Thursday, December 31, 2009

News Stories You're Not Supposed to Know About

This post isn't about the War on Terror (which, apparently, no longer exists - officially (March 30, 2009)), so much. It's about what people - Americans in particular - are supposed to know about national and world events.

If you feel, right down to the bottom of your heart, that The New York Times really does print all the news that's fit to print (October 21, 2008), that Big Oil and the military-industrial complex control America, that the CIA blew up New York City's World Trade Center, and that America is to blame for whatever's wrong with the world: stop reading. You won't like this post.

Still with me? This is your last warning: If you really believe that FOXNews is part of some kind of plot, or at least is a mere tool of the Republican party, you're not going to like this post.

News That Wasn't Fit to Print, 2009

FOXNews put together a list of 9 stories that - as far as old-school traditional news media was concerned - were non-events that never happened.

To be fair, outlets like The Associated Press sent information out on the wires - but outfits like The New York Times and CBS news were free to feature the stories as top news, filler for the back page, or to ignore them entirely.

The list:
  • Van Jones
    • "White House Green Jobs adviser Van Jones resigned from his post in September after weeks of pressure over his radical past. A former self-avowed Marxist and anarchist, Jones signed a 2004 petition that suggested the U.S. government was involved in the Sept 11. terrorist attacks...."
  • ACORN Tapes
    • "Filmmakers James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, posing as a pimp and a prostitute, went undercover to the offices of the community organizing group ACORN in the summer. They secretly videotaped employees instructing them in how to falsify tax forms and seek illegal benefits for 13 'very young' girls from El Salvador whom the pair said they wanted to import to work as child prostitutes...."
  • Science Czar John Holdren
    • "President Obama's 'science czar,' John Holdren, floated a number of lethal policies to shrink the human population -- including compulsory abortions and other Draconian measures -- in science textbooks he published in the 1970s...."
  • Climate-Gate
    • "Hackers broke into the servers at a prominent British climate research center and leaked years' worth of e-mails onto the Web, producing what some skeptics of man-made climate change said was 'smoking gun' evidence of collusion among climate scientists. One e-mail referenced a plan to 'hide the decline' in global temperatures, as another lamented the 'travesty' that temperatures had not increased over the past decade. Prominent climate scientists discussed blackballing skeptics and admitted to dumping data to avoid public scrutiny...."
  • Politicizing the NEA
    • "A senior official at the National Endowment for the Arts encouraged artists to promote President Obama's political agenda in a conference call he organized with the White House. The NEA's communications director Yosi Sergant eventually resigned in August amid accusations that the grant-making organization was becoming politicized...."
      • This is hardly news: ideological requirements for acceptance in American academia - NEA included - are part of the reason I left the racket, back in the eighties.
  • Chas Freeman
    • "Chas Freeman, the Obama administration's appointee to chair the National Intelligence Council, had major conflicts of interest with the Saudi and Chinese governments as a private citizen. He referred to Tibetan Buddhist protests against the communist government in China as a 'race riot,' and said the Chinese had been 'overly cautious' in killing hundreds of protesters in the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989...."
  • Tea Party Protests
    • "In the wake of the bank bailouts and the federal stimulus package, some critics of the Obama administration's economic crisis plans urged citizens to mail tea bags to their congressmen as a form of protest, recalling the Boston Tea Party and unjust taxes imposed by the British before the American Revolution. The Tea Party movement grew to include massive protests, as tens of thousands of Americans joined in on Tax Day...."
  • Kevin Jennings, Safe Schools Czar
    • "President Obama's 'safe schools czar,' Kevin Jennings, is a former schoolteacher who advocated promoting homosexuality in schools and was forced to admit he had poorly handled an incident in which a student told him he was having sex with older men. Jennings has since been tied to a pornographic suggested reading list...."
  • Democratic Stimulus
    • "A December study from George Mason University showed that Democratic districts have received nearly twice as much stimulus money as Republican districts -- and the cash has been awarded without regard to how badly an area was suffering from job losses or income problems. Blue districts garnered the majority of the $787 stimulus package, getting an average of $439 million per district...."
If you don't like the list - or find it a little unsettling - you can do what some of the self-described best and brightest in all the land do. Tell yourself that it's FOXNews, and that they always lie. Especially about the dear president.

Me? I don't think that news organizations lie. Not very often, and even less often when they're aware that what they're saying is false. That goes for The New York Times, FOXNews, CNN, and all the rest.

On the other hand, I know that news organizations filter the information they have, selecting what their editors think is important and rejecting the rest. Otherwise, we'd be flooded with everything from stories about jaywalkers, convenience store robberies and fossils in Kenya to weather reports from Poughkeepsie: with information about national events buried between them.

I think the problem that many old-school, traditional news editors have is that they live in a relatively small community. Although, in my opinion, Atlanta is becoming a major news media center: New York City, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles remain as the great centers of old-school journalism in America. With contemporary telecommunications and air travel, it isn't necessary for people living in these places to make contact with outsiders. Unconsciously, I think, they form a closely knit community of like-minded people.

Nothing wrong with that.

The problem, as I see it, is that editors often don't realize that their preconceptions and preferences about the world and how it should work aren't necessarily widely shared outside their little urban enclaves - and, in my opinion, are sometimes at odds with objective reality.

Being somewhat uncritical of improbable reports that fit their preconceptions can be downright embarrassing: like the time a major American newspaper printed a fake letter. (December 22, 2008)

Old-school, traditional news editors generally pass along reports on things that actually happened: quite possibly unaware of how their assumptions and biases affect which facts they select and which they reject. Sometimes, news media reports events that never happened. (August 7, 2007)

Don't Read the News: Study It

With traditional news media's track record for turning a blind eye to deficiencies in the workers' paradise and by-products of the Third Reich's efforts to establish lebensraum (October 21, 2008) it's hard to tell when news articles are tongue-in-cheek, and when they should be taken at face value. (October 30, 2009)

Which, together with the way that major events (in my opinion) are ignored if they don't fit in with what old-school journalists feel that the masses should be allowed to know, is why I don't read the news. I study it.

Related posts: In the news:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Iran, Twitter, and the Responsibilities of Proper British Gentlemen

There's an op-ed piece in today's online Telegraph that deals with Iran, those people over there who use Twitter, and - in my opinion - notions of propriety.

From the second and third paragraphs:
"...For Twitter enthusiasts, this has been a bumper year. With a new online tool at their chubby fingertips, they've helped to change the world. Or at least, that's what they think: the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution recently won a Webby award for being 'one of the top 10 internet moments of the decade'.

"Let me tell you why I find that deeply troubling. There has been no revolution in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has held on to power after a rigged election...."
(Telegraph op-ed)
I've put a more extensive excerpt at the end of this post1, but as usual I recommend reading the entire op-ed piece.

The author has a point, which he makes later rather deeper in the opinion piece: that people in Iran who disapprove of the Ayatollah's government, and say so, put their lives in danger. Including people in Iran who use Twitter or other online resources.

"There has been no revolution in Iran."

There has been no successful revolution in Iran. I'm quite sure that the Ayatollahs and their followers would be only too happy to agree that Iran's people are completely behind their Islamic republic - and that all the fuss is the work of outside agitators and CIA stooges.

The continuing protests are not, perhaps, quite a revolution in the sense of being a well-defined set of military operations conducted with the stated purpose of replacing Iran's current government with something else.

On the other hand, it's hard to shake the impression that quite a number of people in Iran are quite sincerely put out with their leaders and/or their leaders' actions.

Perhaps it isn't, quite, a revolution. But popular support for Iran's Ayatollahs is far from solid.

"Chubby Fingertips" and That Webby Award

Twitter is big these days: and to blame for quite a bit, if you believe everything you hear. ("Inbound Link Dead! Twitter Did It! (maybe so, maybe not)," Apathetic Lemming of the North (September 22, 2009)) What is quite certain is that Twitter is
  • New
  • Big
  • Growing
    • Fast
'Obviously,' from some points of view, that means that there's something improper about Twitter. I don't see it that way, but being an early adapter runs in the family. One of my forebears, Arba Zeri Campbell, had the first telephone in his part of the world. He waited a long time for his first call.

I'll admit to having a personal bias when it comes to Twitter. I'm one of those people with "chubby fingertips" who use Twitter.

Right now, though, I'm using my "chubby fingertips" to opine about being proper, what's going on in Iran, and responsibility.

The author of that Telegraph op-ed, perhaps magnanimously, says:
"...There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran, but it's horribly naive to think that supporting illegal activity in a foreign country has no ethical dimension...."
(Telegraph op-ed)
The "illegal activity" he's referring to could be either disagreeing with the Ayatollahs, or participating in some of the more violent anti-government demonstrations. The basic idea, though - that confronting a dictatorship has an ethical dimension - is valid.

Just before that, he wrote:
"...If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger...."
(Telegraph op-ed)
I'm not an internet user in Britain. I live on the other side of the Atlantic. The same principle applies, though, I think.

There's been quite a lot written about the false sense of anonymity which many people seem to have when their online, and the equally false sense of immunity from consequences.

It's quite possible that some people who use Twitter - or other online social media - don't realize how profoundly non-anonymous they are when they're online. Even if you're not logged into Twitter or some other website, it's very easy to trace which server you're using - and just about exactly where you are.

I've written before, about how vulnerable the Internet is - particularly in some parts of the world - and how easy it is for repressive regimes to control and track online activity. (December 7, 2009)

Which is one of the reasons why I am so very concerned when I read that someone wants to 'protect' me or my family from the wicked, wicked Web. Remember when the Christian Coalition and the Feminist Majority tried to censor what Americans were allowed to read online? I do. (March 9, 2008)
That Webby Award
The Webby Awards have been around for quite a while, and are more prestigious than many, probably most, Web awards. That said, I'm neither impressed nor appalled that Twitter won a Webby. Since it's well on its way to being one of the Internet's 800-pound gorillas, it would be odd if the Webbys didn't recognize Twitter.

Politely Looking the Other Way

The idea that 'proper persons don't talk about that' isn't a uniquely British notion. I've run into the same idea here in America.

Back in the sixties, the more unreflective conservative types were passionately convinced that nobody, but nobody, should criticize the government. It's not the sixties any more, and there's a new set of taboo topics - but that's another topic.

Politely looking the other way while Iran's Ayatollahs deal with counter-revolutionaries does not seem to be what this op-ed is about: "...There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran...." Although I had to look for that (disclaimer?)

Natives and the Responsibilities of Proper British Gentlemen

What struck me, reading "Iran and Twitter: the fatal folly of the online revolutionaries," was what may be an underlying assumption. Repeating an excerpt I quoted before:
"...If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger...."
(Telegraph op-ed)
Factually, there's nothing to quibble about here. It is important to remember that someone living in a country which allows some degree of free expression does not face the same dangers as someone who does not. And people at the 'free' end of a conversation should remember that.

However, it's hard for me to shake the impression that the responsibility is seen as being at the British end. After all, people living in Iran are, by and large, Iranian. They're simply not British.

I think it's laudable that the author be concerned with the well-being of people in a foreign land. But isn't it reasonable to assume some level of personal responsibility at the non-British end of these communications? The words "native" and "white man's burden" don't appear in the Telegraph piece.

But I still can't shake the feeling that there's something of the old condescension that people in "advanced" countries were apt to show toward those in "primitive" lands: although terms like "third world" are more commonly used these days.

Related posts: Views:
1 Excerpt from today's op-ed in the Telegraph:
"As young men and women took to the streets of Tehran on Sunday to confront the Revolutionary Guard, another very different protest sprang to life all over the world. This one didn't face tear-gas or gunfire. And its participants didn't risk prison, torture or death. It took place on 2009's most trendy website:

"For Twitter enthusiasts, this has been a bumper year. With a new online tool at their chubby fingertips, they've helped to change the world. Or at least, that's what they think: the so-called Iranian Twitter Revolution recently won a Webby award for being 'one of the top 10 internet moments of the decade'.

"Let me tell you why I find that deeply troubling. There has been no revolution in Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has held on to power after a rigged election. Meanwhile, protests continue to be violently suppressed by government forces and unregulated militias, with human rights groups saying that at least 400 demonstrators have been killed since June. Dozens of those arrested remain unaccounted for, and many of those set free tell of rape and vicious beatings in Iran's most notorious prisons...."

"...As a result, the crackdown in Iran has been easier than ever before. Once the Revolutionary Guard intercept a suspect message, they are able to pinpoint the location of a guilty protester using their computer's IP address. Then it's just a question of knocking on doors – and confiscating laptops and PCs for hard evidence.

"Sadly, when this happens, those outside Iran cannot always absolve themselves of responsibility. If you're an internet user in Britain who communicates with an Iranian protester online, or encourages them to send anti-regime messages over the internet, you could be putting their life in danger.

"There's nothing wrong with spreading awareness outside Iran, but it's horribly naive to think that supporting illegal activity in a foreign country has no ethical dimension. It's equally foolish, of course, to kid yourself that you're on the front line...."
(Telegraph op-ed)

Monday, December 28, 2009

"The System Worked" - Napolitano and an Unscripted Interview

As I've written fairly often, this isn't a political blog. I'm not dedicated to the premise that one politico, or one party, is always right; and that everybody else is always wrong.

That's not the same as having no opinions, though.

I think that Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano goofed recently. Big time. It's the sort of thing that can happen to anybody - particularly when trying to think on your feet.

"And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked."

The New York Times was kind enough to point out Ms. Napolitano's take on what she said yesterday, on CNN. Yesterday, it sounded like she thought that the system handled the little incident on Northwest Flight 253 over the Christmas weekend very well.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano now says that her remark - "And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked." - was taken out of context.

Fair enough. That sentence comes from a much longer interview on CNN's "State of the Union With John King." Candy Crowley was the host for this interview. As of this afternoon (December 28, 2009), CNN has a transcript of the interview online. Before making up your own mind, I suggest reading the whole transcript. Here's an excerpt:
"...Joining us now from San Francisco is homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano.


"CROWLEY: Secretary Napolitano, thank you so much for joining us. If I am about to get on a plane today in the U.S. or headed toward the U.S., I think my big question is, is this part of a larger plot, or do you think this is a lone wolf?

"NAPOLITANO: Well, right now, we have no indication that it's part of anything larger, but obviously the investigation continues. And we have instituted more screening and what we call mitigation measures at airports. So I would advise you during this heavy holiday season just to arrive a bit early, and to know that we are going to be doing different things at different airports. So don't expect to do the same thing at one airport when you transfer through to another airport.

"But the traveling public -- this is my message for you, Candy. The traveling public is very, very safe in this air environment. And while we continue to investigate the source of this incident, I think the traveling public should be confident in what we are doing now.

"CROWLEY: So, just to finish up on the question-- I do want to talk to you about security measures -- but do you think -- has there been any evidence of the Al Qaida ties that this suspect has been claiming?

"NAPOLITANO: Right now, that is part of the criminal justice investigation that is ongoing, and I think it would be inappropriate to speculate as to whether or not he has such ties.

"What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.

"So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly...."
(CNN) [emphasis mine]
Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano was rather clearly referring to actions of Flight 253's passengers and crew when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's wearable bomb failed to detonate properly, when she said: "And one thing I'd like to point out is that the system worked." That, and the way that the official system took no more than an hour and a half to let 128 other flights know that someone had tried to bring down an airliner.

For a large bureaucracy, that's doing pretty well.

As I wrote yesterday, it would have been nice if Mr. Abdulmutallab hadn't been allowed on the Northewest Flight 253 in the first place.

But, as it turned out, the bomb sewn into Abdulmutallab's underwear didn't detonate properly. He survived - and is out of the hospital now, I read - and everybody else survived, too.

So, if the homeland security system consisted entirely of alert passengers and flight crews; relied on terrorists having defective weapons; a certain amount of luck; and letting other flights know, after an attack, that there might be a terrorist on their airliners, too - then yes, the system worked very well.

Assuming that there's a reason for maintaining comparatively massive databases on possible and known terrorists - not so much.

And, now that there's been some criticism of her statement on CNN, Secretary Napolitano has clarified what she meant:
"...Ms. Napolitano said Monday on NBC'S 'Today' that her remark the day before — “the system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days” — had been taken out of context. 'Our system did not work in this instance,' she said. 'No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way.'..."
(The New York Times)
"An extensive review is under way." If that review includes identifying what went wrong, and fixing the problem: good news. Note, please: identifying what went wrong, not finding someone to blame; and fixing the problem, not condemning someone in an effort to make critics feel better.

Related posts: In the news:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Northwest Flight 253: Near Miss on Christmas Weekend

Northwest Flight 253, the airliner with Delta markings on the outside and a wannabe martyr on the inside, had a very close call this Christmas weekend.

News reports are filled with "allegedly" and statements from 'unnamed sources,' but the general outline of what happened is fairly clear.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, got seat 19A and, when the airliner was in American airspace, ignited a device that was sewn into his underwear.

These days, when airline passengers hear a series of pops and see smoke and flames coming from a fellow-passenger, there'll be more than a casual interest taken. Happily, Jasper Schuringa and others dealt with the fire, and made sure that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't have any more unpleasant surprises for them.

It looks like this was a near miss. Mr. Abdulmutallab had either done his homework quite well, or had good advice.
"...A former Homeland Security official told Fox News that Abdulmutallab's seat selection does not appear to be accidental, and that he was sitting in one of the two most vulnerable parts of the plane. The suspect was sitting in seat 19A, which is over the fuel tanks, atop the wing and next to the skin of the aircraft.

"There is a high likelihood an explosion could be accelerated by the fuel tank, the official said — and that it could damage the plane's structure and puncture the skin, bringing down the aircraft...."
An affidavit says that the device Mr. Abdulmutallab was carrying, and tried with limited success to set off, contained PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, which The New York Times says is a substance used by Richard "shoe bomb" Reid, back in 2001. According to Reuters and, for what it's worth, a comment to a New York Times article, Reid used TATP, or triacetone triperoxide. Well, I supposed Reid could have tried using both substances.

Northwest Flight 253: Uneventful, With One Exception

"...Passenger accounts and law enforcement officials describe the events around the Christmas Day attack this way:

"On December 24, Abdulmutallab traveled from Nigeria to Amsterdam and then on to Detroit with an explosive device attached to his body.

"Part of the device contained PETN, or pentaerythritol, and was hidden in a condom or condom-like bag just below Abdulmutallab's torso. ... Abdulmutallab also had a syringe filled with liquid.

"As the plane approached Detroit, Abdulmutallab went to the bathroom for 20 minutes. When he returned to his seat, he complained of an upset stomach and covered himself with a blanket.

"Passengers heard a popping noise, similar to a firecracker. They smelled an odor, and some passengers saw Abdulmutallab's pant leg and the wall of the airplane on fire. Passengers and the flight crew used blankets and fire extinguishers to quell the flames. They restrained Abdulmutallab, who later told a flight attendant he had an 'explosive device' in his pocket. He was seen holding a partially melted syringe...."

"They're all Muslims"? Hardly

There's a certain intellectual convenience to sorting humanity out into a few simple categories, and deciding that one or two of the groups are to blame for just about everything. When I was growing up, it was 'the commies' for quite a few Americans. Since then, it's been the military-industrial complex, big oil, and - more recently - Islam. (January 14, 2009)

I don't buy it.

In this case, since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab apparently told investigators that he's connected with Al Qaeda, it looks like the airline-disaster-that-wasn't is connected with Islamic terrorism.

But that doesn't mean that all Muslims are terrorists. Any more than the KKK burning crosses a few decades back proves that all Christians are racists. It's simpler to see the world that way - but I don't think it's more accurate.

Wannabe Terrorist Outed by His Father

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, deserves a great deal of credit, I think. I've got four surviving children, and may have some idea as to what an emotional wrench it would be, to tell authorities that I believed one of them was likely to commit a crime. Or, in the case of Alhaji Umaru Mutallab's son, an act of terror.

Hats off to Alhaji Umaru Mutallab: that sort of thing takes guts.
"...Mr. Abdulmutallab's name was not unknown to American authorities. His father, a prominent Nigerian banker, recently told officials at the United States Embassy in Nigeria that he was concerned about his son's increasingly extremist religious views.

"As a result of his father's warning, federal authorities in Washington opened an investigative file and Mr. Abdulmutallab's name ended up in the American intelligence community's central repository of information on known or suspected international terrorists...."
(The New York Times)

Somebody Oughta Done Something!

Monday morning quarterbacking, 20-20 hindsight, whatever you want to call it, seems to be part of human nature. After something's happened, there's seldom a shortage of people who know what should have been done - and would have, presumably, if only they'd have been in charge.

People who actually hold responsible positions have the same limitations that everyone else has: they don't know what's happened, until it happens. In this case, nobody can go back to the loading gate for Northwest Flight 253 in Amsterdam and stop Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding.

That's already happened.

It's possible that someone dropped the ball - seriously - on the warning that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father gave. President Obama's doing what an executive should do under the circumstances:
"...[White House press secretary Robert] Gibbs said the President, who is vacationing in Hawaii, aims 'to ensure that there is no clog in the bureaucratic plumbing of information that might be gathered.'..."
(New York Daily News)
From the sounds of it, quite a few members of Congress want to get their names involved with probes of what happened, too. When Capitol Hill gets done with them, the people getting investigated may feel like they've been targeted by mad plumbers with Roto-Rooters.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's background is emerging, too: although coverage seems to be fairly matter-of-fact, with headlines like "Sources: Terror suspect is son of bank executive, attended college" (CNN)

Two and a half years ago, the scion of a well-to-do family turning to terrorism would have been, I think, more puzzling. As I wrote, back in 2007:
"...When someone wearing explosive underwear was somehow related to poor people, the mass-murder-suicide perpetrator looked a lot like a revolutionary in the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie.

"When a doctor pops out of a flaming jeep in an air terminal, things get complicated...."
(July 3, 2007)

Bottom Line: Nobody Killed, and A Whole Lot of Review to Do

I'm no fan, as a rule, of hot-shot Congressional investigations. (March 22, 2009) There's a strong whiff of politics and grandstanding in too many of them. And, too often, an appalling degree of cluelessness.

Still, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - under ideal conditions - would not have been allowed on Northwest Flight 253 with that bomb. And it looks like, somewhere between an American embassy and a boarding gate, his father's warning got misplaced. Or misinterpreted. Or something.

I applaud people involved with intelligence and security when they head off incidents like this. When it looks like someone dropped the ball: I hope the problem is found - and corrected.

Next time, the wannabe martyr's bomb may work the way it was supposed to.

Related posts: In the news:

Friday, December 25, 2009

"Simple Guards", Indecent Gestures, and the Dark Side of Diplomatic Immunity

The original Jerusalem Post article isn't online at the moment, it seems.

Excerpts from another source, referring to the J.P. article:
" An American diplomatic vehicle allegedly tried to run over an Israeli security guard at a border checkpoint in Israel last month, setting off a diplomatic scuffle that is straining relations between the two nations, the Jerusalem Post reported.

"In an episode that was reportedly caught on tape, a five-car U.S. convoy was stopped at the Gilboa border crossing in the northern West Bank on Nov. 13 but refused to identify themselves or open any windows or doors for inspection by Israeli security...."

"...Drivers in the American convoy blocked the crossing, the report says, tried running over a Defense Ministry security guard and made indecent gestures at female guards, the Jerusalem Post reported...."

"...The U.S. response, the Post norted[!], further angered Israeli officials: the chief regional security officer reportedly told his Israeli counterparts that "simple guards" had no authority to inspect senior diplomats...."
("Israel: U.S. Consulate Car Tried to Run Over Checkpoint Guard" FOXNews (December 25, 2009))
If you've been following this blog, you probably know that I'm an American citizen. And, that I don't think America is perfect. (July 3, 2008) I also don't assume that everything an American official does is right. I don't assume that America is the cause of all the world's problems either, but that's another matter.

"Simple Guards"?!

Okay: maybe there was a reasonable excuse for what whoever was running that 'diplomatic' convoy did. Maybe.

But, after the fact - calling the Israeli security people "simple guards"?!

Sure, those "simple guards" probably don't make as much money as most big-shot diplomats. They probably don't even know what cocktails are 'in' this year, or who to shun at Aspen. Those "simple guards" are just the sort of lower-class persons that the 'right sort' go to great lengths to avoid.

Can't say that I blame them. If I thought my value as a person was directly connected to how many polo ponies I owned, or whatever the status symbols are this year, I'd avoid people like me, too. (More, at "Lemming Tracks: Lower Middle Class and Loving It", Apathetic Lemming of the North ((December 14, 2009))

"Indecent Gestures" - Figures

As for making "indecent gestures at female guards" - well, considering the sort of trailer trash (their term, not mine) that some of the 'proper sort' think infest the American military, and given some dearly-held assumptions about the linkage between social position and respect: that sort of makes sense. That sort of person deserves no respect at all, right? (More: "All Those 'Poor, Uneducated, Minorities Being Drafted in America!' " (January 4, 2009))

Maybe There's a Good Explanation

I think it's (barely) possible that there's a reasonable, decent, explanation for the abysmal behavior (allegedly) exhibited by the American - ah, diplomats. Even less likely, in my opinion, it's some sort of plot by Israel to alienate America and/or embarrass the American "diplomatic" corps. Or maybe the shape-shifting space-alien lizard people are behind it.

But, I don't think any of that is likely.

It's the "indecent gesture" thing that sent me over the top with this.

We're between news cycles right now, in terms of "diplomatic immunity." They don't come often - but I expect, in a few years, or maybe a decade or so, to start reading about shenanigans in New York City, or another major city, of diplomats who realize that they
  • Don't have to have their chauffeurs obey the traffic and parking regulations that commoners do
  • Can hit people if they want to:
    • Reporters
    • Waiters
    • Ugly, common, unimportant people
You get the picture.

Not all diplomats are like that, of course. Most, I trust, understand what "diplomatic immunity" is for: and don't use it as a sort of "get out of jail free" card.

But diplomats are human beings. And, some human beings are jerks.

And a jerk with diplomatic immunity - or any sense of entitlement - gets to be a big jerk mighty fast.

Applying Occam's Razor, I think the simplest explanation for what happened at that crossing is that there were some grade-A, 24-carat jerks in those diplomatic vehicles.

Related posts:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yemen, Al Qaeda, Fort Hood, and All That

In my considered opinion, it would be nice if everybody were to be nice.

Reading a news report about quite a few people being killed isn't nice. It's not, I think, in this case, naughty: but it's sad, not nice.

War Isn't Nice

In the world I live in, Al Qaeda's arranging for thousands of people to get killed on September 11, 2001, wasn't nice either. That was naughty: even if they think God told them to, and their targets were what a college professor called "little Eichmanns". (April 3, 2009)

A psychiatrist murdering over a dozen people isn't very nice, either. Even if he felt tense at the time, and/or acted from deeply-felt religious beliefs. (November 5, 2009) I think that killing someone else for personal motives is naughty. Even if the personal motives involve deeply-felt religious beliefs: like "blacks, Jews, and Catholics are un-American." Or the now more-familiar "death to Israel! Death to the great Satan America!"

America Kills Civilians! That Line Never Seems to Get Old

On December 17, 2009, the "great Satan America" killed lots and lots of civilians all over the place near Mahsad, in southern Yemen. Or, attacked an Al Qaeda training camp. Or, attacked an Al Qaeda installation. Depends on who you listen to. I don't doubt that civilians were killed. Making sure that there will be civilian deaths in a military operation seems to be a well-worn page in the Islamic terrorists' playbook. (September 4, 2009)

Yemen doesn't show up in America's news as often as places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but it's been involved in the war on terror for some time. Remember the U.S.S. Cole?

It looks like over two dozen Al Qaeda members were killed - maybe, but not certainly, including Saad al-Fathani and Mohammad Ahmed Saleh al-Omir, local Al Qaeda leaders, and Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

If "Awlaki" sounds familiar, it should.

The Fort Hood Connection

Imam Anwar al-Awlaki was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was the immam at the Dar al-Hijrah Mosque in Virginia. That's where, according to the FBI, Awlaki had a close relationship with two of the 9/11 hijackers. Anwar al-Awlaki left America in 2002 - apparently winding up in Yemen where he cheered on "insurgencies" in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was building a following through speeches, and online.

Until, quite likely, December 17.

Anwar al-Awlaki also, apparently, is connected with Major Nidal Malik Hasan. Major Hasan is the chap who [allegedly] murdered just over a dozen people at Fort Hood November 5, 2009. The last I heard, investigations into the Fort Hood shootings were still going on - but someone reported that the Major said something like "Allahu Akbar".

As I've written before, I don't think these years are Islam's shining hour in history.

Christianity's gone through something like this, on I think a smaller scale, back in the fifties and sixties. White supremacists, who said they were Christians defending Christian America from blacks, Jews, and people like me (I'm Catholic), were - in rather loud taste - burning crosses in those "good old days." That sort of thing leaves an impression - a very unpleasant one.

I don't think that the KKK and similar groups represent Christianity. I sincerely hope that Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Islamic terrorists are to Islam what the cross-burners were to Christianity: a small but impossible-to-ignore bunch of fanatics, following a perverse caricature of a major world religion.

Related posts: In the news:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Haiyang Zhu Pleads Guilty in Decapitation of Xin Yang: Which Goes to Show Something

In some circles, "everybody knows" that America is a hotbed of racism and hate and intolerance and always lynches black people and communists and stuff like that.

Oh-kay. Let's take a deep breath, and look at America in 2009. Not Harlem during the riots in 1935 or 1943. Or Selma in 1965 - that was a protest march.1 This country's not perfect. (July 3, 2008) But it's no septic tank of big-bellied sheriffs and small-minded bigots, either.

Yes, you'll encounter the occasional law enforcement official with a weight problem and personality disorders. And there are people whose minds are made up - and they don't all dress funny and have broad southern-redneck accents. Some, in my opinion, are considered "tolerant" only because they despise the 'right' people and support the dominant culture's views. (August 5, 2008)

Haiyang Zhu: A Case in Point

Haiyang's guilt plea yesterday is big news in Virginia - and made both America's national news and the international news.

Haiyang Zhu has been held in the decapitation death of Xin Yang, a graduate student in the Au Bon Pain restaurant in the university's Graduate Life Center on January 21in January. Yesterday, he pleaded guilty.

Since the account is in English-language news, at least, around the world; and with a world population somewhere upward of 6,000,000,000; the odds are that someone, somewhere, thinks that Haiyang Zhu is the victim of white racism, American imperialism, or shape-shifting space-alien lizard people.

To paraphrase the proverb: When the only intellectual tool you've got is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Me? I think that Haiyang Zhu killed Xin Yang and cut off her head: There were witnesses to the murder, and Xin Yang was in two pieces when law enforcement arrived. I also think that killing someone because you feel like it, even if you don't cut off the victim's head, is generally an illegal act in America.

American law and custom call for a formal trial in cases like this: which is what happened. The guilty plea may - or may not - be part of an effort to ratchet down the legal sanctions Haiyang Zhu will experience.

That's my opinion. But then, I'm not inclined to see everything I don't like as the work of commies, the military-industrial complex, crazy professors, or Islamic terrorists.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.
Related posts: In the news: 1Background:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

American Military Tests Antimissile System: Smart Move, I Think

Well, that's interesting:
"Test of newest U.S. missile defense technology will simulate attack by Iran"
CNN (December 19, 2009)

"The U.S. military's Missile Defense Agency will practice protecting the United States from a simulated Iranian missile attack next month in an exercise using the agency's newest missile-killing technology, Pentagon officials said Friday.

Previous tests have been focused on a missile trajectory that mimics an attack from North Korea, but the January test will have a trajectory and distance resembling an intercontinental ballistic missile launch from Iran....
One point that makes this newsworthy is that similar tests had been performed, simulating incoming missiles from North Korea. This time, the virtual warheads started in Iran.

The conventional wisdom I encountered, some thirty to forty years back, was that just about everything was America's fault. Like the Soviet Union doing mean things.

The idea was that if the capitalistic, imperialistic warmonger military-industrial complex would just apologize for causing poverty, racism, and bad crops, and abolish the armed forces: everything would be nice. Given the starting assumptions that folks who held similar views had, it practically made sense.

It's Different, When You're in Charge

I've said this before: President Obama is not, in my opinion, a fool; nor is he, again in my opinion, particularly stupid. He also probably wants to have a second term as president of the United States. A prerequisite condition for that is that there to be a United States to be president of.

Whatever sort of 'happy face' rhetoric he (or any other candidate) used during the election campaign: now that he's president Obama has shown a (distressing, from some points of view) tendency to act as though there are people out there who aren't very nice, and who want to kill Americans.


I Don't agree with him on many points: but credit where credit is due.

Iranian missiles reaching American states?

The last I read, Iran's missiles could reach most of the Middle East, the more heavily-populated parts of Russia, and some of Europe and Africa.

I doubt that they've got intercontinental-range missiles yet. On the other hand, it's not that much of a stretch to imagine that Iran could outfit a cargo ship with a launch platform and deliver missiles from not-all-that-far offshore: anywhere.

I live a little east of the geographical center of North America, a thousand miles from the Atlantic Ocean. Central Minnesota is, I would think, a fairly low-value target anyway. I mean to say, would you get quite the same bang for your buck, wiping out a place like Long Prairie, Sauk Centre, or Glenwood: compared with the impact of finishing the job in New York City or Washington?

Still, although I'm pretty sure I live far away - and upwind - of the prime targets, I'd just as soon not have any cities subjected to instant urban renewal.

That's not "American cities" - any cities. Iran's Ayatollahs and Islamic crazies hate America - and Israel - but they don't seem all that fond of most other people and places, either.

Related posts: In the news:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Anti-Islam Porno Posters in St. Cloud, Minnesota: "Unacceptable"

A little background: Quite a few Minnesotans came here quite recently, from Somalia. They came here for the same sort of reason that brought my ancestors to the new world: probably, if you're an American, and your ancestors weren't already here here when Columbus landed, yours, too. these sincerely non-Norwegian-Minnesotans came to America because conditions here are better than they are in Somalia.

Which, lately, doesn't take much. I hope that Somalia recovers, but right now it's a mess.

Somalis come to Minnesota because this is one of America's major poultry producers. All those birds need to be processed, and that's a job where you don't need fluency in English. It's great for immigrants.

Which, let's remember, is what most 'real American' families were, not all that long ago.

St. Cloud's Porno Anti-Islamic Cartoons

Somebody went to a bit of trouble - and walked through the recent snowstorm - to put "graphic, sexually explicit cartoons...on utility poles in the 10 block of Second Avenue Northeast and the 300 block of Fifth Avenue South...." (St. Cloud Times, print edition, December 10, 2009)

From the national news:
"St. Cloud police investigate anti-Muslim cartoons"
USA Today (December 10, 2009)

"Police in the central Minnesota city of St. Cloud are investigating anti-Islamic cartoons found on at least two utility poles.

"The St. Cloud Times reports the posters included hand-drawn and digitally-altered photos derogatory toward Muslims. It says they included depictions of the Prophet Mohammed and a swastika, among other images.

"Five of them were found posted Tuesday on a pole outside a store that caters to Somalis...."

"St. Cloud authorities say posters may be hate crime"
(St. Cloud Times print edition (December 10, 2009))

"...St. Cloud Area Somali Salvation Organization Executive Director Mohamoud Mohamed said it appears the images were downloaded from the Internet. Some of them were written in multiple languages.

" 'It's an insult to our religion,' he said.

"Someone spent a lot of time downloading the images and putting them together, Mohamed said. Then the person spent time walking through Tuesday's snow and cold to post them.

" ' It's very scary,' he said.

"Mohamed said the community needs to come together and say it will not tolerate such behavior from 'a few very bad apples.'

" ' It's unacceptable,' he said...."

"...Anyone with information or who found similar images elsewhere can contact police at 251-1200 or Crime stoppers at 255-1301"
(St. Cloud Times (December 10, 2009)) [phone numbers are for St. Cloud, Minnesota, residents or visitors]
I'm no great fan of the idea of "hate crimes," since prosecuting such crimes can be a matter of criminalizing ideas.

That said, the sort of harassment and - arguably - intimidation that these "graphic, sexually explicit cartoons", some of which depict "the prophet Mohammed and a swastika" (USA Today, St. Cloud Times), are, in my opinion, "unacceptable." (Mohamoud Mohamed, via St. Cloud Times)

What's an American Doing, Defending Foreigners?

First of all, someone doesn't have to be melanin-deficient, with ancestors from somewhere in northwestern Europe, to be a Minnesotan. Or an American. Quite a few of these Somali-Minnesotans are American citizens. Whether or not they've become citizens on paper yet, they're all living, working, and raising their families here.

That still seems to come as a shock to a few red-white-and-blue-blooded Americans.

Some of 'Those People' are My Cousins, Nieces, and Nephews

I have no complaints about my ancestors. They were, for the most part, peasants in Norway, Ireland and Scotland. These days, that's no problem. Happily, the 'good old days' of "Irish Need Not Apply" signs are gone. America's having survived an Irish president's administration helped a little, I suspect.

That was then, this is now. I've got cousins who are Oglala Sioux1 the way I'm Irish, and the extended family has roots in the southwestern Pacific. Even if I were so inclined, the kinds of folks I can call 'those people over there' gets smaller by the generation.

As American as Tacos and Pizza

America's still getting new waves of immigrants: bringing fresh, new ideas; the sort of energy and enthusiasm that some families lose after the first few generations; and new customs to America. I like it. But then, I don't mind living in a country where pizza, hamburgers, and tacos are all "American" foods.

So, why do I hope that whoever put those "unacceptable" posters up gets caught? And, that people in St. Cloud make it clear that they don't, as a rule, treat their neighbors that way?
  • Somali Muslims living in Minnesota are Minnesotans
    • Like me.
  • I appreciate it when people don't trash my religious beliefs.
    • And so I need to at least say something when someone else is the target of that sort of disrespect.
  • It's the right thing to do.
    • I know that sounds corny: but there it is.
  • I have some experience, having religious beliefs which are not shared by the majority.
    • I'm Catholic.
    • One of 'those people.'
A German pastor, Martin Niemöller, made the point I'm trying to make. Quite a few times, it seems.

He's credited with writing a poem. Several, actually, all with the same general message. Here are a few:
"When Hitler attacked the Jews
I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the Catholics,
I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned.
And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists,
I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned.
Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church --
and there was nobody left to be concerned."
(Niemoller's address to the U.S. Congress (Congressional Record,
October 14, 1968, page 31636), Martin Niemoller poem and address on Hitler and the Nazis)
Or maybe it was
"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me." (MARTIN NIEMÖLLER: "FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS...", United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)
"First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me--
and there was no one left to speak out for me."
(Martin Niemöller's famous quotation: "First they came for the Communists"..., a page by Harold Marcuse, UC Santa Barbara)
The version you ran into probably isn't there. Some are rather politically correct, some were edited from a more conservative point of view. Although I don't quite agree with the UC Santa Barbara professor's assumption that the guy from the Small Business Administration was subverting the pastor's message ('everybody knows' what those capitalists are like?), the professor's page is one of the best resources I've found online, for studying Niemöller's remarks.

Between Islamic crazies and white supremacists, there's a whole lot of hate - concentrated in, I trust, "a very few bad apples," but dangerous nonetheless. "My end of the boat isn't sinking" is not a prudent attitude.

Related posts: In the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.
1 Or, if you like, Oglala Lakota. The family has been saying "Sioux," which was the term most Americans would have understood up to a few decades ago. Turns out, "Sioux" is the Anglicized version of the Chippewa word for "snake." Euro-Americans had apparently asked the (Chippewa) American Indians (that's probably not PC today, but you know what I mean) what the people living a bit west of "here" were called. The Chippewa, who weren't on the Lakota "A" list any more than the Euro-Americans were, said that those 'people' over there were snakes. "Sioux."

The name stuck.

Sort of like "Yankee," but that's another topic.

I've learned that, possibly because we're all supposed to feel warm fuzzies about each other, that the folks who lived around here and points south and east (if memory serves) didn't call the foreigners to the west "snake." Could be.

And, that "Oglala" isn't PC any more. No surprises there. What's politically correct and what's not shifts.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How to Shut Down the Internet - or - Dealing With Troublesome Ideas, and the People who Spread Them

Turns out, it's fairly easy to block people from the Internet. In some parts of the world. I ran into an article that describes how Iran was able to "shut down the 'net" today. Not the whole Internet, of course: just the parts in areas where the Ayatollahs' enforcers were doing something that involved tear gas and bullets.

Just exactly what happened isn't entirely clear: but Iran's leaders didn't let another "Neda" video get out.
"How to Shut Down the 'Net: A Guide for Repressive Regimes"
FOXNews (December 7, 2009)

" Facing student protests ahead of today's National Students Day — the anniversary of three student deaths in Tehran in 1953 — the state-owned Telecommunication Company of Iran (TCI) slowed or blocked completely access to the Internet for most of the state

"The Internet may be a worldwide superhighway, but it's all to easy to shut it down. Governments aiming to squelch free speech in don't even have to work hard to do so: It's all too easy to restrict the Internet and keep their people in the dark...."
The rest of the article is, I think, worth reading. But then, I'm one of those people who read articles in The New York Times, Reuters, Xinhua News Agency, and even - FOXNews.

There are quite a few ways of reacting to the article, including (adapted from another blog's post):
  1. Denial:
    • The article is on the FOXNews website, so it must be a lie
      • And probably some kind of conspiracy
  2. Defense:
    • Iran's leaders, as non-Western rulers with citizens who aren't unswervingly loyal
      • Has very understandable reasons for stamping out criticism
      • Shouldn't be judged harshly
        • If at all
      • Is simply reacting to Yankee imperialism
        • Which, in some circles, excuses almost anything
  3. Resignation:
    • That's just the way things are
      • And it's never going to change
  4. Interest:
    • So that's how it's done
Considering the myriad ways of the human mind, I'm sure there are many more alternative reactions.

Me? I go with the fourth alternative. I don't approve of the Ayatollah's government: even though it is a democracy, in the sense that they have elections: and replaced a monarchy. I grew up in America, a republic with a 'strong democratic tradition,' and think that a democracy is a workable form of government. But I don't think it's the only way that a country can be run - or even the only 'good' way to manage national affairs. (November 15, 2009, December 29, 2008) But I'm getting off-topic.

The point is, because of the way information technology is set up in Iran, and the sort of power the government has - legally - it's fairly easy for the Ayatollahs to black out parts of their domain.

Quite a few countries don't have the bewildering array of Internet Service Providers that America has - which simplifies the process of choosing an ISP - and which really helps the government, when the Supreme Leader, or whatever the big kahuna's title is, wants to lean on the local and regional ISPs.

From a technical point of view, filtering unwanted information is a fairly straightforward affair.
"...Keyword blocking prevents people from searching for such obviously dangerous words as 'freedom' and 'democracy.' Custom black lists also server to block content that specifically rankles the government. Is it unions, student protests or something else?

"When the government catches someone searching for these terms, they can automatically turn off their access for a period of time. "If a user happens upon a site or search result that has been flagged unacceptable, that user’s connection to the Internet can be dropped altogether for a specified period of time," notes's Lynn...."
The article is, I think, a fairly quick way to learn just how easy it is to control what people are allowed to read and see. Information technology like the Internet makes it possible for people around the world to communicate - but only as long as national leaders are willing to put up with the occasional embarrassments that go along with that sort of transparency.

I think that America enjoys a remarkable degree of freedom, and I'm one of those people who's willing to put up with the messy side of open communication. I don't like it, but that - again - is another topic. (See "Frosty the Pornman....," in another blog)

A history of (relatively) free exchange of ideas is no guarantee that Americans will be allowed to express themselves in the future. It hasn't been all that long, since a strange alliance of very serious people tried to "protect" Americans from the Internet. (March 9, 2008) Yes, it can happen here - and almost did.

Related posts: In the news: Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

Iran, Protests, Internet Blackout, and Nuclear Bombs

Iran is in the news again today. If the reports resemble the sort of reporting we used to get from distant lands, back in pre-Internet days, there's a reason.

'Noted and recorded' excepts from the news are at the end of this post.

  • Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Iran has - right now - the parts and tools it takes to build one nuclear fission bomb. And vehicles that could send such a bomb to Israel.
  • Netanyahu also says that Iran's leadership is losing respect - and legitimacy.
  • Today is National Students Day in Iran, and there are protests.
    • Against the June "election."
  • Iran's police are using tear gas - and live bullets - against the protesters.
People on the same page, more or less, as Iran's Ayatollahs, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban, can ignore the first two news items - or use them as more "proof" of a world-wide Jewish conspiracy.

Me? I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has a fairly well-defined point of view. And, in all probability, would just as soon not have a nuclear bomb go off over his country. Well, everybody has biases of some sort.

I also think that anti-Semetism is alive and well, but nowhere near as popular as it was after the 1940s and places like Dachau and Auschwitz were liberated. Chancellor Hitler did no favors for either the traditional practice of blaming the Jews or eugenics. But that's another topic. (September 29, 2009, for starters)

"Death to the Dictator" - With a Twist

Back in the "good old days," news of a demonstration somewhere and chants of "death to the dictator" could be counted on to be of the reassuringly familiar anti-American sort. After all, 'everybody knows' that the American Empire (which doesn't show up on the map, oddly enough), and/or the military-industrial complex was the focus of animosity. After all, as 'everybody knows,' America is pretty much all icky and oppresses people something fierce.

Today, at a University in Iran, people are protesting the dubiously-legitimate election in June.
"...Police in Tehran shot tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who chanted, 'Death to the dictator' and set garbage bins afire. Hundreds of security forces in riot gear stood alongside streets, witnesses said...."
In context, it's fairly clear that the "dictator" is the Ayatollahs' pick in the June election, who just happened to win. In a statistically-improbable way.

The LA Times deserves credit for pointing out what Iran's "National Students Day" is about:
"...National Students Day marks a violent crackdown on a 1953 protest against a visit by then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon following a U.S.-backed coup d'etat that ousted the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and restored the absolute rule of the monarch Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.Since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, the day has traditionally been an occasion for high school and college students take to the streets and chant anti-American slogans...."

"...On Sunday night, loud cries of 'Allah akbar,' or 'God is great,' could be heard being shouted in Tehran neighborhoods and campuses in what has become a regular protest ritual since the disputed vote...."

"...'They ask us to forget about the election results as if the problem is only the elections,' [opposition leader Mir Hossein] Mousavi said in a recent statement published on the Internet. 'The problem of our people is not who the head of the government is or who is not. The problem is that this few are bolstering their egos to the shame of a great nation.'

"He added, 'You fight people on the streets, but you are constantly losing your dignity in people's minds.'..."
(Los Angeles Times)

America isn't Perfect, and Never Has Been

I don't think America is perfect, and have written about this lack before: On the other hand, although I don't have the fashionable anti-American attitude, I also don't think that a bicameral legislature and strong democratic traditions are the one and only 'right' way to run a country. (November 15, 2009, December 29, 2008)

Moving along.

"Allah Akbar" - That's Anti-American, Right?

Wrong. In my opinion, anyway. That bit, "loud cries of 'Allah akbar,' or 'God is great,' " isn't something that you're likely to hear in America, but that doesn't make something anti-American.

The 'default' religion in American is a sort of Protestant Christianity. (April 16, 2008) And, for several decades now, the more intelligent and sophisticated and tolerant (just ask them) Americans "know" that citing Christian beliefs in public is just like the KKK burning crosses back in the fifties or sixties. You can't argue with logic like that. (August 5, 2008)

Besides, I've gotten the impression that quite a few Americans don't take their religious beliefs all that seriously - or think religion is a "private" thing, and doesn't have any place in the workplace or in public discussion. Which is a topic for another blog.

In sharp contrast, quite a few people in countries where Islam is a common faith aren't ashamed of their faith, give a rip about what they say they believe, and aren't embarrassed or ashamed to apply their faith to what an American might call "real life."

Hence, "Allah Akbar" or "Allahu Akbar" being part of public demonstrations.

And remember, it looks like this time it's part of a strongly-held belief that the Ayatollahs' government isn't acting well. At all.

Anti-American? Doesn't look like it. Something you aren't likely to hear in carefully secular America? Yeah, I think so.

The Ayatollahs Learned Something From That Neda Thing

Remember Neda Agha-Soltan? (Persian: ندا آقا سلطان - Nedā Āġā Soltān; 1982 – June 20, 2009 (Wikipedia))

Looks like the Ayatollahs do, too:
"...Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia had warned the opposition not to use the rally to revive protests against the clerical establishment after the June vote.

""Internet and mobile phone connections were also affected by an official clampdown. "The network in central Tehran and near Tehran university is completely down," said one website...."
I think that (attempted) Internet and telecommunications blackout are a response to the embarrassment of the non-shooting undeath of Neda: who at at one point hadn't been killed, and anyway the CIA did it or foreigners or something like that.


It looks like Iran's leaders learned something from the Neda fiasco. And, tried to control the flow of information this time.
It Can't Happen Here?
Remember, I said I don't think American has ever been perfect? I don't think it will be, either. Which is why I very emphatically do not want 'the government' to 'protect' me and my family from the big, bad Internet, the Wicked, Wicked Web, impertinent bloggers, or anyone else with opinions that may not meet with official approval. (March 9, 2008)

Nuclear War? Not Impossible

I sincerely hope that people in Iran who don't agree with the Ayatollah's peculiar take on Islam get control of the country - before the Supreme Leader decides to start a nuclear war.

The way Iran is going now, I think it's possible that Russia may actually fire the first shot. The current Russian government has declared a first-strike policy for using nuclear weapons. (January 19, 2008)

It's not hard to imagine, if things get tense enough, that Russian leaders decide that, all things considered, they'd rather have Tehran disappear with a bright flash, than have the same thing happen to Moscow.

I hope that doesn't happen: but the Supreme Leader may decide that Allah's telling him to destroy the infidel bear.

Related posts: In the news: Background:
Noted and recorded:
" 'Iran can now produce nuclear bomb' "
Jerusalem Post (December 7, 2009)

"Iran now has the technical capability to build a nuclear bomb and the only thing separating it from the bomb is the decision to go ahead and build one, said Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of Military Intelligence's research division, on Monday.

"Speaking at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Baidatz said Iran had successfully enriched 1,800 kilograms of uranium, enough to build over one bomb...."

"Netanyahu Says Iranian Leaders Losing Support"
Reuters, via The New York Times (December 7, 2009)

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel had benefited from what he called the Iranian government's loss of legitimacy, both among other states and with its own people.

"Speaking to a closed session of the parliamentary defence committee, as quoted by an official, Netanyahu repeated his view that Israel must prevent Iran acquiring nuclear weapons but gave no indication of if or when Israel might use military force -- an option his government has refused to rule out...."

"Violent clashes erupt in Iran as protesters renew outcry over June presidential election"
Los Angeles Times (December 7, 2009)
"Police, protesters clash in Tehran on National Students Day. The event marks a 1953 crackdown on protests after a U.S.-backed coup, but activists use the occasion for anti-government demonstrations."

"Reporting from Beirut - Anti-government protests surged in Iran this afternoon as college students in several cities clashed with security forces armed with clubs in the latest round of confrontations over the nation's disputed presidential elections."

"Police in Tehran shot tear-gas canisters at demonstrators, who chanted, "Death to the dictator" and set garbage bins afire. Hundreds of security forces in riot gear stood alongside streets, witnesses said...."

"Iranian police shoot at unarmed protesters during Tehran demonstrations" (December 7, 2009)
"Iranian police fired tear gas and live bullets as they fought back thousands of unarmed protesters on the streets of Tehran."

"There were bloody clashes as young people launched a fresh wave of anti-government protests on the country's official Students Day.

"Police used warning shots, baton charges and gas but failed to stop rallies, sit-ins and campus marches across the capital...."

"...Earlier in the day, the authorities detained 23 members of a protest group of grieving mothers. They included the mother of Neda Agha-Soltan, known as the "Angel of Freedom", who was shot by pro-government militia at the height of demonstrations against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June...."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.