Rabbi Natan Gamedze: Getting Off the Conveyer Belt

Swazi prince on his conversion to Judaism. Aish has the story of 40-year-old Natan Gamedze, born into a royal family in Swaziland. (Hat tip: Winds of Change.)
Aish.com: It is unusual, to say the least, for someone of your background to find his way to Judaism.

Gamedze: I was never interested in religion, per se. I was interested in what was going on in the world. What is our reason for being here? Okay, so you get up in the morning, you eat, go to work, have a shower, watch TV, go to bed, get up and start all over again... Hey, I did that yesterday!

I felt that life was like being on a conveyer belt, and eventually you get off. So what was the point? I couldn't accept that.

Aish.com: An existential question.

Gamedze: Yes. In other words, I wasn't searching for a way to give my life meaning. Rather, I was trying to find out what was going on, like a detective. I felt there's something going on in this world, something behind the scenes. And I wanted to know what it is.

Aish.com: If you weren't looking for religion, how did you find it?

Gamedze: I was sitting in a boring Italian literature class one day. I think we were studying D'Annuncio. And as people do when they are bored, they look around, and I noticed some guy was writing backwards in funny letters. So after class I asked him what he was doing. He said he was doing his Hebrew homework. I thought: That's really interesting. Imagine if I could write like that! And then I forgot about it. But later on, I needed a credit to complete my degree. I wanted to take Russian, but I had a scheduling conflict. Then I remembered about Hebrew. It fit my schedule, and so I began studying it.

Aish.com: So what was the moment of awakening?

Gamedze: The first text we got was the biblical passage of the Binding of Isaac. Coming as I did from a moderately Christian home, I was familiar with the text, but I was surprised at how Hebrew appeared to convey much more than could be conveyed in any other language. I couldn't figure it out.

But what was so compelling was that I thought it was telling me something about myself. It was like opening an inner dimension that perhaps many people don't even know exists. It wasn't like an archeologist trying to find out about, say, ancient Incans, an interest which has really nothing to do with him. Here, I felt it was telling me something about myself. I thought it had to do with the language itself. I didn't know at the time it was the religious dimension.

Aish.com: And from there?

Gamedze: I began to discover the beauty of Judaism. I got interested in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. ...

Read the rest at the link, and be sure to read the comments (scroll down, then click link for more) for stories of other Jews from nontraditional backgrounds.

Mohammed on Election Season

Mohammed at Iraq the Model reports:

The media has extensively covered the press conferences of the big slates and it was easy to see the divisions that happened inside the united alliance because their spokesman today was Abdulaziz Al-Hakim instead of Ali Al-Dabbagh or Ahmed Al-Chalabi who were the usual spokesmen in front of the press but not anymore since they departed the alliance and formed their own separate slates.
Dabbagh announced the formation of a group of independent technocrats and emphasized that religion and politics have to be separated and that religion must take the role described in the constitution but that would be all and “policies and development plans should stay far from religious beliefs”.

At the same time the founder of the united alliance Chalabi and his INC pulled from the alliance too and I think Chalabi is expecting the alliance to lose its leading position after the government it led showed a lot of weaknesses in running the country’s affairs in the past several months, add to that, Ayatollah Sistani so far refrained from endorsing the alliance.

Chalabi is obviously dissatisfied with the places his INC was offered within the alliance (only 3 places) and that is certainly not equal to their influence and position. Anyway, I don’t expect Chalabi would get a lot more than the 3 seats he was promised by the alliance.

The parties that remained in the alliance’s slate are the SCIRI, the Da’wa (two branches), the Sadrists, Fadheela party, Iraqi Hizbollah and some other smaller parties like the Islamic Turkmen union. This shows that this slate has assumed a pure sectarian identity after the few relatively liberal elements that used to be part of it decided to leave.
Al-Hakim promised his supporters a majority in the parliament but I actually doubt; things are much different now and no one slate can form a majority by itself.

This religious trend is facing stronger competition from the growing secular ...


Retraction and Apology from PSU Vanguard

Portland State University's student newspaper, the Vanguard, has withdrawn a virulently anti-Semitic article that appeared in its Opinion section a few days ago. The editors are to be commended for doing the right thing in response to public outcry.

The editorial staff write: "Column 'A City Divided' Should Not Have Been Published":
On Oct. 18 the Vanguard published an opinion column by Caelan MacTavish, titled “A city divided,” about conflict over the city of Jerusalem.

The column was riddled with factual inaccuracies and overbroad generalizations of the Jewish faith, people and history.

The column was met with an outpouring of response from members of the student body, academia and the Jewish community, expressing outrage and disappointment at the column’s publication.

Our goal in publishing opinion columns is to advance educated debate about issues that impact or are of importance to our readers. To fulfill that goal our mission is to publish thoughtful, well-researched commentary that provides a unique or interesting analysis of complex situations.

In the case of “A city divided,” we find that the column failed gravely to meet that goal or to meet the editorial standards that we at the Vanguard aim to uphold. ...

The Vanguard deeply regrets that the column was not given as much editorial attention as it deserved, and realizes in retrospect that the column simply should not have been published. ...

Giliad Ini of CAMERA writes, Provocative Ideas Require Civil Discourse:
It is probably clear that the false and contemptible statements ideas in Caelan MacTavish’s Oct. 18 column, and the Daily Vanguard’s decision to publish his piece, are protected by the first amendment [“A city divided,” Oct. 18.]. Because the Bill of Rights established that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech,” MacTavish’s offensive words are legal — and, most agree, they should be.

What might be less clear is whether the legal right to “free speech” requires a newspaper to publish every idea. ...

PSU's Jewish Student Union see a city divided, a campus united:
The writer’s justifications for the Holocaust are appalling, as well as the reference to it as “The Great Burning.” He was factually wrong on numerous accounts, including statements such as “Nobody can really convert to Judaism—you are born Jewish, or you are not.” There are in fact several converts to Judaism within our student group alone. There are too many false statements to address here. ...

As students we have a responsibility and a right to attend classes in a safe and hate-free environment. The Code of Conduct states that, “the University recognizes the intrinsic value of individual differences and diversity. The University supports the right of all people to live and learn in a safe and respectful environment that promotes the free and vigorous expression of ideas. Policies and procedures are designed to protect these freedoms and the fundamental rights of others. Students are expected to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with these principles.”

Freedom of opinion is allowed, as long as it does not impinge upon another’s right to that “safe and respectful environment.”

In that spirit, the Jewish Student Union would like to encourage more constructive dialogue about religious and cultural difference, especially among student groups, with the support of our professors and the administration. We are proud of our beliefs and our way of life. We also respect the beliefs and rights of others. But the presence of multiple beliefs and cultures is worthless unless it is partnered with an ongoing dialogue that acknowledges the differences, and then celebrates them. ...

And finally, there's this response from PSU faculty:
In the course of his essay, Mr. MacTavish tells us that: "Nobody can really convert to Judaism — you are born Jewish, or you are not." This is simply untrue, as anyone with a passing familiarity with the Jewish religion knows. This sentence is found in a paragraph beginning, “Currently, Jerusalem is deep inside the West Bank…” In fact, Jerusalem is not “deep inside” the West Bank as commonly understood, but on its perimeter. (And since there are no plans we are aware of to move the city to another location, we expect it will be there not only “currently” but for a long time to come.)

In between these two sentences of demonstrable falsity, Mr. MacTavish offers a summary of Jewish history that makes one cringe in embarrassment for its historical and moral distortion. Ignoring or unaware of a rich, millennia-long history of cultural exchange with other groups, Mr. MacTavish leaves out 2000 years of Jewish history since the first-century Diaspora, with the single exception of the Holocaust, which he perversely suggests the Jews brought upon themselves because of their “exclusive religion.”

Later in his essay, he refers to Jews as a “race,” a falsely biologistic notion discredited since the Nazis gave such thinking a bad name.

A few comments:
It's good that the editors of the Vanguard have done the right thing here. What remains, of course, is a frank and open discussion of anti-Semitism in today's world. I hope that the repercussions from this incident will wake up some of the students and faculty - not only at PSU, but throughout the academic world.

It has become very easy in recent years to become complacent about anti-Semitism. I know I have been guilty of this myself. Even 9/11 did not, I think, immediately bring the message home; certainly there was vile Jew-hatred at work among the terrorists, but it was harder for some of us to think of judaeophobia as a home-grown phenomenon.

A second perception that may need to be re-considered is the idea that anti-Semitism is the exclusive province of the uneducated (or of "rednecks", "hillbillies", insert your favorite stereotype here). I've read enough and learned enough that I now no longer believe this. There are some highly educated people who are profoundly anti-Semitic. Beyond this, many Jews with connections to the academic world are becoming concerned that anti-Semitism has acquired an aura of "respectability" on the campus.

The author of our Vanguard piece is certainly no scholar; but we need to ask: How did this screed get approved for publication? In other words, how was the message sent that it was "OK" to publish this kind of stuff in a university newspaper? What kind of climate exists that fosters the notion that this drivel constitutes a contribution to intelligent discourse?

My first experience with overt anti-Semitism at PSU did not come from other students. It came, instead, from a rap artist who'd been invited as a guest speaker in a Women's Studies class. The gentleman delivered himself of a "performance piece" that consisted of a lengthy rant against the Government in general and, wait for it, "Zionists" in particular. The guest waxed eloquent about the suffering of Palestinians (one of only two nations mentioned by name - guess what the other one was) but could find no time to mention the African victims of Arab genocide in Sudan. Violence, it would seem, is only a crime when it is committed by Jews.

Finally - and without getting too political - I would submit that anti-Semitism is not confined to a particular area of the political spectrum. It's amazing how right-wing skinheads and left-wing anarchists sometimes sound a lot alike. Whether your politics are liberal, progressive, conservative, libertarian, or none-of-the-above, remember that no ideology is exempt from crackpots and crypto-fascists.

UPDATE: Please read Caelan MacTavish's response at the link. I will post comments on this shortly.


Ex-Leftitsts Speak Out

Also via Tammy, five former leftists speak on their political journeys in this symposium on "Leaving the Left" at FrontPage. The guests are Tammy Bruce, Phyllis Chesler (another hero of mine), Dr. Paul Kamolnick, John R. Bradley, and Keith Thompson.

More on Rosa Parks

Tammy Bruce has some information on Rosa Parks' activist background. Tammy argues that the popular image of Parks as an "everywoman" diminishes her:
The actual history of Rosa Parks is a reminder of what an individual can accomplish. That big things happen by those who plan; the lesson is that we can and should as individuals make commitments and set out to make a difference.


Condi Photo Manipulated

Demonic, triangular-shaped, black-centered eyes were added to a photograph of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as From the Pen demonstrates.
The USA Today version on the right was deliberately altered to make Condi Rice look more menacing. Notice how the whites of the eyes are highlighted to make her BLACK eyes look BLACKER and HATEFUL.

Go to the link to see a Rathergate-style animation of the original and retouched photos.

Powerline and Michelle Malkin are on it.

Times of India on Communist Chinese threat to US

An article on the PRC threat to the United States appears in The Times of India:

The greatest threat to America is not terrorism but a belligerent communist nation that is over billion strong, says Constantine Menges, an unknown figure even to the scrupulous China experts, in his recent book, China: The Gathering Threat . ...

... Bill Gertz, the national security reporter for The Washington Times and New York Times reporter writes in the foreword, "Menges explains why we need to go on the political offensive against Beijing's communist rulers and bring democracy to China."

In fact Gertz opens his foreword by saying that the challenge posed by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Russian Federation represent the most serious long-term threat to American national security, now and for the foreseeable future.

Full article at the link.


Why do people hate the Jews?

An opinion piece at Portland State University's student newspaper The Vanguard offers some explanations.
Currently, Jerusalem is deep inside the West Bank, and may be the single biggest impediment to a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. After the Diaspora, or scattering, Jews left their ancient seat of government and went all across Europe. Then the Holocaust came, the Great Burning, and Jews started to leave the Europe that hated them for centuries because of their exclusive religion. Nobody can really convert to Judaism — you are born Jewish, or you are not.

The Jews did not like to integrate with other peoples. When the Greeks met the Egyptians, they said, “Oh, your Ammon is our Zeus. We worship the same gods. Let’s feast together and exchange presents.” When the Greeks met the Jews, the Jews told them, “No, our God is not your God. Our God belongs to us alone. Take your God and shove it.”

People didn’t like Jews because of this; they feared whatever secrets their exclusive god might be hiding. Scholars think this attributed to the hereditary prejudice against Jews, and in response, Zionism attracted the scattered Jews back to the land their ancient kingdom once rested upon. Israel was formed.

Instead of keeping the barriers put in place by the United Nations after the Six-Day War, in 1967, Israel proceeded to grab as much land as possible over the last century. ...

Go to the link to read the rest of the column in the Vanguard.

UPDATE: The Vanguard has removed the article, with an apology. Please go to the link for further statements.

More at this post:
Retraction, Apology from Vanguard

UPDATE: Please read Caelan MacTavish's response at the link. I will post comments on this shortly.

More Uppity Middle Eastern Women

Iraqi women take up arms as security contractors. It's worth the 15 seconds it takes to register for this Washington Times article ... go read what these women are doing, and why they're doing it. (One is a conservative Muslim, an action movie fan, and calls herself "Xena". Heh.)

Hat tip: Hyscience.


Antipodes ...

... is a fancy Greek word meaning "dig here"
Hat tip: Judith.

Saddam on Trial

Iraq's deposed fuehrer went on trial today. Saddam Hussein pleaded "innocent" to the first charges brought against him, stemming from the 1982 killings of more than 150 people.
A judge on Wednesday adjourned the trial of Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants until Nov. 28, after Saddam pleaded innocent to murder and other charges, questioned the court’s authority and scuffled with guards.

The main reason for the adjournment was because some 30 to 40 witnesses had been too scared to show up, the presiding judge said.

“They were too scared to be public witnesses,” Rizgar Mohammed Amin told Reuters. “We’re going to work on this issue for the next sessions.” ...

The first session lasted just three hours, during which presiding judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin read the defendants their rights and the charges against them — which also include torture, forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment in a case involving the massacre of nearly 150 Shiites in 1982. ...

Mohammed at Iraq the Model:
“Does he deserve a fair trial?” this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes…he wasn’t the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.
Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it’s more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah…

“Why do we have to listen to this bull****?” said one of my friends.
“I prefer the trial goes like this:
Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?
Then take this bullet in the head.”

Everyone could find a reason to immediately execute a criminal who never let his victims say a word to defend themselves “let’s execute him and get over this” sentiments like this were said while we watched the proceedings which were rather boring and sluggish for the first half of the session.
At the beginning we were displeased by the presentation of the prosecution which was more like a piece of poetry in the wrong time and place and this is what encouraged the defense to give us a worn out speech about objectivity and how the court must not go into sideways; the thing which both the prosecution and the defense were doing.

Anyhow, the prosecutor began reading the facts and figures about what happened in Dijail. The defendants went silent but Saddam objected on some details and then prosecutor said “Do you want me to show the film where you said and did that?” Saddam stopped talking and the prosecutor asked the court to allow showing the film, we don’t know if it was played there as transmission was paused for a while.

As the prosecution went deeper into details and facts, the way we viewed the trial began to change an d those among us who were demanding a bullet in Saddam’s head now seemed pleased with the proceedings “I don’t think I want to see that bullet now, I want to see justice take place as it should be”.
We were watching an example of justice in the new Iraq, a place where no one should be denied his rights, not even Saddam.

Tammy Bruce points out an unsettling episode.

Go read the full posts at the links.

Google Does the Right Thing

Physics Org:
Mainland media control over Chinese-language content took a blow Wednesday with state press claiming rage after Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant Google removed referrals to Taiwan as a province.

Chinese media reports said "Google.com, world's largest Internet search engine, deleted the words 'Taiwan, a province of the People's Republic of China' on a map of Taiwan linked to its maps search engine maps.google.com. This has drawn rage from Chinese officials and the people." ...

Please take a moment to send a message to Google.


Headline of the Day

First, the text of the article:
TRIPOLI, Libya [AP] - Several hundred Libyans demonstrated Tuesday in the Libyan capital to protest President Bush's call for the release of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor sentenced to death for allegedly infecting 400 children with the AIDS virus.

The United States and European Union have been pressuring Libya to free the six, who were sentenced to death in May 2004 on charges they infected Libyan children with HIV-contaminated blood in an experiment to find a cure for AIDS.

The defendants have appealed the verdicts, and international observers say the charges were contrived and extracted by torture. ...

And now, the headline:
Libyans Demonstrate Against Bush's Stance

Well, that tells you everything you need to know, right?

Chinese Dissident Protests Yahoo/PRC Collusion

David Kopel at The Volokh Conspiracy:
A few weeks ago, I criticized Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and Cisco for cooperating with evil, because each of those companies assists the Chinese suppression of dissent, in order to be able to make money from the lucrative and growing Chinese market. Some apologists for the companies replied that, even though the companies were assisting repression and making it more efficient and pervasive, the companies were somehow encouraging the long-run development of freedom in China.

Today, the Financial Times reports on a letter which a leading Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, has sent to Yahoo. Having spent time in prison for speaking the truth about China's ruling Communist Party, Liu "says Yahoo has enough market clout not to need to toady to authorities." He explains the corporate-communist deal: coporations make profits at the expense of human rights; the communists are given Internet control, and new means to squelch dissent. Thus:

“The collusion of these two kinds of ugliness means that there is no way for western investment to promote freedom of speech in China, and that in fact it greatly increases the ability of the Communist party to blockade and control the internet,” he writes.
“You are helping the Communist party maintain an evil system of control over freedom of information and speech,” he writes.

Simply put, there appears to be no way to be an ethical Internet company in China today, just as there was no way to be an ethical supplier of spy equipment to the USSR or Nazi Germany.

Read the rest at the link.


Bobby Schindler Speaks Out

Deseret Morning News
Bobby Schindler says his memory is seared with images of his sister, Terri Schiavo, after courts approved removal of her feeding tube in a high-profile right-to-die/right-to-life battle he says wasn't always fairly portrayed in the media.

... "She was beautiful, she was alive, she was a human being and had a family willing to . . . show her compassion as every human being deserves. But the courts decided she would be better off dead."

About six months have passed since Schiavo died. And Schindler is on an international speaking tour of sorts, criticizing the right-to-die movement and, through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, pushing for changes in federal and state laws to protect the lives of the elderly and people with disabilities.

He addressed about 150 people at Westminster College Wednesday night and spoke with the Deseret Morning News beforehand. Student leaders had invited him after learning he had spoken to another university, free of charge. His Salt Lake speech also included no honorarium, he said....

Read the rest at the link. (Hat tip: Blogs for Terri.

A couple of points I want to touch on here. The Terri Schiavo case never was about the right to die. It was about the right to live - without which the right to die is meaningless. A lot of liberals were just sure this was a case of some crazed right-wingers trying to keep a woman alive against her wishes. But the nature of Terri's wishes was - in my view, and in the view of many reasonable people - very much open to question. And to compensate for the weakness of the evidence for Terri's supposed wish to die, the kill-Terri side hedged their bets by inviting us to make assumptions about what Terri would want, or what we would want if we were in her place.

There's a lot more I want to say about this, but Shabbat is coming, so I'm going to stop for now.

Guerriero: Time for Gay Conservatives to Come Out

From Patrick Guerriero of Log Cabin Republicans:
News Release
For Immediate Release
October 14, 2005

Contact: Christopher Barron
Log Cabin Republicans
(202) 347-5306 or
(202) 297-9807 (cell)

It’s Time for Gay Conservatives to Come Out

Op Ed by Patrick Guerriero, President

This critical moment in the history of the LGBT movement's fight for equality demands that a new generation of Americans come out of the closet—gay conservatives. Now is the time for closeted gay conservatives to find the courage and personal strength to stand up and be counted. Now is the time we can really make a difference. If every gay conservative came out of the closet today, the journey to full equality would be over in years instead of decades. It would soon become ineffective to use gay and lesbian families as wedge issues in campaigns. The cynical efforts to amend our federal and state constitutions would eventually stop. The hypocrisy of anti-gay political tactics being used by way too many Republicans and some Democrats would be finally exposed.

One of the biggest un-kept secrets in Washington, DC is that closeted gay Republicans are everywhere—the White House, Republican Party organizations, the halls of Congress, the most influential law offices, and the most powerful lobbying firms in our nation's capitol. Some of those who remain closeted have chosen to be either passive bystanders or, in some cases, active critics of our movement while comfortably partaking in the fringe benefits of our community work—all the while sipping the finest martinis in our trendiest gay bars.

Coming out is an intensely personal journey. As someone who struggled long and hard with how and when to come out of the closet, I unequivocally oppose outing. I am unaware of a single forced outing that led to passage of a single piece of pro-LGBT legislation. Coming out on one’s own terms, with free will, and with personal courage is a positive catalyst for change. Forced outings don’t advance our movement because they’re motivated by vengeance.

Over the years, many closeted gay Republicans have discreetly and impressively helped advance equality. In spite of attacks from too many on the partisan gay left, some gay conservatives work behind the scenes to pass equality legislation, increase funding for HIV/AIDS, offer vital counsel to LGBT groups, and help defend us against anti-gay legislation. These gay conservatives have quietly come out to their bosses and colleagues—changing some into gay allies and challenging others to soften their positions over time. These individuals have been quiet heroes, not asking for or wanting public credit.

Other gay Republicans, however, simply have failed to stand-up—more concerned about keeping their title, their paycheck, their chance for promotion, or their chance to attend another White House cocktail party.

During this moment in the culture war, we face a fight that will determine how LGBT Americans are treated for decades to come. Those who choose to be missing in action are running from the most critical fight of our generation. During these historic times, the closet is not only a place which suffocates personal dignity, it is also a place which suffocates the powerful force of personal integrity that can change the hearts and minds of even the most conservative Americans and most conservative politicians. Coming out doesn’t have to mean putting a sticker on your car, flying a rainbow flag from your front porch, or marching in a parade. Coming out means different things to different people. It may be as simple as putting a picture of your partner on your desk at work, sharing your personal story with your boss, or speaking up when someone says something anti-gay. For others, it may be as difficult as offering a letter of resignation instead of implementing or assisting with an anti-gay campaign strategy.

For many conservatives, coming out will come with real and profound sacrifice. Thankfully, we can find role models in and inspiration from a new generation of Log Cabin members who are coming out in some of America's most conservative places, joining new Log Cabin chapters in places such as Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, New Mexico, and the Carolinas. They are coming out to family members who sometimes turn them away from the Thanksgiving dinner table if they insist on bringing their partners, in towns where they’re the only openly gay person, in traditional churches where they’ve heard intolerance from the pulpit, in high schools without gay/straight student alliances, and in workplaces where there are no protections that prevent them for being fired for simply being gay. They are the real heroes of today's LGBT movement and they need and deserve to be given a helping hand in the days ahead.

That helping hand needs to come from gay conservatives. We hold the key to changing the hearts and minds of fellow Republicans, conservative Democrats, and people of faith. In the not too distant future, the history books will record who had the courage to come out of the closet and lead us to victory when it mattered most. Only with the help of gay conservatives can our movement achieve victory over the radical right. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we prevent the radical right from hijacking the Republican Party. Only with the help of gay conservatives can we defeat the voices of fear and intolerance that are feverishly working to deny any and all civil recognition for gay families. The history books will note not only those who had the courage to stand up, but sadly also, those who remain silent. The time is now.


Log Cabin Republicans is the nation's largest organization of Republicans who support fairness, freedom, and equality for gay and lesbian Americans. Log Cabin has state and local chapters nationwide, a full-time Washington office, and a federal political action committee. www.logcabin.org

On a more upbeat note ...

If you need a good laugh, click here.


AJWS: Help End Darfur Genocide

From the American Jewish World Service:
As we approach the holiest time in the Jewish calendar, American Jewish World Service is launching an unprecedented campaign to end the horrific genocide in Darfur, Sudan.

I need your help: please sign our Call to Action

AJWS has brought together Jewish leaders from across the spectrum to urge President Bush to lead the world community in putting an end to the atrocities that have claimed more than 400,000 lives and left millions homeless. You may have seen our full page ad in The New York Times on Tuesday, which officially kicked off the campaign.

After the Holocaust, the world vowed "Never Again." That pledge was repeated after the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Yet genocide continues in Darfur, Sudan.

I'm asking you to sign this Call to Action to President Bush today and to spread the word to your friends and colleagues. You will be adding your name to an extraordinary list of signers from the American Jewish community.

Sign the Petition
American Jewish World Service


"How can you determine a source's biases?"

What are a source's biases?  And why is it important to consider a source's biases? 

In November 2006, just days before the national mid-term elections, the magazine Vanity Fair issued a press release suggesting that several leading neoconservative thinkers - David Frum, Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, and others - had renounced their earlier beliefs about Iraq and the Middle East.  But according to the neoconservatives, the release grossly distorted and misrepresented their views, and some expressed regret that they had granted the interviews at all:  in the words of Frank Gaffney, "None of us who responded candidly on the basis of such promises to thoughtful questions posed by reporter David Rose would likely have done so had the magazine’s true and nakedly partisan purpose been revealed."  More at the post Neocons Blast Vanity Fair.

Suppose you are the reader, reading a magazine - or a book, or a newspaper, or a page on the internet.  How do you determine the source's biases?

I don't think there's any simple answer, and I'm not sure it's the kind of question you can really find the answer to by typing it into a search engine.  But I'll share my own thoughts on it.  I addressed the problem of media (and source) bias in an earlier post, "Poison Pill:  The Media Today".  I quoted a New York Times editorial by Patrick Healy and a post by Neo-Neocon tracing the use of anonymous sources.  The media's problem, I argued, was largely created by its own reliance on apocryphal sources - potentially biased, and anonymous, informants whose reliability and accountability are doubtful.  As a first step toward correcting the problem, I echoed Neo's suggestion that
If the MSM really wanted to clean up their act, they might follow these sensible guidelines, devised by prominent journalists in a 2003 Poynter report:

• Anonymous sources should be encouraged to go on the record.

• We should weigh the source’s reliability and disclose to readers the source’s potential biases.

• The more specific we can be in describing the source in the story, the better.

• Anonymous sources should not be used for personal attacks, accusations of illegal activity, or merely to add color.

• The source must have first-hand knowledge.

• Journalists should not lie in a story to protect a source.

Now to the question at hand.  Journalists are here being exhorted to "disclose to readers the source's potential biases".  How would a journalist, or a layperson, make such an assessment?  Well, I think it's mostly commonsense, but I'll throw a few ideas out there:
What is the source's ideological orientation?  What are the person's political sympathies, their party affiliation, etc?  This is not to say that people can't be objective or critical about a movement they belong to - but the potential for bias is certainly there.

What are the source's financial interests?  I think this one is a no-brainer, but a person who owns a lot of stock in XYZ Corporation is going to have an incentive to promote pro-XYZ legislation and contracts.  In the case of the MSM, we all know that "bad news sells".

Debts and favors.  Is the source looking for a payoff down the road?  If I go on record saying nice things about Candidate A, maybe I am hoping to get appointed to a nice comfy job if A wins the election.

The medium is the message.  News stories go through news networks, broadcast networks, and publishers.  Books go through publishing houses.  In other words, somebody has to provide the materials for the message to be communicated.  Somewhere, a network executive makes decisions about what gets on the air and what doesn't.  Somewhere, an editor or publisher decides what gets printed and what doesn't.  So if you're reading a book you have to think about not only the author's background and point of view, but also the publisher's orientation:  for example, they might publish mostly liberal books or mostly conservative books.  Knowing something about the background of a publisher or a broadcast network can help give you an idea of what to expect.

What are the source's own experiences?  How might those experiences be relevant, and how might they affect the source's perceptions?  First-hand knowledge of any issue is always helpful; on the other hand, a person might have had an experience that was atypical or unrepresentative.  A soldier on the front lines is going to have a very vivid, detailed, and specific recollection of a battle.  The general in a command bunker may not see the battle up close, but he will have information on the "big picture" of troop strengths, enemy positions, strategic decisions, and other things that the soldier will not know, and may not be allowed to know.  The soldier's memory may be distorted by trauma, confusion, fear, or shame (of a real or imagined failiing on the battlefield); the general may ignore or suppress key information, perhaps with his career in mind.  Both perspectives are valuable, both have their limitations.

Psychological factors.  There are basic psychological factors that operate in all of us to one degree or another.  Resistance to change is one; Neo has written extensively and insightfully on the human reluctance to change familiar patterns of thought.  There is a need for approval of others; there is also a need for a sense of autonomy and a belief that we determine our own destiny.  And of course we all like to be thought knowledgeable, which is why we are often tempted to speak more than we actually know.

The centrally-managed and -edited traditional media (including radio, TV, print periodicals, and books) have nothing to fear from the internet ... provided they do not contribute to their own irrelevance by ignoring it.

The internet is anarchical, and therefore makes great demands on the individual user in terms of critical thinking skills. How do we know to trust a site? We compare information from multiple sources, listen to different analyses, learn to weed out irrelevant input and compare the picture with what we know from our own previous experience.

With the traditional media, this is all delegated to the editor, publisher, producer, or university. Often we have to do this, because the material is specialized or technical in nature, or because individual contributors don't have the credibility to reliably provide the information we need.

But centralized media can serve their own agendas at the expense of accuracy. That's where the supremely democratic world of blogging comes in.

Traditional media still play a valuable role. But they risk abdicating this role if they fail to recognize the democratizing effects of electronic communications.

Why do we believe what we believe? How do we decide what is true, and what is important? Consider the role of the following factors, and feel free to add others:
· internal consistency (details of the narrative agree with each other)
· external consistency (details of the narrative agree with information previously verified)
· insider details (information available only to an authentic source)
· dialog and dissent (narrative welcomes questions and challenges; fosters better understanding among divergent opinions)
· awareness of objections (narrative recognizes legitimate counter-arguments and seeks to refute them)
· nuance (recognition that a proposition may hold true in general and still admit of exceptions)
· the human voice (an intangible quality that may include a distinctive personality, awareness of ambivalence, self-analysis and self-criticism)

Finally, what does biased writing look like?  Bias isn't necessarily bad, but you need to be aware of it and, if necessary, allow for it.  Yahoo offers this:
Check for the tone of the publication - pick out opinion statements and check the publication's references (are all of the references from the same author or does the publication offer a variety?). What other articles has the author written - the topics of these may help determine her/his bias.

Does the author present both sides of the argument/topic? If not, which side is presented more often? What is the point s/he is trying to make? Ask yourself these questions and you should be on the right track!
That sums up the main points:  variety of sources, obvious rhetorical slant, agenda.  Going a little deeper, I'll offer the following ideas:

* Look for "snarl words" versus "purr words" - words that mean the same thing but sound bad or good.
* See if you can tell what kind of overall picture, or "narrative", the writer is trying to present.
* Sometimes an article will seem to present both sides, but will use better arguments to represent one side, and weaker arguments for the other, so that one side sounds more convincing; this is a kind of implicit bias.
* Sometimes people will use bogus arguments (called "red herrings" or "straw men") to evade questions they don't have answers for; these are examples of fallacies or bad logic.  Studying the types of fallacies can help you see when somebody is trying to pull a fast one on you; you can find out more about logical fallacies here, here, or here
Another common form of potential bias is the use of "weasel words" - words or phrases that make a statement appear factual but really undercut the precision of the statement.  They're called "weasel words" because they allow the writer to wiggle out of being pinned down to a specific statement that can be proved or disproved.  Wikipedia's style manual has an excellent section on weasel words:
Words and short phrases that make a statement difficult or impossible to prove or disprove:
  • Some humans practice cannibalism. (True, but useless and misrepresentative)
  • Many humans practice cannibalism. (“many” could well be two, three, ten, or even five billion)
    • Throughout human history, there have been many individuals with three arms. (to illustrate.)
  • Most scientists believe that there is truth
    • "Most" can mean any amount over 50% but short of 100%
    • A "scientist" could be anyone with any knowledge of science
    • The statement gives no necessary contextual data:
      • How, when and by whom were the individual beliefs counted
      • Whether the statement concerns all published scientists, or all
        those presently alive, or only those who are qualified in the given
        scientific field
    • The meaning of "truth" varies
  • "More and more", "more than ever", "an increasing number"
  • "Possibly", "may", "could", "perhaps" and the like
  • It is believed that... Anyone could believe anything so it is very important to know who believes that, and why?
  • It remains to be seen... Pointless, since it usually introduces an unverifiable statement.
The following examples often qualify for weasel words by vaguely attributing a statement to no source in particular:
  • "According to some (reports, studies, rumors, sources…) …"
  • "Actually, Allegedly, Apparently, Arguably, Clearly, Plainly, Obviously, Undoubtedly, Supposedly ..."
  • "(Contrary, as opposed) to (many, most, popular, ...) ..."
  • "(Correctly, Justly, Properly, ...) or not, ..."
  • "Could it be that..."
  • "(Critics, detractors, fans, experts, many people, scholars, historians, ...) contend/say that ..."
  • "It (could be, should be, may be, has been, is) (argued, speculated, remembered, …) …"
  • "(Mainstream, serious, the majority of, a small group of ...)
    (scholars, scientists, researchers, experts, scientific community...)
  • "It has been proven that…"
  • "Research has shown..."
  • Personifications like "Science says ..." or "Experience has proven..."
  • "There has been criticism that ..."
  • "It turns out..."'
In an earlier post at Dreams Into Lightning, I complained about the use of vague modifiers in the media: 
Have you ever noticed how often they use vague quantifiers like "some"
and "many", especially when they're talking about public opinion? But
of course you have - Dreams Into Lightning readers are a smart bunch.
So you've already figured out that that's an easy way for the
"journalist" to introduce his or her own opinion into a story, without
having to defend a more stringent assertion, e.g. the claim that said
opinions represent a majority (which would require the word "most").
Now go take another look at Wikipedia's list - better yet, print it out! - and spend some time looking for weasel words in your favorite media source.   I bet you'll find a lot of them.  (How many is "a lot"?  Well, try it and find out for yourself!)

Make a game of it:  print out a copy of this post, and go through your local newspaper with a pen or a highlighter.   Look for anonymous sources, or people who might have an incentive to be partial, or examples of journalists possibly putting their own opinions into the mouths of the ubiquitous "some people".  Look for snarl words, purr words, and weasel words.  Try to spot logical fallacies.  Check for internal consistency, external consistency, and awareness of objections.  Ask yourself which analyses come from people who know what they're talking about - those who have first-hand knowledge of the relevant "facts on the ground" and who are prepared to respond to opposing arguments - and which ones are unsupported opinions from people with their own agenda. 
I hope you have found this post helpful.  But the most important thing in determining a source's biases is to do your own thinking!  And that's important for students, too - so if you are a student, please take the time to come up with your own answers to this question.  Remember, your instructor can use a search engine just as easily as you can.

Related. On Scott Thomas Beauchamp and source biases.


I've been taking a break from playing "Mr. Universe" due to pressures from school and real life. Hoping to get back to posting soon.

Third-semester calculus looks like it's going to be fun. The prof is a young guy from Mexico, very articulate, an excellent explainer, and has an enthusiasm for the material that's infectious. He killed us with homework the first week - review problems - but I'm glad he did because there's so much stuff you have to memorize in the first two semesters that it's easy to forget. Derivatives and integrals of circular functions, integration techniques (integration by parts, partial fractions, etc.). Now we're looking at convergent and divergent series; it's more logic-based. I've taken this class before, but I only got about a C, and it was a few years ago. I'm hoping to get more out of it (including better grades) this time around.

"Modern physics" means all the stuff they don't teach you the first year: relativity and quantum theory. Our prof is a bald German guy with coke-bottle glasses and a thick accent. Relativity is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of how to plug in the Lorentz equation. Quantum theory is weirder than relativity; Einstein himself famously refused to accept quantum physics. The late Richard Feynman, in his popular series of lectures delivered in the early 1960s, explained that "things on a very small scale behave like nothing that you have any direct experience with." That is, you have to set aside your whole sense of "how the world works" - which was built up over a lifetime and painstakingly reinforced in first-year physics - and learn a whole new mental vocabulary of wavefunctions and probability amplitudes. I should point out, by the way, that I do not have any particular facility with mathematics or physics, but I'm really excited by the prospect of learning this stuff and mastering the techniques, so I'm determined to challenge myself a little bit and see this program through.

Our English class just finished Jane Austen's "Northanger Abbey". It's one of Austen's early works, a spoof on Gothic novels in general and "Mysteries of Udolpho" in particular. A key element of the storyline centers around Catherine's overactive imagination (stimulated by the pulp fiction of her day) and her eagerness to believe the most fantastic and dreadful things about Northanger Abbey and the Tilney family. I think the other plot element - General Tilney's changing attitude toward Catherine - invites us to contrast Catherine's mindset with the General's. In a sense, Catherine and the General find themselves in similar situations: both have made mistaken assumptions about other people, and are found out. But while Catherine experiences an epiphany, the General only becomes more obstinate and defensive.

With "Northanger Abbey", Austen is clearly calling on her contemporaries to provide worthwhile reading and not literary "junk food". Even more important, though, is the broader point about how we interpret the information we get about our environment - and I think there's a direct relevance for us in the modern world, not only in the blogging universe but in our daily lives. Here is Henry's rebuke to Catherine, after he has caught her snooping in the Tilney home and she has blurted out her wild imaginings about the Tilneys:
"... Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you -- Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing; where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dear Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"

Henry appeals to the highest ideals of their society ("we are English, we are Christians") not to suggest that their neighbors are incapable of committing such a horrid crime as Catherine imagines, but to impress upon her the wildly improbable nature of the sorts of conspiracies she has dreamed up.

"What have you been judging from?" This is the question we have to ask ourselves constantly. Where do we get our information, and how well does it mesh with what we know about the real world? Do we prefer the subtlety and complexity of real life, or the feverish excitement of our paranoid fantasies? "Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you."

I'm going to enjoy English class. The discussion among the other students is fascinating and stimulating; it's especially fun to get the input of younger minds. (I don't think the prof likes me, but that seems to be a constant among my humanities professors, so I'll accept my fate. I'm taking the class to learn literature, not to make the prof happy.) I think immersing myself in literature makes my blogging richer, too.

And back on the subject of blogging, we now have a face and a name for the famous Wretchard of The Belmont Club! Pajamas Media identifies him as Richard Fernandez, a native of the Philippines now living in Australia and working as a software developer. He will be serving as the Australian Editor for PJM; go read his full profile at the link.

PS - I will probably be posting more on the subject of blogging and critical thinking in the near future; there's quite a bit more I find I want to say. So keep watching this space.

You can't stop the signal!


Morning Report: October 6, 2005

Man killed in Oklahoma bombing. The Counterterrorism Blog: 'There's an interesting story out of Oklahoma that has gotten surprisingly little media attention. Joel Hinrichs III died on Saturday after apparently detonating an explosive device while sitting on a bench about 100 yards from Oklahoma University's football stadium during the Kansas State-Oklahoma University game. There's speculation that Hinrichs may have been a suicide bomber. ... First of all, a local TV station has reported that Hinrichs had been attending the same mosque in Norman, Oklahoma that alleged 9/11 "twentieth hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui frequented. On top of that, Dustin Ellison, a feed store operator in Norman, claims that Hinrichs attempted to purchase ammonium nitrate a few days before his death. The store didn't carry the product because of federal guidelines regarding its sale. Ammonium nitrate was a key ingredient in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. A local television station reports that sources have stated that one of the components in the bomb used by Hinrichs was triacetone triperoxide (TATP). TATP is relatively easy to make, and is one of the most sensitive explosives. Attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid had TATP in his shoes. Local television in Oklahoma is also reporting that Hinrichs attempted twice to enter the Kansas State-OU game before he exploded. ... What to make of these various facts? A definitive conclusion cannot be drawn at this point.' Stay tuned. (CTB)

Spy for Philippines caught in White House. Tammy Bruce was among the first bloggers to pick up the story of Leandro Aragoncillo, a US Marine who worked in the Vice President's office and is accused of having stolen classified information over a period of three years. The Belmont Club has more: 'Leandro Aragoncillo, a former US Marine of Filipino origin has been arrested for passing classified documents to foreign leaders, over a period during which he may have been assigned to the White House. SBS News Australia says Aragoncillo passed 100 classified documents from FBI computers which included material damaging to the current President of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The information was given to "opposition politicians planning a coup in the Pacific nation" -- including, apparently, former President Joseph Estrada, in jail on various corruption charges. ... (Speculation alert) One might reasonably ask how Joseph Estrada and Panfilo Lacson recruited a spy in the White House. Estrada's most notorious route of access into the 1999 White House was through Mark Jimenez, sentenced to two years in a Miami jail for federal election fraud in 2003. His sentence coincidentally, will be completely served this month. ... Mark Jimenez knew a lot of people in the Democratic Party. Newsmax has connected him with John Kerry in an article dated from 2004.' Full article, with further links, at the Belmont Club link. (Belmont Club)

Britain points finger at Iran regime. Guardian: 'Britain and Iran clashed openly last night after a senior British official directly accused Tehran of supplying Iraqi insurgents with sophisticated roadside bombs that have killed eight British soldiers and two security guards since May. ... The British official said that Iranian interference in Iraq could be related to British pressure on Iran over its suspected nuclear weapons ambitions. "It would be entirely natural that they would want to send a message 'Don't mess with us'," he said. An Iranian government spokesman rejected the British accusations and said it was opposed to the insurgency in Iraq.' Meanwhile, Canada is speaking out against the IRI's human rights violations; Reuters: 'Canada will put forward a resolution in the United Nations shortly accusing Iran of human rights violations, Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew said on Wednesday. "Iran has not lived up to its international human rights obligations and has not conformed with past U.N. resolutions on this matter. We believe this must change," Pettigrew said in a statement.' Both links via Regime Change Iran. (Guardian, Reuters via RCI)

Syria: Regime change soon? Telegraph: 'Israel predicted yesterday that America would impose fresh sanctions on Syria in an attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Shaul Mofaz, the defence minister, said he believed sanctions would follow publication of a United Nations report expected to implicate senior Syrian officials in the murder of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister. "I won't be surprised if Syria gets a red card," Mr Mofaz told Israel radio.' Full article at link. Also, via RCI: Lebanese Lobby reports Washington tells Turkey that Syrian liberation is approaching: 'A well known minister in the Turkish parliament revealed yesterday that Steven Hadley, the American National Security advisor reported to the Turkish officials in his latest visit to Ankara, that Washington wants to use the “Angelink” [Incirlik] air base, in its operations to get rid of the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al Assad, and to supervise Iran and be able to isolate it from the International world.'

Your friendly neighborhood Hezbollah office. Michael Totten talks to the PR department at Hezbollah.


L'Shanah Tovah

... and Ramadan Mubarak to Muslim readers.

This evening marks the beginning of the year 5766 on the Jewish calendar, and (as every year) the beginning of the period known as the Ten Days of Repentence. The second day of Rosh haShanah is also my father's yahrzeit.

I'm afraid I don't have any words of inspiration and wisdom right now, but please go visit Judith at Kesher Talk for plenty of both.

Also, go visit Paula Gaon for a tribute to John Lennon, with whom Paula shares a birthday.

L'Shanah Tovah teykatvu v'teychatmu ... may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Lavender Alert

New DTWOF release from Alison. Alison Bechdel's new book Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For has just been released. Don't miss Alison's blog and her awesome comic ... as her characters confront ethical dilemmas - with ramifications for automotive safety - in her latest episode.

More fanaticism from Denmark. Irshad Manji has some thoughts on the latest love letter from islamo-fanatic "Abdel" (alias "Andersen"):
Sounds to me a like a convert -- and a “homegrown” or “Western-raised” threat. We're seeing more and more like him. Which is why pretending that the problem exists outside of the West is no longer an option.

Responding to Eileen in Belfast, Irshad writes:
Many Westerners today would like to have it both ways -- embracing the universality of human rights as well as the equality of cultures. But that's not sustainable. Because if you believe that all human beings are entitled to a certain set of dignities, then cultural practices that violate those dignities can't, by definition, be defended. The French-Arab novelist, Amin Maalouf, nailed it when he wrote, "Traditions deserve respect only insofar as they are respectable - that is, exactly insofar as they themselves respect the fundamental rights of men and women."

The other "Exodus Ministries." You might have heard that President Bush's new Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, was connected with something called "Exodus Ministries." You might have wondered: You mean, the "ex-gay" group? Ken Sain at the Blade Blog clears things up:
ep, I heard correctly. In fact, it turns out Miers is a former board member of Exodus Ministries. But turns out there was no need to panic.

Exodus Ministries, Inc. has nothing to do with the anti-gay group Exodus International.

Bruce at GayPatriot has some thoughts.

"Please do not leave us alone." The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) posts this article by Doug Ireland:
The Persian Gay and Lesbian Organization (PGLO) has appealed to North American activists for help in mobilizing support for their campaign against the vicious, lethal, anti-gay crackdown taking place in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The anti-gay pogrom in Iran includes arrests and torture of gay people, executions of gay Iranians on trumped up charges, and a well-organized Internet entrapment campaign by Iran's religious sex police that is ensnaring gay Iranians daily.

In his latest e-mail sent to me today from Turkey, the secretary of the PGLO's Human Rights Commission, Arsham Parsi, wrote: “Dear Doug, Would you please introduce PGLO to your activist friends and groups and organizations? We need it, we are going to make a big campaign. We need their e-mail addresses. We reach out our hands of need to you!”

The PGLO is an outgrowth of an earlier, smaller Iranian gay group called Rainbow, which first organized in 1981. But PGLO, in its current form, has existed only since 2004. “We are a young team yet,” said Parsi in a telephone interview. With secretariats in Norway and Turkey, the PGLO claims a mailing list of over 29,000 Iranians. It maintains a trilingual website in Persian, German, and English. PGLO conducts educational and mutual aide activities inside Iran, and provides support for Iranian gays who have escaped from the Islamic Republic – the world's largest religious prison – and tries to help them obtain asylum in a country where they won’t be persecuted for who and how they love.

PGLO edits a monthly magazine in Persian, Cheragh and produces Persian-language radio programs for webcast ...

Finish reading the article at the link.

I guess that's why the call it MADchester.

Without further comment, I bring you this from the invaluable Tammy Bruce:
Bishop backs panty parties to spread Church message.

The Rev Jan Harney, a Church of England cleric in Manchester who also works for Activate, said that she wanted Christians to relax, have fun and to get to know people before trying to convert them. "I have not conducted a lingerie party myself, but when Bridget Jones was all the rage I know that some Christian groups were holding knickers parties" ...

Finish reading at the link.


Did you know that the United States Central Command has a homepage? Here's the URL:
I've also linked CENTCOM on my sidebar.

Let's blogroll!

Familiar faces in Beirut. Michael Totten of Pajamas Media is in the Mideast for an extended trip. He's renamed his blog Michael J. Totten's Middle East Journal for the occasion. This time in Beirut, Michael sees some familiar faces where he wishes he didn't have to see them; read his post on martyrs of a different kind.

Our man in Wherethehellistan. Let's admit it - well-informed citizens though we are, there are still some places that even you and I can't find on a map. Or even pronounce. Well, our ignorance is about to end, thanks to PJM's resident Central Asia expert, Registan.

Warning: Politically Incorrect Lesbian. And also from Pajamas, Tammy Bruce now has her own blog, and we've been honored to witness its inception. Tammy takes on today's Neville Chamberlains, anti-gun hysteria, drunken sailors in Washington, and al-Qaeda denial. And don't miss her photos from the blessing of the animals. And yes, I'm proud to have Tammy Bruce on my sidebar.

Morning Report: October 3, 2005

CENTCOM: Iron Fist a success. Stratfor (subscription) reports: 'U.S. Central Command on Oct. 3 announced that several successful engagements against insurgents in Anbar province occurred during the first day of an offensive to route out jihadist and Sunni nationalist insurgents located by the Syrian border. Operation Iron Fist began Oct. 1 against insurgents around Sadah, Iraq, with U.S. Marines from Regimental Combat Team-2 backed by air support from the 2nd Marine Air Wing engaging terrorists in combat. The operation is part of a larger offensive in Anbar province known as Operation Hunter, which is taking place along the Euphrates River valley.' (Stratfor)

Belmont Club on Iron Fist. Wretchard returns after a few days' absence with this analysis of Iron Fist, concluding: 'After the Marines anchored their western defense on Fallujah in November 2004 they have been steadily creeping westward within the riverine zone along the Euphrates. The latest efforts to secure Ramadi means they can move the Iraqi training center from Habbaniyah westward to Ramadi; and the probable objective is to extend the writ of the Iraqi government until it reaches Rawah. In the meantime, Task Force Olympia, with the 11th ACR and the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (including Michael Yon's 1st BN, 24th Infantry "Deuce Four") has been campaigning in Mosul along the Tigris. Therefore, returning to the New York Times account, whether Zarqawi decides "to send the foreigners south to Baghdad or north across the desert to Mosul" he will be running into hard stops and harassed in all the intervening ground. If the US is successful, it will greatly reduce the insurgency's prospects of holding out against the government.' (Belmont Club)

Debka: Egyptian al-Qaeda in striking range of Israel, Suez, Jordan. Debka reports: 'Al Qaeda has established local terror networks in northern Sinai – centering on el Arish, as well as strongholds in the inaccessible central mountains of the peninsula around Jebel Hillal. In all, the jihadists control roughly one-fifth of Sinai total area (61,000sq. km or 23,500sq. miles). Egyptian forces of law and order have learned not to venture into these bastions or into the areas commanded by age-old smuggler clans who currently collaborate with al Qaeda. This leaves about half of the forbidding desert peninsula inaccessible to Egyptian security forces. Today, they can only claim to control the main roads routes fringing the vast desert expanse: from Ras Sudeir down to Sharm el Sheikh along the Suez Canal and Suez Gulf shores; from the Suez Canal east to El Arish along the Mediterranean shore and from the Sharm el-Sheikh resort center north along the Gulf of Aqaba to Taba and the Israeli port of Eilat. ... the only way for Egypt to wrest mastery of the Sinai heartland from the terrorists is by a combined aerial bombardment coupled with helicopter landings of at least two special forces brigades. This in present circumstances is not feasible because - 1. The 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty demilitarizing Sinai precludes Egyptian air force operations. In theory, Cairo can approach Jerusalem for permission, but in practice this would expose the Mubarak government to widespread Muslim opprobrium for collaborating with the Jewish state in the war against Islamic terror. 2. Egyptian intelligence does not have an exact count of the anti-air missiles in al Qaeda’s hands. The passage of a quantity of these weapons from Sinai to the Gaza Strip leads Egyptian intelligence to deduce a fairly sizeable number – enough to cause havoc with a helicopter commando drop. 3. Al Qaeda’s smuggling routes crisscross Sinai day and night, freely plied by fighters, weapons, explosives and food. These routes exploit the peninsula’s exceptional geography to run between Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and of late the Gaza Strip. ... 4. That al Qaeda has established a presence in the Gaza Strip is no longer a matter of speculation. Today, Israeli military intelligence AMAN and the Shin Beit are taking the new manifestation of Al Qaeda-Palestine as an offshoot of Al Qaeda-Sinai with the utmost seriousness. Foreign terrorists have been detected entering the Gaza Strip, welcomed and integrated in to the logistical infrastructures of Hizballah, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Popular Fronts.' Full article, with map, at link. (Debka)

"Communism is bad for business." Discarded Lies reports on an astonishing discovery: 'Hong Kong has become less competitive, with political concerns helping to drag it down seven places to rank 28 in an annual worldwide table, according to the latest Global Competitiveness Report drawn up by the World Economic Forum.' Not only that, but 'China slipped three notches from last year, to 49th spot, the ranking of 117 economies shows.' Could it possibly have something to do with communism? Well, Taiwan ranks #5 on the list. Go read Evariste at the link. (Discarded Lies)

Dawn Patrol. Don't miss Holly Aho's latest installment of Dawn Patrol at the Mudville Gazette.


A new year, a new sidebar. Well, not totally new, but I'm re-organizing my sidebar. I've added a section for Pajamas Media.

No posting Tuesday and Wednesday due to Rosh Ha-Shanah.


More Hawk Sightings

... from Judith at Kesher Talk with more commentary at Winds of Change.

NYT's Weisman: Saudi women are happy!

NYT: Saudi women are happy! Last week, the New York Times' Steven R. Weisman published an article on Saudi Women's message for Karen Hughes. I shared the article with some friends in the Arab world. Here are the reactions:

Nadz has a blistering condemnation of "femicide and apologies". Turning to the article on Hughes after the horrifying murder of a woman in Denmark, she writes:
it turns out that there are no problems for women in Saudi Arabia. 500 women want Karen Hughes to know that they're happy with the way things are. First of all, good for them - I'm glad they're happy and they have the right to their own opinion. But I'd also like to point out several things:

- It's true that some women in the Middle East are content with the status quo. I wasn't, and I know many who also weren't. I know some Saudi women who were severely depressed because their lives, where they could go and what they could do, were so restricted. 50% of Arab women are illiterate, some of the attitudes towards us are downright Medeival, we don't have the same rights in any aspect of public life. Saying that you don't need to drive and that your abaya is stylish isn't going to change that.

- When Americans and other westerners talk about mistreatment of women, many Arab women tend to go on the defensive. I know this because I did it myself. Women see it as a personal attack on their culture and feel that they need to offer an alternative viewpoint. They think that most Americans are ignorant about the region - and they tend to be correct. As a result, it's hard for women to admit that there are still problems. Especially in a forum being sponsered and watched by the unfeminist Saudi government.

- These women are from the more well-to-do side of Saudi society - they are mostly wealthy, educated and upper-class. They have been able to travel to Europe and the States, and like the security and simplicity of life in the kingdom. I know women who are like this. But plenty of less fortunate women in Saudi Arabia don't have the same oppurtunities, and they might have a different answer.

Different women have different experiences - not all women live a hellish existence while others are miserable. I think these women, however, are becoming part of the problem by refusing to acknowledge problems.

The Religious Policeman thinks the women's denials of sexism in Saudi society have all the credibility of a high-class john denying he knows anything about a call girl. Here's his reaction to Weisman's article on Hughes:
JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Sept. 27 - The audience - 500 women covered in black at a Saudi university - seemed an ideal place for Karen P. Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world, to make her pitch.
But the response on Tuesday was not what she and her aides expected. When Ms. Hughes expressed the hope here that Saudi women would be able to drive and "fully participate in society" much as they do in her country, many challenged her.

So who were the audience? A random sample of Saudi womanhood, from all regions and classes, Sunni and Shia, working or unemployed? Well, not exactly.

The group of women, picked by the university, represented the privileged elite of this Red Sea coastal city, known as one of the more liberal areas in the country. And while they were certainly friendly toward Ms. Hughes, half a dozen who spoke up took issue with what she said.

Two points here. One, no group of Saudis, whatever their situation, would ever admit that something was wrong with Saudi Arabia, to a member of the widely-detested Bush regime. They could be up to their waists in boiling oil, and they'd just say that they were, on average, quite warm. Two, in a country where the female employment rate is less that 1%, anyone with a job is a member of a privileged minority, and any female student hopes to become part of that 1%, just like people elsewhere hope to win the lottery.

"We're not in any way barred from talking to the other sex," said Dr. Nada Jambi, a public health professor. "It's not an absolute wall."

I asked Mrs A about that. She snorted. Even in the universities, there is a physical wall between men's and women's campuses. Men lecture to women via closed circuit TV. But, as Mrs A said, she's privileged to have the job she does. And there's always the example of this poor female academic to keep everyone else in line. So, she concluded, "She would say that, wouldn't she?"

Several women said later that Americans failed to understand that their traditional society was embraced by men and women alike.

....as demonstrated by our numerous opinion polls, elections, letters in the free press, investigative programs on our free TV...

Go to the link for the rest of RP's reaction to the Steven Weisman piece on Karen Hughes.

Sandmonkey weighs in:
The Audience?

The audience - 500 women covered in black at a Saudi university - seemed an ideal place for Karen P. Hughes, a senior Bush administration official charged with spreading the American message in the Muslim world, to make her pitch.

An ideal place? Really? Ok!

Who picked them and what segment of society do they represent?

The group of women on Tuesday, picked by the university, represented the privileged elite of this Red Sea coastal city, known as one of the more liberal areas in the country.

The Priviliged elite. Clearly the most oppressed of all saudi women, no?

It even shows in their grievences:

She seemed clearly taken aback as the women told her that just because they were not allowed to vote or drive that did not mean they were treated unfairly or imprisoned in their own homes.
"We're not in any way barred from talking to the other sex," said Dr. Nada Jambi, a public health professor. "It's not an absolute wall."

Not an absolute one, but a wall nonetheless! LOL

And then there is the Michael Moore effect

A woman in the audience then charged that under President Bush the United States had become "a right wing country" and that criticism by the press was "not allowed."


As for male chauvinism and that pesky question of women's rights?

"There is more male chauvinism in my profession in Europe and America than in my country," said Dr. Siddiqa Kamal, an obstetrician and gynecologist who runs her own hospital.

Yes, there is Chauvinism in the west, which makes the one we have at home Ok.

"I don't want to drive a car," she said. "I worked hard for my medical degree. Why do I need a driver's license?"

"Women have more than equal rights," added her daughter, Dr. Fouzia Pasha, also an obstetrician and gynecologist, asserting that men have obligations accompanying their rights, and that women can go to court to hold them accountable.

Oh my God, this is too funny! I am laughing my ass off. Hehehehehehehee!

Gotta say, Saudi men really know to how to "break-in" their women. For those of you who may disagree, I am sure those women could've spoken up against male domination and managed not to get beat up by their men at home. No?

Well, enough of Saudi, on to Turkey, where things kept getting interesting for Karen, If interesting meant continuing to hear idiotic arguments:

"You are very angry with Turkey, I know," said Hidayet Tuskal, a director of the Capital City Women's Platform, referring to what she characterized as United States reaction to opposition in Turkey to the Iraq war, which she said was a feminist issue because women and children were dying daily. "I'm feeling myself wounded," Ms. Tuskal added. "I'm feeling myself insulted here."

Ok, does anyone get her point? She opposed the Iraq war because of women and children dying in it, and wasn't concerned with the women and children dying under Saddam? And it's a femenist issue? She feels wounded and insulted? What?

Ohh, and please, american readers, let's take a survey: Every person who is "very angry" at Turkey for not supporting the US in the war raise your hands. Every person who couldn't give 2 shits about Turkey's support anyway-like the rest of the world- please refrain from laughing at her idiotic statement.

And it just keeps getting better:

Fatma Nevin Vargun, identifying herself as a Kurdish rights advocate, said she was "ashamed" of the war and added that the United States bore responsibility. Referring to the arrest of a war protester at the White House on Monday, she added, "This was a pity for us as well."

She is a kurdish rights activist and opposed to the war that gave the Kurds their rights. Is anybody else getting this?

Ahh, me loves the New York Times. It always gives me a good laugh!

Finally, here's my own two cents' worth:

Personally, I would say I'm EXTREMELY skeptical of how much the views expressed in the article represent Saudi women.

First of all, consider the source. We all know the Times is going to do whatever it can to discredit the Bush Administration's radical premise that most people do not enjoy being oppressed.

Notice how much of the article is not reporting but editorializing. "The administration's efforts to publicize American ideals in the Muslim world have often run into such resistance. For that reason, Ms. Hughes, who is considered one of the administration's most scripted and careful members, ..." blah blah blah. "Many in this region resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans." Yada yada yada.

So we already know - as if there was any doubt - what the article wants to tell us: Silly Americans, those Arab women are HAPPY living like that.

But those are just my opinions. What do we learn from the article itself?

That Saudi women, speaking in public, on the record, by name, to an American official, in front of 500 people, will say nice things about their country.

Our NYT writer wants us to be amused by the irony (at the Bush government's expense, of course) of the tables being turned on Hughes. Ho, ho, ho, those Saudi women weren't saying what the Bush minion wanted to hear! And, get this, they're the "privileged elite of this Red Sea coastal city, known as one of the more liberal areas in the country" ... well! If even they resent those meddlesome Americans, then - "mi'kal va'chomer" - what may we infer about the rest of the country?

But we don't really have to make even that mighty leap of logic, because Mr. Weisman explains it for us: "Many in this region say they resent the American assumption that, given the chance, everyone would live like Americans."

Now what does that mean? I mean, let's just look at that one sentence. "Many"? Who the hell are "many"? And HOW many? Did the journalist conduct a formal poll (or even an informal one)? Are these "many" a majority, or a large minority, or just ... many? And what is "this region"? That's a highfaluten, scholarly-sounding, and extremely vague word, "region". Does "this region" include Iran? We all know how much Iranian women love living under Islamic fundamentalist law ... just ask Farnaz Ghazizadeh at Rooz. And what is this "American assumption"? What does "living like Americans" mean - does even Weisman himself know what he means? No one who graduated from Neocon school expects other cultures to abandon their own traditions - you know that and I know that, it's just a smokescreen that fascist symps like Weisman throw up to make freedom sound scary and unattractive. You know as well as I do that if Saudi Arabia became a free country tomorrow, every one of those 500 women would still be free to wear their beloved abayas if they chose. IF they chose.

But that's the trouble, and that's why Weisman's sentence cannot be credibly uttered without the all-important qualifying clause, "given the chance". That, however much the NYT would like to dance around it, is precisely the problem: they have not been given the chance.

Mahmood posts on another happy, contented Saudi woman.

Welcome, readers of The Muslim Woman!

Persians and Kurds and Jews ... oh, my!

The three races that once vexed Iraq's former fuehrer Saddam Hussein are making their mark on the blogosphere. Here's a roundup.

Kurdish-Israeli cooperation to end? Kurdistan Bloggers Union News cites an item from al-Jazeera:
According to Al Jazeera the secret long standing ties between the Kurds from South-Kurdistan and Israel, which were resumed after the former leader Saddam Hussein was ousted by the U.S.-led occupation, came to a crushing end in the past few months, under pressure from Washington.

After Jalal Talabani was nominated to the presidency of Iraq in spring 2005, "a conflict of interest appeared between the two allies", said an expert in Middle East safety. "In order not to be criticized by the Shiites and the Sunnis, the new Head of the State Talabani could not allow the further development of a relationship that is condemned by the immense majority of the Iraqis. The Kurdish two-sided-game was stopped."

Which forced some of the Israeli agents leave Kurdistan. Only hundred of them still remain ...

Full article at the link. Source: KBU News

"Israel cannot allow a nuclear IRI." Writing at the Jerusalem Post and posted at Free Iran, Ephraim Sneh argues that Israel Cannot Allow a Nuclear IRI:
Iran is striving to become an Islamic superpower with hegemony over the greater Middle East that would extend assistance to Muslims everywhere. That is why it is developing ballistic missiles able to deliver nuclear weapons with a range of thousands of kilometers. The new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has openly declared this.

For the Teheran regime, relinquishing its nuclear arms and long-range missiles would be tantamount to relinquishing its goals and very raison d'etre. At best, Iran will continue with its tricks to gain time, while secretly moving ahead with its plans to obtain a nuclear bomb.

Iran's nuclear objectives cannot be separated from its war against the Jewish state, which is based on a two-level strategy. On the first level, Iran directs, finances and encourages terrorist organizations to carry out terror attacks against Israel, and has cast a network of 13,000 rockets and missiles in southern Lebanon whose range covers the entire northern part of Israel, almost as far south as Hadera.

The second level would be achieved when the regime develops nuclear warheads that can be mounted on the Shihab-3 missiles aimed at Israel, changing our strategic situation drastically. Not only would our citizens live in constant fear of a nuclear strike, but all future negotiations Israel with any Arab partner would be held in the shadow of nuclear extortion.

Katrina and the Kurds. Medya Daily contrasts Turkish and Iranian Kudish reactions to the disaster in America's Gulf Coast:
(in the taxi)

old kurdish man : did you hear the news about the huricane in USA ?
kurdish youngester : yeah darn it, Sep is not lucky month for Americans at all...
old kurdish man : really sad...thousands of them died...all of the city is under water .
kurdish driver : the huricane was a tragedy but the next tragedy is coming.
old kurdish man : next tragedy ?
kurdish driver : yeah Sarok Bush will loose the ellection...and those anti-war democrts will take his position ...no good for kurds... [Sarok means President in kurdish]

Driver Turns on the Radio (Iranian Radio) :
Millyet the Turkish newspapers estmaited victims of New orlean's huricane to 10,000 .
Millyet reported Large Discirimination in aiding to blacks .
Hurryet another turkish newspaper blamed the huricane on Bush , and their policy in Iraq.
Zaman the Turkish newspaper put a large photo on the first page saying "Bush Wanted" ...

Read the rest at the link. Source:Medya Daily.

Iraq/Kurdistan. KBU carries a definitive roundup on the status of the Kurdish nation in Iraq. Read the post at the link for details.

Regime apologist watch. Dr. Ramin Etebar names names: 'There are three organizations the act as IRI apologists, their activities are extremely harmful for the IRI opposition as well as
the Iranian people. Any attempt to extend the life and sustenance of the Islamic Republic of Iran by any individual or organization results in more suffering, torture, imprisonment, poverty and death in Iran and Iranians anywhere in the world. ...' Go to the link to find out who they are.