of what gets someone into Heaven is not reducible or analogous to the color of your hat. It's a far more complex judgement - with the absolute perfection of Allah's judgement as the foundation.

    The bottom line is, that God has shown all mankind the religion of Islam. And whether you follow or not, and the degree of that following or not following, is ultimately your personal choice. Whether you attain Paradise will in the end be unknowable until you actually get to that stage - and you can rest assured that the judgement is, by definition, Just. :)


    Idi Amin in Hell

    Idi Amin, brutal dictator, dead at age 80.

    In a military coup in 1971, Amin ousted Ugandan leader Milton Obote and seized power.

    He declared himself president and began a reign seen as one of the bloodiest in African history -- earning Amin the nickname "Butcher of Uganda."

    During Amin's dictatorial rule from 1971-79, Ugandans were gripped in a climate of fear as an estimated 500,000 people disappeared or were killed.

    Amin garnered a fearsome reputation as a sadistic leader surrounded by death; he was even reported to be a cannibal.

    His political downfall came in 1979, when Tanzanian troops and Ugandan dissidents stormed his palace in Kampala, overthrowing the government.

    Amin went into exile in Saudi Arabia, where his friendship with King Faisal helped ease the way for a quiet retirement.

    emphasis mine - I suppose Amin, as friend of Faisal, is the friend of a friend of Bush, n'est ce pas?

    Allah's mercy is infinite, but the voices of Amin's victims' will seal his fate.


    even New York was once Baghdad

    New York got to be Baghdad for a day. The Iraqis, bless their generous souls, have some advice for Americans in a summer blackout, compiled from their own experiences since the fall of Saddam. My favorite:

    3: CALL IN THE IRAQIS. Some suggested the Americans ask the Iraqis how to get the power going again. "Let them take experts from Iraq," said Alaa Hussein, 32, waiting in a long line for gas because there was no electricity for the pumps. "Our experts have a lot of experience in these matters."

    *grin* the circle is now complete. But not every Iraqi is sympathetic - Iraqi anger towards American rule is no laughing matter. There really is no comparison between America's blackout yesterday and the ongoing struggle that Iraqis have for basic services.

    (with apologies to They Might Be Giants)

    Bush lied, circuits fried

    via BuzzFLash:


    "We'll have time to look at it and determine whether or not our grid needs to be modernized. I happen to think it does, and have said so all along."
    - George Bush, 8/14/03 [LINK]

    SAN DIEGO - President Bush said he will order a review of why so many states were hit by a massive power blackout Thursday and said he suspects the nation's electrical grid will have to be modernized. [LINK]


    In June of 2001, Bush opposed and the congressional GOP voted down legislation to provide $350 million worth of loans to modernize the nation's power grid because of known weaknesses in reliability and capacity. Supporters of the amendment pointed to studies by the Energy Department showing that the grid was in desperate need of upgrades as proof that their legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) should pass.

    Unfortunately, the Bush Administration lobbied against it and the Republicans voted it down three separate times: First, on a straight party line in the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, then on a straight party line the U.S. House Rules Committee, and finally on a party line on the floor of the full House [Roll Call Vote #169, 6/20/01].

    As AP reported at the time, the amendment would have amendments that would have doubled the bill's money for energy assistance for the poor to $600 "provided $350 million to support loans to improve the capacity of transmission grids. 'It's pure demagoguery,' House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said in a brief interview regarding the Democratic amendments. 'If Democrats had an energy policy, they'd have had one in the last eight years. They have no credibility on this issue whatsoever. They are responsible for the energy crunch more than anybody I know.' Spotlighting the high political stakes, House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., took the unusual step of issuing a written statement about the committee's energy votes. He said President Bush and Republicans are 'committed to helping the Big Energy special interests' and accused them of obstruction." [AP, 6/14/01].