Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Will Iraq Degenerate Into Civil War?

Following the February 22, 2006 attack on the mosque in Samarra, Iraq, many doomsayers have been speaking of the possible eruption of all-out civil war, primarily between Sunnis and Shi'ites. So far, full-blown civil war has not erupted, but whether or not it will is not yet definitive. And maybe the situation in Iraq is not as dire as first seems.

Nevertheless, many believe that an internal conflict in Iraq would be a disaster and a clear indication that U.S. efforts there have failed. Daniel Pipes takes a different view.

From a February 28, 2006 article entitled "Civil War in Iraq?":
"...Dazzled by the examples of post-World War II Germany and Japan – whose transformations in retrospect increasingly appear to have been one-time achievements – [President Bush]committed troops in the pursuit of creating a 'free and democratic Iraq.' This noble aim was inspired by the best of America's idealism.

"But nobility of purpose did not suffice for rehabilitating Iraq, as I predicted already in April 2003. Iraqis, a predominantly Muslim population newly liberated from their totalitarian dungeon, were disinclined to follow the American example; for their part, the American people lacked a deep interest in the welfare of Iraq. This combination of forces guarantees the coalition cannot impose its will on 26 million Iraqis.

"...I cheer the goal of a 'free and democratic Iraq,' but the time has come to acknowledge that the coalition's achievement will be limited to destroying tyranny, not sponsoring its replacement. There is nothing ignoble about this limited achievement, which remains a landmark of international sanitation. It would be especially unfortunate if aiming too high spoils that attainment and thereby renders future interventions less likely. The benefits of eliminating Saddam's rule must not be forgotten in the distress of not creating a successful new Iraq....

"Civil war in Iraq, in short, would be a humanitarian tragedy but not a strategic one."
In his article, Mr. Pipes discusses the implications of civil war in Iraq. Read the entire article, and decide for yourself if his points are valid.

Continue reading....

Monday, February 27, 2006

Easy Targets For I.D. Theft

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

My parents are gone now. But if yours are still living and getting along in their years, you need to beware of scams such as the one related below, even if your loved ones are in a respected retirement community. And you may not be able to expect much help from the legal system.

According to an article entitled "Identity Thieves Rob Family of More Than Money," which appeared in the February 16, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
"Diane Benson's dad kept saying that the mail wasn't coming, but he was in his eighties and in declining health. Howard Leiner was even slurring his words, which he'd never done before, so maybe he was wrong about the mail.

"Benson's mother, May Leiner, couldn't find things in her own house at Leisure World in Silver Spring. She said her camera had gone missing. Then her pocketbook.

"The Leiner children assumed their elderly parents were simply losing touch. 'She'd been pretty ill and taking Haldol, so we thought she just wasn't lucid,' says Benson, who teaches Spanish at Churchill High School in Potomac.

"Then last spring, when Benson was visiting her parents, the woman who was substituting for their usual caretakers pointed her to Howard Leiner's Hecht's bill, which included items bought at Wheaton Plaza. Benson knew her parents didn't shop there.

"Next, the bank called to say someone had tried to open a credit card account with Howard's Social Security number.

"Benson's parents were not losing touch. They were being scammed....

"Benson found credit card receipts for purchases that made no sense in her parents' lives -- women's shoes bought in Wheaton, meals at a Latin restaurant in Silver Spring, cell phone service...."
As it turns out, the Leiners had hired approved caretakers, Doris Ortiz and Josselin Aguilera, both of whom clearly had another agenda. A subsequent police investigation uncovered that these women had fraudently purchased over $2000 worth of goods at Nordstrom Rack in Gaithersburg, Maryland--with the Leiners' credit cards, of course. But thanks to the store's videotape security system, the case was a slam-dunk.

And the outcome? According to the article,
"Benson fired the two women. Almost immediately, she says, her father's speech returned to normal. She now believes the women had been overmedicating him to gain access to his credit cards and financial records."
But the legal outcome is not as satisfying:
"Facing seven charges related to identity theft, both women pleaded guilty to felony theft, theft of a credit card and use of the card to impersonate someone...

"District Court Judge Louis Harrington sentenced Ortiz to 18 months and Aguilera to 11 months. Then he suspended both sentences and put the women on probation for a year. The women did not have to spend a day behind bars. The judge even returned Aguilera's passport. When Benson asked if the women could be required to pay restitution, she remembers Harrington suggesting the losses might be covered by insurance....

"[A]uthorities say they suspect Ortiz and Aguilera are once again soliciting work with the elderly..."
Leisure World has now banned both Ortiz and Aguilera as recommended caregivers, but these two women are free to pursue their preying upon the elderly somewhere else.

Baby Boomers, sometimes referred to as the Sandwich Generation because we're caught between fulfilling at-home and career obligations and caregiving aging parents, have their hands full enough without lenient judges such as Harrington. Where is the outrage over what happened to the Leiners?

Diane Benson wasn't absent in her parents lives. She took her responsibilities seriously. As she points out:
"I was there every day with my parents; my sister was there," Benson says. "And still these women did this. The judge didn't take this seriously, but all of us who have aging parents have to."
According to the article, such scams are quite frequent. The elderly are trusting and, therefore, easy prey, and they often have the assets which attract those whose consciences don't prevent targeting easy victims.

Note: Howard Leiner died before Judge Harrington issued the sentence--or that excuse of a sentence.

For information about a scam which can affect any taxpayer, see "'Phishing' Season For Tax Scammers: IRS Warns Public Of Phony E-Mails," which appeared on the front page of the February 25, 2006 edition of the Washington Post. Excerpt:
"Marketing pitches masquerading as the 1099 forms detailing non-payroll income have been arriving in taxpayer mailboxes, while e-mails that appear to be from the Internal Revenue Service are really identity theft scams designed to collect personal financial information.

"Government officials say they are currently seeing about one widespread IRS-themed e-mail scam a week, but Internet security experts expect them to escalate as the April 15 tax deadline nears....

"And scammers are capitalizing on the fact that more than half of all tax returns are expected to be filed electronically this year. Consider this recent e-mail claiming to be from the IRS: 'You filed your tax return and you're expecting a refund. You have just one question and you want the answer now. Where's My Refund? Access this secure Web site to find out '. . ."

"The Web site looked like the real IRS site. But it wasn't....

"The phony tax e-mails are not confined solely to the IRS, said Hubbard of Websense. He said his firm has also seen some fraudulent solicitations allegedly from H&R Block, offering online tax preparation services. The taxpayer is steered to a fake company Web site that asks for personal financial information."
Therefore, take extra precautions. Protect your identity and that of your family!

[I have previously posted on identity theft here and here]

Continue reading....

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Islamic Basketball

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Just when I thought I'd take the entire weekend off from blogging, I came across this one.

From the February 19, 2006 Chicago Tribune and reprinted in the February 25, 2006 Washington Post:
"...[T]he girls can't accept that they have only been allowed to compete against girls basketball teams from other Muslim schools. There are only four in the Chicago area, they complain, and their competition isn't exactly tough.

"Since last year they've been beseeching Coach Farida Abusafa, 26, an English teacher who also coaches sports, to ask public schools and non-Muslim private schools if their girls teams would be willing to compete against girls from the Universal School.

"The problem is the schools would have to agree to bar men and boys above the age of puberty from watching the games.

"'It's not like it's a sin to play a public school,' Abusafa said. 'The problem is the males coming to the game.'

"The dilemma underscores the balancing act many Muslims perform as they toggle between American and Middle Eastern culture....

"Conceivably, the Muslim girls could play in headscarves, sweat pants and long sleeves. But the bulky attire might make playing difficult, they said...."
Too bad! If these Muslim girls feel so strongly about the restrictions of Islamic law, let them play games against other Muslim schools. After all, the parents of the boys in the public schools are paying the taxes which support the schools' sports programs.

We don't need to Islamify basketball!

Continue reading....

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Birthday Weekend

Time to celebrate! I just love it when my birthday falls on a weekend. Depending on the extent of the celebration, I may not be surfing the blogosphere as much as usual.

This week, Woman Honor Thyself tagged me; her responses are here. Because I'm preparing to celebrate my birthday, I'm in an magnanimous mood, so I won't tag anyone else. But if you like, you can list your songs in the comments section. Or you can tag someone else.

Here's the tag info:
List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to. Just link here and trackback when you make your list, and tell the folks you tag to do the same so you can enjoy their posts.
I don't listen to as much music as I used to--I'm into audiobooks now. But here are seven of my all-time favorites, in no particular order:

1. "The Hawaii Five-O Theme Song." Ah, Hawaii! Wish I were there.

2. "This Ole House." A real oldie by Rosemary Clooney. It was the first top-hit I learned the words to. I didn't have much choice; my parents, my grandmother, and I were stranded in a beer joint in West Virginia during Hurricane Hazel. I really love the honky-tonk piano and that bass singer.

3. "Waitin' on a Sunny Day." From Bruce Springsteen's CD The Rising. Crank it up, and take the top down on the Mustang.

4. "Ode to Joy." J.S. Bach. I love every arrangement I've ever heard--symphonic, organ, piano, or rock. In fact, listening to any Bach piece makes my brain work better.

5. Appalachian Spring. I never tire of the mood which Aaron Copland was able to create in this piece. The sounds take me back home, to a simpler time.

6. "No Tears in Heaven." The Eric Clapton one, as opposed to the old spiritual. I first heard this piece at a baby's funeral, so the piece has special meaning for me. I have a particularly good piano arrangement and can play it resonably well.

7. "The Door Is Still Open to My Heart." The first Dean Martin song I ever heard. His velvet voice blends well with the strings. The beat is updated pop-country.

Keeping the list at only seven songs is tough! I didn't even get to CCR, The Doors, Henry Mancini, Scott Joplin, and Beethoven--just to name a few.

Continue reading....

Monday, February 20, 2006

Censorship--In One Form Or Another

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Recently, Mark Alexander, the author of The Dawning of a New Dark Age: A Collection of Essays On Islam, had some images removed from his blog. [Mr. Alexander has recounted these events in some detail here and here; scroll toward the end of each of those posts to read the chronology and his reactions at the time]

Shortly after the images were removed, Mr. Alexander wrote a summary for Infidel Bloggers Alliance. Excerpt:
Is America still the Land of the Free?

"My weblog, A New Dark Age Is Dawning has recently been censored twice because I had the cartoons of prophet Muhammad displayed.

"The first time, I was censored by Photobucket; the second time, by Pic Tiger.

"I was shocked enough when Photobucket censored me. They replaced the images of the prophet they found offensive with their banners, stating that their terms had been violated. But it was not only the cartoons of the prophet that were removed, one picture depicting an angry Muslim in a London demonstration calling for the beheading of any infidel who disrespected Islam had also been removed for having fallen foul of their terms!

"I'm sure you can imagine that I was even more shocked to find that within two days of finding a new hosting company, PicTiger, that they, too, had censored me. They also replaced the two cartoons of the prophet with their own banners.

"I was dumbfounded!..."
As was I! Considering the climate of political correctness, I am not completely surprised by the removal of the bomb-in-the-turban caricature. But I am truly distressed that a news photo was also removed. Orwell's 1984 arrived? Also, the blogosphere is a free-flowing medium. On my blog rounds, I often see articles and images which I don't like. What do I do? I move on.

Of course, I recognize that what PhotoBucket and PicTiger did to Mr. Alexander's site is perfectly legal, according to those companies' terms of service. Nevertheless, the implications are alarming. Just how does one define "offensive"? What is offensive to one is not offensive to another, especially as applied to ideological concepts.

Let's have a look at what Flemming Rose, culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, has to say in "Why I Published Those Cartoons" in the February 19, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
"Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I decided to publish in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people's religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

"I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn't mean you publish everything. Jyllands-Posten would not publish pornographic images or graphic details of dead bodies; swear words rarely make it into our pages. So we are not fundamentalists in our support for freedom of expression.

"But the cartoon story is different.

"Those examples have to do with exercising restraint because of ethical standards and taste; call it editing. By contrast, I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self-censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront, challenging moderate Muslims to speak out. The idea wasn't to provoke gratuitously -- and we certainly didn't intend to trigger violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world. Our goal was simply to push back self-imposed limits on expression that seemed to be closing in tighter.

"At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran.

"This was the culmination of a series of disturbing instances of self-censorship. Last September, a Danish children's writer had trouble finding an illustrator for a book about the life of Muhammad. Three people turned down the job for fear of consequences. The person who finally accepted insisted on anonymity, which in my book is a form of self-censorship. European translators of a critical book about Islam also did not want their names to appear on the book cover beside the name of the author, a Somalia-born Dutch politician who has herself been in hiding.

"Around the same time, the Tate gallery in London withdrew an installation by the avant-garde artist John Latham depicting the Koran, Bible and Talmud torn to pieces. The museum explained that it did not want to stir things up after the London bombings. (A few months earlier, to avoid offending Muslims, a museum in Goteborg, Sweden, had removed a painting with a sexual motif and a quotation from the Koran.)

"Finally, at the end of September, Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with a group of imams, one of whom called on the prime minister to interfere with the press in order to get more positive coverage of Islam.

"So, over two weeks we witnessed a half-dozen cases of self-censorship, pitting freedom of speech against the fear of confronting issues about Islam. This was a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don't tell....

"We have a tradition of satire when dealing with the royal family and other public figures, and that was reflected in the cartoons. The cartoonists treated Islam the same way they treat Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and other religions....

"One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet.

"On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

"Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.

"This is exactly why Karl Popper, in his seminal work The Open Society and Its Enemies, insisted that one should not be tolerant with the intolerant. Nowhere do so many religions coexist peacefully as in a democracy where freedom of expression is a fundamental right. In Saudi Arabia, you can get arrested for wearing a cross or having a Bible in your suitcase, while Muslims in secular Denmark can have their own mosques, cemeteries, schools, TV and radio stations.

"I acknowledge that some people have been offended by the publication of the cartoons, and Jyllands-Posten has apologized for that. But we cannot apologize for our right to publish material, even offensive material. You cannot edit a newspaper if you are paralyzed by worries about every possible insult.

"I am offended by things in the paper every day: transcripts of speeches by Osama bin Laden, photos from Abu Ghraib, people insisting that Israel should be erased from the face of the Earth, people saying the Holocaust never happened. But that does not mean that I would refrain from printing them as long as they fell within the limits of the law and of the newspaper's ethical code. That other editors would make different choices is the essence of pluralism.

As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.

"The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants...."
Later in his commentary, Mr. Rose points out that the controversy about the cartoons can serve to accelerate needed reform of Islam. He doesn't use the word "reform," but I think that reform is what he's talking about:
"Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people's beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue -- in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them....

"A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between 'them' and 'us,' but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.

"This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo...."
But Mr. Rose also adds this caveat:
"Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no. Some of the spirited defenses of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired. Moreover, the newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten's headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship."
Jyllands-Posten finds itself the target of terrorism. Mr. Alexander found his web site censored. Most newspapers in the United States continue to refuse to print the cartoons because they are "offensive," although the case can be made that newspapers are refusing to publish the cartoons out of fear. The second form of self-censorship, yielding to fear, is even worse!

Right now, certain images are being censored in one way or another, for one reason or another. Tomorrow, words?

Continue reading....

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Sonnet For Presidents' Day

This poet, R.R., is an eighth-grade homeschool student and an avid reader of both history and historical fiction. R.R. wrote this poem in response to an assignment requiring the class to write either an Italian or an English sonnet. Before presenting the sonnet to the class, R.R. provided the background information as given below in italics.

In this sonnet, Lincoln gives what I believe would be his posthumous address to the grieving Union. The first few lines mention the route Lincoln took when he traveled from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington D.C. for his first inauguration. There were rumors that an attempt on his life would be made be in Baltimore, Maryland, so he was quietly rushed to Washington in the middle of the night. When later that day his carriage rumbled down the cobblestone Pennsylvania Avenue, the newspapers ridiculed his escape as “the flight of Abraham.” After his assassination, his funeral procession traveled back along the same route to arrive in Springfield where his body would be buried. The last line of the sonnet is a direct quote from Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

Lincoln’s Address to a Grieving Nation

All was guard and tense determination
When first I traveled on this cobbled route.
Now though I pass the same direction,
Too soon sapped of life, my heart fades to doubt.
Oh America, where now shalt thou turn,
Now that I’m gone, succumbed to the grave?
Wilt forget the brand in my soul did burn?
Wilt forget broken union, burdened slave?
Let not blood spilt for freedom count for naught.
Absolve the burned and ruined South of guilt,
As they too died for soil painfully bought.
Embrace them. Once this bridge of peace is built,
Your unity and former ties recall:
“With malice toward none, with charity toward all.”
--Written and contributed by R.R.

Continue reading....

The Algiers Accords

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

Does this sound like a good idea? From the front page of the Februay 15, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
Rice Asks for $75 Million to Increase Pressure on Iran

"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked Congress yesterday to provide $75 million in emergency funding to step up pressure on the Iranian government, including expanding radio and television broadcasts into Iran and promoting internal opposition to the rule of religious leaders.

"The request would substantially boost the money devoted to confronting Iran -- only $10 million is budgeted to support dissidents in 2006 -- and signals a new effort by the Bush administration to persuade other nations to join the United States in a coalition to bolster Iranian activists, halt Iran's funding of terrorism and stem its nuclear ambitions, State Department officials said....

"Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who has called for $100 million to promote democracy in Iran, applauded the initiative as the 'absolutely right move at this point in time'...

"Under the proposed supplemental request for the fiscal 2006 budget, the administration would use $50 million of the new funds to significantly increase Farsi broadcasts into Iran, mainly satellite television broadcasting by the federal government and broadcasts of the U.S.-funded Radio Farda, to build the capacity to broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"An additional $15 million would go to Iranian labor unions, human rights activists and other groups, generally via nongovernmental organizations and democracy groups such as the National Endowment for Democracy. The administration has already budgeted $10 million for such activity but is only just beginning to spend the $3.5 million appropriated in 2005 for this purpose.

"Officials said $5 million will be used to foster Iranian student exchanges -- which have plummeted since the 1979 Iranian Revolution -- and another $5 million will be aimed at reaching the Iranian public through the Internet and building independent Farsi television and radio stations...."
Of course, the above proposal came in reaction to the news that Iran is moving ahead with its iranium-enrichment program, not to mention Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's public and strident calls for the annihilation of Israel. Since December of 2006, Iran Watch has been posting solely on the various developments with the mahdi-would-be and the ever-more-alarming rhetoric and events. The log which Iran Watch maintains is not a comforting one!

But the United States has previously tried to promote change in Iran. According to the above-cited Washington Post article,
"The Clinton administration, under pressure from Congress, tried to assist such groups in the 1990s, Indyk said, but Iran interpreted the effort as an attempt to overthrow the government and responded by funding a series of terrorist attacks in Israel."
Actually, promoting change within Iran may be even more complicated. According to "Renounce the Iranian Hostage Agreement," a February 13, 2006 letter to the editor of the Washington Post,

"In his Jan. 29 op-ed, Robert Kagan said that the United States should be 'supporting liberal and democratic change' for the Iranian population.

"He might be on to something, but the 1981 Algiers Accords for the return of the 52 hostages held by Iran -- agreed to by both President Jimmy Carter and President Ronald Reagan -- forbid the United States from 'interfering in the internal affairs of the Iranian government.' Thus, seeking a covert or even overt effort to remove the mullahocracy is against U.S. law.

"This prohibition might be overlooked because it was negotiated under the threat to execute the hostages but for one detail. In 2000 former hostages sought to sue Iran for their captivity through the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act (bolstered by its 2000 amendment), which gave American victims of state-sponsored terrorism the right to sue in U.S. federal courts the foreign governments that committed those acts of terrorism."

"However, the State and Justice departments, at the direction of President Bush, challenged the former hostages' lawsuit in court on the basis that the accords are 'sacred' agreements and that the 'credibility' of the U.S. government was at stake in following their strictures.

"The U.S. government prevailed on the grounds argument that presidential executive agreements must be obeyed.

"So if the Bush administration wishes to instigate a peaceful regime change in Iran, it should renounce the Algiers Accords.

"But to do so would give former hostages and their families legal remedy to pursue damages against the regime.

"When this president says he 'feels' for U.S. victims of international terrorism, apparently his sympathy doesn't extend to those who were the first victims of state-sponsored terrorism in modern times -- the 52 Americans held and abused by the Iranian regime for 444 days 25 years ago."

Savannah, Ga.

The writer was a hostage in Iran from 1979 to 1981.
Is Mr. Daugherty correct? Or do Iranian nukes and proposed genocide trump the Algiers Accords?

Continue reading....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Update On The Flight 93 Memorial

See what Error Theory has to say here.

Update on the proposed memorial

this posting by Error Theory, an excerpt:
"...Interestingly, there expected announcement of final approval for the crescent design never came. Did our advance contact with reporters, who read our information and were doing advance interviews, scare the announcement off? Did the twenty minutes I spent explaining the design's terrorist-memorializing features to one of Interior's communications officers have some effect?..."
More information available here.

Continue reading....

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Who's Minding Our Ports?

Outsourcing which could jeopardize national security is about to be implemented.

From The Center for Security Policy, February 14, 2006:
"...[A] secretive government committee has decided to turn over the management of six of the Nation's most important ports - in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore and New Orleans - to Dubai Ports World following the UAE [United Arab Emirates] company's purchase of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., which previously had the contract....

"America's seaports have long been recognized by homeland security experts as among our most vulnerable targets....

"Entrusting information about key U.S. ports - including, presumably, government-approved plans for securing them, to say nothing of the responsibility for controlling physical access to these facilities - to a country known to have been penetrated by terrorists is not just irresponsible. It is recklessly so...."
Read the whole thing here.

To object to the above proposal, contact your elected representatives here and here. Do it now!

[Hat tip: Sixth Column]

Continue reading....

Upcoming Event At Georgetown University

(All emphases by Always On Watch)
"It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country."

-- Noah Webster (On Education of Youth in America, 1790)
Reference: The Learning of Liberty, Prangle and Prangle (126);
original Noah Webster: Schoolmaster to America, Harry Warfel (42)
From the February 12, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
Why Is Georgetown Providing a Platform for This Dangerous Group?

"This month Georgetown University plans to host the annual conference of an anti-Israel propaganda group called the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM). The PSM certainly is controversial. It is also dangerous.

"The purported aim of the PSM is to encourage divestment from Israel. To this end, its conferences boast a cavalcade of anti-Israel speakers whose speeches often degenerate into anti-Semitism. At the 2004 conference at Duke University in North Carolina, for example, keynote speaker Mazin Qumsiyeh referred to Zionism as a 'disease.' Workshop leader Bob Brown deemed the Six-Day War 'the Jew War of '67.' Not to be outdone, Nasser Abufarha praised the terrorist activities of Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

"The PSM maintains that it is a separate organization from the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which sends foreign students to the West Bank and Gaza to foment anti-Israeli sentiment.

"All the same, the two groups seem to have intimate ties. At the 2004 PSM conference, for instance, the International Solidarity Movement ran a recruitment meeting called 'Volunteering in Palestine: Role and Value of International Activists.' In that session, the organization's co-founder, Huwaida Arraf, distributed recruitment brochures and encouraged students to enlist in the ISM, which, she acknowledged, cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine....

"In the aftermath of the 2004 PSM meeting, conference organizer Rann Bar-On -- who is an ISM member -- informed the Duke student newspaper, 'I personally consider the Palestine Solidarity Movement conference a huge success, as it brought about a tripling of the number of Duke students visiting Israel-Palestine this year, making Duke the most represented American university in the West Bank this summer.' By Bar-On's own admission, recruitment into the ISM is the PSM's raison d'etre.

"In agreeing to host the PSM from Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, Georgetown can't even claim that its regard for free speech and expression trumps all. In 2005 the university's conference center refused to host an anti-terrorism conference sponsored by America's Truth Forum on the grounds that it was 'too controversial.' So why is free speech and expression of cardinal importance now? Perhaps it is related to the recent $20 million donation from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a prominent financier of the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. If Georgetown President John J. DeGioia is concerned for the safety of his student body, he will reject the 2006 Palestine Solidarity Movement conference. Pleasing donors is an important duty of a university president, but preventing the recruitment of Georgetown students into a dangerous, pro-terrorist organization is a more vital obligation."

--Eric Adler
--Jack Langer
are respectively, a lecturer in the history department at Rice University and a doctoral candidate in history at Duke University.
See more about Prince Alaweed's funding here.

What is the take of Georgetown's Imam Yahya Hendi on this upcoming conference? Dr. Hendi has previously stated the following:
"I have always worked to bridge the gap between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. I have spoken against Osamah Ben laden and like wise. I have been and will continue to promote true respect of women in Muslim countries and the right of Christians to be fully equal under the law in those countries. I have traveled around the world in defence of American Jews....

"My life was threatened many times because of my views and I was called names like 'traitor to Islam; and a 'sellout' to Americans because I spoke in attack of those who dare to attack America. I still can not travel to some of those countries out of fear for my life...."
According to this December 2005 article by Northern Virginiastan,
"The Georgetown University Conference Hotel decides against hosting a conference of the People's Truth Forum for fear of reprisals from Muslim students at Georgetown University..."
Is there less danger in hosting the PSM's conference?

Continue reading....

Sunday, February 12, 2006

When It Snows In Washington

We Washingtonians have a love-hate relationship with snow. All adults love the beauty of a local winder wonderland, and we teachers, as do students, love getting the day off “due to inclement weather.” The Washington area sometimes shuts down at the very threat of a flake! Other times, when only a few inches have come down, I’ve not had to report to work, only to be out and about later in the day, with absolutely no problem.

Truly, however, Washingtonians simply can’t drive in the white stuff, particularly if a mere inch covers the road surface. Drivers go too fast when they shouldn’t, thus sliding into all sorts of objects (I've lost track of how many times my fence has been damaged), and too slowly when they need to get up enough speed to make it up a hill. Even before the first flake falls, shoppers who fear they won’t be able to get to the grocery stores for weeks, an eventuality happens only on the rarest of occasions, stock up on milk, bread, and toilet paper. This stocking up is irrational—most of the time.

I say “most of the time” because our weather forecasters are notorious for their inaccuracy as to the amount of snow we can expect. The Blizzard of ’96 is a perfect example of what can happen around here. That year, we suffered as only Washington can suffer when the depth of snow far exceeds expectations and piles up to a full two feet. As a lifelong resident of this area, I should have known better than to be so credulous, but I made the mistake of believing the weatherman on that storm and had to beg toilet paper from my neighbor. Let me tell you, I found out firsthand that modern toilets, those environment-friendly water savers, aren’t any good at swallowing newspapers or paper towels. I had to borrow cat food as well. Believe me—it’s hell on earth if a cat owner is trapped in the house with three famished felines who don’t eat table treats.

The January 1996 Blizzard left us totally housebound for a full three days. The Washington area was completely paralyzed; even newspaper delivery failed. Of course, three days is not very long, but in that amount of time sanity suffers if one is cooped up with spouse and three stir-crazed cats. Watching television and talking on the phone go only so far when one is used to face-to-face contact with those outside the household.

We live only a few short feet off an essential artery. But when one has to shovel two feet of snow, those few feet are long; the task is made worse when little nearby space exists to toss the snow and has to walk several feet with shovelful after shovelful. During the Blizzard of ’96, we had no need to get to the unplowed main artery, but all the neighbors on this little sidestreet banded together and shoveled out. After we had labored for several hours, our vehicles could move, but, of course, beyond our side street no road surface had been plowed on which to drive. The situation was one of “all dressed up and no place to go.” We enviously watched skiers, the only ones moving on the road because no plows were in sight, make their way while the rest of us were trapped. Our depression deepened.

By the third day, we could no longer bear the isolation as the romanticism of being snowed in had degenerated into cabin fever. We donned our warmest gear and, in waist-deep snow, trudged the three and one-half blocks to the nearest pub. Once inside, all of us scattered to tables where sat our neighbors as we sought the companionship of those other than our loved ones. Returning home was tough, though—all uphill and with full bellies after all the nachos and French onion soup.

Spring of 1996 saw a surge in sales of the necessary blizzard equipment. Every single family I know has one of those gas-guzzling and expensive-to-repair four wheelers. Many families have snow blowers. A few even have generators or have bonded with those who have them—never mind that the power rarely goes during a snowstorm unless an ice storm materializes. We won’t risk being trapped again! Yet the I-might-get-trapped-without-a-bite-to-eat mentality remains. And those new to the area soon catch that attitude. People are like lemmings, after all.

This past weekend, we got a significant snowfall in Washington. This storm wasn’t a blizzard, and I can ascertain that fact because no skiers are out and because I haven’t missed a single newspaper delivery. But until the snow stopped falling, we didn’t know that this storm was going to be an ordinary one.

The day before this season's first storm was filled with the usual pre-storm excitement. Talk of the storm was on everyone’s lips. Remote controls surfed every weather channel, and a hush fell on the room every time the weatherman gave his forecast. The snowplows fired up, and, with great satisfaction, we watched them load up on every local newscast. Households checked their food stores and prepared food in bulk. From the freezer, I pulled the chili which I had frozen, as I do every year in anticipation of a blizzard. The temperatures were not low enough to worry about filling the bathtub, but in years past, I’ve taken that precaution as well.

Can you imagine what Washington would be like if we got the same amount of snow as Buffalo? The mind reels at the thought!

I wasn’t the least bit worried about this storm. I had on hand plenty of milk, bread, toilet paper, and cat food. My snow shovel and my cooking spray were ready to go, well in advance. All our snow-going vehicles were tuned up and road-worthy: the four wheeler and the pickup truck and the sedan with a positraction rear-end, and the Mustang convertible was tucked into the carport. We were prepared at every level! Besides, I’m self-employed and in control of my own schedule, so I don’t have to venture out onto the roads. And a snowstorm brings with it more time for blogging and a good excuse for a long afternoon nap.

The Sunday, February 12, 2006 home edition of the Washington Post brought the usual coverage of the storm in "Got Milk? And Bread and Shovels?":
"Winter reasserted itself over metropolitan Washington yesterday in the form of a powerful nor'easter that was forecast to yield the region's heaviest snow in three years.

"The storm sent residents racing to stores to stock up on supplies and shovels after an unseasonably warm January...."
Once again, the weather forecasters had to apologize this morning as they had revised downward and, therefore, underestimated the amount of snowfall because the storm was slow to materialize. The Washington Post's Sunday web-page update, "Major Snow Storm Pounds Washington Area," gave additional and satisfying particulars:
"A big-time snow storm pounded the Washington region overnight and this morning, dumping 20 inches of heavy wet snow in some locations and 8 or 9 inches elsewhere.

"The storm caused early morning power outages for thousands, disrupted travel by road, air and Metrorail but also brought joy to children across the region, who took to their sleds and saucers in droves and enjoyed what all described as perfect snowball snow, packing wet and tight into even the smallest hands.

"The storm, which began in earnest about 8 p.m. yesterday and spread quickly up the eastern seaboard, ended by noon. The heaviest accumulations, according to National Weather Service spotters, were north and west of the city, with Columbia reporting 21 inches, Baltimore-Washington Airport 11 inches, Norbeck 17 inches, and Silver Spring 11 inches.

"Northern Virginia communities such as Sterling and Leesburg got a foot of snow, Arlington 8 inches, and Reagan National Airport 8 inches.

"The depth tapered off to 7, 6 and 5 inches to the south and east of the District.

"Most Sunday activity involving any sort of travel was cancelled. There was no word on schools for Monday...."
As snowstorms go, this past weekend's wasn't much of an event, particularly in comparison to the Blizzard of '96. Within just a few hours of the storm's stoppage, what had accumulated on the road's surfaces started to melt, and bare pavement appeared. I didn't even have to clean off my car; the sun did the job for me. I'm not complaining, just wishing for another record snowfall, a whopper which would have justified all the precautions taken. Definitely a love-hate relationship.

Continue reading....

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Sensitivity Or Fear?

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

From Michael Kinsley's commentary, "The Ayotollah Joke Book," in the February 10, 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
"...A lively debate is going on about whether Islam really does forbid any portrayal of the prophet, however benign, or whether that is a recent innovation of some subset of the faithful with possible ulterior motives. This debate misses the point. Some Christians believe they are required to wear particular sorts of clothing. Some Jews and Muslims don't eat pork. They don't claim that their religion requires other people to wear special clothing or avoid eating pork....

"But the limits of free expression cannot be set by the sensitivities of people who don't believe in [a particular teaching]...."
From Charles Krauthammer's commentary, "Curse of the Moderates," in the February 2006 edition of the Washington Post:
"...A true Muslim moderate is one who protests desecrations of all faiths. Those who don't are not moderates but hypocrites, opportunists and agents for the rioters, merely using different means to advance the same goal: to impose upon the West, with its traditions of freedom of speech, a set of taboos that is exclusive to the Islamic faith. These are not defenders of religion but Muslim supremacists trying to force their dictates upon the liberal West....

"What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached.

"The worldwide riots and burnings are instruments of intimidation, reminders of van Gogh's fate. The Islamic 'moderates' are the mob's agents and interpreters, warning us not to do this again. And the Western 'moderates' are their terrified collaborators who say: Don't worry, we won't...."
From Andrew Sullivan's essay, "Your Taboo, Not Mine," in the February 13, 2006 edition of Time Magazine:
"...Muslim leaders say the cartoons are not just offensive. They're blasphemy--the mother of all offenses. That's because Islam forbids any visual depiction of the Prophet, even benign ones. Should non-Muslims respect this taboo? I see no reason why. You can respect a religion without honoring its taboos. I eat pork, and I'm not an anti-Semite. As a Catholic, I don't expect atheists to genuflect before an altar. If violating a taboo is necessary to illustrate a political point, then the call is an easy one. Freedom means learning to deal with being offended....

"Yes, there's no reason to offend people of any faith arbitrarily. We owe all faiths respect. But the Danish cartoons were not arbitrarily offensive. They were designed to reveal Islamic intolerance--and they have now done so, in abundance. The West's principles are clear enough. Tolerance? Yes. Faith? Absolutely. Freedom of speech? Nonnegotiable."
Catering to "Muslim sensitivities" over a bunch of satiric cartoons published in a free press, particularly if that catering stems from fear of reprisals, amounts to turning the clock back to the Middle Ages, when the establishment of religion as the rule of law was the norm. Furthermore, such catering comes too close for comfort to supporting the validity of anti-blasphemy laws. And sometimes blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder, which is to say, subjective. And subjectivity can be dangerous.

Update from "Muslims' Fury Rages Unabated Over Cartoons," in the February 11, 2006 Washington Post:
"...In Sweden, the government shut down the Web site of a far-right political party's newspaper after it briefly posted a cartoon of Muhammad. It was the first time a Western government has intervened to block a publication in the controversy over the cartoons..."
More details about that brief paragraph in the Washington Post can be found here. [Hat tip to Heather, who left this link with details in the comments section at A New Dark Age Is Dawning]

Continue reading....

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How Far Along Are We?

Maybe it's time to revisit some December 2002 material from Dr. Anis Shorrosh. The following is reproduced in its entirety:


1. Terminate America’s freedom of speech by replacing it with hate crime bills state-wide and nation-wide.

2. Wage a war of words using black leaders like Louis Farrakhan, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other visible religious personalities to promote Islam as the original African-American’s religion while Christianity is for the whites! Strange enough, no one tells the African-Americans that it was the Arab Muslims who captured them and sold them as slaves, neither the fact that in Arabic the word for black and slave is the same, “Abed.”

3. Engage the American public in dialogues, discussions, debates in colleges, universities, public libraries, radio, TV, churches and mosques on the virtues of Islam. Proclaim how it is historically another religion like Judaism and Christianity with the same monotheistic faith.

4. Nominate Muslim sympathizers to political office for favorable legislation to Islam and support potential sympathizers by block voting.

5. Take control of as much of Hollywood, the press, TV, radio and the internet by buying the corporations or a controlling stock.

6. Yield to the fear of imminent shut-off of the lifeblood of America – the black gold. America’s economy depends on oil, (1000 products are derived from oil), so does its personal and industrial transportation and manufacturing -41% comes from the Middle East.

7. Yell, “foul, out-of-context, personal interpretation, hate crime, Zionist, un-American, inaccurate interpretation of the Quran” anytime Islam is criticized or the Quran is analyzed in the public arena.

8. Encourage Muslims to penetrate the White House, specifically with Islamists who can articulate a marvelous and peaceful picture of Islam. Acquire government positions, get membership in local school boards. Train Muslims as medical doctors to dominate the medical field, research and pharmaceutical companies. Take over the computer industry. Establish Middle Eastern restaurants throughout the U.S. to connect planners of Islamization in a discreet way. Ever notice how numerous Muslim doctors in America are, when their countries need them more desperately than America?

9. Accelerate Islamic demographic growth via:
a. Massive immigration (100,000 annually since 1961)
b. No birth control whatsoever – every baby of Muslim parents is automatically a Muslim and cannot choose another religion later.
c. Muslim men must marry American women and Islamize them (10,000 annually). Then divorce them and remarry every five years – since one cannot have the Muslim legal permission to marry four at one time. This is a legal solution in America.
d. Convert angry, alienated black inmates and turn them into militants (so far 2000 released inmates have joined Al Qaida world-wide). Only a few have been captured in Afghanistan and on American soil. So far – sleeping cells!

10. Reading, writing, arithmetic and research through the American educational system, mosques and student centers (now 1500) should be sprinkled with dislike of Jews, evangelical Christians and democracy. There are 300 exclusively Muslim schools with loyalty to the Quran, not the U.S. Constitution.

11. Provide very sizeable monetary Muslim grants to colleges and universities in America to establish “Centers for Islamic studies” with Muslim directors to promote Islam in higher education institutions.

12. Let the entire world know through propaganda, speeches, seminars, local and national media that terrorists have high-jacked Islam, not the truth, which is Islam high-jacked the terrorists. Furthermore in January of 2002, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Washington mailed 4500 packets of the Quran, videos, promoting Islam to America’s high schools--free. They would never allow us to reciprocate.

13. Appeal to the historically compassionate and sensitive Americans for sympathy and tolerance towards the Muslims in America who are portrayed as mainly immigrants from oppressed countries.

14. Nullify America’s sense of security by manipulating the intelligence community with misinformation. Periodically terrorize Americans of impending attacks on bridges, tunnels, water supplies, airports, apartment buildings and malls. (We have experienced this too often since 9-11.)

15. Form riots and demonstrations in the prison system demanding Islamic Sharia as the way of life, not American’s justice system.

16. Open numerous charities throughout the U.S. but use the funds to support Islamic terrorism with American dollars.

17. Raise interest in Islam on America’s campuses by insisting that freshman take at least one course on Islam. Be sure that the writer is a bonafide American, Christian, scholarly and able to cover up the violence in the Quran and express the peaceful, spiritual and religious aspect only.

18. Unify the numerous Muslim lobbies in Washington, mosques, Islamic student centers, educational organizations, magazines and papers by internet and an annual convention to coordinate plans, propagate the faith and engender news in the media of their visibility.

19. Send intimidating messages and messengers to the outspoken individuals who are critical of Islam and seek to eliminate them by hook or crook.

20. Applaud Muslims as loyal citizens of the US by spotlighting their voting record as the highest percentage of all minority and ethic groups in America.
Dr. Shorrosh, D.Min, D.Phil, is the author of Islam Revealed, a bestseller which has been printed eight times. According to the book review at Amazon, "Dr. Anis Shorrosh explains the driving force behind the fanatical, as well as the moderate and conservative sects of Islam."

Continue reading....

Monday, February 06, 2006

About Freedom Of Expression

(All emphases by Always On Watch)

From a February 4, 2006 editorial in the New York Post (hat tip to Jason over at Liberty and Culture):
"Bushies Betray Free Speech

"...Even as European and Asian leaders appealed for calm and understanding in the wake of escalating violence, the State Department yesterday came out foursquare in support of the demonstrators — and condemned the 'offensive' cartoons.

"'These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims,' said department spokesman Kurtis Cooper. 'We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility.'

"He'd have done better to call instead for respect for freedom of the press, rather than kowtow to rampaging mobs attempting to intimidate newspapers worldwide.

"We don't doubt that many Muslims consider the caricatures, originally published in a Danish newspaper and later reprinted by other European papers in a show of free-press solidarity, offensive; Islamic law prohibits any physical portrayal of Mohammed.

"But the 12 images in question [The images are here] — one showed the prophet wearing a bomb for a turban — are pretty benign, particularly when compared to the anti-American and anti-Jewish tripe that regularly appears in Arab-language news media.

"As Roger Koeppel, editor of the German paper Die Welt, noted: 'When Syrian television showed drama documentaries in prime time depicting rabbis as cannibals, the imams were silent.'

"Someone in the administration must have considered this a perfect opportunity to score some sensitivity points by sending a pointed reminder that the United States is waging war against terrorism, not the religion of Islam.

"[T]he State Department has, in effect, endorsed terrorism by expressing sympathy for the motives behind the current onslaught...."
From the February 3, 2006 edition of Der Spiegel Online:
"Democracy in a Cartoon
By Ibn Warraq

Best-selling author and Muslim dissident Ibn Warraq argues that freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend it against attacks from totalitarian societies. If the west does not stand in solidarity with the Danish, he argues, then the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest.

"...The cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten raise the most important question of our times: freedom of expression. Are we in the west going to cave into pressure from societies with a medieval mindset, or are we going to defend our most precious freedom -- freedom of expression, a freedom for which thousands of people sacrificed their lives?

"A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

"Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize.

"This raises another more general problem: the inability of the West to defend itself intellectually and culturally. Be proud, do not apologize. Do we have to go on apologizing for the sins our fathers?...

"On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football? Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience....

"Freedom of expression is our western heritage and we must defend it or it will die from totalitarian attacks. It is also much needed in the Islamic world. By defending our values, we are teaching the Islamic world a valuable lesson, we are helping them by submitting their cherished traditions to Enlightenment values."

Born in 1946 in India and raised in Pakistan, Ibn Warraq was educated in Koran schools in Pakistan and later in England. He currently lives in the United States and writes under the pseudonym Ibn Warraq, a pen name traditionally used by dissidents in Islam. He is the author of the best- seller "Why I am Not a Muslim" and the editor of "The Origins of the Koran" and "The Quest for the Historical Muhammad."
In London, cartoon protesters carried signs which read "Learn the lesson from 9/11" and "Behead those who insult Islam." If the West backs down on upholding freedom of speech because the exercise of that freedom is blasphemous to Muslims, shari'a law will be on its way to tacit application in our society. Is that where the West wants to go?

This item appeared last summer and did not receive much coverage in the media:
"Sculpture banned from the Venice Biennale

"A sculpture by German artist Gregor Schneider was banned from the 51st Venice Biennale because the event’s organisers said it might be offensive to Muslims. The sculpture was a 15-metre-high cube covered in black fabric modelled after the Ka’ba in Mecca and was set to be displayed in St. Mark’s Square. A spokesman for the Venetian arts authority said there was a danger that Muslims would feel provoked by the work, heightening the risk of the city being vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Schneider insisted that the artwork was not meant as a provocation. He said he wanted to symbolise a connection between European and Arab cultures. The organisers tried to place the sculpture at another site, but finally decided not to display it at all. Instead, Schneider showed a video explaining his failed attempt."
On June 23, 2005, Hugh Fitzgerald of Dhimmi Watch had this to say about the above news item:
"Statues, like paintings of any living creature, are forbidden in Islam....

"For in Islam, the pre-Islamic or non-Islamic artifacts are of no interest, no valuable. They can be destroyed, they should be destroyed. The tens of thousands of Hindu temples destroyed by the Muslim invaders, a partial list of which was compiled by Sita Ram Goel, are perhaps the best-known example....
"The greatest destruction of art works in human history is that wrought by Muslim conquerors on the non-Muslim lands and peoples they invaded, conquered, and subjugated.

"What will happen in Europe if it is islamized? If there are already people removing statues, however banal those statues may be, from art expositions now, what will happen in 10 years? In 20 years? Already statues have been vandalized or destroyed by Muslims -- in the Piazza del Popolo, and in a church in northern France (a statue of Mary and Jesus). Muslims have been recorded discussing their plans to destroy a celebrated fresco in Bologna that depicted Muhammad in Hell. What else is happening, and is being suppressed from us by worried European governments...?"
Now back to the offensive cartoons. Felis over at Democracy Frontline recently posted the following information:
"Drawing cartoons with the controversial Musulman 'prophet' Muhammad is not a new activity. Have no illusions about the sudden religious Muslim sensitivity. The Muslim powerbrokers are proceeding just one step further to gain full protection of the European law. If they win now nobody will be able to criticize Islam as a religious or political doctrine. Nothing happens in the Muslim world spontaneously. There is always some sinister group of people who plan, pay expenses press buttons and unleash their hounds when the time is ripe.

"Well before the Danish cartoonists, who probably by now wished to be somewhere safe in Israel, various artists depicted Muhammad probably thousands of times. Initially it was the Persian and Turkish Muslim artists. Muhammand was depicted also by Western artists before....

"Why wasn’t the Muslim fury released then (apart from some mild whining from Islam on Line)?..."
Good question.

Continue reading....

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Protesting Cartoons

From "Irate Muslims Stage New Protests" :
"In London,...after Friday prayers..., some chanted, 'Jihad! Jihad!' and held up placards that read, 'Learn the lesson from 9/11'...."

Continue reading....

Friday, February 03, 2006

Cartoon Wars--Origins, Beliefs, and Escalation

[All emphases by Always On Watch]

From a February 1, 2006 article in the Washington Post:
"The controversy began when the newspaper asked 12 artists to draw caricatures of Muhammad in response to an author who complained that he could not find an artist willing, under his own name, to illustrate a book about the prophet."
That reticence to reveal one's own name comes as no surprise. Remember Theo van Gogh? He lost his life in his exercise of free expression. His murderer is on trial now in the Netherlands.

The offending cartoons were originally printed in September 2005, then republished three weeks ago in an evangelical Christian newspaper. Do Muslims read evangelical Christian newspapers? And don't religious newspapers in Western countries have a protected right to publish material which the secular population largely disregards? This week, of course, in a show of defiant support for freedom of the press, the cartoons were again published in many of the larger European newspapers, so the cartoons have now received much wider distribution. I haven't seen the cartoons in any American newspapers or on my television screen, however.

According to the above-cited article,
"Islam considers any artistic renditions of Muhammad blasphemous. In many Muslim nations, English-language newspapers are so reverential that any mention of his name is followed by the letters PBUH, for 'peace be upon him.'

"French theologian Sohaib Bencheikh...admonished: 'One must find the borders between freedom of expression and freedom to protect the sacred.' He added, 'Unfortunately, the West has lost its sense of the sacred.'"
Let's look at how Islam views these depictions:
"The spreading Muslim protests against newspapers that reprinted cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad stem from the deepest religious roots.

"Islam forbids visual depictions of the prophet, and regards violations by Muslims as highly sinful and by non-Muslims as the ultimate sort of insult.

"The prohibition is in part an application of the Quran's strict opposition to idolatry, the worship of a physical object as a god, including any hint of such devotion toward the faith's revered human prophet

"In the Quran, shirk (Arabic for 'partnering' or 'associating' anything with God) is the one unforgivable sin: 'God does not forgive the joining of partners with him: anything less than that he forgives to whoever he will, but anyone who joins partners with God is lying and committing a tremendous sin' (4:48).

"The Quran does not specifically address artwork of Muhammad, and through history a few Muslims have painted him. But the ban has been virtually universal in all branches of the faith from its earliest days.

"The rule extends to artwork showing others regarded as prophets by Islam, including Jesus, even though Christians have often visualized their divine savior in paintings, statutes and films.

"Muslims disagree among themselves on whether it's proper to portray the prophet's early followers, known as the Companions. Unlike Sunnis, Shia Muslims allow images of their greatest saint, Ali, Muhammad's son-in-law.

"Some Muslims oppose any art that depicts humans, and Muslims have tended to specialize in nature paintings, decorative arts and calligraphy. Some were wary of photography, too. But Zahik Bukhari, director of Georgetown University's American Muslim Studies Program, says those attitudes are fading.

"A second aspect of the depiction ban is noted by John Esposito, editor of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World. Besides shunning any hint of idolatry, he says, the practice also expresses 'the deep reverence and respect Muslims have for Muhammad' as 'the ideal Muslim.' He notes that when the prophet is named, believers always add 'peace and blessings be upon him' and that he is sometimes called 'the living Quran.'

"Bukhari says the cartoons, first published in Denmark, constitute a triple offense for Muslims: first by depicting Muhammad at all; second by treating him disrespectfully; and third because 'in the present circumstance it is a symbol of the clash of civilizations that they want to insult the prophet and the whole of Islam.'...

"Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America, said it's important that non-Muslims distinguish between freedom of opinion on religious matters and needless offense.

"'Muslims respect free speech rights, Syeed said. But 'in a democratic environment, living in a pluralistic society, people should know they have to respect the sensitivity of Muslims on this issue. It does not muzzle their freedom of speech in rejecting Muhammad as the prophet.'
I see a little problem here. Those who are not Muslims don't view Islam's founder as sacred and don't abide by Islamic restrictions. My interpretation of the above words from Syeed is that freedom of speech applies only if that freedom doesn't offend Muslims. Isn't that "muzzling"? Furthermore, because of the Islamic definition of what is acceptable art, much of what is on display in Western art galleries is patently offensive to some Muslims--not as offensive as caricatures of Muhammad the Prophet, but certainly not in line with strict Islamic guidelines.

Until today, the story of the cartoon wars in the Washington Post was limited to small news items or to somewhat longer pieces buried in the back pages. But on February 3, 2006, the story made the Washington Post's front page, above the fold:

"Protests against European newspapers' publication of cartoons lampooning the prophet Muhammad gained momentum across the Islamic world Thursday as Pakistani schoolchildren burned French and Danish flags and Muslim presidents denounced the drawings. At the same time, more European news organizations printed or broadcast the caricatures, citing a need to defend freedom of expression.

"In another day of confrontation between the largely secular nations of Europe and Muslim countries where religion remains a strong force in daily life, Islamic activists threatened more widespread protests and boycotts of European businesses. While some European officials sought to defuse the crisis, many journalists insisted that despite Islamic outrage, religious sensibilities should not result in censorship.

"Mahmoud A. Hashem, a businessman in Saudi Arabia reflecting broad sentiment in Muslim societies, called the cartoons just another example of a 'sport to insult Islam and Muslims' after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"Under Islamic teachings, any depiction of Muhammad, the faith's founder and messenger of God, is blasphemy, including depictions that are not negative....

"In the West Bank city of Nablus, Palestinian gunmen kidnapped a German citizen from a hotel restaurant and threatened to seize more foreigners. The German was later released, Palestinian security officials said.

"Many Europeans left the Gaza Strip as a precaution Thursday. The E.U. shuttered its office there after warnings that staff members would be kidnapped. About a dozen gunmen briefly surrounded the empty building, firing their weapons. Some European countries warned citizens against travel in the Middle East.

"In the city of Multan in central Pakistan, several hundred students from Islamic schools burned French and Danish flags in protest. Boycotts of Danish grocery products expanded across the Middle East.

"Presidents Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Ahmadinejad of Iran issued statements of condemnation, as did King Abdullah of Jordan. In a speech in Washington, the monarch said that while 'we respect and revere freedom of speech, we condemn needless desecration and injury of Islamic sensibilities, such as the recent cartoons misrepresenting and vilifying my ancestor, the prophet.'

"Newspapers throughout the Muslim world condemned their European counterparts. Bahrain's Gulf Daily News ran a one-word headline on its front page that summarized sentiment in the region: 'Apologize!'

"The Egyptian publisher of France Soir, which printed the controversial caricatures Wednesday, fired the paper's managing editor, Jacques LeFranc, late Wednesday night, saying, 'We present our regrets to the Muslim community and to all people who have been shocked or made indignant by this publication.'

"But the dismissed editor's boss, Faubert, wrote an unrepentant editorial in Thursday's editions: 'We had no desire to add oil to the fire as some may think. A fundamental principle of democracy and secularism is being threatened.'...

"International journalist organizations have condemned the threats of violence against the European journalists who published the cartoons.

"'We defend unpopular speech around the world all the time,' said Joel Simon, deputy director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 'We don't make judgments whether we agree or disagree' with the message. 'Sometimes we sort of have to hold our nose, but they've got the right to say that, and we defend their right.'...

"Tensions continue in the Netherlands, where in 2004 Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, whose work carried strong anti-Islamic messages, was assassinated by Mohammed Bouyeri, a Muslim extremist. In a court appearance Thursday in that city, Bouyeri said that 'the fact that you see me as the black standard-bearer of Islam in Europe fills me with honor, pride and joy.'"
"Assassination" is a sanitized word. The murder of Theo van Gogh was brutal and a clear statement that any denigration of Islam would not be tolerated. Bouyeri does not hesitate to emphasize that he felt his murderous act was one of honor. I'm guessing that he feels such an act guarantees him a special place in Paradise.

Returning now to the article, to some statements from "average Muslims,"

"'I think that all Muslims should unite and do something about this [the offending cartoons],' said Hashem, reached on his cell phone as he was leaving prayers at a Jiddah mosque Thursday afternoon. 'Anybody who wants to get some press uses Muslims as a punching bag.'

"At Sawari Superstores, one of the largest supermarket chains in Jiddah, signs were posted in the dairy section saying, 'We do not sell any Danish products.'

"'I am not willing to buy any product from a country that has insulted my prophet, my religion and my dignity as a Muslim,' said Leila Faleh, 42, a hospital administrator shopping at the store. "'I would rather go back to drinking milk from a cow and eating dates.'"
Boycotting products to make a statement about one's politics or personal beliefs is one thing. In fact, CAIR made use of a similar tactic when the organization and its followers and members contacted the various sponsors of WMAL Radio and engineered the firing of Michael Graham. And very recently, several Christian groups protested the television show The Book of Daniel; after only a few episodes, the show was canceled.

But calls for and acts of violence are something else altogether. Serious though threats and actions from offended Muslims may be, the threats of schoolyard bullies comes to my mind: let them intimidate others, and the bullies are emboldened. Appeasement is not the way to go when a bully of any sort comes along.

Today's front-page Washington Post article also includes the following statement from "the man on the street":
"'It is nothing new,' lamented Mohammed Hussein Mudhaffer, a 33-year-old mechanical engineer in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. 'The publishing of such cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad is part of the savage campaign waged by the West against Islam and Muslims.'"
Cartoons are a "savage campaign"? Since when? But the Muslim reaction to the cartoons may be turning into a savage campaign.

And just who is showing these enraged Muslims these cartoons? Here's a clue:
"Thousands of Iraqis protested after Friday prayers against caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad reprinted in European papers and the country's top Shiite cleric denounced the drawings....'We strongly denounce and condemn this horrific action,' Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said of the caricatures in a statement posted on his Web site and dated Jan. 31."
Maybe messages condemning the cartoons are coming to a mosque near you.

Continue reading....

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Muslim Outrage, Cartoons, And CAIR

Cartoons of Prophet Met With Outrage:
Depictions of Muhammad in Scandinavian Papers Provoke Anger, Protest Across Muslim World

The caption under the January 31, 2006 Washington Post article reads as follows:
"A shelf in a Saudi supermarket has been emptied of Danish products in protest over cartoons in a newspaper in Denmark that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist."
[Go here to Democracy Frontline to see some of the objectionable cartoons with some eighty-eight comments, and a follow-up article is here.]

[Update: And here are some cartoons from the Arab world.]

"PARIS, Jan. 30 -- Cartoons in Danish and Norwegian newspapers depicting the prophet Muhammad in unflattering poses, including one in which he is portrayed as an apparent terrorist with a bomb in his turban, have triggered outrage among Muslims across the Middle East, sparking protests, economic boycotts and warnings of possible retaliation against the people, companies and countries involved.

"The cartoons were published in September in a conservative, mass-circulation Danish daily, Jyllands-Posten, and were reprinted three weeks ago in Magazinet, a small evangelical Christian newspaper in Norway. But the reaction has been widespread, and fallout over the images reached new levels Monday, with the European Union backing Denmark in the dispute and warning that a boycott of Danish products -- already being felt by some companies -- would violate World Trade Organization rules.

"Saudi Arabia has recalled its ambassador from Denmark and Libya has closed its embassy in Copenhagen, the Danish capital. Kuwait called the cartoons 'despicable racism.' Iran's foreign minister termed them 'ridiculous and revolting.'...

"People are inclined to see Islam and political extremism as two sides of the same coin," [Ulf Hedetoft, a political scientist at Aalborg University and director of Denmark's Academy for Migration Studies] said....

"The newspapers have issued explanations but have couched their apologies. 'We are sorry if Muslims have been offended,' Jyllands' editor in chief, Carsten Juste, told the Associated Press, adding that the newspapers actions were 'within the constitution, the Danish penal code and international convention. . . . It is not a dictatorship like Saudi Arabia that is going to dictate our editorial line here in Denmark.'...

"'The question here is how far do you show sensitivity and self-control over issues without falling into self-censorship,' said Medhi Mozaffari, a professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, who defended his government's stance not to apologize.

"'It's unthinkable that the prime minister would make an apology,' he said. 'This is Islamists putting democracies on trial to see how far they can be pressured.'"
Update from Infidel Bloggers Alliance:
"Newspapers across Europe are reprinting the Jyllands-Posten cartoons: 'Newspapers across Europe have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage. France Soir, Germany's Die Welt, La Stampa in Italy and El Periodico in Spain all carried some of the drawings....'"
As I expected, CAIR has now jumped aboard the ban-anything-offensive-to-Muslims train and on January 31, 2006 released a statement:
"...[CAIR is] seeking meetings with the Danish and Norwegian ambassadors to the United States to discuss the publication of cartoons in those nations that Muslims worldwide view as 'intentionally insulting' to the Prophet Muhammad and Islam...."
It's no surprise that CAIR is taking this position. Last summer, CAIR was actively involved in engineering the firing of radio talkshow host Michael Graham. And according to Gindy and LA Sunsett, CAIR is after another radio host, Bill Handel, who in his usual style, made fun of the stampede at the Haj. Mr. Handel is noted for his acerbic satire, but let him mention something about Islam, and here comes the CAIR cavalry riding over the hill to defend the honor of Islam.

CAIR does not limit its rescue operations to radio hosts or to featured cartoons. CAIR also launches campaigns against letters to the editors. One example is here, and others can also be found on the CAIR web site.

Maybe the cartoons are insulting. Lots of things offend lots of people. But suppression of freedom of the press and freedom of speech is even more offensive. Beyond offensive! If those ideals are compromised, we will see the fall of Western civilization.

CAIR presents itself as a moderate-Muslim organization, a champion of civil rights. I don't see it.

Continue reading....

National Rally Against Islamofascism Day: February 1, 2006

Go here for additional information.

Update, received via email:
"Report from the rallies:

"The National Rally Against Islamofascism Day held yesterday at twenty one locations across the nation was a great success!

"Thanks to all who have submitted photos already of rallies which they attended. We have uploaded some photographs of yesterday's rallies for your viewing. We ask that you please send us your pictures if you have any photographs that you took if you attended one of the rallies. Please send them to this email address or if you have a server or way to upload them to a location please send us the links."


"If you only
look at one photograph from yesterday's rally, you must see the protesters which met us at Ground Zero in New York City. They were chanting the name of Osama Bin Laden and yelling that Islamic law will replace democracy in America, keep in mind this was at Ground Zero and just shows why the UAC must exist.

"You may scroll through our current photo highlights
here by clicking next at the bottom of the photograph."

Continue reading....