Thursday, January 27, 2005


I guess I should be following Davos and the counter-Davos meetings. Let's see what turns up.

The Mother of Parliaments...

You can follow the "Prime Minister's Questions" session in the British Parliament on America's CSPAN network.

I know this will be stale news for news junkies and almost everyone else might be going "Why do I care?" Well, there are a lot of reasons. For one, it gives non-Britons a chancce to see how things are done in another system. To people that are following global politics, it will give them a chance to follow British politics first hand. And one reason, especially for people in the US, whether you are pro-, say the Bush Admnistration's policies, or against them; whether you strongly support Israel or think they are in classic over-reach or worse, this will give you a reality-check on what is essentially a part of Europe is thinking.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Talking Turkey...and Somalia, and Afghanistan

To get specific; where is the Western Muslim that will seriously engage the following topic and either debunk it or try to do something about it:

Notice that in the first case, at least, the local Muslims are as unhappy with the situation as anyone else.

A Pakistani Journalists Goes Further...

Ahmad Rashid is on NPR's Fresh Air. The man's been one of the most important voices on Afghanistan; let's see what he has to say about Iraq (Fresh Air's segment is titled "Iraq, Seen Through Pakistani Eyes"):

Jon Stewart is just a comedian?

I mean, here's what he said last night (paraphrasing from memory): "A third of Iran is under the age of 15. Perfect target market for one of two things; Radical Islam, or MTV. An American invasion of Iran could push it either way..."

That's trenchant, spot-on, deep and politically-informed satire, if not full-blown commentary, at it's historical best, if you ask me.

W's back! And I mean Whitman

First it was Newt, now Christine Todd-Whitman is back on the trail, too? Dare I say these are the people that will be taking on W's anointed successor?

She was on Leonard Lopate's show on WNYC this morning:

and she has a PAC and website: (the advisory board includes Bill Weld...hmmm...)

And she "doesn't see" getting back into politics?!

There as a time I classified her with Giuliani as a kinda authoritarian figure—and this was long before my drift towards starting to tentative self-identify as "progressive", when I still was pretty open to working with Republicans I lived and worked in areas governed by them. But mebbe I was wrong...

Monday, January 24, 2005

Sounds like Chalabi, only in Persian...

The following interview on CSPAN:


had me curious. So I went googling and here's what I turned up:

"In a report from Washington this week, Britain's Financial Times said that the neocons were backing an Iranian opposition group, the Alliance for Democracy in Iran, which is hoping for a big injection of American funds. Several senators have also urged the administration to back "regime change" in Iran."

"As a result, new exiled Iranian opposition groups backed by some of Washington's neoconservatives are springing up in the hope of seeing large doses of US funding.

One such group the Alliance for Democracy in Iran is taking shape, strategically located in the heart of the capital's think-tank quarter. Activists described it as an opposition umbrella group that would act as a “clearing house” for US taxpayers' money dedicated to advancing the cause of democracy.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Feel-Good TV

A friend forwarded the following yesterday:

I guess it caught me in a cynical mood, because I replied to him with a "Feel-Good TV, huh?". When he challenged that, I explained my reason for calling it that:

This seems like something that will salve the ego of American Muslims by having them feel "See! Our religion is so nice and peaceful--we are just misunderstood." and the ego of "civilized viewers" by having them feel: "See! We are so nice, we are not demonizing Islam, we are making serious efforts to understand it..." I hope I am wrong, but I really don't see this starting the kind of conversation that is so necessary today.

However, the same friend did, later in the day forward the following--which seems like it is something that provokes some questions:

But then, like I said, maybe the first one caught me in an odd mood—it does have a wonderful line-up of speakers; one that promises an interesting discussion, especially for the wonk. As my friend pointed out, the comparing and contrasting of fatwas with a person like Shaikh Hamza Yusuf participating should be brain-candy, no doubt.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Dr Rice in the Hotseat

Apparently, Dr Rice was in the Senate hotseat in time for breakfast in California. Not being a morning person, I wasn't able to catch that live. I'll have to catch that on CSPAN and digest it later.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Friday, January 14, 2005


Interesting controversy brewing out East:

(BTW, the Chapati Mystery is a very interesting blog.)

"Where exactly is Fremont?"

War and peace, drugs, globalization, the "war on/against/with terrorism"...or is it just the same old-same old in the same old towns, cities, and farming communities:
"Have you been to Fremont, California? Some people from around here live there now. Where exactly is Fremont?"
More at

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Of Oppressors, and The Oppressed

This was posted on another blog on Monday, April 14, 2003, at 4:01 PM, soon after the start of the Iraq War. The report it refers to was one by Robert Fisk (or was it Christopher Hitchens) about the destruction of historical documents. I still haven't been able to contact Gauhar Raza:

Of Oppressors, and The Oppressed

Someone on a South Asian e-mail list requested a translation of a poetic piece in Urdu apparently by Indian Activist, Poet, and Engineering researcher Gauhar Raza obviously anti-the first war of the 21st Century to come to Baghdad, a city that has seen a multitude of wars over the centuries.

I personally cannot seem to formulate a clear position mentally against the "War in/on Iraq", but a news report had caught my ear just hours before that had me, for the first time, smacking my head in exasperation. And I started the following as an idiomatic translation. It seems to have taken a poetic life of its own.

Understanding this poetic piece independent of the idiom, metaphor and poetic traditions based on the events that give the town of Karbala in southern Iraq its significance to world and, particularly, Muslim history would be, at best, cursory and at worst misguided. Much has been said about the Shias and how their oppression by the erstwhile ruling clique in Baghdad as being one of the "reasons" for this war. The poetic piece below is an ironic--to use the "Western" Media's word--indication of how much more complicated the whole issue is. To say anything more requires a much more detailed--and preferably much more interactive discussion--than I am not qualifed to lead. (The requested byline for the translation hints at why.)

And if an attribution is to be made for the translation, please note the lines below Gauhar Raza's signature.

Now on to the translation:

Even'o'the Oppressed

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before
Fauj ke silsile aur tabl-o-alam
Successions of Armies; the Drums and the Banners of War
Lashkaron ki safen, azm kay qafilay
Ranks of Legions; Caravans of Resolve
Jan lenay ka dar, jan denay ki dhun
The fear of taking a life; the rapture of giving one's own
Puri dunyan pe qabze ka tha ek nasha
World Domination was a drug in its own
Taj ki, takht ki bhook thi ek taraf
On one side there was the hunger for crown and for throne
Aur yaheen thay woh sab,
And here were the rest
Sar pe bandhay kafan
Bedecked in their shrouds
Jo usulon pay mitnay ko thayyar thay
Ready to be martyred for principle
Is jagha zulm ki hadh muqarrar hui
It was here that the bounds of oppression were set
Aur shahadat kay paimanay banchay gayay
And vessels of martyrdom were wrought all anew
Yeh wahee reith hai, yeh wahee dhool hai
This is the same sand; the same dust
Nainawa hai wahi, karbala hai wahee
The same Nineveh; this Karbala is the same
Teer bhi, sang bhi, bediyan bhi wahee
The arrows as well, stones too; the same ball and chain
Ham ne pehlay bhi parkhay hain zalim yahan
Here we have tested oppressors before
Ham ne pehlay bhi dekhay hain naizon pe sar
We have seen here, before, heads on spears
Khoon-e-nahaq ki khushboo hai ab tak yahan
Murder most foul is still in the air
Is ko pahchan lo,
See them; learn them; know them well

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before

Jeet kar jang pehlay bhi haray thay thum
You have won the war but lost before
Jeet kar jang phir haar ja'o gay thum
You will win the battle and lose, again
Aur tareekh apnay ko dohra'eygee
And history, indeed, will repeat itself
Qatilo is say pehlay bhi aisa hua
(Oh) Murders, this has all happened before
Qatl ho kar bhi bazee hamari rahee
Murdered, we have carried the day before

Qatilo Yeh jagha kuchh naee to naheen
(Oh) Murderers! This place is not unfamiliar
Ye jagha is se pahle bhi sajti rahee
This venue has been prepared often before

(Iraq ke awam ke naam, jinhon ne tisree dunyan ke awam ki laj rakh lee)
(To the People of Iraq, who have kept the honour of the people of the Third World)

Gauhar Raza

The translation is dedicated to the barbarity of war, fought under any rules:
Aurangzaib Ansari

421 Fraud mail

Just got this, and the funny thing is, does not mention which country it is from, I know personally that the country where a lot of this stuff originates from, Nigeria, does have a "Badagry Express Way"... I haven't been in that country for 20 years; since long before the internet...And anyone that knows Nigeria would be familiar with this


--- Ahmed Usman wrote:

> From: "Ahmed Usman"
> To:
> Date: Mon, 10 Jan 2005 10:25:09 +0000


Dear Sir,

I am Barr. Ahmed Usman, a legal practitioner, I am the personal attorney to Alhaji Ibrahim Ashraf. On the 21st of April 2003, my client, his wife and their three children were involved in a car accident along Badagry express Way. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost there lives.

Since then I have made several enquiries to the embassy to locate any of my clients extended relatives this has also proved unsuccessful.After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to made a search in the internet, to locate any member of his family hence I contacted you.

I have contacted you to assist in repartrating the money and property left behind by my client before they get confisicated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this huge deposits were lodged particularly, where the deceased had an account valued at about US$10.5million dollars. The bank has issued me a notice to provide the
next of kin.

Since I have been unsuccessfull in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin of the deceased so that the proceeds of this account valued at US$10.5million dollars can be paid to you and then you and me can share the money. I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make. All I require is your honest co-operation to enable us see this deal through.

I guarantee that this will be executed under legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law. Please get in touch with me by my private email above to enable us discuss further.Thank you very much for your co-operation.

Best regards,
Barr. Ahmed Usman

Across Faiths and Across Nations...

...and gratitude to boot:

There really is not much else to say, except to restate that working like this across boundaries is just plain noble.

"War is like poison..."

"War is like a poison. And just as a cancer patient must at times ingest a poison to fight off a disease, so there are times in a society when we must ingest the poison of war to survive. But what we must understand is that just as the disease can kill us, so can the poison."
Full interview at

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


I posted the following on another blog. It was posted on April 16, 2003, at 10:35 am, soon after the start of the Iraq War. Baghdad was in the grip of looters, petty thieves, and the like:


Yesterday, an Iranian said to me, "I lived in a country once, where didn't have any government for 6 months. There was no looting."

Now, of course, I am a Sunni and never sympathetic to "Fundamentalists" of any stripe--I prefer to identify them as "inflexible obscurantists who claim one ideology or another". And a lot of the recipients of this mail will be good Christian folk. But it is good some times to see the positive in people different from us. Of course, it might also bear saying that the country we are talking about--an ancient one with an ancient civilization--was not in the control of the hardliners at the time under discussion.

There is an assumption expressed repeatedly in this time and age that we live in an era that is more civilized than previous ones. But consider this: Before this era, there were, you will agree, times and places where people lived without fear of life and limb. Now consider this: a formal, full-time police force is a pretty recent innovation. So how is it that in this more "advanced" society, we have to have a full-time force to prevent a breakdown of order?

And puleeeeeeeeeeeeease, I am not picking on any one country, group or POV. Most countries behave the same nowadays; whether they are "Muslim"/"Islamic", "Civilized"/"Western", or "Liberal Democracies" or what-have-you. The question is, which ones would behave like Persia between the Shah and the Ayatollahs; which ones like Iraq between The Butcher of Baghdad and Jay Garner, Karachi on a bad day, Watts, or Crown Heights.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A Picky Pick on the Anti-War Crowd

Listening to an interview of an anti-war kind of person (Grace Paley is the Poet Laureate of Conneticutt, among other things) brings up a rather interesting point: one underlying assumption for a lot of the most sincere and passionate anti-war folk--folks that were against the war because it was, in their opinion, being waged for all the wrong reasons--was that in the "War in Iraq" the US would win quickly, brutally, and completely. Which is very different from people that believed it would just be a mess...

[Related link: from the SF Bay Area NPR station KQED's "Forum" program with Michael Krasny.]